fun · Original Thought · Uncertainty

Left Behind

My grandmother left me a world that was better for her having lived her life on it. I suspect that her grandmother had given her the same inheritance. What am I leaving my grandchildren? What will you leave future generations?

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( a stock photo courtesy of Canva.com)

I was taught to model my behavior and relationships through her courage, curiosity, and certainty. Grandma had dozens of grandchildren, and at her funeral in 1977, I was a pallbearer. I was also convinced that I was her favorite until I discovered that all my cousins thought the same thing. Realizing that I shared the position with so many didn’t dampen my enthusiasm but rather encouraged me to try to live my life as if the person in front of me was important. I have failed greatly and succeeded meagrely, but her practice still resonates and rings true regardless of my measure.

Gertrude Edith Lavender Holmlund was born in Gillman, Iowa in 1895. She moved to rural Saskatchewan to homestead with her husband Ezra and raised nine children on the small farm. Grandma was a reader and a reciter who performed long poems, stories, and sagas from stages across the prairies. The love of words passed through the stubble and sunshine through my mom down to me. Between my grandmother’s knee to reading to my grandchildren today, there are 50,000 books that changed me and how I see my world. In the 1970’s, she was still reading to learn and was memorizing new pieces to dazzle and entertain an audience. Recently, my mom who is 90, began reciting Kipling’s “If ” around a campfire. The words and verses poured out of her, and she couldn’t recall when she had first learned it. (likely almost 80 years ago).

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!

To the end of her life, grandma was certain about many things. She held and lived a life of Christian faith in the Lutheran Church. She held left-leaning political views about government and cooperation. Family, with all its warts, was the most important treasure she had. She saw her world change from breaking land with oxen and pioneering a province and a cooperative movement to international communications and travel. Over the years, she held to tradition where it was relevant and meaningful. She could be stubborn about somethings like God and social action while open to think and adapt to things like music, poetry, and love.

I don’t have nor desire her certainty. I am comfortable living with more ambiguity than should be comfortable. I lean away from tradition even when it might still make sense. I struggle with being compassionate when faced with people and ideas that I abhor. I get to be a provocateur and contrarian because of the life my grandma lived and the world that she left me.

Make Today Remarkable, by leaving today better than it would have been without you,

Bob

Original Thought · Self Improvement · Uncertainty

Its Up to You (believe it or not)

Are you optimistic, pessimistic, neutralistic? Is the world abundant, scarce or three bears just right? Is your view of the world about how you perceive the truth, your disposition, and/or your experiences? I can find myself feeling ‘hell-in-a-handbasket’ like my father, my grandfather and I am sure on occasion my grandchildren or I can deliberately expect and demand a different perspective from myself and different results from the world. My tendencies are a matter of wiring and if I don’t want to continue wallowing in self-pity I can undertake to rewire my brain to observe the magic, beauty, and mystery alongside the tragedy, hatred and vitriol.

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For me, it begins with morning meditation. I use a guided application called “Simple Habits” and practice is the first activity I schedule after my feet hit the floor. It isn’t a spiritual exercise as much as a consciousness and mindfulness kick start. This morning’s meditation was about gratitude for discomfort and how the aches and pains I feel physically and emotionally are likely my body and brain attempting to protect me from additional harm. Without feeling the twinge in my left Achille’s tendon, I might run until something snaps. If I didn’t feel anxious, I might jump off the next cliff without some measure of investigation and reflection. If I didn’t feel regret for not saying something to a loved one in a time of trouble, I might become callous and distant.
I don’t have any chronic conditions that cause me distress do I am not sure how someone could feel grateful for that kind of infliction but I encourage you to take a moment to understand and appreciate your stress, aches, or anxiety. Don’t allow yourself to wallow in it and don’t just accept the situation if there are options to improve or dissipate them.

My tactics for reframing are ecological, entertaining, and explicit. If I want to change my patterns, thoughts or actions I need to be aware of the surroundings that I find myself in and the surroundings that fit with how I see the changed self I want to become. In order to be more grateful, I can’t be surrounded by ungrateful or selfish people. I need to be surrounded by light, love, and learning. I can’t continue doing the same things in the same places in the same way that brought me to the valley of distrust and disappointment. For the circumstances to change, I need to change my where and how and who. Escaping from stinking thinking is essential. It means that there are people in my life today that can’t be in my life tomorrow. There are places I need to stop going and actions that I must stop undertaking. We all have a preferred or imagined ecology that fulfills more of our aspirations and unfortunately, it won’t manifest itself. We need to seek it out through our actions.

I can be shallow and unfocused and unless the change process is fun, I know that I might retreat to the depths that I am trying to escape. Fun need not be onerous or expensive. Meeting with uplifting people for an activity, a meeting, a coffee, a walk will put a smile on my face even when or because the conversation is an adventure. I met with three friends this morning for ninety minutes and we ranged across the sublime and inane to the profound and debatable. We laughed, we shared, we disagreed and we hugged. We expressed our gratitude for each other and the time spent and booked another gathering for a month from now. I left inspired, thankful and challenged. The stimulus of camaraderie and conversation caused neurons to fire against my hippocampus and began nurturing new pathways.

My final tactic; explicit is really an e word for intentional. ( I love alliteration so much that I always trying to catch it in my lists – ecological, entertaining, and explicit). In my worldview, nothing happens organically. Or nothing will predictably happen without intention. I must invest my resources and time in creating a V2.0 or V11.5 of me and I need to be vested in the outcome.

“Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative and creation, there is one elementary truth the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too.

All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favour all manner of unforeseen incidents, meetings and material assistance which no man could have dreamed would have come his way.

Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. Begin it now.” ~ Johann Wolfgang van Goethe

Make Today Remarkable, by choice,

Bob

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Self Improvement · Teamwork

I Appreciate You

Being appreciated, maybe even more than being loved, and being acknowledged is an uplifting experience even when you are down. When someone loves you they have a compulsion to appreciate you and maybe their unconditional bias turns mediocre into grand. That is what is wonderful about love but when someone expresses thanks and recognition for something you did or attempted there is an unrequited gratitude that buoys the spirits. If I recognize how remarkable this makes me feel as a receiver then why am I so stingy as a giver? When someone, outside my intimate and personal circle, does something that improves my/our world what holds me back from expressing esteem and admiration? There is probably some deep seated childhood memory that compounds my other pathologies and inhibits my ability to express simple and sincere gratitude. Too much baggage there, but the theme of the day is appreciation and so I do.

Thanks and congratulations to the team at Alzheimer Calgary for holding the 26th Annual Thanksgiving Run despite the wintery weather. Thanks for the enthusiasm. smiles, cheering and crazy warmup. Three cheers for all those who turned out to run and walk in support of people living with Alzheimer and all those who made donations to support the runners fundraising efforts. The team of first aid volunteers and the massage students deserve a big round of applause for stepping up and handle the aches and pains from a slippery track. Two event sponsors deserve special recognition; Investors Group (Title Sponsor) and Save-On-Foods (Lunch provider) – Thanks for sharing your financial and human resources to make the day complete.

While I didn’t set a personal best, special thanks to the young lad, in lime green, that kept me pacing to within 8 seconds of my best time. Your steady stride and young age were enough of a motivation to keep these old legs churning.

The them for today is appreciation – don’t be stingy. Tell someone you don’t know well what they did well.

Make Today Thankful,

B

Self Improvement

I’ve Seen Sunshine and I’ve Seen Rain

Summer sunshine and summer storms each bring a freshness to the landscape and a sense of awe to my heart. After days of clouds and rain, we had an amazing thunderstorm last night that left a sheen on everything that is green as the sun rose this morning. There is humidity that we aren’t used feeling here and as the sun reaches its zenith there is a mugginess bit after just a few days of grey, we are all appreciating the light. Being grateful and expressing gratitude for this small pleasure is heartfelt and heartfilling. I try to be agnostic about the weather but I confess that I feel so much better when the sky is clear and the light casts deep shadows through the trees. There is a peace that sinks in and I can feel it resonating in my head and heart. Thank you for the sunshine that I get to bask in this afternoon.

I try to run, bike or walk regardless of the weather and I have been out during the past wet spell doing all three (I did retreat to a treadmill one time in the past week). But today, I get to ride along the river to my appointments and feel a breeze on my right cheek and sunshine on my left (at least when I am heading east). I am grateful that I have access to such beauty and am able to get out and enjoy it in so many different seasons.

I was able to add a walk in the park this morning, holding hands with my beloved, not so much exercise as reflection and exploration. A second crop of ducklings seem to have hatched (i didn’t know they could have two batches) and the fledglings from the starling, blackbird and flicker nests are winging and feeding and singing their little hearts out. There was evidence of a couple of deer bedding down in the park but this is the first year that we haven’t spotted them feeding and enjoying the sanctuary of the urban park. Maybe they have moved down river to a less populated area. I am thankful that when I meander with my eyes open that I am rewarded with sights and sounds that are unexpected and inspiring. Having an oasis on our doorstep is a blessing that we get to share with grandkids – another thing to be thankful for.

Just thinking about what I am grateful for and acknowledging it here makes me feel better, breathe easier and studies suggest live longer.

Be gregariously grateful today,
B

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Thank You

Police, firefighters, and paramedics put their life at risk to serve and protect us. It is dangerous on our roads, violence on our streets, drug addicted irrational people to deal with, angry motorists, and those who believe that it is their right to break the law (DWI, Speeding, not stopping for pedestrians). Firefighters try to save our property, belongings, pets and our lives. EMS races through the city with half of the motorists not pulling over because they are in a hurry.

We can’t compensate these people enough but we can say “Thank You”.