Lori Knutson

Writer. Author. Editor.

The Hardest Part of Life Is Letting Go

The Past 1.png

Amid all this time and space the COVID-19 pandemic has given me, I decided that I want more mental and physical room in which to move around. I want to clean out some of the old stuff and clear a space where creativity can flourish and where a new version of my future can begin to form.

I can’t move forward as I’d like, dragging my heavy, dusty past behind me. It’s time to let it go.

At mid-life, if we’re fortunate enough to live that long, we come upon a fork in the road. It’s there we pause and choose to hold on to our past tightly or choose to release it. I’ve seen folks choose one or the other to varying degrees. From what I’ve seen, the people who are able to let go are happier and freer. To me, happiness and freedom are appealing. I understand this is not the case for everyone.

The trouble with living into our fifties and beyond is that we’ve accumulated a lot of shit along the way. What untidy and disheveled mental attics and crawl spaces we own! We’ve even stored up the physical junk, those bags and boxes, jars and totes, jammed with tokens of our past lives, lives that are gone. There’s nothing much there that anyone will want after we die and yet we hold on.

The Past 2.png

We can choose to keep all of it, caressing each carton, each memory as we revisit our journey thus far. For some, the journey may have been pleasant. Perhaps you recall a grassy roadway and gentle sunshine on your shoulders. My looking-back path is not smooth. It’s covered with roots of regret that trip me up and sharp stones of memories that cut, reopening the wounds of the past.

I guess you can call it a choice, my decision to let go of the past that follows me, slowing my steps and weighing on my heart. But it’s not really a choice anymore; it’s a necessary surgery, this removal of those malignant cells. I have to shed them or they’ll keep growing until they kill me. I’m sure of this because I’ve seen it happen. Some holder-on-ers haven’t physically died yet, but big chunks of them are poisoned and they are determined to share that poison.

I’ve met some folks who, when presented with the option of happiness and freedom, say, “I have the right to remember. I have the right to be angry.” They’re correct, of course. Everybody has the right to feel pain, to self-inflict it over and over again. You have the right to sit outside at a future barbecue, and in a shady corner of the yard, stab yourself repeatedly in the thigh with a large meat fork.

Someone might pull their lawn chair into the shade alongside yours and suggest, “You know, you don’t have to keep torturing yourself. Put that fork down. Come play Frisbee with us, if you can still walk, that is.”

The Past 3.png

You don’t stab her with your precious meat fork. That’s a special pain reserved for you. But you knew this do-gooder would try to convince you to have a pleasant time and you’re ready for her. You’ve been sharpening your words for weeks before this get together in anticipation of this moment. You verbally jab at the one inviting you to join in the fun. You’ve perfected a particularly humiliating memory to prick her with. And you’ll remind her and everyone else at the party about her shame, about her pain. Why should you suffer alone when there’s so much sorrow and anger to go around?

In the end, we can’t make the decision to release the past for anyone but ourselves. It’s true that you really can’t help anyone but yourself. Part of self-care is learning to avoid those who want to inflict their pain on you, to fill your head with their baggage. You might have to let them go, as well.

In this time of physical distancing and an uncertain future (isn’t the future always uncertain, though?), I’ve had more space in which to work on letting go of both my mental and material clutter. It is hard work and I know I won’t do it perfectly. But I am grateful for the opportunity. I’ve got the time to tackle this job.

I’ll try to focus more on what’s happening in the present moment and review the past less. It’s over. It’s gone. It’s dead. But I’m still alive and able to breathe the sweet fresh air of this new day. I can’t take away anyone else’s pain, but I can release my own and who knows what kind of a difference that might make to me and to the world. Let’s see.

Take care and thanks for reading. Be well and be safe. ~ Lori

IMG_1033 (2)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s My Own Damn Fault

HealEmotionalPainThe sweet taste of blame

Following a relationship-dissolution in my mid-twenties, I decided to participate in a few counselling sessions to help me deal with my grief and shame. The kind counsellor wanted to start by talking about my childhood. Together, we remembered things I’d forgotten or hadn’t considered to be that momentous. Until those sessions my childhood was just what it was. I never thought that my upbringing was anything but normal. Of course, I understand now that no one has a typical childhood. Everyone’s is different.

Listen to me read this post:

At the time, though, it was very sweet to look back on how my parents had “wronged” me and hurt me. I’m not sure the counsellor intended this, but I left each session thinking, “This situation and pain isn’t my fault! If it weren’t for my parents, I wouldn’t be in this mess right now!” My declaration was partly true in that if it weren’t for my parents, I wouldn’t be anywhere right now.

152115 (2)
My mom, Sylvia, on her wedding day at nineteen.

Back then I really enjoyed being given permission to criticize the upbringing my parents provided. I hadn’t really gone there before and I liked the ride. It was exhilarating until the blame slowly formed into a hot ball of anger that sat burning in my stomach. Then I knew I’d ingested too much delicious blame.

The rule of 35

Occasionally I hear people talk about how they were mistreated as kids by their parents. I have no doubt that their stories are true and their pain is real. I also believe this kind of thinking sprinkles salt into wounds that should be allowed to heal.

Is there a cure for some of these old hurts? The good old hard work of forgiveness is the best remedy, but it’s not quick and needs to be done repeatedly. One injection of forgiveness is often not enough. We have to keep getting booster shots to keep our hearts open.

Mom Dad Me 1969
Mom, Dad, and me in 1969. Don’t I look delightful?

A remedy I developed for myself is the rule of 35. Here’s how it works: If we’re 35 years old or more, we have to stop blaming our parents. We’ve had time to do the necessary repair work and we’ve had time to move on. Any dumb decisions we make at or after 35 are completely and wholly down to us.

Mom and Me
Mom and I at the hospital. Mom was twenty-one.

And if you’re a parent (disclaimer: I’m not) and your kids are over 35, you can’t take responsibility for their failures or their successes. It’s been too long since you raised them and too many other factors have steered their life’s course. Your past actions and influence are pretty watered-down by now. You did your best. You’ve grown and your children have grown, too. We can remember them, but the people in those old family photos don’t exist anymore.

Uncertain and impossibly young

Speaking of old family photos, I recently saw some photos of my parents as newlyweds. That handsome couple looked impossibly young and very uncertain. Indeed, they were young in those black-and-white pictures, nineteen and twenty-one.

The past is an open cage out of which we can walk anytime. ~ Ajahn Brahm

Seeing my parents so young and so obviously trying to please their own parents, I realized they didn’t have all the answers. Heck, they didn’t know anything. I know this because at nineteen, I didn’t know anything. How can I blame these kids for doing what they thought was best or, at worst, doing the only thing they knew how to do?

Richard and dog photo
My dad and his dog.

My parents brought to their marriage and child-rearing their own pasts and their own pain. It’s up to me, though, as an adult to not continue the legacy. The fault-finding ends here.

 It’s my own damn fault

 I love Jimmy Buffett’s 1977 hit ”Margaritaville” in which the narrator finally takes responsibility for all the decisions he’s made that have ended him up where he is now. There’s optimism in this happy-sounding but ultimately sad song.

The lyrics outline a healthy progression from apathy to self-acceptance in three steps.

Some people claim that there’s a woman to blame:

  1. But I know it’s nobody’s fault.
  2. Now I think, hell, it could be my fault.
  3. Now I know it’s my own damn fault.

Sure, the song’s main character is still at the bottom of a well, but it seems the cover is off and he can see the light of day. I think he might just climb out yet with responsibility and acceptance forming the rope ladder.

Lost Shaker

Yes, it feels terrible to admit to ourselves that we’ve made poor decisions and behaved badly. No one enjoys it but if you’re alive, you’ve probably made a choice or two you’d like to go back and change.

I heard a Buddhist teacher on YouTube say something like this: The past is an open cage out of which we can walk anytime. I don’t know about you, but depending on the day, I need to walk out of that cage several times between sunup and sundown.

Our freedom lies in shouldering responsibility, picking it up and saying, “Yes, this is mine. It doesn’t belong to anyone else.” The chains fall off when we accept, not dodge, the fact of our mistakes.

Our personal history only holds as much importance as we imbue it with. If we think our past hurts control our lives, then we’re stuck. If we can instead think, “Yes, that’s a part of me but it’s a small part and it doesn’t matter that much anymore,” the cage door of the past swings open and we’re free to walk out.

 

Online Living

Online Living Image

Hello everyone! I hope you’ve had a nice Thursday so far. Since I wrote this post a few years back (I think I was still teaching then) I left Facebook and have been off for almost year. It’s been very refreshing, but I do miss kind, consistent communication with people because I’m all about the kind, consistent communication.

When I left Facebook, I started sending out a personalish newsletter via email. It basically covers some of the day-to-day goings on in my life, the type of things folks sometimes post to Facebook.

Even though I’m working more online now from home, I’m spending less time on social media and more time in real life. I still really enjoy connecting online but technology can feel intrusive and I like to keep it at arm’s length.

Take care and have a great December evening!

~ Lori

Etch a SketchLast week I took a 24-hour break from social media. Now for me, this is pretty big. I actively post on three sites and a few others less often.

I dream about posting; I dream about having my Facebook page liked or unliked; I dream about gaining Twitter followers. Surely during the nighttime hours of sleep my mind could occupy itself with sweeter images than these. And yet…

Often I get up from watching a good TV show or reading an excellent book in order to compulsively check my email, look at my notifications and to post something new. I fear I may be a social media addict. That’s why I took a day to dry out.

Listen to me read this post:

It was hard. Initially, I felt at loose ends, like I should have something to do, somewhere to go. After a bit, I began to relax into my time off, and my mind became freer and clearer, less cluttered. I thought the virtual world revolved around me but when I checked-in the following morning, I was horrified to discover that I was not missed. Not even a little! The virtual world did not spin off its axis in my absence. I felt happy and sad, relieved and dejected.

Eye PadIn a sense, social media is real. The people behind the posts are certainly real, and there’s a responsibility to be respectful and kind when online. Hurt feelings are hurt feelings, online or off. Being blocked or banned or having the door slammed in your face feel the same. Losing a friend is losing a friend.

But social media is restricted by the fact that it is virtual. If I need an egg or a cup of sugar, I go next door or across the street. If I get stuck in the alley after a heavy snowfall, I’m glad that Bob is not my Facebook friend but instead is my real neighbour and will give me a push. I know my 10, 500 Twitter followers won’t be crammed into the community hall the day of my funeral.

Social media builds bridges. Lots of times I’ll receive kind post comments from neighbours I rarely see or talk to – people who live in a 20 kilometre radius of me. I “like” their comments, but I don’t phone them or invite them over for coffee, for tea, or for something with a bit more of a kick. It’s sad. I crave company, but instead of making an effort and seeking it out, I sit in front of this computer screen.

CalculatorI know, I know. I see the irony, as well. You don’t have to point it out. When I’m done writing this, recording it, and reading it over a couple times, I’ll post it online for you to see. Without this virtual connection, you would never know the things I think about and how I view the world. For this and for the connections I’ve made online, I am grateful to social media.

During the upcoming week I’ll take another day off from social media – probably Tuesday again. Maybe I’ll make a phone call or watch an entire TV show or venture out for coffee. For one day I’ll try not to forsake real life for a life lived online. Wish me luck.

Getting Older

 

 

 

 

It’s My Own Damn Fault

HealEmotionalPainThe sweet taste of blame

Following a relationship-dissolution in my mid-twenties, I decided to participate in a few counselling sessions to help me deal with my grief and shame. The kind counsellor wanted to start by talking about my childhood. Together, we remembered things I’d forgotten or hadn’t considered to be that momentous. Until those sessions my childhood was just what it was. I never thought that my upbringing was anything but normal. Of course, I understand now that no one has a typical childhood. Everyone’s is different.

Listen to me read this post:

At the time, though, it was very sweet to look back on how my parents had “wronged” me and hurt me. I’m not sure the counsellor intended this, but I left each session thinking, “This situation and pain isn’t my fault! If it weren’t for my parents, I wouldn’t be in this mess right now!” My declaration was partly true in that if it weren’t for my parents, I wouldn’t be anywhere right now.

152115 (2)
My mom, Sylvia, on her wedding day at nineteen.

Back then I really enjoyed being given permission to criticize the upbringing my parents provided. I hadn’t really gone there before and I liked the ride. It was exhilarating until the blame slowly formed into a hot ball of anger that sat burning in my stomach. Then I knew I’d ingested too much delicious blame.

The rule of 35

Occasionally I hear people talk about how they were mistreated as kids by their parents. I have no doubt that their stories are true and their pain is real. I also believe this kind of thinking sprinkles salt into wounds that should be allowed to heal.

Is there a cure for some of these old hurts? The good old hard work of forgiveness is the best remedy, but it’s not quick and needs to be done repeatedly. One injection of forgiveness is often not enough. We have to keep getting booster shots to keep our hearts open.

Mom Dad Me 1969
Mom, Dad, and me in 1969. Don’t I look delightful?

A remedy I developed for myself is the rule of 35. Here’s how it works: If we’re 35 years old or more, we have to stop blaming our parents. We’ve had time to do the necessary repair work and we’ve had time to move on. Any dumb decisions we make at or after 35 are completely and wholly down to us.

Mom and Me
Mom and I at the hospital. Mom was twenty-one.

And if you’re a parent (disclaimer: I’m not) and your kids are over 35, you can’t take responsibility for their failures or their successes. It’s been too long since you raised them and too many other factors have steered their life’s course. Your past actions and influence are pretty watered-down by now. You did your best. You’ve grown and your children have grown, too. We can remember them, but the people in those old family photos don’t exist anymore.

Uncertain and impossibly young

Speaking of old family photos, I recently saw some photos of my parents as newlyweds. That handsome couple looked impossibly young and very uncertain. Indeed, they were young in those black-and-white pictures, nineteen and twenty-one.

The past is an open cage out of which we can walk anytime. ~ Ajahn Brahm

Seeing my parents so young and so obviously trying to please their own parents, I realized they didn’t have all the answers. Heck, they didn’t know anything. I know this because at nineteen, I didn’t know anything. How can I blame these kids for doing what they thought was best or, at worst, doing the only thing they knew how to do?

Richard and dog photo
My dad and his dog.

My parents brought to their marriage and child-rearing their own pasts and their own pain. It’s up to me, though, as an adult to not continue the legacy. The fault-finding ends here.

 It’s my own damn fault

 I love Jimmy Buffett’s 1977 hit ”Margaritaville” in which the narrator finally takes responsibility for all the decisions he’s made that have ended him up where he is now. There’s optimism in this happy-sounding but ultimately sad song.

The lyrics outline a healthy progression from apathy to self-acceptance in three steps.

Some people claim that there’s a woman to blame:

  1. But I know it’s nobody’s fault.
  2. Now I think, hell, it could be my fault.
  3. Now I know it’s my own damn fault.

Sure, the song’s main character is still at the bottom of a well, but it seems the cover is off and he can see the light of day. I think he might just climb out yet with responsibility and acceptance forming the rope ladder.

Lost Shaker

Yes, it feels terrible to admit to ourselves that we’ve made poor decisions and behaved badly. No one enjoys it but if you’re alive, you’ve probably made a choice or two you’d like to go back and change.

I heard a Buddhist teacher on YouTube say something like this: The past is an open cage out of which we can walk anytime. I don’t know about you, but depending on the day, I need to walk out of that cage several times between sunup and sundown.

Our freedom lies in shouldering responsibility, picking it up and saying, “Yes, this is mine. It doesn’t belong to anyone else.” The chains fall off when we accept, not dodge, the fact of our mistakes.

Our personal history only holds as much importance as we imbue it with. If we think our past hurts control our lives, then we’re stuck. If we can instead think, “Yes, that’s a part of me but it’s a small part and it doesn’t matter that much anymore,” the cage door of the past swings open and we’re free to walk out.

 

My Opinion of Opinions

 

Hello everyone! Today I’m preparing to host a garage sale this Friday afternoon and Saturday morning. How can one household accumulate so much stuff…?

As I was scrolling through some of my older posts, I ran across this one. I like it, and it still rings true. It’s opinions that have turned me off social media use. Don’t misunderstand me. There are tons of things I enjoy about social media. I like sharing jokes and sharing music. I like “meeting” people from all over the world, folks I would never connect with otherwise. (Hi Firdaus!)

Social media can be fun and informative. It’s also great for advertising. In fact, I had a friend (Thanks Sandra!) post my garage sale ads all over Facebook. If I ever return to Facebook and give up that wee part of my soul again, it will be because of that platform’s advertising reach.

I hope that you all have a great Tuesday. It’s sunny here and a good day to do organizing-type chores. Stay well and be happy!

Cheers,

Lori

IMG_6934 (1)
Here’s my favourite photo from our recent trip: me with showgirls on Freemont Street in downtown Las Vegas.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You can listen to me read this here or read it yourself below. The choice is yours!

Over the years, I’ve found that expressing my opinion loudly is the best way to convince others of my point of view. It feels great to scream out what I believe into the faces of those who previously held a contrary belief. It’s delightful to see their faces light up with understanding as I bellow my truth.

When the exchange is over, I often think, “If only I’d loudly expressed my opinion sooner we would’ve seen eye-to-eye earlier.”

What? You’ve had a different experience upon expressing your opinion? It didn’t change minds? It irritated friends and family? Hmm. That’s strange. People love it when I express my opinion.

They say, “Tell us what you think, Lori, especially about religion and politics. You are so wise and we can’t get enough! And when you’re done that, would you please give us some unsolicited advice?”

Preaching to the converted is rewarding.

Even better than changing minds is sharing my truth with those who already accept it. They cheer without hesitating, nodding in agreement and spurring me on. I appreciate the reinforcement of my truth by the folks who are already as smart as me.

It’s great to meet people who think exactly what I think. I sure like them better than the folks who think differently than me. They’re much easier to relate with and I don’t have to go through the work of listening to what they say or trying to see their point of view.

Heck, we’re so similar that we don’t even have to really listen to each other. This makes me feel comfortable and it makes me feel right.

Opinions Image

Opinions don’t convince. Opinions annoy.

In reality, I’ve only ever annoyed others with my opinions unless they happen to share my exact opinions. This doesn’t happen very often. Like never.

We’re complex beings with complex minds. We have our own ideas and our own life experiences. We are not going to agree on everything. Start with that premise.

Opinions are divisive.

Strongly-held opinions divide us as solidly as brick walls. This may feel good sometimes. Opinions can help us establish an identity, a belonging to a certain group. It’s nice to belong. It feels good to feel welcomed. We all want to be accepted.

But too close an association with one group can be limiting and stifling. And what if you develop a new opinion, a point of view that differs from the group’s view? Then shut up or get out. You’ve found a safe place within those walls. Don’t mess it up by thinking too much.

IMG_1084

Talking is easy. Listening is hard.

I enjoy talking. It’s fun to sit around and chat about myself, what I think, what I’ve done and what I want to do. Just as I get going, though, someone else wants to talk about what they think, what they’ve done and what they want to do.

That’s fine. Their talking gives me a chance to decide what I’ll say next about myself. I’ll keep nodding and they’ll keep talking. When they stop, I’ll resume the important work of telling them about me.

Listening is difficult and it’s not natural. It takes intention and practice. We have to choose to listen and then work to do it. Where’s the fun in that?

I know there are drawbacks to social media and emails, but here’s a plus. Typing to others makes us slow down and read what they have to say – just like letters used to do. It’s the same idea.

In conversation, though, we’re not often focused on that moving stream of words. With our own ideas flowing through our minds it’s hard to concentrate on someone else’s thoughts. Listening is hard, but it’s one of the only things that can bring us closer.

Listening is powerful.

Listening can change the world. Hearing what others have to say isn’t necessarily agreeing with what others believe. It can be, but more importantly, listening opens the door to understanding.

DIGITAL CAMERA

“Oh, so that’s where she’s coming from! Her experience formed her opinion. I sure don’t agree with her perception, but I can see why she thinks that way. If I’d had that same experience, maybe I’d hold that opinion, too.”

Reaching an understanding about why people believe what they believe is a very good start to mending our differences. The only way to get there is through listening.

Spout tales, not opinions.

If we want people to listen, let’s say something worth listening to. Storytelling is engaging. That’s why all the best teachers throughout time have used storytelling to convey their messages.

Jesus and Buddha and Gandhi and Mother Teresa and Einstein did their best teaching through telling stories and by walking the walk. They gave us information based on their experience, and they gave us stories to help us understand those experiences.

I’m sure they all had opinions. We all have opinions and that’s okay. But opinions aren’t what these teachers used to change the world. Opinions would’ve slammed the door on our learning and they knew that. Opinions don’t change the world. They divide it.

IMG_3823

The listening challenge:

I don’t think I’m up to changing my opinions this week, but I think I’m ready to sharpen my listening skills. I’ll take these baby steps:

  • When someone’s talking, I’ll try not to think of what to say next.
  • I’ll try to focus on the speaker’s words.
  • I’ll make an effort to understand the intention behind the words I’m hearing.
  • I’ll try to honour different life experiences and different backgrounds.

If you want to join me on this listening challenge, let me know how it goes for you. We can share our stories about how darn difficult it is to really listen. And on that, we can definitely agree!

If you enjoyed reading and listening to this re-post, please consider following me here on WordPress. That would be great.

 

 

 

Four Life Hacks from an Unlikely Life-hacker

 

IMG_6791
Plastic produce containers are perfect for organizing your drawers!

Marie Kondo would be proud! After watching some of Ms. Kondo’s Netflix episodes, we trekked off to the Dollar Store and bought all shapes and sizes of containers for organizing the stuff in our lives. This was great but I went at the organizing task with so much enthusiasm that soon I’d run out of the little plastic boxes we’d purchased.

 

Listen to me read this post:

1. Use recycled containers to help you organize your life.

It was then I remembered all the plastic boxes that had once held grocery store produce and that were now neatly washed and stacked downstairs in the cold room. This is an old teacher habit, washing and keeping plastic containers in case they become handy in the classroom. Usually they do. I still teach enough that I’m reluctant yet to let go of this particular recycling habit.

IMG_6790
My makeup in a recycled plastic bin – neat and tidy!

 

These recycled produce bins come in different sizes, lengths, and depths. They are very adaptable! My favourite change I made was chucking out my ancient makeup bag. Every day I’d lug it out of its drawer and onto the bathroom vanity’s countertop. Then I’d dig around in it, peering into the old makeup bag’s dark and mysterious interior until, like an archeologist, I’d exhume my treasure. When I found a shallow square box that used to hold strawberries, I unceremoniously dumped the contents of the makeup bag, placed only what I use in the plastic container, and happily threw away the old bag I bought at least twenty years ago.

Such a small thing made such a big improvement! In the re-used container, my makeup is easily accessed, tidier, and just cleaner.

2. Swiffer your walls.

I’ve said it before, but it’s worth repeating: Swiffer your walls. It’s fast and easy, and it effectively removes cobwebs and dust you didn’t even know was there. I was reminded of how great this works when I Swiffered the basement walls yesterday. Yuck. That could have been done sooner.

My father’s scheduled visit at the end of this week has inspired some of this frantic basement cleaning. There’s nothing like company to get us cleaning. A friend of mine once surmised, “I wonder why we do that? Scramble around and clean before guests arrive?” She then went on to answer her own question. “I suppose we want people to believe we live better than we do.” Next she laughed out loud. I love that friend.

3. Use a mop to clean your large tub.

IMG_6798
Nice and clean with the help of a mop.

I also love our huge Jacuzzi bathtub but I used to hate cleaning it. Now gather around nice and close, dear readers. I’m going to tell you a secret: I’m not that tall. This fact makes it especially awkward to clean that big tub. I simply don’t have the reach.

I remember, back in the day, taking off my shoes and socks, rolling up my pant legs, and getting into the tub with my sponge and wearing my rubber gloves. It was tedious and not that elegant. I don’t know what made me think of it but recently while I cleaned the bathroom, an idea popped into my head, “Hey, why don’t I use the mop with its super-long handle to clean this sucker?”

And that’s what I did. If you’re not tall (like me) and have a big bathtub, this is a very good way to clean it.

4. Make more time for living by being less clicky.

funny-facebook-pictures
I used to post a lot of crap on Facebook.

Since I left Facebook, I spend way less time scrolling through social media feeds. I don’t miss clicking and liking (although I do quite a lot of this on Twitter still @lori_knutson) and my mind, like my newly-organized kitchen drawers, feels less cluttered. I do miss casual contact with a lot of people and again I urge those people to come find me. I’m virtually all over the place – just not on Facebook.

What has replaced the time spent being so clicky online? I’ve been lucky to be in more email contact with folks, writing longer letters, and receiving them, too. Yes. They take a while to read and some effort to respond to, and this makes them meaningful. I’m not writing then to win popularity but instead to forge relationships.

About a month ago, I finally acquired a cell phone that I can easily text from. I really like it! I’m new to texting, though, and sometimes clumsy. As a result, I accidentally phoned a childhood friend the other day instead of sending a text message. It was delightful! There are times when I’m so glad I don’t know what the heck I’m doing. This, as it turns out, is quite a lot of the time.

Thanks for spending this time with me today. Please don’t hesitate to get in touch or to follow me here on WordPress. If you want to post this blog to your own social media feed, I would appreciate it! It can be lonely outside of Facebook’s warm and invasive embrace.

Take care and happy May Day!

~ Lori

Here’s what the weather’s like today in my neck of the woods:

 

The Sun is Shining and the Water’s Running

Finally it’s springtime. And we’re not experiencing one of those raging spring blizzards…yet. We will, but today the sun is strong and the water’s running in the ditches and along the curbs. The world feels brand new and I almost do, too.

IMG_6731
Here’s a photo I took early this afternoon during my sunny walk.

I have to say, I really enjoyed the response I got from my last post. Several people emailed me, and we had a chance to catch up a little. Upon leaving my 1400 friends on Facebook, one of my aspirations was to cultivate more meaningful connections, something deeper than a click or a like. Clicks and likes are nice, and they’ve been strategically created to keep us wanting more, but what I want is to feel less isolated in this big old world. So thanks for getting in touch! I appreciate it.

I especially like longer-form communication, letter-length emails. It’s a treat to take the time to read them and to take the time to write back. This kind of communication is worthwhile, deeply meaningful. So if you’re looking to fill 20 minutes one evening, drop me a note. It would be so nice to hear from you!

A few more of you have started following my blog and another few have also been posting my links to Facebook. Facebook’s reach remains broad and many device-users access it for most of their information and communication. It’s quick and easy, so when my posts can be found there, they get more readers.

IMG_6733
Another picture from along the road.

I finally broke down and bought a cell phone that I can easily text from. Because I relied on the free service provided by Facebook Messenger, when I left Facebook, I needed a new way to send short notes to friends and family. My phone is user-friendly and intuitive. I’m happy with it and quickly building my contact list.

I hope you’ve had a great Wednesday and that you’ve enjoyed this first glorious day of spring!

Take good care,

Lori

 

 

Words in a China Shop

Words in a China Shop ImageMy mom had a saying: Don’t be a bull in a china shop.

Nowadays there are not so many china shops around, but you get the picture. She was advising against going into tight, delicate situations and moving through them clumsily and aggressively. Also, sometimes when we were in the glass-wear aisle of a nice store, she’d give us the same, slightly more literal warning. We kept our elbows in and moved slowly and usually nothing got broken.

Listen to me read this post:

That’s what I do these days. I keep my arms tucked close to my body and move cautiously. I do my best to avoid breaking anything or anyone. I didn’t always operate like this but this is me now: quiet and cautious.

Why, you ask? Because as I’ve aged, I’ve lost some flexibility and it’s more difficult now to pry my foot out of my mouth or someone else’s out of my butt. And I’ve gained some wisdom. The younger me thought, “People don’t really care or remember what I say.”

The older me understands this to be utterly untrue. In fact, not only do folks care and remember, they also view my words through the lens of their own experience and pain. We all do. It’s like viewing an ant through a magnifying glass on a sunny day. The ant gets real big and looks scary, and then it bursts into flame.

pexels-photo-355097.jpeg

In fact, even being polite and standing out of the way can get me in trouble. More often than not I’m asked suspiciously, “Why are you so quiet today?”

This is what I think in response: “You could cut the air around this place with a knife. I’m keeping my head down so I don’t get it bitten off.”

This is what I politely say: “Oh, do I seem quiet? I guess I’m lost in thought today. See you later!”

At meetings, I’ve been asked to speak up and give my opinion. “Lori, we’d like to hear what you have to say.”

What I think: “Oh, no. Trust me. You most definitely do not want to hear what I have to say. Past experience has shown me this.”

IMG_0794.JPG
Dishes in a shop in Bucerias, Mexico.

What I say: “Thanks for inviting me to speak. Attending this meeting has really given me a lot to think about. I’ll need to give this topic further consideration and let you know.” This last part almost never happens.

When I gaze back upon my less-experienced self with her big mouth and limited foresight, I feel somewhat horrified, slightly amused and occasionally proud. Sometimes I feel these almost simultaneously. She thought she was so funny, this young one, and so did about three other people in the world. The rest of the planet’s reactions ranged from bored neutrality right through to offended rage.

She thought she had brilliant ideas to share and a fresh perspective. Now she understands that it’s all been said before, over and over again, by generations of people throughout time who thought they had brilliant ideas and fresh perspectives. There’s nothing new under the sun and nothing that hasn’t been said before.

img_0798.jpg

I’m convinced I’m not the only person who has ever learned to smile and shut-up as they’ve gotten older. Otherwise, I wouldn’t share this. The way any of us think about anything is kind of personal. It’s just that I know so many of us who have taken this more cautious path and so many others who have cried, “To heck with it! I’m saying what I want to say finally. I’ve been swallowing my words for long enough!”

Neither approach is wrong. One works well in some situations while the other is better suited to different scenarios. I admire both techniques. I respect the courage of those who tell it like it is and the wisdom of those who bring peace into a room with their silence.

My modus operandi has changed over the years. It’s softened. My own ideas don’t matter to me as much anymore because I recognize that my thoughts are fluid and constantly changing. So I hold them lightly like a butterfly. Mostly I err on the side of not speaking because I’ve witnessed the irreversible damage caused by words. Words are powerful and I treat them as such.

Words can be like bulls in a china shop. So I keep my elbows in, my mouth closed, and I move carefully because I can’t predict what or whom my words might break.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ownership

A robin on my lawn.
A robin in my yard.

Last summer, I heard a loud persistent peeping under the open living room window. There in the grass was a fledgling robin on the cusp of being old enough to fly. In fact, it wouldn’t surprise me if he’s able to fly today. The fledgling’s feathers were still a bit fluffy, its red breast was dotted with white and the young bird was nearly the same size as its mother who was plucking earthworms from the lawn and feeding them to her nearly-adult offspring.

Listen to me read this post:

Having a life of my own, I went off to live it, but I noticed after a while some louder, more frantic chirping outside the window. I peeked out and the baby robin was still there, but its mother was nowhere to be seen. The mostly adult bird hopped around and finally flew up the short distance to sit between the two big red flowers in the front step planter. The more the fledgling peeped, the more I wanted to interfere, to shelter it, to bring it inside where I knew the little bird would be safe from danger.

Flicker on my lawn.
A flicker looking for worms in the grass.

That’s when I remembered something important: the young robin is not mine. It’s not up to me to manage its survival or its destiny. It’s not my job to teach it to hunt its own food and to fly a bit further than the height of my front step. Outside of actively trying to harm it or its habitat, it’s not even my job to protect it. In nature, living things often eat living things.  The robin may survive and it may not, and my interference could really mess up its chances instead of improving them despite my best intentions.

Later in the day I received an unexpected phone call from someone I love. It was a courtesy call to let me know of a big decision that he’d made on the spot, one that would affect my loved one and his loved ones for the rest of their lives. I wanted so badly to interfere, to question judgment, to counsel against haste, and warn of regret.

IMG_4911
A springtime robin on my lawn.

That’s when I remembered something important: he is loved by me, but he is not mine. It’s not up to me to manage his life or decide his destiny. It’s not my job to choose his work or his spouse or to raise his children. Outside of actively trying to harm him or his family, it’s not even my job to protect him. I would, of course, if I could. In life, there are challenges to overcome and joys to experience. My loved one may have a happy life or he may not, and my interference could really mess up his chances at happiness instead of improving them despite my best intentions.

It can be awfully easy to confuse love with ownership, to believe that because we love someone they should do what we think is best for them. We may be right about what’s best and we may be wrong. Either way, it’s beside the point. The people we love will do what they’re going to do. If we disapprove, they’ll do it out of our sight. If we disagree, they won’t broach the subject again. In short, we can’t control anyone’s actions or emotions but our own.

I don’t know about you, but when I focus in on me, this one flawed, miraculous human being, I find enough to keep me very busy. When I look closely at myself, suddenly I’m less interested in judging others or in trying to change their behaviour and choices. I have my own life to live. I am granted the ability to decide, to work, to think critically, to create, to feel what I feel, and to experience this gift of being alive for this short time in this sprawling cosmos.

IMG_4900
Same bird, different view.

It’s not my responsibility to control anyone else because I don’t own anyone else. The great freeing news that comes along with this realization is that no one owns me, either. They can disapprove of my actions and I’ll act elsewhere. They can disagree with my ideas and I’ll stop sharing them, but they won’t change my mind. In short, I can’t control anyone’s actions or feelings but my own. It’s no less of a burden, running my own life instead of trying to run others’. Unlike trying to change the direction of the wind, though, ruling myself can actually lead to positive change in me and maybe, just maybe, that’s how we change the world.

 

A Beautiful Moment

Some moments separate us from each other and some bring us together. Here’s one that drew me closer to someone who had been a stranger.

There were so many moments of beauty during this latest trip to Mexico. We rode the city bus most days. One time – and I think this is customary – I followed an old man, bent and wrinkled with time, and carrying a cane. As he slowly stepped down from the bus, he glanced behind him. Seeing me, he stopped and extended his hand to me. I grasped it, and our eyes met. “Gracias, senor.” He helped me down from the bus and smiled a mostly-toothless, all-gracious smile. Thank you for that kindness that even right now is making my eyes tear up. Thank you, sir, for that beautiful moment.

Listen to me read this here:

 

%d bloggers like this: