Tag Archives: new year

Well, phew!!!

1a69359f28c0274c5ec8fdf474ee241c_grumpy-cat-christmas-695Deep breath.

It’s over.

Another season of forced heartiness, expense, and smarminess. Another season of “this was the year that was” and reviews of the %@%$*&%@ federal election here in Canada, which went on too long beforehand and shows signs of dragging on (please God, no!).

I had some lovely times over the holidays (Christmas with my son and his delightful partner in Kitchener, and their associated family), and some horrid times. Try as I may, I just can’t seem to keep myself from spending New Year’s reviewing the past year and realizing how very little I’ve accomplished in the grand scheme of things.

Sure, I made and sold over 100 small furry creatures.I created. That’s something. I did some volunteer work, walked miles, travelled to NYC, did some writing, went dancing, raised some money, toured Nova Scotia. I read over 100 books. I played my ukulele, and knit, both adequately.

But I’m feeling barren, as if it was all for naught.

Was I good enough? Did I help others enough? Was I kind enough, patient enough, did I give of myself enough?

There’s a dimension missing, a dimension that needs filling.

And I’m not just talking about the severe lack of kisses this year. Which were rare. And I miss them. There’s a reason I’ve fought with my weight all these years. No kisses = more milk chocolate needed. I can’t explain the connection, but it’s right there.

But I digress. I think I’m missing the spiritual connection. I’ve felt it, moments when I’ve been walking outside in a forest or by the beach or even along a busy street, when I’ve felt the hand of god or whoever she is. Times when I have heard music (See: Barra MacNeils) when I’ve been transported, pushed to another level of being. Times when I’ve laughed so hard I could barely breathe and happiness flew out of me. Times when I’ve been dancing and found a giggle in the heart of my being that is pure, unadulterated joy. The well. The well from which all goodness and cheer springs.TheWell

I’m having trouble refilling that well. The opening seems smaller as I age, and yet I’ve vowed I would rather spend my later years as a giggling outspoken and shocking gal than a crusty negative one. I’d rather be considered teetering on insanity than wallowing in cynicism, and yet….

You see, there are SO MANY people telling us that the world is awful, we are all going to die, the earth is burning up, we are killing ourselves to death, there’s too much crime and people are terrible.

It may be true. But the world is also beautiful, we were all going to die anyway, the earth will return to normal as soon as we are all killed off, crime is falling, and most people are kind, though ignorance seems to be multiplying.

See, I can’t even get through one paragraph without making a cranky remark.

The question is, is all of this negativity helping anything? I’d argue no. It simply makes people angrier and less pleasant and spins the earth in an ever more negative spiral.

So maybe it’s okay that I am merely doing small things and not taking on huge projects or leading the debate into the fray. Maybe just being cheerful and helpful is enough. Maybe if we all were like this things would be better. I dunno. I can’t speak or act for anyone, and I long ago learned you can’t change anyone else’s behaviour except through legislation or threat of imminent demise (see: public health initiatives), so there’s not much point in my railing at things.

Seems small, and insignificant. But my well is small at the moment. This seems to be all I can do. So I hereby vow to go about smiling when I can and spreading my little bit of Pollyanna-ish cheer. It can’t hurt, it might help.

And meanwhile, I’ll do some well expansion, feed my spiritual side, get outside more, breathe deep.

images-2hmm. May still be missing the point…;-)




The New Year…

As Anne of GG said, “Isn’t it nice to think that tomorrow is a new day, with no mistakes in it?”
And how much more so for a new year, fresh and shiny and full of life as yet unlived. My autocorrect changed “unlived” to “unloved”, and I suppose that is true, too.
I teach a course that advises against resolutions or goals. Instead it breaks down life into “action plans”, essentially baby steps towards a larger direction, but small enough you can succeed at them.
Failure is SO demotivating.
It works, that plan.
So I’m going to follow the idea.
This photo is of my hotlist of books I want to read, books I’ve bought and, as Francis Bacon would say, have only tasted and/or swallowed, not chewed or digested. They slip between mysteries to poetry to philosophy to literature to non-fiction to self-help. Some are funny, some are sad, some are deep, some dip their toes in life and shake off the chill. I think all of them are so-called “good books.”
Anyway, my den is FULL OF BOOKS. It’s hard to figure out where to start in reading and so I find myself wandering off and watching TV instead or tinker on the computer. Time to stop that. So my “action plan” is to read at least an hour a day not just before bed, when I can actually concentrate on what I’m reading.

And write reviews of the books so I can remember their contents.
And (gasp) write marginalia and underline if I feel the need.

Other action plans? Well, I have three. One for writing, one for physical activity, and one for family.
Let’s hope I can make it through the next few months without any mistakes in them…
As for love? I started the New Year profoundly grateful for the friends and family I have. I don’t think that will ever change. Love to all…

Susto, or mal viento….

I seem to be suffering from some.

Way back when I studied medical anthropology, I learned about a disease called “Susto” experienced by some Peruvian peoples, which occurred when they were scared or publicly shamed.  Symptoms are much like those of depression, plus some vomiting for good measure. As part of the treatment for this, a guinea pig was rubbed all over their body.  My text at that time didn’t specify several things that I wondered about, namely:

1. Was the guinea pig alive or dead?

2. Was it claws up or claws down?

3. What happened to the pig afterwards?

I’ve finally found out more about this practice, and it does not go well for the poor piggie, alas. Which makes me glad I don’t have a curandero around to help cure me of my current malaise. The poor wee thing would end up filleted.

I suspect my susto, demonstrated as it is by bad dreams, insomnia, and a general feeling of “meh”-ishness, comes from two things – first, an overabundance of holiday and holiday “cheer”. There’s always a greyness that overcomes me after all the sugar and forced gaiety and etc are over. It helps that I have to have a “tree of broken dreams” (an artificial one) in my apartment and that my every evening is filled with sounds of the romantic endeavours of my rather amazing upstairs neighbors. ( Honestly.  They go on forever!.  Maybe they are merely doing situps..).and that my family lives so far away from me and often at this time of year I feel the familiar loneliness of missing those that know me best. My children have visited and have gone back to their lives, far away. I miss them awfully and yet want them to have their own lives, just wish that those lives were a bit nearer by.

The second part of it, though, is from a review of my year, and the identification of the times where I’ve erred or been inconsiderate or foolish or done something of which my father would disapprove. Of where I could have made an effort and chose to not. Of people I’ve hurt or ignored or mistreated or whatever.

It’s at times like this I miss the comfort of Catholicism, where you can go into the magic box with the priest and tell him all the rotten things you’ve done and then he gives you a few Hail Marys to say and sends you out to sin no more.  And you are mystically wiped clean and shiny bright. It’s so much harder to take on the responsibility for your behaviour on your own, to admit your faults, and to let them hit you on the chin.

So tonight, after sending my son off to study again and doing my part with families near and far, I sat and thought, like Winnie the Pooh, head in paw. I have made mistakes this year.  Most were sins of omission – like c’mon, DA, where are those submissions you vowed to make, that budding writing career you promised to encourage and water and harvest? Some were the other kind, where I did and said things I shouldn’t have.

I don’t make resolutions, but I do look over the past year every New Year’s.  And I set goals for the year to come. Once I have them written down, and I’ve tried to make things right with those I’ve hurt, I can move on, cleansed just as if that guinea pig was rubbed all over me (only I’ll skip the sacrificing afterwards, thanks – I already know where my problems exist, and that’s for me to know and the poor piggie to keep to himself). I’m hard on myself, but I know I’ll let myself off for bad behaviour at some point, so it’s good to start with the dry bread and water. Makes the Devon Cream taste so much wickeder.

So, my evening ends with a cheerful toast to the New Year, which starts, as Anne of Green Gables would say, “fresh, with no mistakes in it yet”. Tomorrow, my susto will be gone and my new life will begin.

A freshening…

It’s time for either a cleansing rain or a sprinkling of snow here in Ottawa.  The ground is no longer white, but covered instead with the little black flecks of air pollution that we all inhale on our daily rounds in our fair city – the grit of urban breath that clogs our lungs and environment. It reminds me of things that I would like to be rid of, things that I should clean up.

Like the Christmas wrappings, unacceptable gifts, old things that were replaced with new shiny ones. My apartment is full to the rooftops with books and magazines and papers and dog toys half chewed and clothing I no longer wear and appliances I no longer use. (And yet none of this suffices to hush the squeaky bedsprings of the overly and persistently amorous couple upstairs. Perhaps if I took that container of  Jig-A Loo and wrapped it and left it outside their door, with clear instructions as to use in case of misunderstanding…)

It’s the time of year we tend to look around at our situations, our homes, our relationships, our bookshelves, and our pantries, and try to do some cleaning out.  It’s time to start fresh, wash away the dirt or sprinkle some new shiny stuff on top of it to make it all look bright again. To that end we try to enhance our family closeness – sometimes that works and often it doesn’t. We give things away to charity that we no longer need, or can spare. And we gently purge unwanted things and perhaps people from our lives.

I’ve been so lucky.  I’ve met wonderful people as I’ve moved here and there. I’ve been fortunate enough to be born into a large and loving extended family, and even luckier to have been enveloped into one by marriage that refuses to shut me out despite the end of the marriage, bless ’em. I’ve met a lovely man who cares about me. But over my travels I’ve also picked up some burrs – people who consistently exhaust me, who bring me down, who are distinctly NOT there when I need them, or who are there too often when they need me. How long do I keep these burrs attached? How long do I try to maintain relationships with people who are using me, while not providing anything in return? Is it time to put them, like the unwanted purple sweatsuit or silk flower arrangements or strange objects d’art, in the bag for the Goodwill, and shuffle them off to someone else’s embrace?

We all have some of these folks around – sometimes they are even family members, since blood relation doesn’t always mean good relations. Sometimes we are trying to be kind, or we are lonely ourselves, so we surround ourselves with people who really only want us to use us.  Sometimes that even feels good, for awhile, feeling useful at least, needed, desired. The question is, how much is necessary for kindness, how much is too much for sanity? How much do we lose when giving to these people who take without giving, who neglect gratitude.

It’s easy to slip into neglectful patterns – and perhaps a great deal of the freshening needed is within ourselves, to make sure we aren’t the ones on the demanding side, that we keep things balanced, that we are grateful for the gifts of friends surrounding us. Maybe we need to be the ones to clear the dark shadowing in the snow, to sprinkle fresh brightness on those relationships we hold dear.

There’s only so much energy to go around. As with our homes, clutter of unwanted acquaintances  is exhausting. It makes it impossible to spend the energy on the good in life, those things and people that give us joy.

So maybe this week, it’s time to take out our metaphorical brooms, sweep away the detritus, and focus instead on the sparkling of the things and people we love.