Don’t let excuses undermine commitments…

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There are only two options: Make progress or makes excuses

Anonymous

September started with a renewed sense of commitment. To rejoining the world, making social connections and activities a priority, coupled with a focus on self care. Not just self soothing moments but an emphasis to be placed on good sleep, nutrition, exercise, and most definitely on stress reduction.

On the Canadian prairies, we are all too familiar with wind. When weather systems come in or when they leave, wind is always the usher of change. But not calm, gentle, types of wind. No we regularly experience harsh, blustery, gale force type winds that race across the flat, prairie landscape kicking up dust, leaves, and occasionally, tumbleweeds.

So as I glanced outside this morning before my yoga class, I watched strong wind blow most of the fall leaves that had landed on my lawn onto the street. And in all likelihood they would be whipped further along landing on the lawns of my neighbours. I needed to travel to my class on foot as our car was in the shop. Watching small branches being whipped off of trees, I thought it best to check the weather forecast.

The winds were predicted to only get stronger during the course of the day. It seemed easiest in that moment to decide it was likely not a good idea to attend the class. After all it was just too windy to try and walk to the centre where the class was being held. Heading north into a northwest wind seemed nonsensical to me. It would probably be fine on the way home but that was only one way. Right?

But then I thought about missing the class. There was no way to make it up later in the week. And I had indeed made a firm commitment to myself to take this class face to face rather than on Zoom. So an internal argument in my mind left me undecided as to what to do. Mentally running through a pros and cons checklist, it was clear to me that the benefits would definitely outweigh a blustery walk in the wicked prairie wind.

Further reflection left me thinking about how easy it is to talk yourself out of doing something rather than talking yourself into it. Perseverance seemed the answer. So I bundled up, braved the wind which was stronger than I had envisioned. The urge to turn around and go home was overwhelming. But once I got half way there, it seemed ridiculous not to just carry on. So I got there in one piece, albeit with dust in one of my eyes.

Accompanied by feeling grateful that I was there, seeing people I enjoy being with, ready for a class that makes me feel better every time I go.

It occurs to me that taking the easy way out of something is less satisfying than forging ahead and enduring a bit of discomfort along the way. In fact, it made the whole thing much better knowing that the choice was the right one. The act of challenging yourself to do something that has a degree of difficulty does provide a sense of accomplishment even though in the larger scheme of things it probably was not a big deal.

But the value of the exercise by being true to the commitments you make to yourself was immeasurable.

Stay healthy and safe!!

Navigating liminal spaces

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Choose courage over comfort by vitally engaging with new opportunities to learn and grow, rather than passively resigning yourself to your circumstances.

Susan David

Liminal spaces are often uncomfortable places to be. You have neither moved forward nor will you be staying where you have been. So it can resemble walking a tightrope or being lost in a cavern. Transitions and changes of any type often present this type of liminal challenge.

This week presented one such struggle. I need to take a course to maintain a teaching certification but seemed to be having some reservation about returning to working with people face to face in a classroom format. The annoying voices locked in a fierce debate in my head had me up and down like children on a see saw.

Questions on this teeter totter ranged from, Should I bother doing this? to Yes, of course, this was something you used to be energized by. What about my writing goals? Would this knock me off course? Sitting down, writing through this process taught me that I had once enjoyed the process, the people, and sense of purpose. And that I could certainly do more than one thing.

But fear of having been away from this work for too long coupled with feelings about being concerned about how to step back into the path I had been on before Covid knocked the world off course kept me fretting. Rumination followed by more ruminations.

Reframe. Recognize resistance for what it is. Breathe. It is truly amazing how mind over matter really matters. This tendency to overthink things has only intensified during the past two years. So I just challenged myself to drop all preconceived notions and took the recertification course.

And was pleasantly surprised at how easily I re-engaged with the process and the people. And not long after the course, I was struck with a story ideas and cracked off a first draft of a flash fiction. Hah!

Liminal spaces are like way stations. The kind of thing that won’t last forever especially when you think it will. Choosing courage to embrace a new opportunity became the gentle push that nudged me along the path I need to be on.

Stay happy and safe!!

Add wander and wonder, then mix

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The key to a wonderful life is to never stop wandering into wonder.

Suzy Kassem

My greatest pet peeve during the pandemic was the loss of things to look forward to. Isolation, fear, and constant worry negate hope, feelings of optimism and the sense of wonder about our world.

Planning for the future, with little faith that you can predict meeting the goals you aspire to, began to seem futile.

Diminished social connections added to the sense that life’s adventures were being held in abeyance. So many aspects of life had been placed on hold. Until what? Til things become safe again?

Once I wrapped my head around the reality that managing the risks we are all exposed to is simply a pathway we are likely on forever, I have been ramping up my life planning efforts. Looking forward to something has always been a touchstone for me. My desire to wander can still keep me grounded. No one ever said I had to travel the world to do that.

Finding a sense of wonder about what is around me is fast becoming a routine that wakes me up. Getting up extra early to enjoy the sunrise. Visiting a friend who has a new puppy. Those wiggly creatures place newfound meaning on the word energy. Talking to my son and his new bride, listening to that afterglow of post wedding happiness. Going out for coffee with friends. And lunch, too!

Balancing writing classes on Zoom with in person writing group dates. Resuming book club, in person, distanced, maybe masking? Doesn’t matter, it’s the connections with others that matters.

Spending time, indoors and outdoors, with friends who also monitor their health and manage the risks of the ever present virus. Masking around large crowds of people indoors and outdoors, if it feels necessary. Regardless of what seems to be needed, the decision made to stop isolating, being afraid, and to continue to embrace and look forward to the unexpected and amazing things that happen in life.

That is all now a part of the life plan. It was time to press the pause button and get back to the realization that anything is possible. May we all spend time wandering and enjoying the wonders of our world!

Fall – Time for a fresh start

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Today expect something good to happen to you no matter what occurred yesterday. Realize the past no longer holds you captive. It can only continue to hurt you if you hold on to it. Let the past go. A simply abundant world awaits.

Sarah Breathnach

With fall peeking around the corner, and closing the chapter on a difficult year, it seems right to dust off my normally held sense of optimism and move forward. Without worry about personal stressors, annoying politicians, devastating traumatic events or the death of a long standing monarch. And most certainly without amping up undue anxiety about whether Covid is here to stay or not. It is. Full stop.

It means dusting off goals that got put on the shelf in March of 2020. And going back to the drawing board where I am free to play with all of the ideas I have rolling around in my mind about what I would like to do next in my life.

There is freedom in that. In actually being able to sit back, spend time in reflection, writing and journaling about any and all ideas when they pop into my head. Without fear, or worry that something will interrupt, interfere, or blow up my life plans.

And really when you consider our life’s journey, it is indeed, full of detours, some of our own making and others beyond our control. And that is okay.

What seems most important is the recognition that you have passions that reside inside of you meant to be pursued. At times, they are apparent and at others, they are elusive. It’s just fine to search for that thing that really resonates, that whispers in a kind and gentle voice to try on. It’s comforting to know that you can dabble until you find what feels right.

Knowing that we can pick some things up where they were left off, bid farewell to those that we won’t be able to continue on with, and choose more intentionality with what we do in our lives regardless of the external world around us.

The fall season, resplendent with changing colours, temperatures, clothing choices, and activities seems a perfect time to reflect, consider new goals, and then carry on.

Enjoy what today will bring!

A writer’s hiatus

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Hiatus: A temporary gap, pause, break or absence can be called a hiatus. Even things that go on for a long time take a break once in awhile. – Google.com

Going to take a writer’s hiatus – Back on September 14, 2022 – Thank you for reading my words – that is appreciated!!

Stay healthy and safe!

Respectful Summer Get Togethers

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Messages that feel like commands – even good advice coming from a friend- aren’t always received well. If you feel like you’re being pushed into a corner, you’re more likely to push back.

Elena Renken

Most stories being told around the world right now seem to share several common distressing themes. Inflation and what is driving it. The war in Ukraine. The Pope’s apology to Canadian residential school survivors. Heat waves creating unbearable conditions in parts of the world that normally don’t have them. Fires, droughts, floods all predictable as a result of our continued environmental destruction.

And then the predictable debates about who, what, and how we should address climate action.

Affordable housing crisis, food insecurity, moving into a recession, extraordinary gas prices, and of course the ever present supply chain issues. Gun violence. School shootings. Grocery store shootings. Mall shootings. Continued anger about Covid vaccine mandates and the odd, lingering protest about public health guidelines. Populist political bullying, dismantling women’s right to choose, coupled with a full on attack on “woke” culture.

And you’ll never guess who’s back delivering mayhem and ridiculous soundbites cause he got raided by the FBI?

The stories we are telling each other range from angry conflict that sometimes disintegrates into outright chaos all the way to a senseless war across the ocean. This polarizing rhetoric gains traction as people are not feeling heard and from dangerous people who then take license to impose their will through bullying behaviour or use of force.

When did we stop listening to each other. Agreeing to disagree. Respecting democratic institutions that we have taken pride in building. Collectively. Collaboratively. It seems so far away from the world I thought I knew. Disenfranchised people whose demands across social media are no longer about civil society but about individuals rights and freedoms.

What does that actually mean? When I hear the word freedom right now, I know my personal definition can’t be similar to fellow Canadians who decided to disrupt and destroy the narrative most familiar to me. Horns blaring because Freedom. My freedom trumps yours.

How do I listen to their stories and really hear them?

Would anything make it easier for them to hear my stories?

All stories matter and have the potential to shape attitudes that colour our views on relationships, politics, and our society. But they have little meaning when we stop listening to one another. And when we also stop caring about the importance of the stories that each of us needs to tell.

It seems bizarre that at a time when we need to come together to address so many challenges that we keep moving far apart.

But there are glimmers of hope. Right?

I can’t help but remain hopeful that the celebrations we have this summer have mostly remained respectful of the stories that each one of us carries in our hearts. No matter how different it seems from our value base and moral codes.

We have a long ways to go but if we all learn to listen a little more, we just might make the upcoming fall and winter a different story than the one told last year.

Stay happy and safe this summer!

Rainbows – a new beginning?

Photo L. Meyer

Rainbows bring the promise that the troubles of today will surely come to pass, hold strong in your faith and vision and the rainbow will bring fresh beginnings

Presley Love

Getting caught last evening in a flash thunderstorm where huge drops of rain fell sideways due to wicked prairie winds felt like just another hurdle to surmount. I stood inside the vestibule of the building I was leaving, wondering if I should just go for it and run out to my car or try to wait out the onslaught and stay dry.

My internal debate went back and forth as puddles outside grew into small lakes.

Fortunately, common sense won the day and I patiently waited for the rain to quit. It seemed to stop as suddenly as it began, with Mother Nature’s special alchemy mixing atmospheric gases creating a spectacular double rainbow. It easily met the standard of an awe inspiring moment.

By the time I got out my iPhone to shoot a quick picture, it was starting to dissipate. But the magic of a rainbow after a harsh storm, somehow speaks directly to you, causing you to pause and pay attention. We all experience those inner shifts at times of transitions in our lives. When we are able to consolidate our thoughts and feelings with memorable external experiences that seem to delineate an important marker in time.

A symbolic way to tuck the past behind us while moving forward.

Rainbows have symbolized new beginnings, inspiring hope, in most cultures around the globe through the ages.

If a new beginning is in the cards, I’ll gladly take it.

Stay happy and safe!

Scatter your creative story seeds…

Photo L. Meyer

Let your story surprise you. Lay a place at the table for an unexpected guest. Embrace the unforecasted storm. Allow kind characters to do something cruel. Let the selfish ones sacrifice themselves for the greater good. Be surprised. Be amazed.

Sophie Anderson

When the writing process becomes routine or even worse, when you get stuck in a bottomless rut, it may be helpful to simply turn your work on its head. Shake everything you are doing up, down, even sideways. At the very least, you may have some fun or discover a few diamonds in the rough worthy of using in some form of prose.

A recent foray while editing a piece of micro fiction left me stymied and ready to permanently hit the delete button. But a stray piece of creative advice from a writing retreat last month about cutting up writing that doesn’t seem to work, must have planted a small seed in my brain. And sprang forth when I least expected it.

I took the piece that I had been wrestling with, enlarged the font, then printed it out. With what felt like a whim, I proceeded to just cut it into pieces. The pieces dropping onto my desk reminded me of ephemera for collage or words cut for found poetry. So it seemed natural to paste them on a sheet of paper. Randomly. Without really looking at the actual text on each piece of paper.

Convinced that this would simply be a transformed word jumble, I left the mess to dry and went to make a cup of coffee.

When I returned to look at what I had done, I was surprised by what I found. Sure, the order of some of the pieces of paper stretched the grammar aspect a wee bit, but overall, I read in those words, the glimmer of a new story. A better story.

It was legible enough that I was able to return to my computer and resurrect a new piece of prose. I was slightly amazed that from that jumble of words pasted haphazardly on a piece of paper, a transformed piece of fiction began to emerge.

This time round this tiny micro fiction story resonated somewhere deep inside of me bringing forth new energy for the editing process. Who knows what this piece may look like when something clicks and lets me know that it is finished. But the reawakening of this prospective prose piece inspires hope and optimism.

Stories living inside of us are at times, weird and wild things. But finding ways to keep working to guide them into the world, brings a sense of satisfaction like none other.

Happy writing!

Release the pause button on play…

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We do not stop playing because we get old; we grow old because we stop playing

George Bernard Shaw

Have you ever found yourself slugging through your day to day life and realized that playfulness is not part of it? Watching two neighbourhood children today, chasing each other while blowing soap bubbles and giggling so hard one of them began to hiccup, I felt like I had an epiphany. Play. That is what seems to be missing from my present “taking everything far too seriously” adult life.

It’s typically something fairly innocuous that alerts you to that dawning sense of something being amiss. But once you figure it out, you can’t unsee it.

Probably the state of mind most helpful during times of stress and strain, is a playful mind. But it is also the hardest state to transition to when everything in your immediate focus is through an intensely serious lens. And when it seems any spare moment should be dedicated to some task or type of work that needs to be completed, or at the very least, doing something “worthwhile”, play seems frivolous and far removed.

Knowing that there are adverse consequences to play deprivation, I have been trying to create a “play” list. (Pun intentional, ha – maybe I will get there after all!). Photography has always been my favourite way to play and I haven’t had my camera out for quite some time. Point of fact, the battery was almost dead. So as I write this, I can glance over at my camera on the charger and see that it still has a ways to go. Just like I do.

There are a multitude of ways to tap into this desired state of mind. A quick web search reveals a plethora of articles, blog posts, research studies on the importance of play to our overall well being and stock ideas about how to incorporate it into our busy adult lives. But it seems trite to assume that by playing video games, doing crossword puzzles, dancing in your kitchen as though no one is watching, could magically counter the impact of stress and burnout.

So where to begin. Reflection on this challenge seems to point to a sort of mind over matter type of thing. So it seems like if I can wrestle with the biggest barrier, attitude, I feel like I might just be on my way. And it also seems important to set goals to play, to do things with absolutely no purpose, to simply seek out moments for mindless enjoyment and fun.

How weird that part of responsible adulting becomes losing touch with that most important aspect of childhood. To be playful. Seems so simple when I write it like that. But I have a sense that I am going to have to work hard at my play goals. Wish me luck!

Stay safe, have fun!

Growing creativity

Photo L. Meyer

Push yourself to try new things whenever you can. It keeps you growing creatively. Remember that there is no right or wrong way to be creative; there is only the way that allows you to express who you are.

Catherine Anderson

Last year in the midst of a prolonged heat wave and subsequent drought, I decided that if gardening stopped being a source of joy, that I would either give it up or do things differently. Well not digging in the dirt and growing things simply wasn’t an option this year when spring finally rolled around. So instead, I chose to shake up some of my “go to” plants that I have grown for years, like castor beans, which no longer possess the same magic they used to.

So trying to grow a Kangaroo Apple Tree seemed like a good idea at the time I bought a small, strange looking green plant with spiky little leaves. The garden centre clerk warned me it could grow as tall as 6-8 feet and produce both flowers and fruit which sounded intriguing. This bushy plant is now blooming with delicate purple flowers, which sadly our harsh prairie wind at times, blows to smithereens.

But this adventure has provided a surprising element of daily excitement as I come to understand what this new plant requires in order to flourish. And the fascination of watching this aspect of nature adapt and transform to whatever conditions it grows in, doesn’t get old either.

Thriving, not just surviving, this plant now three feet tall, is a daily reminder that we can be creative in all aspects of our lives. Growing this unique plant native to New Zealand, provides me with an ongoing lesson about the importance of taking risks, being playful in any situation, and allowing the process of discovery to unfold as it should.

All of these serve as reminders that creation in any form, is one of the most amazing activities we can undertake. Our creative paths are unique to who we are and require open hearts and open minds. Being present to experimentation, brings a multitude of benefits. Not the least of which is an opportunity to start thinking and seeing in new ways.

There are many unexpected teachers available to us to share the process of creative discovery. We just need to take advantage of them when they appear in our lives.

Stay safe, be creative!!