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!

Itching for change

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Nature is never static. It is always changing. Everything is in a constant state of flux. Nothing endures. Everything is either in the process of either coming into being or expiring

Kilroy J. Oldster

Faced with the tedium of being isolated and restricted from our normal activities for the past 15 months, many of us have used this time to reflect on our lives and ask ourselves some key questions. Am I really doing what I want to be doing. How I spend my time – is it in a way that’s fulfilling or has purpose. Perhaps the increased need to search for meaning has been pushed by an awareness of the fragility of life forced upon us by the pandemic.

Often when we are stuck in one place especially by circumstances beyond our control, we gravitate to daydreams of change in many aspects of our lives. Humans crave novelty, we seek dopamine hits from new experiences, foods, relationships, places, etc. We seem to have a craving for action even when it may not be in our best interests to make massive or even minor life changes. Researchers are beginning to track the number of changes in jobs, places people live, and relationships that are escalating at an unprecedented rate due to the pandemic.

Feeling stuck often prompts us to make rash decisions when it might be better to simply stay the course and ride out the emotional wave that accompanies this unusual time. Changing situations doesn’t miraculously improve our lives and if we don’t spend time planning and reflecting then rushing towards something not well thought out, things may get worse not better. Common advice is usually to stop to consider whether you are running towards something or running away from it.

As large numbers of people move from their homes, change jobs, leave relationships, during these tumultuous times, these ripples will likely be felt throughout the globe. This pandemic as the ultimate disruptor has upended many lives through job loss, loss of loved ones, and as major life plans became disturbed.

But creating these changes when they have not been forced upon you without careful thought or consideration can have similar results.

Although I have been struggling to scratch the itch for change, it seems prudent to spend a bit more time in reflection and find some safe alternatives to bring what might be missing into my life. It is indeed a powerful force that requires mindful attention. It is helpful to recognize the space where these feelings may emerge from. And the old adage to look before you leap still has a place in our lives.

Stay healthy and safe!

Pandemic puppies and bicycle booms

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In the face of adversity, we have a choice. We can be bitter, or we can be better. Those words are my North Star

Caryn Sullivan

As the world races to fend off the third wave of the pandemic, it is easy to become overwhelmed by negative news cycles and what seems to be never ending worry and fear. There are some aspects to our current experience that seem to have been positive.

As people in our neighbourhood moved from offices to working from home, it was both fascinating and worrisome to note the number of puppies on our walking paths and park areas. Worrisome in the sense that potentially many animals could end up surrendered to our local humane society when purchased without careful thought and consideration.

Over a year later, these dogs have grown and matured and seem to have become members of families and are now recognizable to me while I am out walking as well. And they all seem well trained and behaved, another side effect of spending all of our time at home instead of somewhere far away while household pets waited anxiously for their owners to return.

Along with new creatures in our community, there is also a noticeable swell in bicycles being ridden by people of all ages. Cars parked along our streets for months without being moved have been likely violating some city bylaw. But it’s wonderful to see people use bicycles or walk to where they need to go and not to rely so much on fossil fuelled sources of transportation. Daily noise of airplane traffic seems to have diminished and one wonders what our future world will bring. A return to old behaviours that have been accelerating climate change or a more mindful path forward?

Gardening, camping, spending more time in the outdoor world. There have been good adaptations along with those that are more challenging. We have learned to continue to connect with family and friends in spite of not being able to see them face to face. Some of us are reading, making things, creating art in any form, and cooking at home, more now than ever before.

While we are likely all hopeful for an end in sight, it is reassuring to know that it has not all been negative and that we have the ability to make changes. Big ones that potentially could chart new directions in our world. We do have the opportunity to become better than we were before.

Stay healthy and safe!

Letting go…

Photo credit LMeyer

Life is a balance between holding on and letting go


We have just celebrated Thanksgiving in Canada and although this is a time to be reflective, grateful, and thankful for all that we have, it was hard not to think about the changes and shifts in this year’s holiday tradition.

Family members celebrating quietly apart; meals scaled down; and our communication with one another relegated to Zoom; text messages, and phone calls. Looming anxiety over rising case numbers and the continued politicization of the pandemic. All of this a backdrop to the political shenanigans from the American president determined to put his needs ahead of the rest of the globe.

This provided a strange context in which to reflect on the things we normally appreciate – time with family and friends for good food and connection; a successful fall harvest; and all of the other aspects of our daily lives that we may typically take for granted. This one last opportunity to enjoy the outdoors on the prairies before we don toques, gloves, and warm parkas to brave frigid winter temperatures was overshadowed by our new global reality.

It is a stark reminder that all of the events and activities that we cherish in our lives can be altered, cancelled, or removed at any time. Holding on too tightly to things we may need to let go of is a necessary part of all of our lives. Some life lessons are easier than others.

Stay healthy and safe!

Everything changes

If you leave a white fence post alone it becomes a black fence post. So if you want it to stay white, you have to keep painting it white. You want something to stay the same, you’ve got to constantly change it.

Joseph Finder
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The pace of change in our world at this time seems to be moving faster than the speed of sound. Whether the changes occurring are positive or negative actually seems to be besides the point. It is the impact of the swiftness of changes in our daily lives that seems to have a de-stabilizing force that we all must grabble with.

Whether it is the constantly changing information about the coronavirus at the heart of this pandemic, tectonic shifts in our geopolitical landscape, or simply how to negotiate a family barbecue in the backyard, we seem to be inundated with the need to reconsider many aspects of life. Trying to make good decisions and avoid either over estimating or under estimating risks to avoid contracting COVID-19 can be not just time consuming but confusing and anxiety provoking.

A part of me believed that because I had just transitioned from full time work to semi-retirement thereby causing seismic changes in my life, that I would be fine adjusting to all of the disruptions that seem to be predominating our current reality. Change often represents either a loss or an opportunity. Certainly when I retired, I experienced losses – loss of income, loss of identity; daily contact with colleagues, etc. But since then, it has proven to be an amazing time of opportunity.

My writing practice has evolved to where I had hoped it would be at this point in my “new” career. Pre-pandemic I had satisfying part time work in my profession that kept me in contact with my favourite parts of my “old” world. Courses, new activities, plenty of time for walking with a focus on my own health, and new friendships provided the icing on my cake. So why have the past few months seemed so challenging and fraught with overwhelming changes that are hard to understand and accept.

Journal keeping has been a sporadic practice all through my life but since the end of March I have kept daily notes of thoughts and feelings about the pandemic and so many other pivotal moments in our lives. This morning it felt important to pause and to re-read entries from the past few months. Clearly I was looking for perspective and understanding to ground me.

What stood out upon this reflection was the impact that the many current changes were having on my life and to those close to me. And of course, when I am longing for things to be “the way they used to be” I am inadvertently creating unnecessary stress in my life. It isn’t really a cliche to focus only on what we are able to control. Being able to recognize this is the first step to managing all of the decisions to be made and life changes that must be navigated.

Learning to accept change, and being able to nurture the ability to become more flexible is a critical life skill that helps us to adapt and thrive. It seemed clear to me this morning that this is important not just in these times of our changing landscape but at any point in our lives. Change is inevitable. Learning to cope with it effectively seems more critical now than ever before.

The one thing I believe I can count on is that…everything changes. And it is a comfort to know that with some effort, we can control our responses to that.

Stay healthy and safe!

Shifting Truths

What will be required to create meaningful, equitable change in our lives? Certain truths have become evident to me during this pandemic that suggest collectively we have the need to pause, reflect, and consider what is truly needed to make sustained and real change so we can move forward in a good way. Having vacillated between watching the news too often and not watching it at all, I thought I had achieved some type of balance. This past week I have found that my focus has once again been on what has been going on in the world around me.

Thinking about some of the larger issues that we must confront, has caused me to wonder if we are simply spinning without direction only to end up with just more of the same problems we had pre-pandemic. Consider news events over the past week – the focus has shifted from how will we safely reopen and stave off a second wave of the virus that has wreaked havoc across the world to a long overdue and serious dialogue about systemic racism.

Hundreds of thousands of people from across the globe have been involved in lending their voices to the Black Lives Matter protests in spite of the possible risks of spreading the coronavirus. Stories of racism that are being shared right now are heartbreaking and have precipitated a plethora of ideas about how to effect real changes.

One of the ideas that has been circulating through many communities is that police should be defunded. Journalists around the world are sharing news about more protests, petitions, and equally as many stories from politicians and police officials stating that they believe this is the wrong approach.

This seems to be a repeating process that we have seen with other critical issues such as climate change, the best strategies to manage this global pandemic, and better ways to care for the elderly and marginalized members of our society, etc. etc. Just as quickly as these stories are told, and shared widely we hear all of the rationale as to why suggested changes can’t be made. Point and counter point. Or worse yet, nothing more is written or discussed as the news cycles bring other issues forward.

During this time of loosening our lockdown, it seems more plausible that we might have an opportunity to come together to make changes that have been discussed for decades. There has been more emphasis on our collective global needs than ever before in my lifetime. So I can’t help wonder if this will be the moment in our history when we will change course en masse. Focus, tenacity, and individual commitment to change will be required on a large scale.

Electing politicians who are not narcissistic, self absorbed, and can be held to account would be a wonderful place to start. One can be criticized I suppose for dreaming of a kinder, more generous way of treating one another as well as a bonafide coming together to save our environment. But I don’t think that would stop me from writing about the need to do better than we are now. How about you? What do you think we should do to make a real impact at this time in our lives?

Discovering some silver linings…

Strangely enough, there have been several facets of my life that seem to have actually improved during this pandemic. Moving from a fairly structured routine, that was governed by a variety of activities to our new normal where many activities are no longer available to us, has led to the creation of more flexible and adaptive aspects of daily living.

Exercise can take place outside when the weather permits and when it doesn’t then creating in home workouts has been necessary. Using exercise equipment like the rebounder that was gathering dust in storage and trying out a skipping rope after a twenty year hiatus have proven interesting to say the least. After initially fumbling my way through how to use both of these newly re-discovered pieces of equipment, I have discovered new muscles and a better sense of balance.

Overall, my physical health seems better and it likely can be attributed to having developed a new physical routine that has begun to challenge muscle groups that previously had begun to plateau. Doing some cursory google research has led me to understand that our bodies will plateau typically after a 6-8 week period of exercise sameness and unless you adjust and change things up, you no longer reap the benefits you may be hoping for. My former routine had become stagnant and I hadn’t even realized it.

So that got me thinking about plateaus, and other daily routines, and I wondered if our bodies require constant change in order to grow and stay healthy, this must be similar to what our brains need. Sure enough, greater cognitive flexibility is a precursor to a healthier brain and contributes to the neuroplasticity which helps us age “well”. How do we acquire cognitive flexibility? By having to adjust and adapt to changes, to having more opportunities to problem solve and to learning new skills and tasks.

Given that the coronavirus has been an ever present disruptor in our lives, we have all been forced to pivot, to adapt, and to adjust to the myriad of ways in which our lives have changed. Problem solving at times, seems to be a daily occurrence as many of our “old” ways of doing things have disappeared or are no longer available to us. Problem solving is critical for improved cognitive flexibility and it sparks creativity. Bonus!

Many of us have had to lean in to both learning and using technology in new and novel ways and for some of us, just learning to use it period. It has been fascinating to pay attention to the many new skills belonging to the technology realm that I have not only begun learning about but using with some proficiency. It has certainly enhanced some of the activities that I love such as reading and in my writing practice.

After reflecting on these changes in my life, I realize that these are valuable lessons that I have received as a result of the chaos that is occurring in this time. Seems there is a true silver lining in spite of these challenging times, and one that should be paid attention to for the long term. Hope you have discovered your own lessons learned during our time at home.

Stay healthy and well!

Flipping Fears

For the past two days, I have been wrestling with a number of seemingly random negative and fear inducing thoughts. One of my goals for this year has been to submit short pieces of my writing to various publications. My strategy was to create a spreadsheet to document all of the submissions and the subsequent rejections that I anticipate I will receive. My goal was to strive for as many rejections as possible.

Sounds a bit strange, doesn’t it?

But, it would mean that I am writing, and even more importantly, I am putting aside all of the fear that seems to co-exist with this vocational pursuit. At the time I created this goal and decided that I was going to send these pieces of creative work out into the world, it seemed innocuous. Really what is the big deal? All writers are subject to rejection, criticism, dismissive editors, and long waits before one may hear anything back from the publication they submitted their work to. Right?

Most writers know that this process is about moving forward, learning the craft, recognizing that the work may not be a good fit for a publication at that particular time but may in fact, fit somewhere else. And truthfully, how would anyone aside from you ever know whether or not you submitted something.

So with all of this knowledge firmly ensconced in my mind, as I began preparing to send something out for the very first time, I found myself in a strange twilight zone filled with fear. It was like an out of control hamster on a wheel was flinging chaotic thoughts around my head. I must have talked myself out of this submission process a hundred times.

Enough. I have taught others how to build resilience skills so why couldn’t I do the same for myself? I started by writing out some of the thoughts that had taking up a lot of real estate in my mind. They ranged from self-criticism to self-disgust to self-shaming and looked a bit like this:

Why even bother – this is an exercise in futility – there is no way I am as competent as other writers? I can’t even format these documents properly so why would an editor even bother to look at what I have written? How can you write a bio if you have never published anything? And really who sets a goal to to count all of the rejections they receive as a writer?

And so on…these horrible thoughts continually popped across my thought screen, and even occurred while I was sleeping, so yesterday I decided that was enough.

Time to flip these fears and really look at what the downside to not submitting my writing might be. At the end of this exercise, I realized that I would be left with paralyzing regret if I didn’t start somewhere. I would be missing out on all of the learning moments from the process and if I keep at this, eventually I may end up with a notation other than a rejection to enter into my spreadsheet.

So I flipped my fear around, and have just sent my first piece of work out. Regardless of what happens with this, I am in the process of reinventing my life and recognize that small steps will move me closer to where I want to go. And if I want to pursue writing as a craft, I will need to challenge those negative thoughts and keep moving forward.

What about you? How do you flip your fears and move forward in spite of all of the thoughts that may fill your mind with negativity and prevent you from doing what you really wish to do?