Me in Matera, Italy

Monday, 25 April 2011

Welcome Back

I love the sound of birds singing in the morning. I think it's time to start sleeping with the window open so I can wake up to the crisp spring air and the melodic sound of the birds.

This evening when Mylo and I went on our walk I was surprised by how quiet it was.  How lovely it is to live in a part of the city where the sounds of nature are not drowned out by the sounds of crowds and traffic.

The last couple of days I felt like I was once again staring in one of those depression hurts commercials so I'm glad I was able to drag myself away from the sofa to enjoy this lovely evening.  Looking at the robin, I was wondering how I could stop this recurring role I have in this depression and then it came to me ~ STOP AUDITIONING! 

I wonder about the effectiveness of "fake it until you make it".  I've always been an advocate of being genuine ~ what you see is what you get but that seems to be the very thing that has kept me in this funk for so long.  If I stop acting and talking like a depressed person, they certainly won't have me in their commercials any longer.  Maybe depression will leave me if I stop making it so welcome.  I miss the person I used to be.  What a waste it is not to enjoy this beautiful life I have.

Does the robin wonder if she should sing or does she just do it because that's what robins do?  Does the robin ever feel sluggish and just stay in her nest all day long?  Sure the robin has work to do in building and maintaining a nest, looking for food, laying and hatching eggs but when she's not working what is she doing?  How unfortunate it would be for her not to explore and enjoy the world around her.

It's been a long winter and I'm delighted that the robins are back ~ so nice to see them, so nice to hear them.   Welcome back my friends.  I missed you.

Friday, 22 April 2011

2000 years of bad press

While I was on vacation, I decided I wanted to learn about my name sake Cleopatra so I read the book by Stacy Schiff, Cleopatra A Life.

As the young powerful ruler of Egypt, she was labeled the "wickedest woman in history" partially because of her perceived manipulation of two very powerful leaders, Caesar and Antony, but also because of her extensive wealth and decadence and the decisions she made during her reign.

I believe Cleopatra is misunderstood and the victim of 2000 years of bad press, a woman ruling in a man's world.  She didn't do any thing any more "wicked" then any male ruler of the time but because she was a woman she stood out and was judged much too harshly.  I see Cleopatra as a clever and ingenious survivor.  She spoke nine languages, traveled all over the world and led Egypt for twenty years, starting when she was just 19 years old.  I appreciate her tenacity; she came up with one crazy scheme after another and maneuvered her way through all kinds of ridiculous situations.

I doubt anyone really knows the truth about this elusive woman, probably one of the most talked about woman in history.  Based on the perspective presented in this book, I can't help but admire her ~ she lived and died on her own terms.  Was Cleopatra the queen of denial?  She certainly didn't deny herself power, wealth, extravagance or love;  however she clearly denied the status quo and persevered until she got what she wanted.  Even thousands of years later, Cleopatra's loves and life continues to enthrall us ~ she's given people through the ages lots to talk about.

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Checking Out!

I fell in love with Mexico the first time I went there.  A trip to Mexico is magical for me; it is medicine for my soul.  

This trip came just at the right time for me.  I have been really struggling lately, not coping well with the pressures and stresses of day-to-day life.  I really needed to simply check out.

My friend and I agreed that we were taking a vacation from our problems, checking out of our lives here so we left reality at the international airport and went away for a week of relaxation, sunshine and fun.  Mission accomplished!  This vacation was the exact opposite of my life ~ no worries, no pressure, no stress.  I loved every minute of it.

I feel like a different person when I'm away from all of this.  As I laid on the beach one early morning listening to the sound of the waves, feeling the warmth of the sun and the sand and marveling at the beauty all around me I couldn't help but wonder how I could bring just a little of this feeling into my every day life.   
It felt anxious and worried checking out of our hotel in Mexico with the thoughts of checking back into life here and as I was driving home from the airport I was panic-stricken by racing thoughts of my brother's illness, my mother's aging, my daughter's strife, my challenges at work and home, Kasha being gone ... And then I took a deep breath and reminded myself that I can't deal with all of that today.  I can't solve all of these problems.  All I can do is take one step and then another and live in this moment.

I'm home now and guess what, the world did not crumble down around me while I was gone.  Everyone managed just fine without me.  I look outside and I see that the sun is shining and it's a good day.  So I'm taking myself off this couch and away from this computer to live this day and enjoy this moment that I'm in ~  a little less stressed and a lot more relaxed and able to cope with checking back in.

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Goodbye ... Rest in Peace

KASHA, 2000-2011
Kasha was the son of my sister's dog, Buddy.  Kasha was born during a time when my daughter was in grade three and completely dog-crazy.  We lived in an apartment and were not able to have dogs so instead we had two cats and she had 49 imaginary dogs.  As we were soon moving into a condo where dogs would be permitted, my sister kindly agreed to give us one of Buddy's puppies.  Soon after the puppies were born, we went to visit my sister to check out the puppies and we were immediately drawn to a small palm-sized little treasure; at the time, we though HE was a SHE.  We decided to bring the little one home and named him Kasha which means "costs lots of money but worth every penny".   Thankfully the arrival of Kasha signaled the departure of the 49 imaginary dogs  who fortunately (for me) decided they preferred apartment life and stayed at the apartment when we moved to the condo.  It was not too long before we realized that she was actually a he but Kasha was cute, cuddly and tons of fun.  He was very easy to train and even easier to love.

 As Kasha grew older, he was the dog that never lost his youth ~ still cute like a puppy and happy to play and go on walks.  Age took his toll on him with the poodle curse of rotting teeth and achy bones but he seemed happy most of the time.  The loss of his bladder control was the straw that broke the proverbial camel's back and it was really a quick downward spiral with peeing all over the house, on people, in his bed and even slipping down the stairs.

Me & Kasha ~ our last day together
Dogs are part of our families; they are true and loyal friends; they are our constant companions.

It was so hard to say good bye to Kasha today.  I will miss him. It felt even more difficult because he was a present from my sister and having him part of my life kind of felt like she was still part of my life somehow.  I will always miss her.

Goodbyes are sadly a part of life.  During our lifetime we will say many goodbyes.  We say goodbye to friends whose lives tragically end too soon.  We say goodbye to partners and life mates.  We say goodbye to sisters.  We say goodbye to pets.

The "good" in a goodbye can be found in the reason why they are so hard ~ it is because that person or that pet was so special and such an important part of our lives that we will miss them dearly.  And when we miss them, we send love and light their way and wherever they are, they know that they mattered, they were important and they made a difference in somebody's life. 

" How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard."
 Carol Sobieski and Thomas Meehan

Sunday, 10 April 2011

It is the best of times, it is the worst of times ...

Today I went for a long walk, my first walk since the fall.  I'm a fair weather walker.  I love walking though, it's great thinking time!  The past few days really have been full of ups and downs, I really struggle with life's extremes.  I don't adapt well to extreme fluctuations within short periods of time.  I feel defeated and shut down.

I couldn't help but think of the famous quote from Charles Dickens which speaks to the vicissitude of life:  best of times, worst of times; age of wisdom, age of foolishness; lightness, darkness; everything before us, nothing before us. 

I had some friends over for an Italian dinner on Saturday to celebrate my daughter coming home.  We had good food, amazing company and really such a great night.  At the close of the evening, I received a phone call that my brother had been admitted to hospital with a high fever, suspected UTI again!  Here we have the best of times and the worst of times in one night.

On this journey I am on for self improvement, self fulfillment, self survival ... whatever you want to call it; I feel like I have moments of brilliance where I make good healthy decisions followed by moments of stupidity where I make such bad self-defeating decisions.  I find myself both in the age of wisdom and the age of foolishness.

Speaking of age, I turned 40 last year.  I'm trying to figure out how to live the life of a 40 year old with a 19 year old free-spirited daughter, 75 year old dependent mother, 51 year old brother virtually incapacitated by MS, a challenging and stressful career and a household to maintain.  Being 40 with a grown daughter, I feel like I should have everything before me but the reality is that I feel that I have nothing before me except a lot of challenges.

Near the end of my walk, I was watching the stream, it should be pretty but it's not right now; it's spring dirty.  In fact, the water looks cold and harsh, you can see lots of rocks.  It won't always be this way though; it's really just temporary.  Soon the sun will shine, the snow will melt and the water will warm up.  Soon I will see grass instead of snow.  Soon I will hear birds.

Clearly life is rough, cold and harsh at times.  We just have to hang in through the worst times, foolishness and darkness in order to experience the best times, wisdom and light.

I think that me and the stream just need to accept that this moment, is not our best.  This too shall pass; spring is always followed by summer.

Friday, 8 April 2011

Extraordinary Indulgence, Kindness or Care

Work has been excessively busy for some time now and when that is added to the demands at home, it's hard to actually feel any sense of balance.  Well balance or no balance, I'm taking the "just do it" approach to fit in some activities I enjoy.  Waiting until things slow down or calm down really isn't working for me.

Today was a really nice day.  My daughter and I went to the spa for pedicures and lunch using gift certificates which made it even better.  We then had a few errands to run and I needed to take my Mom for an appointment after that.

It feels really good to get a pedicure.  I just love going to the spa or for a massage.  I need to do more of this, not necessarily going out but even just taking time and making the effort to pamper myself.  Pampering is defined as to treat or gratify with excessive indulgence, kindness or care.  I think that the "excessive" part has negative connotations and in my own personal definition, I will substitute in "extraordinary".  Isn't it a lovely thought to do something extraordinary for yourself for no defined reason. 

I have a basic weekly plan that I try to follow to keep my life somewhat organized and get things done.  I'm going to incorporate "Pampering" into this because if I don't have a plan, it just won't end up happening.  Life's just too busy and it's pretty easy to put off  or not even think of doing extraordinary things for myself.  I'm also going to incorporate this into my budget, not that it will always involve spending a lot of money but I would like to have some money available for this so I can do it without feeling guilty, again because it is part of the plan.

I already have an idea for a pampering activity.  I really enjoy going to live shows or plays so I'm going to do some research, choose one and plan a night out.  Ordinarily I wouldn't spend money on a play or if I did, I would feel really guilty for wasting that money as I would definitely categorize a play as an extraordinary indulgence.  I still do these things on occasion but don't fully enjoy them because they aren't well planned, organized and/or didn't have money allocated for it.  Now I will plan them, budget for them and of course, blog about them.  What fun!

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Doing it over and over and over again

I was reading a blog about do-overs and I started thinking about how life is non-stop do-overs.  I do the same things over and over and over again.

This morning, for example, I washed my car and then today I proceeded to drive through humongous puddles and over dusty dirty roads so when I got home today I realized I would have to wash my car again.  But why wash my car when I will just have to do it again soon?

It's like cleaning the house...

The repetition of life can be discouraging yet do-overs are considered a good thing?  I'm confused.

Since I'm on this mission to turn my frown upside down, I've decided that I can use the repetitious nature of life to my advantage.  If part of life is doing things over and over again then there are so many opportunities to do things differently.  For example going to work CAN be pure monotony but it also could be a place to learn and grow.  I detest driving so driving from place to place feels like a chore BUT I love sight seeing so rather than driving like a maniac from place to place to get the driving over with maybe I should look around while I'm driving and take in my surroundings, see some sights perhaps.

Unfortunately I don't have magical powers to suddenly change the way I live my life or miraculously improve my attitude.  I certainly don't expect to suddenly become little miss sunshine but if I can do one mundane thing differently, have interest or find joy where I did not before then that's a good thing AND since I am doing things over and over and over again, I can just keep trying.  After all, it's progress not perfection I'm looking for.

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

A dog's life

This little girl, Mylo, is my sunshine on a rainy day.  When I'm at home, she's my constant companion whether she is sitting beside me on the couch or following me around or lying at the foot of my bed.

I'm not even sure why Mylo likes me.  Yes I feed her but I almost never walk her in the winter.  I try to be sure her water dish is always full but I don't play with her that often.  So what's in it for her?  She just seems to want to be with me which is hard to understand when I don't even want to be with me!

According to the chinese zodiac, I was born in the year of the metal dog perhaps that's why I have such a strong affinity with my doggie.  I do feel like I live up to the characteristics of a metal dog ~ faithful, sincere and giving; a loyal companion; yet, can be judgmental, defensive and holds a grudge.   I've often been told that I need to soften around the edges.  I think that's a fair comment.

When life feels hard, it sure feels good to have this loyal companion around.  She's a cockapoo but she doesn't have the hyperactivity of a poodle, at all.  I feel her calmness and acceptance of me.  She certainly never judges or holds a grudge.  She appears to go with the flow.  She seems to be okay with me just the way I am.  I wonder what the world looks like through her eyes?  I wonder what it would feel like to live life as a dog, even just for one day? 

My objective in this blog is to learn to appreciate the world around me and as I do that I'm hoping that I will become a kinder, gentler version of me.  I'd like to be calmer, "softer around the edges" I guess you could say. 

“Thorns may hurt you, men desert you, sunlight turn to fog; but you’re never friendless ever, if you have a dog.”

Monday, 4 April 2011

Sun Shine

Today as I was driving home from a fairly crappy day at work, I was desperately seeking something good for my blog today but the sun kept getting in my eyes.  That's when I realized that something good was getting in the way of me trying to see something good.

One of the blessings of Alberta is the the blue sky and the bright shining sun that can cheer me up even on the coldest of days.  I spend a lot of time looking at the sky when I'm on vacation but in my day-to-day life I don't spend enough time enjoying it's beauty.

Many days I don't even notice the weather or what's going on around me.  I'm too distracted by what has happened or preoccupied with what will happen to notice what is happening.  Is that ironic? 

How many times have I been so disconnected that I don't see what I'm looking for even though it's right in front of me.  Being "present" is something I am working on but it takes practice: pay attention to this moment, take in the sights, smells, sensations and breathe.  

Today I am thankful for the beautiful clear blue sky and the I am happy to see the sun shining so brightly.  It reminds me that spring is on its way, a season of new beginnings that I am looking forward to.


Sunday, 3 April 2011

Baby Love

There is a lot to be learned from babies.  They concern themselves with their basic needs and things that entertain them.  They live in the moment.  They let you love them and love you in return.  I admire the simplicity of their lives. 

I've been struggling with relationships lately. I've felt an inability to connect with those I love the most as a culmination of past hurts, present burdens and responsibilities and tremendous worry about the future.

Today I had a visit from my great-nephew.  It felt amazing to hold him, cuddle him and I did actually feel connected to him.  Maybe it's because my relationship with this baby is not complicated; I just love him, let him love me and enjoy the time we have together. 

How can I take the simplicity of this relationship into other relationships?  Is it possible to let go of past hurts, stop worrying about the future and just enjoy the moment and treasure the relationships I have and the people I love.  It's probably easier said than done and I'm not sure how to get from here to there but I do know that this baby reminds me that relationships are to be treasured.  It's time for some baby steps, time to live in this moment, time to love and be loved.  Maybe, just maybe, the rest will take care of itself.

Saturday, 2 April 2011

To Do: Find Something Good in Every Day

Yesterday, on April Fools Day, I was having a bit of a pity party thinking about how my life was a series of unfortunate events.  Maybe it's a cosmic joke of some sort OR maybe I'm just a fool who doesn't uncover the good in life.

Today as I was driving across the bridge and marveling the beauty of the cityscape, I decided it was time to embark upon a mission.  Instead of dwelling on the difficulties in the day-to-day minutia, I'm going to find something, just one thing each day that is good and I'm going to photograph and blog about it.  I am certain that I do not understand the purpose of life, the needless suffering of mankind or really any of the "whys" but perhaps the pursuit of meaning or answers is causing me to feel in a perpetual state of unrest and dissatisfaction.

The definition of insanity is said to be "doing the same thing over and over again yet expecting different results".  So I plan to stop the insanity, my search for understanding and instead change my focus and search for moments of joy, instances of beauty and goodness in this world we live in.

My life does feel like a cruel joke of some sort but I'm going to see if I can stop foolishly wasting it and start enjoying it.