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Death is Real, Even on Mother’s Day

At the Core of it, death is a funny thing….not literally obviously, but it is one of those controversial topics with respect to what happens leading up to, during and after the passing of an individual.  Religion aside, it is hard to argue that the subject of death can leave one feeling mortal, without control and often mystified; yet, we know that each one of us will face it ourselves, along with the other many times that we will encounter it throughout our lives as loved ones pass.

Death is not a new topic for me.  My earliest memory of it was at the tender age of nine when my Baba passed away peacefully (thankfully!) in her sleep at aged 84, after some time spent in a Senior’s home.  All I knew then was that even though I could see her body in the casket at her funeral, she wasn’t really there and I had been told that she wasn’t coming back.  It made no sense, it usually doesn’t.  I also remember how devastated my mom was, as were the rest of us, and to be honest, some thirty-four years later, I don’t think she has ever fully recovered.  I am not sure you can and actually, I am not even sure that we are meant to ‘recover’, whatever that is.  Our lives are indeed forever changed when faced with such a close loss of life, if for no other reason than the clear physical separation.  Beyond that, however, we are human beings and by nature, we define ourselves based on those around us–when someone is no longer in the here and now, it leaves a space, usually in our hearts.  Sure, markers of time may come and go, and we are told that time can heal, but the rawness of those kind of emotions never truly go away.   It doesn’t always have to be bad in that we can use grief and sorrow as an opportunity to grow and change in positive ways (i.e. learning to value the small moments in life, getting out of unhealthy relationships, motivation to pursue our dreams, spending more time with our loved ones, prioritizing one’s role), but at the heart of it, a piece of us will always be missing that nothing or no one can EVER replace.  Some of us learn this the hard way and get caught up in trying to fill the hole(s) with all sorts of things, many unhealthy.  Here’s the truth:  We are individuals and while we may be expendable, we are NOT replaceable.  Our souls are connected and we are one because of that (remember that I am choosing to keep religion out of this), but the oneness changes.

Since my Baba’s death, my extended family and circle of friends has slowly become smaller and smaller, as I reach middle-age.  Many a death have happened, both young and old, expected and unexpected, self-inflicted, accidental or otherwise and all have been tragic in their own way.   I have attended more funerals than weddings or celebrations by a long shot, and each time, it is all the more sobering than the last.  Daily life goes on for the rest of us who are left behind, but in that instance of loss, the world becomes a different place than how we knew it the day before.  We evolve the best we can, but sometimes it just isn’t good enough and that is because it is not enough.  It never will be.  Good enough would be to have our loved ones back with us again in this world, but….

As I read through many of today’s posts, I saw tributes to many moms who have passed on.  So many people wishing to see or talk to their mom one more time, remembering often the good times, but sometimes the challenging ones too.  It is sad and thought-provoking and very real.  At brunch with my own mom today (for whom I am most grateful is here to spend Mother’s Day with), I learned about a close family friend of ours who died this past Thursday.  She just celebrated her 50th birthday in February, first learning of her cancer diagnosis six months ago.  Time froze when my mom told me.   Goosebumps rose and my racing thoughts began…

But how?  Why?  *Sherry?  Can’t be!!!  What?  Why?  She’s only a few years older than me.  My brother will be 50 in a month.  What if it had been him?  (Selfishly), thank God, we are all here.  Oh my God, her family.  How is her mom doing?  Why didn’t anyone tell us?  What can we do to help?   When is the service?  How did she spend her last few months?  Was anyone there at the end?  Will she be reunited with her dad again?  What kind of cancer?  I hate cancer.

Sherry.  50.  Gone.  My next door neighbour in early childhood.  Her family, my family, friends, ALWAYS.  Camping, laughing, fishing, travelling, birthday parties.  Forever changed.  Funeral this coming Saturday.  This is real.  Death is real.

I will do my best to celebrate Sherry’s life.  I am sure that that is what she would want.  I also take comfort in somehow knowing that she is with her dad.  ‘Maybe that is why this was her time?’  still thinking….  After twenty years apart, it must have been time to be with him again.  Now, they will be together forever.  I think that’s it.  I can only hope that’s it.  

*Name has been changed out of respect for the family.  

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45 Years of Wisdom Speaking, If You’d Care to Listen In…

I am in my 45th year of experience here in this world of ours and I’d like to think that I know a little something about something.  Well, sometimes, anyway;-).  There are moments in time when I will admit that it is hard to believe that me, little Sue of the family (the youngest and only girl), is unequivocally a middle-aged woman, however not only do the numbers tell me so, but at times, my body and/or mind chimes in–you know what I mean?  It is strange though because, at times, when I think of myself, I still imagine being a youngster of sorts.  I find this ‘younger version of me’ phenomenon seems to happen most when I am with my family.  I guess because they are the individuals that I spent my formative years with and that is the lens with which I seem to associate us all…like we are all suspended in time from say, 30 years ago.

We have all heard people ask, “If you could go back to your younger self and give some advice, what would it be?”.   Well, here it is…like it or leave it.  Totally up to you.

  1.  Life really is short and the years do go by more quickly as you age.  Never wish time away.  Often the anticipation of certain milestones leaves us as young people wanting to just get there (i.e. a teenager, of driving age, adulthood, etc.), but really the anticipation OF is the best part, so enjoy it.  It will come and it will also go and you will never get it back again.
  2. If in doubt, don’t.  Those words are etched in mind thanks to Ms. Oprah Winfrey.  Doubt means your intituition knows better.  Listen.  Or at least, learn from it if you choose not to listen the first time.
  3. Take risks and learn to let go. Don’t Haul yours or other people’s ‘stuff’ around.  Let go of societal expectations, the stories you tell yourself to avoid being real, of certain fears that hold you back, of childhood baggage that will surely define you, but ONLY IF you let it.
  4. Trust in yourself first.  Always.  It is not your trust in others that matters.  If you don’t trust yourself, then you can’t trust others much like loving yourself.
  5. Realize that anger is just a mask, usually for sadness or insecurities.  Get to the bottom of it sooner rather than later, or it will eat you alive from the inside out. Honestly.  You don’t want to awaken one day only to discover that you truly do not know who you are, where you have been or why you have done the things that you have.  (Addictions of all sorts are often rooted here.)
  6. Be yourself.  At the end of the day, no one really cares as much about you as you do.  You might think they do and yes, we all pass judgement in some ways to find our place in this world; however, it is for that exact reason that you should be authentic.  Everyone else is just trying to do the same and because of that, they are too busy with their own stuff to worry that much about yours.  We all have egos, right?  Don’t pursue your superego or get caught up in your id.
  7. If you don’t like something in your life, change it.  You are the only one who can.  Complaining or worrying about it won’t do any good.  Ever.  (Unless you wish to ride a merry-go-round with zero results or forward movement.)
  8. Be kind and loving to your body, which includes your teeth and your feet (floss and avoid heels/ill-fitting/cheap shoes).  Your body really is your temple that is here to serve you, but you also want it to last you a long time.  Though you’ve heard it before, I’ll tell you again…everything in moderation.  Sleep, eat, drink lots of water (your body is 80% water, it needs it) and be active.  Meditation helps too, however that may look or sound like to you.
  9. Dreams really do come true, but you must work for them and believe in yourself.  Aim for the stars, if you like, but be willing to chase after them.  The reward will be greater for it.
  10. Give love, not hate.  And, most importantly, be open to receiving love and the vulunerability that comes with it.  Accept only healthy, loving relationships that enable you to become the best person that you can be.   Sometimes, this means having to cut toxic ties with family or friends and that is okay, if it does not serve you or them in a good way.  Tough decisions undoubtedly, but worthwhile ones. It’s not about forgiving or forgetting, it’s about letting go and moving onward and upward.
  11. SMILE. RELAX. ENJOY. LIVE IN AS MUCH OF THE MOMENT AS YOU POSSIBLY CAN.  It really is the best present that you can give yourself.

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Bugs IN the Flu Shot?!

With fall upon us, so is the flu season.  Oh joy!  Most of us have known the ugly symptoms of flu and colds before and I am sure that most can agree that it’s not something that you likely wish on even your worst enemy.  Aside from trying to navigate the many aisles’ worth of medications, vitamins and ointments which are supposed to help us mend more quickly from our annual bouts of sickness comes the all-too-familiar and deeply controversial flu vaccine.  For as long as I can remember, there have been those who are steadfast in the camp that one SHOULD get the flu shot if for no other reason than to help prevent passing it along to those more vulnerable and then, of course, there are those persons who are equally as adamant that one should NOT settle for the needle, or more recent mist (now, highly discouraged this season by the CDC for its lack of efficacy) citing many reasons.  So, what does one do?

To vaccinate or not to vaccinate, if you will.

I am okay, as an adult, with making the best informed decision that I can make as a consumer (and yes, this serum is definitely in part a consumerism issue), but as a laymen person without a medical/scientific background, I do tend to rely on information provided by my doctor and/or pharmacist as to what is best for me.  The problem with that is that I am not sure that ANYONE truly KNOWS what is best in this wide debate since various research/reports seem to support both sides of the flu shot argument not to mention the slant that various media takes.  What may be worse yet, however, is the thought maybe someone does know, but they don’t want to tell us for fear of dollars lost since the number of vaccinations has grown by over 100 million in the past two decades.  Or, worse again–what if, because of dollars potentially lost, ‘mum’s the word’ not just because of lack of efficacy, but also because of potentially harmful, even long-term effects caused by the shot?  Yikes!  That’s a whole other ball game.  While it has been common knowledge that the chosen vaccine for each year may or may not be effective depending on the strain that surfaces, withholding facts from the public for financial gain is a scary prospect, though not surprising, I guess.  Personally, I can live with the idea that getting the shot may or may not protect me against the flu since it is clearly hard to determine which illnesses will come our way from season to season.  What I have great difficulty with is being out and out lied to with my personal health and well-being at stake.

The following article published in December 2015 by a Johns Hopkins’ scientist was recently brought to my attention.  Like any other finding in the media, it may or may not have merit, but it is certainly worth considering as the drug companies gear up for another successful 135+ million shots to be given out.

http://yournewswire.com/johns-hopkins-scientist-reveals-shocking-report-on-flu-vaccines/

What do you think?  Are we Succumbing to the scares of modern day media who will often report anything to gain its own fame/fortune or is there a real pause for concern?

The Half-Truths of Free Speech?

“Because your entire life, you have been taught a half-truth…and the half-truth(s) that you have been taught since you were in kindergarten are this:  words hurt, words wound, words kill.”   ~Brooks Gibbs

A couple of weeks ago, I came across a very thought-provoking video from a friend on social media by motivational speaker, Brooks Gibbs.  After listening to the beginning of the clip wherein my opening quote lies, my first thought was that what Mr. Gibbs had to say was a bit risqué, maybe even controversial, especially since it was directed to a group of ten thousand children.  ‘Ooh, is that REALLY wise to say?’  From personal experience, the immediate dilemma that came to mind is how you would tell a child who is crying their eyes out (while your heart is breaking for them) over having been called a name that “words don’t hurt” because clearly they certainly can.  They are young, they are vulnerable and in their realm of the world, as they learn to interact with others, words DO matter–both what they hear and what they themselves choose to say.  In fact, as grown-ups, I think many of us would agree that words matter whether we reference present life experiences or those in the past.  After all, I didn’t like being called ‘dumb’ as a youngster, nor would I appreciate it even as a well-established, self-assured, forty-something year old woman.  By the same token, I know how good it feels/felt when someone tells me or has told me that I look nice or that I am funny or smart.  As per my given examples, words obviously take on negative or positive connotations and I am sure that we have all experienced both ends of the spectrum from a very early age.  Thus, do we have the power to change our thoughts on the matter at hand?  Mr. Gibbs seems to thinks so and most of us have heard before that words affect us only to the extent that we LET them affect us.  Before we look at his message more closely, let’s go to the extreme of his half-truths first; the scary thought that “words kill”.

Let’s face it, “words kill” elicits a whole other discussion about suicide, the internet, social media, etc.  Just recently, my husband and I watched a 20/20 episode entitled, “Can Words Kill?” wherein a teenaged girl named Michelle Carter was convicted of manslaughter after exchanging texts and ‘encouraging’ her boyfriend Conrad Roy in a phone conversation to commit suicide, which he had threatened on numerous occasions prior to his actual death.  Needless to say, the case of Miss Carter set a precedence  and led some to question if the basis for her conviction was justified.  Regardless of what you believe about the case, it is a purely tragic story in which one life ended and another was forever changed on the basis of words and words alone–a bit sobering to say the least and a sordid tale hopefully never to be duplicated again.  So, is Mr. Gibbs flat-out wrong in his message to students that “words don’t hurt”?  I am not so sure actually, but in saying that it requires one to really focus and listen to the message he sends to kids in his ‘Free Speech‘ spiel.

As the clip from Brooks Gibbs video continues on, he goes on to say that, “Words DON’T have to hurt, (that) words only have the power that YOU give them”, which as I said earlier, most of us have heard at least once before.  We can also probably relate to his statement that “when you believe that you have the human right that everyone must be nice to you, you’re setting yourself up for failure, you’re creating in yourself a victimization mentality.”  I mean, just think about the saying, “You can’t please all of the people all of the time.”  True, is it not?  What likely takes Gibbs’ speech to another level of contemplation is when he challenges the notion that others have the right to say what’s on their mind, even if it’s mean and hateful, and that their constitutional right to free speech should not be suppressed (though it may be immoral), since we wouldn’t want our own freedom of speech taken away.  “Every single citizen, ” he says, “has the right to stand up on their platform and speak their mind even if it offends another group.”  While the idea of offending others makes many of us cringe, it cannot always be avoided and countries such as ours ARE founded on the very principles of democracy in which everyone HAS a voice.  Of course, the hope is that “the virtue of love (will drown) out the vice of hate.”  So, how does one achieve that, according to Mr. Gibbs?  The answer is two-fold:

1) Make a decision that you are NOT going to give people the power to hurt your feelings.  Expect that people will be mean from time-to-time–after all, they technically have the right to (it’s not nice!), but that ultimately, you get to choose NOT to pay it any mind.  I’d go one step farther here and explain that the reason that you shouldn’t pay it any mind is because it’s often rooted in another person’s own insecurities/low self-esteem.

2) Despite how you are treated (within reason obviously–this post and his video clip are meant how to address and deal with everyday hurtful comments, not instances of physical and/or verbal abuse), use the ‘golden rule’ to treat even your enemies the way that you would want to be treated.  “Kill them with kindness”, I believe is how the saying goes.

After seeing the video on “Free Speech”, it led me to think about what impact it would have on children.  Would they be able to realize the power that THEY truly hold in what they often perceive as powerless situations, i.e. being called a name, etc. or would it be irrelevant to their fragile egos?  And, if we could get them to realize that love wins over hate, would self-esteem be on the rise and bullying and suicide on the decline?  I don’t know, but I would certainly share Brooks Gibbs’ message if I thought it could make a difference.  Would you?

Paying Homage to Parents and Teachers (Kudos to Those Who Are Both!)

 

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As back-to-school season ensues, I cannot help but reflect on the adults who are heroes of sorts in their own rights when it comes to looking after children.  Though not a parent myself, my job of more than two decades involves working with children and I have many a friend who are parents and/or teachers.  Perhaps because I work so closely with little ones, I find myself observing them often in everyday life situations when I am out and about.  I am continually fascinated by their personalities and I love watching them take in the world around them as they grow and learn and change as a result.  But, let’s face it, raising kids is by and large, the most difficult, yet rewarding job there is or will ever be!  Of course, I am not telling you anything new as most of you reading this know it to be true from first-hand experience, and if neither a parent or a teacher, chances are that you know of at least one or two who can enlighten you, if needed.

Nowadays, with all of the increasing challenges facing our future generations and the environment around them, it is important to acknowledge two of the most important stakeholders in their upbringing–both parents and teachers alike.  And yes, both are key to shaping and molding productive, healthy, happy citizens who are self-sufficient and able to contribute positively not only to their community, but hopefully also on a more global level.  Naturally, everyone has their own opinion and past experiences to draw on with respect to how it exactly that children should be raised and sometimes parents/parents and/or parents/teachers agree to disagree with each other on certain aspects or roles that each plays; however, regardless of race, culture, religion, gender, socioeconomic status, etc., I think we all ultimately want the same things for our youth, as stated above.  The fact is that the journey of how to get our young ones to where we want them to be or where they need to be is ongoing and ever-changing, as we face and continue on our own journeys as adults.

There is no doubt and much evidence to support the notion that ages zero through five are the most crucial years in a child’s development intellectually, socially, emotionally and physically.  These are the stages and ages that demand an enormous amount of time and attention on the part of parents and early childhood educators, where possible, and yet, it seems as though there is less and less of each to give as work schedules, finances and familial structures dictate otherwise.  According to Statistics Canada, for example, dual-income earners has risen from 35.9% in 1976 to 69.1% in 2014 and Childtrend.org states that the percentage of two-parent families has decreased from 85% in 1960 to 65% in 2015.  Take into account both of those compelling pieces of data and it becomes apparent just where and how our individual resources are being dispersed.  At the heart of those numbers lie our children.  Now, that’s not to say that children are doomed because of the increase in working parents and single family structures, it simply means that our time is becoming more divided than it once used to be.  I know that I certainly see the stresses of ‘not having enough time’ in the families that I know of as well as in the children that I work with.  Time appears to be our most sought-after commodity, the one to which dollar and cents is attached, but also the one desperately needed for our well-being and the well-being of our families.  While I am not a psychologist and I don’t have a specific quote/stat to back me up (though I am sure that I could easily find one), I will go out on a limb and say that our daily schedules and ‘plugged in’ lifestyles eat up more of our personal time now more than ever, leaving less time for the nurturing and togetherness that our kids crave and need.  I hear and I see it in my daily work enough to know that truth exists in my statement, the extent of which may not even be known fully, as professionals are just beginning to embark on studies dissecting the effects of our fast-paced, digital world.

Add in the schooling years, wherein family life becomes even further strained by clocks and bells and homework and clubs and sports and friends, and a person can get a little dizzy just thinking about the constant swirl of activities, albeit many of them good.  Just the same, it all boils down to minutes spent on one thing versus another, leaving parents to determine the fine line and balance between the merits of doing and not doing.  So, as we look toward another school year for many (some of whom have already begun the year) let’s remember that there needs to balance and appreciation toward everyone who plays a role in our children’s lives and that we should all be working to support each other, so that we can best support our kids.  When stressors take over and blame is at the ready or things get to be too much, ask for help or take a breather; likewise, offer help or simple kindnesses when you see similar instances facing others.  After all, we (the collective we) are really in it together, as either participants or bystanders or more likely both.  Look for solutions, not problems and remember that a little bit goes a long way, be it a little bit of understanding, compassion and/or empathy.   Whether it’s a parent not able to settle their baby on an airplane or a teacher doing their best to deal with bullying issues, be sure not to act or speak from a place of judgement, but rather from a place of love, which is really what every one of us needs more of, especially our children.  Remember, too, that modelling is one of the most powerful things that we can do for our youth; whether or not they realize it (the older they are, the less likely that is), they are silently looking to us at every turn to help guide them to be the best possible person that they can be.  While it is an honour and a privilege to be charged with such a life-changing role, as a parent and/or a teacher, it is sometimes an exhausting and daunting prospect.  But, it sure does become a whole lot easier and a lot more rewarding when we acknowledge and show up for ourselves, each other and our loved ones:-).

Homage

Don’t

Don’t Recite someone else’s story or the one that you think others want you to….create your own!

That’s why it’s called YOUR life.

No apologies and no explanations needed.  EVER!

 

The World In a Hurry

“The world went and got itself in a big damn hurry.”

If you have ever watched Shawshank Redemption you’ll recognize this quote from the elderly character, Brooks, who after being incarcerated for decades, finally gets released back into society realizing just how different the world has become.  Both my husband and I have watched this popular 1994 movie countless times, and each viewing leaves us with another seemingly newfound realization or chance to ponder life.  Clearly, we are not the only ones who appreciate the savvy, narrative about a man (Andy, skillfully played by Tim Robbins) who is wrongfully imprisoned, learning perhaps more about himself on the inside than he did out and about in everyday life.  In fact, a quick internet search to confirm the wording in my initial quote led me straight to the following link, wherein ten of the most inspirational quotes of the storyline reside proving that others feel the same as us with respect to the movie’s numerous life lessons to be garnered:

‘Shawshank Redemption’ Lines Better Than Any Inspirational Quote You’ll Find On The Internet

It’s worth checking out the link if nothing else, or better yet, take in the flick if you haven’t already.

While this post is not intended to serve as a movie review, I use Brooks Hatlen’s quote because it remains etched in my mind and I find myself reflecting on it regularly.  For me, it’s definitely food for thought in how we go about our everyday life (at least here in North America, anyway).  Old ‘Brooksey’ makes me question why we are in such a hurry ALL the time to do EVERY. little. THING. from running errands to commuting to work to even rushing around to go on holidays and then when on holidays, people are often still zipping around here, there and everywhere busying themselves with all kinds of ‘tasks’, be it visiting the next monument or taking selfie upon selfie to prove ‘they were there’ or ‘did that’.   In my opinion, filling every minute and/or sparing none is not a healthy way to live and in many cases, I dare say it’s not necessarily a happy experience either based on what I have observed, anyway.  Or, is it?  Maybe you adamantly disagree and that’s okay too.  I certainly am in no place to judge another person’s lot in life and while some may argue that we should live life to the fullest, that is not one in the same to me as I interpret that as more of a ‘when the opportunity arises, grab it’ kind of thing, but again, feel free to dispute that.

Simply put, I am not sure that our society, as a whole, is doing ourselves any favours by not stopping more to smell the roses and enjoy the fruits of our labour.  The busy lives that we are living is a reflection of OUR own personal choices–the lives that WE have created–yet, is it the one that we really want or are we just keeping up with the Joneses, in a matter of speaking?  How many people reach/have reached a certain point in their life where suddenly they think, ‘How exactly did I end up here doing what I am doing and more importantly, why am I doing it?  Is it serving me/my family well?’.  As we approach the middle of our lives and realize more fully that each and every day REALLY does matter because you just never know, I think these questions are worth contemplating.

I will say that whether or not you agree, none of us can dispute certain things that are happening in the world around us.  Familial structures are suffering now more than ever, as is individual well-being not to mention all that we hear in the news (granted that the media has its own slant and always will) about the general welfare of all people/groups in today’s supposedly forward-thinking, 21st Century society.  Leaving out the latter, most recent concerns with government, religion, etc. (too heated to get into) just think about the number of families with struggles, be it relationship-wise, financially speaking or otherwise.  What about the vast number of addictions (drug, alcohol and others) taking hold of whole communities?  Then, there are those who are affected with disease, be it physical or mental or both, i.e. cancer rates, Alzheimer’s, depression.  How about the steady increase in incidences of crime and poverty and unemployment?  Is our hustle/bustle 24-hour a day, 7 day-a-week, ALWAYS plugged-in lifestyle serving us in the best way possible?  Is our basic human need to connect and share with each other as strong as it could/should be?  I just don’t think so.  While our ability to see into the future remains Grainy, I am hopeful.  I’m hopeful because reflection can bring about change and change is a constant:-).

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