Sunday, August 5, 2012

We're Moving To Another Blog Site

After much thought and pondering - and importing - I've decided to follow Ruth to Wordpress and continue my blog there...I hope this all transitions smoothly for all of us.

Please join me over here at and see how we do in our new home.

If I can figure out how to disable commenting on this site, I will...hopefully you'll come and make new comments over at the new site.

I'm not sure how this will affect current followers...I apologize for the inconvenience...I'm working on figuring it out...I don't think if you're following here, you will automatically be following me over there. sigh. Hopefully you can connect through Facebook for the time being.

Wrestling With Purpose

It sneaks in through my insecurity; it gnaws at my soul like an unreachable itch; it haunts like an endless aching hunger. I wrestle with it, then reach some sort of truce, even experience nice stretches of contentment; then it whispers in again, often late at night, and won't go away until I give it what it begs for - but I still don't have the definitive answer, so the best I can do is placate it with words and blind reassurance.


I've asked the question in other forums and of many people. How do you know what your purpose in life is? Is it a once-and-for-all purpose? Or does it evolve as we evolve? Do we spend our lives learning lessons and developing skills in order to eventually fulfill our purpose? Or are those  experiences and encounters in themselves our purpose already unfolding?

I think that in my early adult years I may have confused my vocation with my purpose. I was convinced that my calling in life was to have children, dozens of children, some of my own and the rest adopted. For so many years, from as early as 5 years of age, all I wanted was to adopt children that nobody else wanted. And so I lived as if that was what was going to happen - and waited and waited for it to unfold. I took college courses in childcare to prepare myself. I searched for the life partner who would have the same vision and calling. As time went by and neither the husband or opportunity - or financial and physical ability - showed up to help make the dream happen, I was forced by circumstances to busy myself with other endeavors and other career choices. After a massive burnout, several severe bouts of profound depression, chronic debilitating fatigue and a body that would never physically be able to carry children, the dream became impossible. Not only would I never be able to have children of my own, I would also never be approved for adoption because of my history of depression.

Because of the severe fatigue, the loss of that dream didn't hit so hard...I was too tired to look after children anyway, so it was actually a relief to be able to let go of that particular calling. Imagine, trying to cope with a dozen children when I could barely get myself out of bed. Clearly that dream was not within my reach.

Through years of hard work, therapy and perseverance in focusing on gratitude and positive attitude (I call it "rewiring the attic"), I did rise from the ashes and rubble of those days of profound depression and severe debilitation.  I'm proud of my progress, and delighted to be in a good, stable, positive place with more reliable energy and motivation than I've felt since the early 1980's. I've come a very very long way.

But the one thing that didn't make it to my here-and-now is a new-and-improved sense of purpose. It's still a very fuzzy haze of confusion and unknowing...many of the answers that have emerged out of the many wrestlings do sort of click, but not enough to make the lasting impact that I'm searching for. When I was at my worst, so debilitated by fatigue as to be bedridden for long stretches of time, I remember sobbing and asking God what on earth I could possibly be good for anymore. The answer was clear and simple - you can always pray. It immediately brought peace, and for many years, that was the answer I fell back on whenever the question would haunt me again. And God seemed to be very serious about it, to the point of waking me up at night with vivid images of people and global situations to pray for (many of which don't even ever show up in the newspapers or TV newscasts, so would never have come to my mind by themselves because I couldn't even conceive of such misery and need when all of this first began). I am not able to fall back to sleep again until I pray for these people and situations. This continues even today, not only at night, but constantly...constant beckonings and callings to pray for a never-ending stream of names, people and circumstances. There's no doubt in my mind and heart that this is indeed something I'm meant to do. And I love to do it, I love to pray...even when I'm in the middle of a mall, or restaurant, or the hustle and bustle of a crowded city street, I can feel my spirit constantly praying for healing and blessings on the people I encounter and pass along the way.

But for some reason, there's still something inside of me that can't accept that it's the end of each day, as I thank God for the blessings and wonders of that day, I also find myself asking, yet again, that my eyes and heart be opened to see and fulfill my purpose, my reason for being here. The answers are always the same: pray, love (learn how to love and to be loved) and be light. One of my very favourite scripture verses is from Micah 6:8, and I hug it close to my heart as one of the most beloved answers to my quest for what I'm here to do:  
What does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy  
and to walk humbly with your God.
 I can do that. I'm learning more and more about love and mercy every moment. And humility? I can only laugh, because one of the most constant situations I encounter - everywhere I go - is the empty toilet paper roller - I'm serious!! It happens so much that I've actually asked God, half-joking, half-whining, if that was my purpose in life, to change the toilet paper rolls everywhere I go...I think He may have actually answered me by asking "well, what if that WAS all I ever asked you to do?" To which I answered, "well, if I knew it was You asking it of me, I would do it with joy." And I swear I saw His eyes sparkle...and so I change the toilet paper roll everywhere I go, with joy and gratitude, and a little knowing glance and chuckle at that twinkle in His eye.

At this point in time, I honestly don't know if it's enough, if these "very little things" can really be my purpose in life. There doesn't seem to be a definitive answer that will silence that questioning or feed that yearning...but maybe we're not meant to know all the facets or nooks and crannies of our purpose. Maybe for some of us, it really does evolve as the day evolves. Some people do seem to have a better grasp of what they're meant to do, I would like to experience that sense of accomplishment and contentment, but will probably have to continue wrestling with whatever it is within me that is blocking that sense of "being enough".

For now I'll continue to pray, love, and be light wherever possible. And change the toilet paper rolls everywhere I go.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

My New Regime is Working!

About 2 months ago, in June, my doctor reluctantly diagnosed me as having Type 2 Diabetes. I was right on the test came back at 7.1 and the official number is 7.0. Since then I've been monitoring my own glucose levels and have been keeping track of the triggers and tweaking my diet accordingly.

At first, I was quite lost. She (my doctor) had not referred me to a dietician, and I found it very confusing to know where to start in terms of what to cut and what to keep in my diet. Thankfully my brother had been through this years ago and sent me an email with the changes which had worked for him. So those recommendations became my new regime. Since then, I've tweaked it a bit to suit our lifestyle, and for the most part, it's working very well. So well in terms of losing weight, that I've had to slow down because I need to be able to fit into the clothes that I've set aside for our trip to China in the fall. I suspect that if I were to stick to this regime full-time, the weight would start to fall off.

For now, I decided to share my new regime here, for anyone who might be interested. A few disclaimers to start off with: I AM NOT AN EXPERT! Please, before you embark on any new diet or health regime, please consult your own doctor. I've built and tweaked this regime according to my own glucose requirements...I've had to monitor my sugar and weight and tweak my intake accordingly. So results will vary for other people depending on metabolism and various other factors. I make no claims to the "official" healthfulness of this diet or that it would work for anyone else. I'm still tweaking, still experimenting, still prone to being lazy and taking breaks from it now and then to indulge.

This regime is actually super easy. I've been amazed at how simple it really is. And if you watch any television or read Internet and/or magazine articles, you've probably heard this all before. But I'll try to put it altogether into one easy-to-digest format.

To put it bluntly, the primary change I made was to  CUT ALL CARBS AND ADD MORE PROTEIN AND VEGETABLES.

In my first few days of glucose monitoring, when I would test my blood sugar every two hours, I quickly learned that carbohydrates were my primary trigger. I was stunned to see how high just a few mouthfuls of pasta, white bread or Chinese noodles could spike my sugar. So I cut them out, almost completely and immediately noticed the difference in both my sugar levels and weight loss.

Here's what I've cut or reduced for now:

* all pasta (this includes Chinese noodles and even vermicelli)
* all white bread
* all rice
* all sweetened drinks - pop, juices, etc.
* reduced potatoes (I will often eat one mini white or red potato at supper, but then augment it with sweet potato which is a recommended substitute for diabetics)
* reduced caffeine
* reduced condiments (ketchup, sauces, all mayo-type products, salad dressings)

And here's what I've increased:
* protein and vegetables at every meal
* fruit: I try to eat fruit alone only as a snack, but lately I've been eating lots of fruit with yogurt as my dessert and that seems to work okay for me too.
* walking - lots of walking - outside if possible, or at the mall if it's too hot or rainy to walk outside.
* stairs - we have two flights, so I regularly make myself go all the way from upstairs to basement and back upstairs, 2-3 times through the day. 

Cutting the carbs was very difficult to do at the beginning, but I stuck to it. When we were traveling, I didn't always have a choice as to what was served to me, but in those instances, I just cut my portion of carbs to about 1/4 - 1/3 cup per meal. The bottom line for me, because of how my body is reacting to it, is to cut as much of these primary triggers as possible. I can, and do, "cheat" once in awhile (e.g., today I allowed myself a small ice cream cone as an afternoon snack).

So here's my particular regime, meal-by-meal:

Breakfast: Protein! I need to start my day off with a protein, so I start every single morning with one egg (two if I know we're going to be doing a lot of walking with no chance for a snack, for example in Cuba) and lots of vegetables. Typically I saute (in a mixture of about 1 tsp of butter and a drizzle of olive oil) a mixture of veggies, usually onions, mushrooms, celery and red pepper, then scramble in my egg, adding chopped fresh tomatoes and about 2 tbsp of grated cheddar or Jarlsberg cheese (I add the cheese to get some calcium into my diet because I can't drink milk). So I just cook all of that into a scrambled omelet. I drink a full glass of water, and 1 cup of Earl Grey tea...this is the only caffeine I consume all day...any other tea that I might drink through the day is decaffeinated, including the green tea we regularly have in the evening after supper.

Mid-Morning Snack: I often don't eat a snack in the morning, because we're out and about running errands, and the egg usually carries me through til lunch anyway. But if we have a basket of fresh peaches or other yummy summer fruit around, I'll try to eat a peach mid-morning.

Lunch: I find lunch the hardest...because we're used to having sandwiches. But now I use that PROTEIN AND VEGGIES formula again. I will typically prepare a large bowl of salad (lettuce, cucumber, tomato, mushroom, pepper, red onions), chop up one or two slices of turkey, leftover chicken or ham into the salad - and sometimes I'll toss in a bit more cheese (again, about 1-2 tbsp worth) - then drizzle about 1-2 tbsp of salad dressing (my fave is Asian sesame) over top and have that for my lunch. If I'm really hungry and know that that won't fill me, I'll microwave another egg and toss that into the salad as well. The key here is to keep it limited as much as possible to protein and veggies, and only use the dressing sparingly.

Then I'll often eat about 2-3 tbsp of plain yogurt with a colourful medley of fruit - these days my typical serving includes one or two large strawberries, 7-8 blueberries, one peach and 1/2 banana.

Then to finish lunch off, I have one (ONE) small square of dark (72 - 85% cocoa) chocolate. Apparently it's VERY HEALTHY for us...who am I to argue?!

And I drink only water.

Mid-afternoon Snack: For as long as I can remember, I've always had the munchies around 2:30 - 3:00. Trying to ignore that hunger is futile. This is the time of day that I used to eat chips, chocolate, or pastry-type stuff. Now this is the time of day that I might allow myself a small (SMALL) serving of carb...perhaps a small ice cream cone (we buy the smallest cones available). I use a teaspoon to dish out the ice cream, usually about 5-6 tsp will do...the ice cream is a sugar food, but does add a wee bit to my calcium intake.

A healthier alternative would be a fruit smoothie (any fruit or mixture of fruit blended with ice, no dairy), or even just plain fruit. The secret is to not totally deprive yourself, but to reduce and make wiser choices - ice cream, in reduced portion, is a better choice than pastry. Fresh fruit, whether alone or in a smoothie (no dairy or sugar added) is an even better choice.

Supper: Protein and veggies again. We often have 2-3 different veggies every night. This is the only meal where I might allow myself a potato, but only one mini white or red. We now keep a good supply of sweet potatoes on hand and usually have some ready for every meal, so I'll have about 1/3 of a large sweet potato along with the mini. (Hubby just cuts it up into small pieces, adds some onion and basil from the garden and microwaves it - so yummy we never have to add any sweetener [which we used to do]). The protein portion is usually about a fist-sized portion of fish, chicken, sometimes pork or beef, seasoned with salt-reduced spices and herbs from the garden, no sauces! The veggies cover the rest of the plate. No butter (occasionally we do add a wee bit of butter to some olive oil while cooking the meat and/or veggies). Salt-reduced spices. No condiments, except maybe a drizzle of salad dressing when we have salad on the side. It's hard at first, but it doesn't take that long for your tongue to get used to going without those sodium-rich sauces and to enjoy the taste of real food again. Research how to use spices, it's worth it, especially since many spices are super-healthy!

Dessert is usually fruit...sometimes I do allow myself 2 (and only 2) ginger cookies to dunk in my tea....we only drink decaffeinated green tea after supper. If you encounter that fishy taste/smell in green tea, shop around for a brand that you like that doesn't have as strong a smell/taste. Green tea is also very healthy so it's worth the search.

Bedtime Snack: Well, this was a tough one, and I'm still tweaking this. The problem is that if I don't eat before bed, I wake up around 3am so hungry that I can't sleep. So since my diet didn't include enough grains and fibre, I decided to use the bedtime snack as the opportunity to add these to my day. So I bought 3 different boxes of cereal and combined them in a zip-lock bag. Some people can eat bran cereals with no problem, but I can't. They literally gag me. I discovered that if I combine bran with another slightly sweeter cereal, it's much easier to eat. So by the time I combine these 3 cereals (two are high oat and bran fibre, the other an organic blend of various grains sweetened with real maple syrup, which is actually a healthier choice than white sugar), I end up with over 16 different grains (including psyllium, quinoa, flax, buckwheat, amaranth and oat bran, all supposedly vital anti-inflammatory grains that are good especially for women) and even some cinnamon, which is apparently very beneficial for diabetics. So far, it seems to be working okay, though I must make sure I only eat about 1/3 cup or my glucose reading in the morning will be higher than I want it to be. Adding about 2 tbsp of low-fat milk to my cereal also allows me a wee bit more calcium.

So that's it. Add a good 20-30 minute walk (minimum) at least once a day (if my intake increases, especially my carb intake, e.g. because of eating out at a restaurant or someone else's house, I try to add another walk later in the day, or run up and down a few more flights of stairs.)

Since I started this regime two months ago, I've lost 12-14 pounds...I did gain some back while in Toronto because we ate wrap sandwiches for almost every meal. I could be losing more if I wanted to on this regime - but right now I don't want to lose too much more until after our trip to China...I can't afford to buy a whole new wardrobe for that trip right now.

I hope this helps anyone. It's almost too easy. We've all heard it all before. More protein and veggies; no or reduced carbs; reduce fats (use only olive oil and butter - you do need a bit of fat, so don't cut that out altogether); cut condiments; walk more.

One last trick, when I DO decide to eat some bread (which is rare now), is to buy low-carb multi-grain with only1 gram of sugar per 2 slices - it's admittedly tasteless, BUT it allows me to add jam (especially homemade peach jam) or peanut butter (see addendum re peanut butter in paragraph below - if possible, switch to almond butter) without any significant increase in the sugar and calorie counts.

(Side comment: While it doesn't work for me anymore because of how it spikes my sugar, and because bread DOES bloat me and almost immediately causes significant weight gain, there are many many experts "out there" who recommend, as the best bedtime snack, one slice of whole/multi grain toast with peanut butter...Addendum: watch the sugar in peanut butter! Most brands are loaded. I've switched to an organic product combining almond and cashew butter - no added sugar! And IMO tastes much better.)

So to recap and summarize, I believe that my amazing weight loss results are due primarily to the cutting of carbs, focusing on protein and veggies, and adding more walking to my regime.

Informational links below: please, consult your doctor before embarking on a new diet or health regime!

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Things I Don't Understand But Want To

I don't understand how someone could post this picture on their blog and not include the recipe!!! I mean, come on! I'm drooling all over my keyboard and itching to lick my screen. If you're going to post pictures like this on your blog, at least have the decency to include a recipe, or a link to a recipe, or better yet, free samples. Geeeshhh!

The four tones of Mandarin Chinese, without which you apparently can't learn how to speak the language properly. I have spent many hours listening to a Mandarin language CD and still have only learned how to say hello and thank you, and even those I'm not sure of because there are many different ways to say each, depending on which of the four tones you use. Sigh.

Ambiguity...I try never to use the word "hate", but ambiguity is one thing that I would have to admit to hating, if I used the word "hate".

I don't understand why I can't get enough of this little guy?! He always makes me laugh and whenever I see his picture, he brightens up my day.

I love it when I find an excuse to post his picture.

How can a man spend HOURS flipping through channels with the remote, landing on programs here and there on his way through to nowhere in particular, and then become so absorbed within a nanosecond that he gets visibly annoyed when I talk, behaving as if he's actually trying to watch this show and I'm making him miss the best part. What??

With all the different kinds of coffee available out there, why can't I find one that I like? Would I even know how to ask for it if I did like it?

After all the games have been played, posts have been liked, comments have been made, messages responded to and my Facebook page has had nothing new added for hours, why do I sit here, staring at my screen, until I can barely keep my eyes open - or have to pee so badly I can hardly walk to the bathroom - before I finally reluctantly log off. I just can't stand the thought of missing anything. I'm afraid of not being able to log back on again - maybe my laptop won't work tomorrow, maybe we'll have a power outage, or the Internet will be down. 
            The possibilities are endless.

Can you tell that I love my window to the world? Thank you all for making my world so much brighter and worth logging into - and for helping to make it impossible to log out!

Monday, July 30, 2012

A Spiritual Aside

I've really enjoyed blogging over these past few months. Blogging has been a fun, sometimes therapeutic outlet for my love of writing. I've really enjoyed meandering through some rather random pathways, not always knowing where one thought was going to lead, but always enjoying the journey through.

After all of these months, though, I'm feeling a bit baffled by something. When I first began this blog, I expected these meanderings to take me/us through some of my deepest hope had been that God's light would find a home here, that His Love and Light would meander with me and through me and ripple into the words that poured out through my keyboard.

It hasn't happened, at least on a regular basis, even though my spirituality is profound and central to my entire existence. Any gratitude that I express for anything or anyone is grounded in a profound gratitude for how richly God has loved and nourished me along each and every path I find myself following. So it's baffling that I mention gratitude without mentioning Him by Name.

I love God. Yes, I've wrestled with Him, I've raged at Him, I've walked away from Him out of inexpressible hurt and sense of betrayal. But from within those wrestlings and those ragings, His Light, and especially His Mercy, have shone into my lostness and anger, bringing me to my knees in awe of the tender - and very intimate - expressions of His compassion and patient understanding of all that I crawl through to stay alive and connected to life and Him.

We've been through a lifetime of muck and mire, He and I...we've shared the entire gambit of human life - fun and failures, joys and sorrow, laughter and crippling agony, dancing and debilitation at death's doorstep...He has been my most constant companion-along-the-way, and I could write a book - a big book - of all that He has done, been, said and shown me every inch and step of my entire life.

So why do I barely mention Him in my bloggings? I wonder. I know that I pray before starting to write, asking for guidance and inspiration. And when the words begin to flow, I just flow with them, following them where they seem to want to go. If at the end of that flow, there is no mention of God, well, I don't force it, I can only leave it as is and pray that it's enough just the way it is.

But I've been pondering this lately. I admit that I'm very weary of religious controversy, very heartsick at the proliferation of violence and hatred that rages in the world in the name of "god" (I refuse to capitalize "god" in this context because I don't believe that anyone could possibly be killing and hating in the name of the God I've come to know and love...whatever god they're using to justify their actions isn't one that deserves that capital "g", IMO). Anyway, I'm tired of religiosity, of people using scripture and dogma to repress, judge, hate, exclude, punish and kill any other human being. Even within Christian denominations I see Christians fighting against other Christians, actually professing to hate "this sector" or "those people" within their own Church. I've had to walk away from the institutional church for awhile while I figure out how to find the least toxic and most inclusive community possible. Any place that excludes others for any reason just isn't the place for me anymore.

For now, I'm content to just live and let live.

But even that has been a challenge...just in the past few months, I've been drawn into some fairly heated - and uncomfortable - religious discussions...I didn't want to be there in those situations, and found myself begging God for a way out, a distraction or change of subject. I felt trapped in a toxicity I wanted no part of partaking in. I'm tired of this. I just love God. And I love, treasure, adamantly uphold and pray for every human being on the face of the earth to enjoy the same freedom that I have, to simply love God, using whatever name He allows them to call Him, and wearing whatever face He chooses to use to reveal Himself to them.

I don't want my faith, my profoundly beautiful nourishing relationship with my God, to ever offend, upset, challenge, annoy or in any way toxify anyone else...I admit that perhaps that above all else is why my spirituality doesn't leak too much into my writings...I could not and will not ever ask or even imply that anyone else "should" believe what I believe - I firmly believe that each person's journey to and/or with God is uniquely theirs and that we're not all meant to follow the exact same spiritual path. Perhaps my sensitivity is flawed and could be misinterpreted as cowardice, but I just don't feel like deliberately flaunting my spirituality every time I speak or blog. I don't want to forcibly inject it into subjects and meanderings where it doesn't really fit.

My spirituality is the essence of doesn't need special words or scriptural references to make it so, it just is. I live in God, He lives in me, we are bound together by 57 years of intimate relationship, 57 years of crawling together through muddy trenches, sitting together in deep dark holes that I didn't know how to escape...57 years of constant struggling just to survive long enough to reach this wonderful plateau of peace that is my here-and-now.

There is no "me" without Him. All that I am is fueled and nurtured by His love and constant Presence in my life and heart and soul. And there, nestled deep in His arms, is where I establish the base assumptions, my starting point for all of my writing, here and elsewhere.

There is a big part of me that admittedly would love to write more about my relationship with God. But I'm wary of doing so, because I'm not interested, at this point, in making that the sole purpose of this blog, or in getting into any kind of awkward and uncomfortable discussions about doctrine and dogma...I would just want to write about Love and Grace and how they have saved my life and brought me to the understandings and perhaps even wisdoms that have helped me find peace and stability. Not to proselytize, but perhaps to help others who also struggle to find their way through to more stable ground.

Sometimes my spirituality does weave itself naturally into the subject of the day; sometimes my meanderings brush past His love and compassion and ripple into the message...I love it when that happens. But at the root of my passion for writing is an adamant premise that I must leave myself free to just follow the flow, to let the words create the message that wants to speak.

That's why I blog. Simply to meander through meander the journey wherever it takes me and follow through whatever doors open along the way, trusting with profound faith that all pathways and all open doors and all plateaus and horizons are at His bidding anyway.

Peace to all who enter here....I believe that wherever we find ourselves standing, at any and every given moment, is sacred ground.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Cluttered Connections to "Home"

We just returned home after spending the weekend in the area where I graduated from high school in 1974, and where my parents lived from 1972 until my Dad died in 1999. While I've never really felt enough of a heart-attachment to the city itself to call it a "home-town" (I only lived there for two years), the house where my parents lived was still "home" for me, because for almost 30 years it was the place where we fought off stubborn bosses and bumper-to-bumper traffic to get to for Christmas, Thanksgiving and various other family gatherings.

While this wasn't our first trek back there since Dad died (and we moved Mom to Ottawa shortly afterward), I was, for some strange reason, more conscious this time of the residual pain that I still feel echoing through me every time we come back to this area. But this weekend, instead of blocking it out and trying to tiptoe around it without collapsing into woeful sobs, I decided to confront that pain and, well, meander with it for awhile.

Just going by movies, books and comments from other friends, it seems to be a fairly common phenomena, that a place - especially a "hometown" - becomes forever connected to us by (and sometimes even solely synonymous with) the myriad of emotions that we ourselves have attached to the people and events that we personally experienced in that place. It's as if we can't ever see this home-place as anything but "the place where all of this happened".

I noticed - felt - all of these emotions swirling around in me the closer we got to this area. I wanted to cry, because over the years this place has become synonymous with all that I have lost - an agonizing reminder and encapsulation of all of my deepest sorrow and regrets. This is the place I had left, perhaps before I was really ready to leave, because I simply didn't know how to stay. And I regret that now, because I would give anything to still have my parents here to come home to, because now I understand so much more than I did back then just how very very precious "home" and "family" truly are.

I've had to travel many dusty roads and mucky detours to reach that realization. While I guess I wouldn't trade any of it because it brought me to a here-and-now that I like, I can't help but wish that the road - that my choices - had kept me closer to home and family throughout all those lost and lonely years. But that's not how it happened, and I've had to learn to focus on the good and positive, and to not wallow in all of that instead see each regret as a lesson learned which in turn evolved into a valuable tool that I was able to use to make better choices in subsequent situations and encounters.

Still, it all came flooding back this weekend. All of it. Good and bad, joyful and sad, but mostly the bad and sad. Constant connections, constant conversations with the past, constant desperate wishing that I could go back and rewrite parts of my story, that I could magically pop back and redo so many moments and situations over again with the wisdom and understanding that I have now.

Not possible. No delete or backspace buttons in this story. There simply is no going back.

So I pondered this. Will I forever be confronted with all of this mind-clutter, over and over and over again, each time we drive through this area, each time we visit dear friends here? I don't want to continue to saddle "this place" (the city itself is an innocent bystander in all of the drama and trauma) with such sad baggage that gets left behind when we drive away and then picked up again each time we visit. Enough already. Enough. I decided that it's time for a little mental exercise in letting go...I decided that I needed to let my mind conjure up a box, or a pretty urn, or even a silk-lined coffin, and then place all of these painful memories, regrets and unfulfillable yearnings inside - and then bury them. Imagine a peaceful, pretty resting place somewhere in the surrounding countryside, and put all of this useless clutter to rest there once and for all.

I have to figure out how to do this so that I'm not tempted to dig it all up again each time we come back to this place. Perhaps it's okay to grant myself just a slight nod to that history, then focus on remembering that there is so much more to this place and my life than just that collection of regrets. I need to clear out all of that old clutter to make room for new - better - kinder - remember the home and the family that gifted me with the roots and wings that I needed to safely travel those roads that I had to travel, and remember the love that gave me the foundation on which I now stand, strong and capable.

And perhaps best of all, I will then be free to create new connections to this place that will make it an enjoyable experience to come back to in the future.

I can do this. I will do this. I want to do this. Is it possible to ever go back "home" without that flood of memories and emotions? I don't know...but I can at least adopt a kinder perspective - a better balance between accepting that it was what it was and recognizing the precious gift that it all truly was.

We'll time I go back, we'll see how far I've progressed. For now, I'm really glad to be home.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Happiness...Connecting the Dots

After many (many) years of searching, reading, asking, listening, praying and pondering, I've come to a was one of those things that slowly (painfully slowly at times) evolved itself into what turned out to be a rather quiet, uneventful decision. Perhaps it's not monumental to anyone else, because maybe everyone who happens upon this blog will already have learned it themselves and will wonder why it took me so long. Perhaps it will turn out to be life-changing, I don't know. All I know is that I finally decided that this was my answer.

My happiness is completely up to me.

It took a long time to evolve from the firmly-entrenched belief that my happiness hinged on other people - which would explain the constant roller-coaster of emotions and crippling insecurities for my entire life. I based my measurement of how happy I was by how others interacted (or didn't) with me, how their love for me was (or was not) manifested on a day-to-day basis, what impact (if any) events around me had on my life and by how I perceived others felt (or didn't feel) while in my presence. If someone looked at me the wrong way, well, that was it, the day was a total failure.

It's no wonder that "happiness" was so elusive and fleeting and random and inconsistent...and so impossible to sustain!

But this morning, it finally dawned on me. I mean, I actually felt the light bulb switch on in my head. It really is up to ME to make my happiness happen. And I realized that for me, happiness happens best through many moments containing many simple pleasures. For me, where happiness is concerned, quantity trumps that I mean that I find it easier to accumulate many small-but-delightful moments throughout the day, then string them together like beads on a thread, and hold them up at the end of the day and say, "wow, that really WAS a beautiful day, wasn't it?!"

Big happy moments are grand, but they don't happen a lot in my life. And I'm forgetful. So if I try to use those to define my happiness, I don't do well because that definition is unsustainable in my somewhat ho-hum day-to-day life. But give me simple delights, and well, I can do those and I can relish them, savor them, remember them at the end of the day - and not worry about having to remember them tomorrow, because tomorrow I get to start all over again with a new thread and new moments to enjoy and savour.

It's a seemingly simple switch of perspective, but it might prove to be powerful. Because now it's totally up to me to define how I'm feeling right now, then decide how I want to feel in five minutes, and then choose how I'm going to connect the dots between this moment and that moment five minutes away - by adding to my life whatever it is that will get me there. And then I just continue that momentum by deciding (at any point in the day) how I want to feel by the end of that day, and then continuing to nudge moments of simple pleasure into being, all the while connecting the dots from one moment to the next and to the next, until I reach the end of the day with an entire day's worth of shiny moments.

So now I just need to recognize what it takes to nudge those moments out of hiding, what constitutes "simple pleasure" for me, ie, what brings that thrill of delight, that sigh of sheer pleasure or that whoosh of well-being...and then add more of those to my daily life.

They really can be very simple a bowl of fresh strawberries with a wee dollop of whipped cream on top; a walk along the river; spending time with a good friend; doing random acts of kindness in my community; writing a newsy hand-written letter to a lonely elderly relative; puttering in a garden of colourful flowers (or yummy edibles too); laughing at silly stuff with online friends; listening to an uplifting piece of music; allowing a piece of really good chocolate to melt slowly in my mouth; sipping a cup of freshly steeped Earl Grey tea; opening the window to listen to the birds splashing around in the bird bath. The possibilities are endless. All I need to do is open my eyes to see and ears to hear and heart to appreciate the simple pleasure pulsing within each moment.

It helps to keep a gratitude journal. I've been hearing about the value of a gratitude journal for over 30 years, ever since a month-long retreat at a monastery in Pecos, New Mexico in the early 80's. That's where I first heard (over and over again) how vital it was for good mental health to maintain a daily gratitude journal. I tried many times, but depression, grief and illness kept interrupting my ability to feel anything but dark, miserable and those years, I barely even wanted to be alive, much less give thanks for being alive. Thankfully that has changed, and I'm indeed very glad to be alive, and profoundly committed to continuing to evolve and learn as much as possible to live a joyful, happy life.

So I do keep a gratitude journal now, and it does help to focus on the positive; it's a valuable tool for remembering to keep my eyes open to see the blessings and richness of life no matter what else is going on in the larger world. Keeping a gratitude journal has helped to internalize a constant openness to receiving and acknowledging the blessings and gifts of each moment, so that the entire day becomes an ever-stretching string of gifted moments of simple day now becomes a never-ending accumulation of "happy".

Yes, there are lows and dips in the day as well; those are unavoidable. And for some, they will seem insurmountable. I know because I was stuck there for most of my life. But thankfully they're no longer the total definition of the day for me. The quantity of simple pleasures (which I now decide to make happen) usually either balances or outweighs the quantity of low moments, so for me, the choice is to define my day by the accumulation of happy moments.

Really, what it all comes down to is choosing to fill my life with more of what I want, more of what brings me as many of those moments of simple pleasure as possible...figuring out what it is that I like and then doing whatever it takes to fill my life with more of those kinds of moments...and then connecting the dots, moment-by-moment, blessing-by-blessing, all throughout the day.

It makes the day worth waking up to, don't you think?!!