It’s never too late

I have a dear friend, a fellow, who retired after decades of working a high stress job in financial services.  Now he could’ve sat back and enjoyed the fruits of his labour, and no one would’ve judged him, but he didn’t. With a zest for life and a passion for music, he re-invented himself and launched a solo music career, in his sixties. How’s that for inspiring?

He performs at local pubs and was recently featured on a local radio show as an ‘up and coming new artist’. The fact that he has musical talent aside, one has to admire his gumption. It’s not easy to put yourself out there at any age, so to do it when you’re past middle age speaks not only to his courage, but also to his confidence, and that’s what got me to thinking.

We spend so much of our lives learning, practicing, and proving our worth, in our home, our relationships, and our careers, and it is the collection of these experiences over a life time that gives some of us the confidence to forge into new territory in our advanced years. Now not everyone feels compelled to launch a 2nd career. Many are happy to retire from one role and enjoy a quiet life, i.e. they don’t feel the need to prove anything to anyone because they are content with what they’ve accomplished and they just want to relax and enjoy life. For many though, the completion of one cycle just signals the start of another.

The husband (who has since passed) of another close friend, preceded his own upcoming retirement  from a career in law enforcement by returning to school to get a law degree  because he knew there was more in him to offer. Returning to school as a mature student is daunting enough, let alone taking on the challenge and discipline of higher academia while middle aged and working full time.  He finished out his 2nd career, as a lawyer, then tried his hand at acting, (something he’d always enjoyed) landing several support roles in movies, television shows and commercials.  He lived life to the fullest and were it not for his untimely passing, I’ve no doubt he’d be on his 4th career by now.

These two individuals not only warrant our admiration, but reaffirm to anyone over 30 that our worth never expires. The lessons we learn throughout life contribute to our library of knowledge, feeding our self-confidence and fueling our ambition.  It is never too late to learn something new, or launch a new career, or make a new friend, because despite the snow on your roof, it’s the passion in your heart that ignites the fire that is our driving force. The older we get, the more open and accepting we are, and the more open and accepting we are the more freely our creative juices flow.

Don’t sit down and look back on your life, sit on the edge of your seat and look forward with enthusiasm because there is still so much to accomplish before you write your last chapter.

youre never too old

Organized Religion

I was born into a Catholic home. We went to church every Sunday, I sang in the choir, and I received all the applicable Christian sacraments. I raised my 3 children in the same manner but somehow I did not ingrain the religious discipline of my own parents practices into my children because somewhere in their young adult lives they made the conscious choice to walk away from organized religion.

I can’t say I’m surprised, nor do I blame them. When I think back on the years when my family were young much of our routines were simply formed from habit; going to church was something we just did. And somewhere in my mid-thirties I came to realize that my heart wasn’t in it anymore. It’s not that I stopped believing in God, no never. I always have and always will. What I do struggle with is the religious ‘organization’ itself.

Society, mankind, whatever you want to call it, has evolved since 24 AD. The Catholic church, on the other hand, sadly hasn’t. Parish priests struggle with a rapidly diminishing flock and family traditions no longer include any religious routine. Does anyone say grace before a meal anymore? Do any of us wake up in the morning and give thanks for a new day?

We’ve become a busy society, too busy. Families no longer have the time to give to the church. Both parents work. Children are busy with studies, and preoccupied with sports, music, friends, part time jobs, life. And by the time Sunday rolls around all are tired and grateful for a day to catch up on homework, housework, or visiting parents/family/friends. Church then takes a back seat, by choice, cause let’s face it, we do have choices. If we wanted to give the church a bigger role in our lives we could, but we don’t, and I think I know why (at least for me)

I struggle with the Catholic church’s refusal to move with the times. Parish priests are not allowed to marry or carry on any kind of ‘relationship’, yet they are required to counsel young couples on that very thing prior to marrying them in a church. How does one counsel on something he knows nothing about? (and don’t even try to sell me on the notion they learn it in the seminary where emphasis is on religious studies and philosophy. Relationships are not taught, they are experienced)

For that matter, why are women still not allowed to become priests? Personally, if I had to take advice on marriage and relationships from someone who’s experienced neither, I would, hands down, pick a woman. I just think women are more compassionate and intuitive when it comes to relationships. For that matter, I think there are many who’d prefer to serve confession with a female versus a male, (although I don’t buy in to the whole confession process at all – I talk to God regularly and if I need to relieve my conscience I do it direct to the big guy himself! I do not need to seek approval or punishment from any of Gods ‘representatives’)

I recently watched a wonderful series on the history of the Popes throughout the ages and was shocked to discover they had all kinds of relations back in the early days of Catholicism. (Apparently not being able to marry didn’t stop them from having children. How’d they get around that…”the Devil made me do it?”) So it seems the laws of abstinence were only enforced much later. (which is a darn shame cause if the church would allow priests to marry and live normal lives, maybe they wouldn’t have to resort to committing these ‘indiscretions’….oh, and you might consider selling off some of the billions of dollars worth of art in the Vatican to pay the settlements to the abuse victims instead of bleeding the resources of the individual diocese that are under the pastoral care of these wayward clergy)

It is unnatural to mandate anyone to live a life of celibacy and I find it hard to believe that a loving God would set such unreasonable expectations of his own children, especially knowing they are mortal, and flawed.

I also struggle with the whole atmosphere at church, and I’ve touched on this in a previous blog. I just don’t understand why going to church has to be so somber. Isn’t mass supposed to be a celebration of our faith? Shouldn’t we come out of church feeling better? I think the short answer is yes, and yes, but we don’t. Too often the homily is delivered as a rebuke for our supposed sins when it should be simply a message reminding us of the right path; something positive and uplifting i.e., you shouldn’t walk out of mass feeling like someone pounded the snot out of you. And again, I don’t think God would’ve intended for his words to be delivered this way.

I don’t insinuate that the bible is just a ‘guide’ by any means, but I do think much of what the church dictates is under the Vaticans’ interpretation of the holy book, and isn’t interpretation personal and  somewhat biased? And if society has progressed and adapted their beliefs and behaviours to accommodate change over centuries, why can’t the church? We’re not saying change the word of God. We’re just saying modify the terms of delivery of His word to adapt with society’s progression. Surely there’s room for compromise in every interpretation of His word.

Couple that with the tiresome, morose, drawn out music played in church and it’s a wonder more people don’t leave mass and head straight to a bar to drown their woebegone hearts.

I don’t think the church has ‘lost’ their flock. They have however, lost their ability to effectively communicate with them and that has resulted in a loss of visible support. Those who believe still do and always will, but they will practice their faith on their own terms because they know their God is nothing if not loving and understanding.

Move with the times already.

angel

 

Yesterday, it’s gone, and that’s ok.

Yesterday, it’s gone, and that’s ok.

New year celebrations are now firmly behind us, and thank goodness! I am not a fan of New Year’s parties. I resent having to stay up later than I’d like simply because the date is changing (you know, it’ll come whether we’re awake or not) and I especially hate the behaviours of some New Year’s Eve revelers (too many men use New Years as an opportunity to get drunk and grope everybody else’s wife) Suffice it to say, I don’t like New Year’s Eve but I do love the prospect of a new future – there’s 365 tomorrows full of promise ahead of us and I can’t wait to see what is in store for me!

Now I’m not one to make New Year’s resolutions, for no reason in particular. I just don’t feel the need. If improvements need to be made to myself or my life, I’d like to think I’d act on it as the need arises versus waiting for a deadline to ‘motivate’ me. I am not perfect , I make mistakes, and like anyone, there’s things about me I could change, if I really wanted to. I guess I just don’t allow myself to dwell on the things I didn’t do – it just seems counterproductive. (besides, who needs to be reminded of their shortfalls?) I do, however, allow myself to reflect on what I did accomplish in the past year and that’s a pat on the back we all need.

So I didn’t lose 20 pounds, learn to speak Italian, take up yoga, return to church, volunteer at a charity, join a book club, or meditate daily.

I am learning to love my additional girth, (even if only a little..ok, all I need is one good flu to kick start a new diet! Hope is the last to die)

I bought  the Rosetta Stone CD to teach myself Italian, (ok, my son bought it for me 4 years ago and I’ve yet to crack it open, but when I last travelled to Italy, everybody spoke English……if Italians aren’t speaking it, why should I?)

I have been taping various yoga programs to find a suitable style for me, (I watch them almost daily (…is it my fault the right program has yet to appear? As soon as the right one presents itself, I’ll participate)

As for returning to church, well, let’s just say God and I have an agreement (as soon as the Catholic church moves out of the 14th century and peps up the atmosphere a little, I’ll be there, Until then, I go direct to the big guy and he seems to be ok with it)

As for volunteering at a charity, that’s a toughie. I can’t even make eye contact with a homeless person because my tears well up – I can’t seem to detach myself from the emotional aspect of those less fortunate (if I volunteered at a soup kitchen I’d probably end up needing more consolation than those I’m serving) No, I’m not capable of that kind of task – If I’m truly meant to aid others I need some direction as to other ways to be of charitable service. (it’s not for everyone)

I also didn’t join a book club. I would’ve liked to, but to date I haven’t been invited to join one I’d like to be a part of. (ok, I haven’t been invited to any…I guess I’m not as popular as I thought)

And as for meditation, I did try, and will again. It isn’t easy to gain the discipline needed to truly relax the mind but I suspect practice is what is needed so I will continue to make the effort and, as luck would have it, I have a whole new year ahead of me to give it a go!

A clean slate!

If I had to make any resolutions, I would make only one. “Don’t look back to yesterday”  I did the best I could with what I had at the time, and if it didn’t work out as well as it should have, well, that’s a sign to try something else. It is not a reason to berate myself, so don’t go there.

I’m a good person, with good intentions, as I believe we all are, and I like me just the way I am. The past year gave me time with my family and friends in a wonderful way, and the New Year poses opportunities for me to expand on that. And if somewhere in there I manage to read an Italian book, on yoga, while on route to a book club meeting, hosted by a priest, I’ll try to meditate on ways to help those less fortunate. If not, I will still be ok….I’ll just re-evaluate my goals for the following year.

I’m ok, and life is good. Love and accept yourself, just the way you are.

Happiness and blessings.

yesterday

The Aftermath

The Holiday Aftermath

T’was the day after Christmas and you wake up with dread                                                  Those 12 drummers drumming still pound in your head

Tiptoe to the kitchen without making a sound                                                                         And survey the damage while glancing around

Your holiday table once festive and pretty                                                                                Now looks like a war zone all tattered and dirty

There’s ribbon and paper all over the room                                                                                    And sighing reluctantly you reach for the broom

The tree stands majestic, a beautiful sight                                                                                    So you reach for the plug to turn on its’ light

Closing your eyes, thinking back on past days                                                                                You relive the moments your memory plays

The weeks you spent shopping and cleaning and cooking                                                            The nights you spent wrapping when no one was looking

That cold frosty day when you hung outdoor lights                                                                        The friends that you welcomed those holiday nights

You still hear the laughter and carolers singing                                                                        And off in the distance you hear church bells ringing

Chocolate wrappers are strewn everywhere                                                                                    And the smell of roast turkey is still in the air

You pause in your sweeping and put on the tea                                                                  Ignoring the mess that you no longer see

Settling in to your chair, your warm mug in hand                                                                    You give in to the respite your memories demand

The mess of the holidays may today bring you sorrow                                                                But the warmth of the season runs long past tomorrow

Happy New Year

Holiday Hang ups

The Christmas holiday is almost upon us and unlike most years, I am more organized than ever. Gifts are long since purchased and wrapped. The tree is up, the house decorated, baking is done, and my holiday menu is set, needing only last minute preparation. I should be thrilled…so how come I’m not?

Last week I was wandering through a local shop with no particular plan to buy anything, and I bumped in to a good friend, also wandering aimlessly. We engaged in the usual chit-chat then parted ways, wandering again. The encounter replayed in my mind throughout the afternoon, but not because there was anything remarkable about it…..we are good friends and see each other often. What struck me later was that she appeared as ‘low key’ as I did about the upcoming holidays. And like me, she too is prepared, so a relaxed and jovial demeanour should be the mood of the day, every coming day over the season….but it’s not.

The puzzle remained in my subconscious, unresolved, until a conversation with another good friend several days later. We had planned a shopping day and soon after she picked me up she mentioned how happy she was to be getting out, doing something, anything, because she had been feeling blue and wanted to snap out of it. This was the opening I needed.

I mentioned my own feeling of malaise and the sense that my other friend too was less than jubilant, for no apparent reason. We all three have loving families, homes, friends, all the gifts one could possibly want, so what was our problem? And are we alone?

What is it about the holidays that brings with it a feeling of melancholy? It is after all, a celebration of birth, and life, and faith. We gather with friends and loved ones. We eat and drink without abandon. We give and get ‘stuff’, whether we need it or not – what’s not to love?

Maybe it’s our sentimental side that emerges with the season.   We appear to take the time to ‘reflect’ at the holidays and it seems when we have time to reflect, we also have time to regret, and reminisce, and that’s not always a bad thing, but it can be painful.

As it turns out one friend was remembering Christmases past when her husband was alive and she keenly felt the void of his passing, especially over the holidays because they spent much of their holidays celebrating at one event after another, together.

The other friend too was reflecting on past years when Christmas was lively and so busy you didn’t have time to reflect. She ran herself ragged cooking and entertaining, reveling in the joy her labours bestowed on others. So how come she’s not feeling the love now? Nothing has changed. Family and friends are still gathering, happily, and are appreciative of her efforts.

When I took the time to look inside myself I found I too was remembering what was. I remember holidays with my family as a child; a sparkling Christmas tree, laden with gifts and chocolates. I remember my parents and grandparents laughing around the holiday table. I guess through the eyes of a child we see only the wonder and happiness of the holidays. Oh, to be young and naïve again!

As we age we see not only the celebration of the occasion, but also the memories of holidays past, and the reality of the notion that not everyone has had the ‘happiness’ we have enjoyed…..I guess that’s the hard part of growing up, facing reality.

Our holiday table now has new faces filling the seats of those we’ve lost, either by death or distance, and old traditions are replaced with new. The little ones (thank heaven for them!) still run wild with excitement, eating cookies and chocolate, and dreaming of Santa’s arrival, and the elders who once hosted the holidays (and called all the shots), sit quietly at the table, having passed the torch to the next generation. This is, I guess, the cycle of life.

Change isn’t always easy but it is necessary, and it seems it is most apparent at the holidays, and since we can’t avoid it we’d best view it through the eyes of our inner child. Celebrate the moment and all who share it with you, but don’t leave out those fond memories of people and times past because it is they and those that fashion the memories we are making now. Life is good.

Merry Christmas and may God Bless!

Holiday blues

 

Speak up or shut up

I admire those who speak their mind. It speaks to their confidence and tells me they deem me worthy of engaging in a conversation with them because the conversation will be two-way. At least that’s how it’s supposed to work. What I don’t like is those who deliver their opinion with a mission to conversion, and I’m sure we’ve all come up against these individuals!

Every encounter we have, every person we meet presents an opportunity for us to expand our mind. I love spending time with someone who has a different view of things, a twist on the typical opinion, an educated opinion that is, and that education can be from books or life, and both are valuable.

Now I might not necessarily agree with the opinion of another but I respect their right to express it as long as the exchange is reciprocal. I’ll hear you out with an open mind because I’m open to ‘possibilities’ – who knows, maybe you’ll teach me something I hadn’t considered before and change my way of thinking. There’s also the possibility that I’ll walk away shaking my head and thinking you’re nuts. When you speak your mind, you take a chance to enlighten another, possibly effecting change. When you stay silent you take no chance and effect no change, and that is a missed opportunity.

To speak up is to express an opinion freely with confidence and without expectation; you are seeking to educate for the benefit of another and without personal gain. One who is outspoken on the other hand, is candid, forthright and relentless, often considered the know-it-all, and with the goal of convincing another to change their opinion for the benefit of their own ego, i.e. they are on a mission to recruit followers. Personally, I’ve been accused of both and while I acknowledge I may be unwittingly outspoken, I have never been so with the goal of converting another to my way of thinking. It’s too much work and simply doesn’t interest me. (Maybe I’m lazy or lack the confidence?) I do, however, believe there is a very fine line between the two, one that is easy to cross. (give me a topic I’m comfortable with and a pulpit and I could go on for hours!)

There have been times when I’ve had to extricate myself from a conversation because the ‘sales pitch’ was too exhausting. The individual simply wouldn’t let up because they could see I wasn’t ‘sold’ yet and they can’t move on to their next victim until they’ve convinced you to join their cause. These people are easy to spot – by the end of the evening they’re usually alone.

And at some point in our lives we have all been the outspoken one; preaching what we think we are knowledgeable on, and determined to convert our listeners. Neither role is offensive really, just human. We simply want to periodically exert our expertise for the benefit of our self-confidence, or maybe for the benefit of another’s self-confidence, or maybe just to effect change where we think it is needed, and that’s never bad.

Don’t be afraid to speak up. (I’m not) You might lose something good, but you may well gain something even better, so if you want to effect change speak up, otherwise be happy with life as it is…..quiet and boring.

loudmouth

The corporate vortex

We all want a satisfying and rewarding job, and taking pride in our career is only natural. For so many it’s who we are. But have we gone too far in our quest to succeed in the workplace? At what point do we cross the line of balance between work and family and what are we losing in the process?

When traveling in Europe a few years ago I was surprised when businesses, including stores, literally closed for 21/2 hours each day so that families could be together for the midday meal – what a wonderful practice! For that matter I recall it was difficult to find coffee or tea ‘to go’. The expectation was that you sit down and enjoy your beverage instead of gulping it down on the run, so it was served in a glass cup or mug. How civilized is that!

North American society has developed this 24/7 mentality that sees our personal lives being encroached upon more and more by work related duties, and mandates are endless because no sooner do you complete a project than a new one is assigned. The more you give, the more they expect. Lap tops, Ipads, Blackberry’s and cell phones have only added to the burden by keeping us ‘connected’ to the workplace 7 days a week, 365 days per year, so you’d better love your job….. because you can’t escape it.

There are those who revel in their jobs. They live and breathe the corporate culture, and they identify themselves first and foremost by their ‘career persona’. Men tend to fall into this category more than women. Women identify themselves as wives, partners, and mothers first because the home front is typically their domain. The career is second, or even third, but as women gain ground in the workforce priorities are shifting, even for them, and often not by choice. Many prefer the challenge of working outside the home and that’s great if it works in their personal lives, but too often they are having to give more than they want simply to stay employed.

Demands of the job are taking over not only our personal lives but our personal goals. Employers want us to complete a 75 hour mandate in a 40 hour work week and if we dare to complain of overwork, we are quickly reminded that there’s any number of people out there happy to have our job, so we sacrifice home and family to keep the job, because we need the money.

And if that isn’t enough, employers also want us to perform community service, in their name, and on our time. (What happened to charity begins at home?)

Too often I’ve witnessed the career driven individual who gave their life to their career only to find themselves downsized or eliminated when their purpose has been served, and nothing is more devastating to them – their personal purpose is gone, along with their confidence. “But don’t take it personally…it’s a business decision”  the employer tells them. “We’re just moving in a different direction with the business and your skillset is no longer relevant.”  This is the stuff breakdowns are made of and I shake my head at the complete lack of corporate conscience.

Let’s learn from our European neighbours. What if we took time every day to be with our loved ones, without any corporate devices? Enjoy a meal with friends or family, read a good book. If we are motivated to do charitable work then do it for ourselves, not to improve your employers corporate profile.

People are working longer and harder in jobs that are less personally satisfying. A job well done used to be rewarded and appreciated. Now it’s expected in half the time and appreciation is not forthcoming because you’re just doing what you’re paid for. I can remember when employees wanted to play on the company baseball team, and colleagues would go out for a drink after work on a Friday night. They were happy, and it reflected in their performance on the job because happy employees do better work. Now people have been so squeezed of their energy and joy in the workplace they are reluctant to socialize with colleagues at all. Even company Christmas parties have lost their attendance because employees are tired and undervalued so they don’t want to spend any more time in the workplace than they have to.

At the end of the day we all have to do what is necessary to support ourselves and if you’re truly happy in your workplace, lucky you…because you are not the norm. Just look around. Most are overworked, stressed and unhappy. If you can make the changes to balance your work and family life do it, because no one is impressed with an obituary that reads “Here lies John Doe, who dedicated his life to the corporate cause (which, by the way, is also what killed him). He leaves behind a family who barely saw him.”

The obituary will be followed by a job posting for his now vacant role, because business is business.

Overworked

Keeping the positive attitude as you age….

….is more important than ever… but so hard to do! Ailments and injury are unpredictable, fast, and all too frequent.

Last summer I was chatting with my daughter on the back porch. I happened to lean forward to pick up a nail file,,,a nail file…and that was it. I hurt something in my back that put me out of commission for weeks.

Later, the next fall, I caught a cold (ok, who doesn’t in the fall?)  One day, I happened to cough and in doing so pulled a muscle in my lower back,,,from a simple cough! The strain to my back was substantial, painful enough to warrant physio therapy and major pain killers, the kind that make you sick to your stomach, but I decided the pain was worse than the vomiting so I took the pills. It was almost 11 months before my back was fully healed from this one.

I was putting away a casserole dish 2 days ago, in a lower cupboard. I’ve done this a million times,,,, in fact, I had to access this same awkward cupboard 3 days ago to prepare the casserole, so you’d think I’d be used to it, but no. I knelt to place the dish on the lower shelf at the very back and in doing so wrenched my right knee such that I could barely move for the next several days. My knee joint was stiff and swollen, and I had to lurch about the house like a big clumsy Frankenstein.

What has happened to my body? I can recall my parents sporting injuries, back, knees, shoulders,,,but that was my parents, and they were ancient! Weren’t they?

When I was a young girl I was always very determined to remain physically active, always. In fact, my sister and I both did, largely because our mother, God bless her, was hugely inactive. She maintained that physical activity was masculine and completely unsuitable to females. I’m sure there’s some psychological throw back to her own upbringing but we’ve never quite figured it out. Suffice it to say, we always strived to remain fit, if for no other reason than to remain able to enjoy our ‘golden years’, cause let’s face it, the years leading up to that are just a lot of hard work, so we earn our ‘golden years’. It would be cruel for nature to rob us of this time!

So, I walk, religiously, ridiculously, every single day, and always have. When diagnosed with arthritis a number of years ago, I worked with a physio therapist and Yoga instructor to create a daily routine to keep my joints limber. I do everything I should to maintain flexibility and good health, but it appears genetics, lifestyle and destiny supersede our efforts because as fast as we deal with issues, nature and aging take another angle, throwing a wrench into the spokes. Even when we do have a period of good health, we don’t ‘look’ the same. The sands of time have shifted and what once nicely filled out a sweater now sadly sags like an unwanted pile.

As we age it seems we encounter more negative aspects of life when, shouldn’t we be reaping the benefits of a life well lived? A life hard earned? The physical aspects aside, we struggle with declining agility, memory loss, death of peers,,,,c’mon, thow us a bone already!

But no bone is forthcoming.

Because this is the cycle of life, and life is not meant to be easy. If it was easy, it wouldn’t be worth the effort.  It takes great fortitude and self- discipline to stay positive in light of ‘aging’, among all the other challenges encountered in our lives. Look for the bright light (not the death light, not yet) the ‘light’ of hope that all is not for naught.

So, I‘ve determined that my efforts to remain flexible aren’t futile, after all. I will continue to do what I have to, to stay fit, and if destiny intervenes, so be it. (don’t mess with me God, cause I still have the ability to bitch and NO ONE can take that away from me, not even you) I shouldn’t be hard to spot. I’ll be the feisty old lady bitching at the side of the road, with a limp!

feisty old lady

Productivity

Aside from the obvious differences, men and women ‘see’ things quite differently. What is priority to one, matters little to the other. For example:

I wake at 7:00am, make my way downstairs and prepare breakfast. I eat my fruit, drink my coffee and and eventually take fruit and coffee up to my wonderful husband. He is sitting up in bed watching the news and is most appreciative of the ‘delivery service’.

I sort some laundry and make my way downstairs with the wash then I tidy up the kitchen and head down to the freezer to defrost something for dinner. Upon seeing no further breakfast is forthcoming, my husband eventually gets up and comes down to make some toast.

I head upstairs where I get dressed and make the now empty bed as I plan out my day. My husband has come back upstairs, gets dressed and moves to his chaise lounge chair, located just outside the bedroom, to read the paper.

I prepare my grocery list and head out for my walk to the grocery store, list in hand. Two hours later my grocery cart piled high with staples, I call my darling husband to pick me up. It takes a few moments for him to answer because he dozed off reading the paper.

Upon returning I put away the groceries and empty the garbage cans in the kitchen and washrooms. As I see my husband heading upstairs, library book in hand, I remind him that we are having company for dinner this evening and suggest he help me prepare the house. He disappears into the garage  and when I next check in on him I see he’s washing the car. (Ok, not necessarily a priority for my dinner party but work is work) He eventually comes in satisfied that he’s done his part and asks, ‘what’s for lunch?’

I make us both a quick sandwich, finish cleaning the kitchen and bathrooms and prepare to mop the kitchen floor, stopping to change the laundry on my way. My husband has now moved to the bedroom so he can watch tv under a blanket – he has a chill.

After the floors are dry I put everything back into the kitchen and run the vacuum through the other rooms, tidying up as I do. Then I hastily set the table. Noting from the local weather forecast that the clear and mild weather isn’t to last until tomorrow I determine this is likely the best time to put out our holiday lights so I head into the garage and spend the next 21/2 hours sorting Christmas lights and stringing them onto our bushes. My husband comes down to make a cup of coffee, steps outside briefly to declare the lights I hung adequate, stops to admire the shiny car, then returns to his chaise, coffee and ipad in hand.

I come inside, having completed my outdoor work, fold my 2nd load of laundry and head upstairs to put things away. It’s late afternoon now and my chores for the day are mostly done so I jump into a shower mentally planning the strategy for my dinner menu. I remind my partner in passing that he still needs to set up the bar and he nods. By the time I get out of the shower my sweetheart has moved back to the bed to watch tv but now the noise of my hair dryer overpowers the sound so he decides this is a good time to go downstairs after all .

Clean and dressed I eventually come down to the kitchen to prepare dinner for our guests only to find the love of my life hovered over the kitchen sink madly scrubbing, and golf balls are drying on towels all over the counter. I note the time and suggest perhaps he finish up this vital task another day, after all it’s almost December so it’s unlikely he’ll need those balls for at least the next 4  months. I remind him also that we have dinner guests arriving in 2 hours and that we really should be getting ready. Oblivious to my sense of urgency, my sweetheart grudgingly packs up his golf balls, putting them and his cleaning supplies on a side counter (so all can see his efforts?) and heads upstairs to shower.

In between chopping, peeling and cooking, I update my banking, paying a few bills, etc. My husband finally comes down showered and dressed, and declares it’s after 5:00 and it’s  been a long day – time for a cocktail.  He sets up the bar in preparation for guests, repositions his bucket of balls so that they’re front and center, and settles into his chair to await our guests while watching the Golf channel.

Our dinner guests arrive and we enjoy a lovely evening. They comment on a delicious meal, lovely table, and even note how pretty the Christmas lights look as they leave. As we tidy up the dishes and head up to bed I notice my husband is unusually quiet. The evening was a success so puzzled, I inquire as to his pensive mood to which he replies, “All that work, the preparation, the toil, and they didn’t even notice how clean my golf balls were!”

***Disclaimer – no husbands were hurt in the making of this blog***

Man cleaning

Gratitude

I was recently in a conversation with friends and the subject of gratitude came up, specifically how there seems to be such a shortage of it today. We are a busy people, all of us, and there’s no shortage of energy expressing all that is wrong in our lives. If only we could expend such energy (gratitude) on what is right in our lives.

Distraction plays a big role here. Time is short and we are much in demand, and it seems it is the negatives in life that catch our attention, i.e. they are the priority, consuming our minds and ultimately weighing us down. We are reminded of everything we don’t have versus everything we do, and too often we take all that is right in our lives for granted, even the bad things, because they too have purpose.

Maybe it’s a symptom of age. I don’t recall myself reflecting daily and giving thanks for all that was good in my life when I was young. In my arrogance I simply assumed it was my right that life was good – I expected life to be good and easy and abundant, and when it wasn’t I blamed everything from God, to destiny, to luck, bad luck. Age and experience have made me a little more conscious of appreciating not only all that is good in my life, but also all that wasn’t. It wasn’t always that way.

When something goes very right it’s easy to celebrate but when something goes wrong how often do we step back and think, “ok, why did this happen, and how can I make it of benefit to me?” We don’t. But we should  because everything happens for a reason and the reason is never to punish us but rather to learn.

I lost my job a few years ago. The circumstances were unpleasant and I didn’t feel I deserved the way I was treated, and in my naive emotional state I honestly thought justice would prevail and I would be exonerated, at the very least supported but the corporate world doesn’t always seek justice. Too often they hide under the guise of ‘a business decision’ or ‘restructuring’ or ‘you’ve simply served your purpose and we’re done with you’. In this case it was more a matter of taking the easy way out and minimizing any public fallout. Releasing me was quicker and less ‘visual’ that dealing with the bigger problem. I went through all the stages, shock, disappointment, anger at the betrayal,,,,,, but not for long, and that surprised me….more even, than the act itself.

In trying to justify the situation in my mind, I had to ask myself if it would’ve been better had it never happened and the answer really shocked me. NO. No, it would not have been better. I realized then that I had been working in a toxic environment and it was slowly killing me. I didn’t see it but friends and family did and they would subtly comment but I wasn’t listening, so fate took the wheel. Or maybe it was destiny or God or I don’t know who (personally I think it was God, but that’s my belief). All I know is that I was forcibly removed from an environment that was hurting my psyche….and it was a good thing because….eventually I was grateful.  I was of the age and position to retire, so I did. That doesn’t make the injustice hurt any less but it did make me reflective. I came to realize that one way or another I had to get out of that environment, and I wasn’t doing it myself, so God, intervened,,,,for my own good.

That experience made me really appreciate everything in my life. I’m in a better place. I spend time with my family, my friends, and I no longer lament the things that supposedly went wrong because from something so very wrong came something so very good, and I found myself feeling something  in this situation I hadn’t imagined ….gratitude. Gratitude isn’t always just about the good things in life, although we should always be thankful for those anyway because they’re just a gift. It’s about evaluating everything in life, measuring its’ worth, appreciating the lesson, and taking stock.

Not a day goes by that I don’t thank God for the people in my life, what I have, and where I am. I will never understand the ‘how’ or ‘why’ of some things, but I will trust that they occur the way they do for good reason, and I will always be grateful  for the outcome. Take nothing for granted. Focus on the good, work with the bad, but don’t give it excess energy because it’ll just drain you. Take from ‘the bad’ the lesson and find the positive spin in it because there is always one….look at my story.  Things happen. Life is good.

Gratitude