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Wisdom ‘Four’ The Ages:Soda Makes Your Hair Curly

fun on the beachIt’s been a week.

Ups, downs and all arounds.

Throughout all of it, I realized two things; I’m getting old, and I’m getting  better at the important things.

This week a childhood pal’s hubby died, and a school chum of mine died as well. They were both in their early 40’s. Before you start sending condolences, I want to be clear; neither of these two men were part of my every-day life.  My memories of them are frozen in the past somewhere among forgotten first dates, moonlit teenage-trists on the beach, and making out to Bryan Adams songs. They were pee-your-pants funny, and the kind of people you were happy to spend time with.

I’m a funeral director, so I’m not a stranger to death. But no one is immune to the rattle of mortality when she crosses your path all jangley-chained and staring you in the face with her gaunt eyes .  The death of these two vibrant men was a reminder of how fast joy and enthusiasm can get lost in adulthood.

The takeaway message is clear: enjoy it while you can. Be grateful for what you have, love the people you love without shame and with wild abandon.  Responsibility can include silliness.

Like I mentioned earlier, these things also made me realize that I’m getting better at the important stuff.

Little girl on the playgroundThe best part of my week, besides my own lovely kid at home, was a conversation that I had with a four-year-old-boy at the funeral home where I work. We discussed the benefits and drawbacks of the differnt flavours of birthday cake .We also decided that absolutely nobody is ever too old to order a Happy Meal at McDonalds because the toys are awesome sometimes.  And, at the ripe old age of almost-five, Henry decided that although he thought my hair was pretty, he would take my advise and stay away from drinking soda. That’s the reason I gave him that my hair was so curly (after all, it was the fizz from soda that bubbled all the way up from my stomach and into my head that made it that way). Henry stuck to cranberry juice.

I also dragged my middle-aged-not-a-morning-person-butt out of bed to go to an event that was very important to a beautiful woman whom I work with.  She unveiled a painting that she had been working on for a year, and let me tell you, the joy she experienced today was contagious. Life gets better the more we love other people and the more we listen to our intuition.

Friday night dinner was hosted casually without fuss, with new and old friends around the table. Not once did I wonder if it was all good enough – I relaxed and felt the overwhelming fullness of spirit we are all capable of when we let go of ego and just become present.

The takeaway message is clear: enjoy it while you can. Be grateful for what you have, love the people you love without shame and with wild abandon.  Responsibility can include silliness.  Take time to have conversations about life with four-year-olds. They’ve got this living-life thing all figured out.

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When Christmas Isn’t So Merry

ADVENT WREATH

“Christmas makes me sad, ” one of my colleagues said in passing this week.

Sad was a theme for me in 2015, so her comment caught my attention.

My head jerked up from what I was working on and I listened to what she had to say.

“I still put up the tree and decorate. You know, for the kids.”

“Me too.” I said.

We were speaking with a younger lady who is still a starry-eyed romantic like we used to be. I hope she never loses that magic, because once you lose it, you can’t get it back the same way.

Loss during the holidays spreads a pall over the joy of the season. Loss as in a you’ve experienced the death of a loved one during the holidays, you’ve experienced another type of loss during the year (relationship, job, ability).

As you get older, there tend to be more people and more things to miss. There are deeper elements of life to reflect upon, and joy comes less and less from what is under the tree than from the quiet moments you get to spend with people you love.

When I was a child, the season of Advent was not a spiritual experience. It was a season of ribbon candy, clementines, chocolate galore and lots of toys. As a young woman, it was a season of party dresses, romance and giddy fun.  As a middle-aged woman, I realize the meaning behind the season of Advent; living in darkness, anticipation and mystery, meditation, and the cultivation of patience.

For those who find the Christmas season emotionally challenging, please try and remember that you are not alone. Our silver-bell-and-city-sidewalk-smiles hide a multitude of sadness.

For those who still find Christmas deliriously happy, don’t be afraid to share your enthusiasm. We love it, and are happy knowing that although we may bring peace and love to the season, there are others who bear the burden of bringing the joy.

Wishing you peace this Christmas. Wishing you love. Wishing you the joy of friendship, romance and the thrill of experiencing some of life’s  unfolding mystery.

 

 

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Beach Buddha With a Side of Fry Sauce

Tneversaidthathis weekend I made my annual pilgrimage to the lake to enjoy a fresh fish dinner, drink Mackie’s famous Orangade, and dunk my fries in their special fry sauce.  Instead,  I got caught up in a whirlwind of worries.

In the moment, with the sun shining in a clear blue sky,the lake calmly offering refreshment, and soaring seagulls, my meditation training came back to me in a snap. This moment is it. It’s all we’ve got.

To be present right here, right now, holding all of our fears and worries, all the while appreciating how fortunate we are to have what we do, now that my sweet peaches, is the art of living.

Holding hope and loss at the same time seems paradoxical, but it’s the essence of the human mystery. I don’t preach this from living a blessed life. Loss is not a stranger in my life. Loss is a ruthless teacher and a sneaky sonnuvabitch.

Anxiety is the residue that gets left over when loss finally packs its oversized bag and leaves.

So often we associate  loss with death, and forget about all of the other losses; home, love, jobs, and hope.

Hope. Yah, that’s a tough one. Loss often packs a good one-two punch, with a kick to the groin – it always blesses us more than once in a very short period of time, leaving us feeling vulnerable, fearful, numb and hopeless.

With each loss we lose hope in the story of our lives; what we hope to do with our loved ones, how we hope to grow old and with whom or that old wounds may somehow heal with reconciliation.

As a young adult I suffered major losses. Journeying with someone I love as they experience new losses in the shadow of my own,  I began to wonder whether it was easier as a young woman than it is now.

But it’s not about easier or more difficult. It’s about different. Different as in; as we age we process loss much differently in the lengthening shadow of our own mortality. With each loss, our perception is that time offers us less opportunity to recover. Perception is the key word here. Loss can cause despair, and on the other hand it can be used as an opportunity to start fresh, put new building blocks in place (think Lego – it was my favourite toy when I was a kid), and write a new story.

Within the period of a few months, loss has snuggled up in our home, poured itself a drink, put its stinky feet up on the coffee table, and helped itself to an unfair portion of our sanity. It’s like the dreaded overseas relative come to stay for an unknown period of time. To celebrate the arrival of our special guest, my anxiety dressed itself up, rolled out the red carpet and said,  “Welcome, what can I get you? My sleep? A cozy blanket of  pathetic weeping perhaps, or how about some home-cooked fear”?

Despite my anxiety, I am aware of my blessings; my child, my love, my friendships, my life as I know it.

As the Buddha at the beach reminded me, it’s not impossible to hold hope and fear. It’s best just to let them both gently go and appreciate the moments as they are.

Wishing you the presence to practice letting go, being present, and keeping love and hope alive in your heart.

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Grace: Not Just a Popular Name for 8 Year Old Girls

grace-and-imperfectionGrace is a practiced art. It is a quality of character made up of a unique combination of natural poise, and practiced during the most difficult of circumstances.

As it so happens darling, yours truly was born with little grace.

I was launched into the world among a family of women who were either unstable (read; bat-shit cray-cray), or fiery as hell. I thank my lucky stars that my character was forged on the fiery side. Although passion does not ally itself with grace, it is more conducive to being trained to appreciate it.

During my lifetime as a working adult, I have had the privilege of journeying with people through times of crisis. Even though this tends to bring out the worst in people, it also brings out the best. Grace is a quality of character that I aspire to nurture within myself, and admire greatly among those who already have mastered the art of living with grace.gracewater

Being graceful is a cinch when the world is on your side, not so much when you’re experiencing crisis.

Suffering gracefully does not mean suffering in silence. It means suffering openly with those whom you can trust to honour your feelings without question. It also means knowing when to disengage with those whom have not cultivated the same quality of character.

Grace is a beautiful way of being in the world, and I have yet to master it.

With each challenge I recognize the opportunity to practice; to open to the world and accept gracious guidance, or seek shelter from the overwhelming amount of superficial advice and ill-informed opinions.

It has been a challenge for me lately, but I recognize my struggle for what it is, and it’s been a tremendous learning experience.

Wishing you the strength to carry yourself with gracious dignity, and friends who have already laid a path for your journey toward finding the strength to be  kind, gracious and loving.

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The Magic of Christmas Appeared in the Form of Ambrosia

"Isn't there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?" ~Charlie Brown~
“Isn’t there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?”
~Charlie Brown~

The magic finally happened for me this year.

I had just put the tacky Christmas goldfish ‘sunshine-Jello-salad’, into the fridge and was stirring together the tacky ambrosia, when I felt the first sparkly jolt.

Christmas?! Yes!

Perhaps it was going through the motions of tradition that brought it about for me this year. On the eve before Christmas Eve, I found some magic. It started with a kind message from one of my oldest friends who helped  me realize that I don’t have to constantly be strong for everyone else.

Just in time for Christmas Eve: my favourite part of Christmas.

To say that it’s been an anti-climactic lead-up to Christmas is an understatement. In fact it’s been a Christmas time to remember. Often these are the years that build character and help us empathize with others who struggle through the holidays.

One well-meaning soul typed a comment about having expectations too high at Christmas time.  This Christmas has not been Christmasy, and it’s not because of any expectation, it’s because of loss. Expectation is an interesting concept, and one worthy of discussion.

We live in a hurried world where sadness and empathy take time none of us want to take. I believe that encourages platitudes about ‘no expectation’ and ‘not being attached to outcome’. Hogwash and pith my darlings.

It’s right up there with; having a stiff upper lip, not crying in front of the children, and keeping yourself busy. I’m a ‘loss’ professional, and I firmly believe in having to fall apart sometimes in order to pull your refined-by-trial soul back together. Sometimes things suck, and it’s ok to say so.

If you think that having rainbows and lollipops poof out of your arse all day long is normal, please send your unicorn to fetch me for your next seminar.

Certain expectations are healthy; to be treated fairly, to be compensated fairly for work, to be able to live freely without discrimination and most importantly, to feel validated when you feel every emotion, including the ugly ones like fear, anger and sadness that make most folks uncomfortable. These are healthy, and necessary expectations.

For anyone who has experienced loss, Christmas can be a really tough slog, regardless of expectation.

As we near the midnight hour, and our corner of the world slows down, I think I will take some time to stop and consider what expectations are helping me move forward or holding me back. Discerning between the two is where the magic happens, because as much as our human brains would like the world to be black and white, it isn’t.

Christmas magic appeared unexpectedly as I went through the motions of making the traditional food that goes on our Christmas table, and I am grateful. Happy even. I’m looking forward to tonight and tomorrow, and am thankful for having people to share the day with.

Wishing you joy this Christmas. Wishing you a soft landing if  you are among those who have experienced loss at this time of year.  Wishing you the wisdom to discern between healthy expectation, and hokey platitudes. If you’re having none of that, I’ll send over a dish of ambrosia for your narwhal.

 

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Christmas Care for the Caring

snuggleWonderful. Beautiful. Lovely.

Adjectives that caring folks often use. At Christmas time, everything is supposed to be extra wonderful, extra beautiful, and extra lovely.

Putting on a kind face when everything is not can take a heavy toll. We often hear our friends  talk about their suffering, but never really hear it.

So in the days leading up to the holiday, remember that the ones who never buckle under pressure, who always seem to hold everyone else together are human too.

It may be a text, email or phone call. Better yet, be there with a hug and a shoulder. Take a chance on someone who makes your heart go pitter-patter and snuggle up under the duvet for a movie or heart to heart.

Have another first kiss or a first, first kiss. Be their shining light on the darkest nights.

Sometimes it’s the caring ones, the bold ones, and the seemingly brave that have the most fragile of hearts.

Don’t forget that the caring ones among us need to be cared for too.