Gratitude makes the journey better and so does kindness

Tag: self-improvement Page 2 of 3

You Have Choices. Always. Unless…

The paintbrush ...Unless you are somebody’s slave – slavery has yet to be abolished, unfortunately – you are where you are now because of the choices you made yesterday and continue to make today.

You have choices. Always.

The day turns to night and you have no choice to make daylight longer or brighter, nor do you have the option to stop the rain or bring one around if it gets too dry. But you have the choice to wake up and make every minute count.

You have the choice to make the best use of daylight to see people’s faces, to do the next thing you have to do; to build, to read, to write, to move on. You can choose. Unless your spirit and or body are confined by someone or something, you have choices.

You meet people; some will add sunshine and joy to your life, others will suck yours out. You have choices. It is an honest thing to exercise your choices, respectful too, towards yourself and others. You can choose to love, forgive, hug, or let go. You have choices: To be at peace or not.

You can smile or frown, believe in yourself or choose defeat, you can pity yourself or tell yourself you can do whatever you put your mind and heart to.

With everything you do, with the choices you make, you make a statement about yourself and life, every day. Whether you choose to exercise your right to make choices, you are still making choices, but are they the right ones?

You have the choice to make every day count. If I would ask you to give up the last 3650 days of your life, would you do that? That’s ten years. If you wouldn’t, then why would you give away a day like today?

You have the choice to make today count. You have choices. Always. Unless… You choose not to. Also a choice. Yours.

You paint tomorrow using the colors you choose today…

The Wrong Way Is The Better Way After All

It happened Saturday morning. The night had been unexpectedly chilly and wrapped the roads, cars and roofs in icy whiteness, but by 10 or so it was all gone. It was one of those perfect invitations to hop on the bike and go.

Since I moved here in September I have been reluctant to ride my bike because of big trucks speeding by, and on the two occasions I did, I stayed close to home. Unsatisfying at best.

This time I was told of a good place to ride; many cyclists go there: Barnhartvale area. You could say I went on assumptions: Park here, take this road, go. Not a doubt in my mind that I was going the right way.

But, it is a steep uphill. The sun can conceal steepness though. Sunny roads have a certain lure to them and you just go. So I did. There was still snow not far from the road, and the chill was still wrestling with the morning warmth, knowing it will lose anyway before noon or so.

The uphill was treacherous. A soul cleanser of some sort. And just when you think you’re done climbing, more uphill is coming. To conclude that the road is wicked is only logical.

I stopped twice, drank water, looked behind, looked ahead and hopped on. I cannot just stop and turn back, I thought, if this is a route then so be it. A few trucks roared past and I admit to short bursts of engine envy. Well, they make the climb fast and effortless, but that’s not where it’s at.

As I rode around the bend, I came upon houses and shops. Not a human in sight, Barnhartvale seemed to be populated by loud birds imbued with the sunshine the sky was throwing in buckets at them.

Then the road was all flat, quiet and sunny. You see the warmth hovering over it like it does mid-summer and that alone is enough to burn the pain of the climb and turn it into joy. That’s when you know you’re where you should be.

I rode past horse farms; past a field with three llamas that stared in unison as I rode past them. After a few more kilometers I stopped. I lay the bike down in the dry weeds by the side of the road that seemed to have been built just for me, and I sat beside it.

Thoughts tried to barge in like kids do after a day of playing that was so exciting they forgot to eat. Loud and rambunctious, they all wanted to be heard and paid attention to. But I allowed only one: “I am here.”

A whole lot of world rolling from that road in all directions. Hills, some still snowy; birds, loud and cheeky as one would expect in early spring, and the simple realization of having all of that, right there and being in no hurry to go anywhere else.

The way back came with a perk: An exhilarating downhill ride. No engine envy at all. Upon my return I found out that I took a different route than I was supposed to. The harder one. Be it so; to me, when I hopped on the bike, the Barnhartvale road was the only one I knew of.

Perhaps six kilometers or so of uphill are not an invite to riding. But to me they are a confirmation that when you think of the way in front of you as the only one – be it easy or tough – you just do it. Because deep down you can.

We have all it takes to do it. The only reason we choose an easier way is because we have the option. But what if we didn’t?

Easy does not make us grow. It makes us stall in a place where we become complacent. There’s a deep throb of “I can do this” that follows such deeds and that open the way to “I can do whatever I set my mind to.”

My mom used to say that when you really don’t want something that you stumble or opt out. When you want to make it happen, you take the road, and if steep is the only option, you don’t call it steep. You still call it the road.
Because when we challenge ourselves, somewhere in between catching our breath and looking how far along we’ve come, we catch a glimpse of what we can be: better and stronger versions of ourselves.

I want my boys to know that.

(Originally published as a column in the Saturday edition of the Kamloops Daily News on March 16, 2013)

Anyone There? But Of Course

It’s the journey that each of us have to take. Life that is. We are ushered into life and expected to make the best of it. Along the way, we stumble. Grind teeth, get up, keep going. We allow part of that grinding of teeth to be heard and discussed. “It’s hard, yes, but you can do it…” Or the opposite “Well, maybe this is not your thing after all…” Choose what fits and move along. We let parts of us be seen but, secretly so, we leave out the parts that make us feel inadequate. Because where inadequacy starts, so does fear of failure.

So we want to have companions for the journey. We find people along the way and we learn how togetherness gives one strength and inspiration. We bump into people and cannot believe the luck of it. What a gift! We laugh and cry on each other’s shoulders, we talk crazy talks and let each other peek into each other’s soul. We let parts of it be seen but, secretly so, we leave out the parts that make us feel inadequate. Because where inadequacy starts, so does fear of rejection.

We stumble upon things we love to do. Uplifting things, they fire you up and making you shiver with that unmistakable feeling of knowing you’re growing into a better you. You want that. Don’t we all? And nothing stands in the way or so you declare. That nothing is perfect you already know. But you boldly and stubbornly assume that (undeclared) perfection – a perfect you, a perfect plan, perfect days lined up like birds on a wire – would be the key to making that feeling immortal. You got it figured out. Or so you let others understand. You let them turn you every which way hoping that the small crack in the pants (inadequacy, fear of facing one’s limitations) will not be seen. We hope, secretly so, that we covered the parts that, once discovered, might reveal our inadequate nature. Or actions. Or habits.

Truth is – my truth, that is, which might or might not be universal – some inadequacy is part of life. It powers the next step. But that’s beside the point of today’s rumble. The point is, as we take the journey, we learn, we succeed and fail, we keep trying and then we learn again. And succeed at some and fail at others. And we might get cheers or be advised on how to do it better. The insight could be too much or too little. It happens. But there is always the one little presence tucked in a corner that will simply be there. Always. It’s you. Or me in this case. Always along for the ride, always privy to all the parts that we might be left out for fear of inadequacy. Always willing to give the gentle (or less so) shove that means come on now, don’t give up just yet

Always there. And once we make peace with the truth that we truly only have ourselves for the ride at all times, and that nakedness of self is a state of being that makes the journey worthwhile, then we can let (some) people into our souls, we can show them the clear lakes and the stinky swamps, we can do things that we will succeed at with grace and others that will make us appear boorish and heading in the wrong direction.

But most of all, we will know that we are never alone no matter what and making peace with the one being that’s always there (until, that is, but we can overlook the obvious for now) is the first step towards that simple tingle in the heart that means I’m getting somewhere. And that somewhere is the point where your acceptance of yourself will allow you to accept others and make them comfortable with you seeing the parts of themselves, those parts that they, secretly so, have been hiding for fear of inadequacy. Because where inadequacy starts, so does fear of rejection. And lucky you, you have already learned that the two do not need to be associated anymore. For inadequacy is part of being alive. It powers us to take the next step. The courage to do so. And it allows you to be you. And it allows the ones around you to be themselves.

And that is, as far as I know, the first step towards that beautiful tingle in the heart that says we’re getting somewhere. Because we are.



Salmonberry Shoots To Chew On. Happy Mother’s Day.

The salmonberry bushes stain the woods bright green and the sun-soaked dirt path through the old growth trees is a most comforting sight. Mother’s Day is a majestic bittersweet day. Why, you ask? It’s a day of assessment, even though I say it isn’t. I always question my ability to parent my boys the right way. Be kind, be strong, be accepting, don’t lose it, be there. No pressure. Be there. I am. Am I? The boys leave their bikes at home. Walk, mom, no bikes. Sure thing, I love that. It’s late, it’s when baby bats come out and baby humans go to bed. Mine go to bat school tonight then, it is decided. Chatting, hopping, elf-chasing boys are a treat. We snap the soft crunchy tops of salmonberry bushes, peel them hastily and eat them. Watery and barely sweet, they are part of our new spring ritual. We’ve learn of them last year from a First Nations elder at the Musqueam reserve. We trudge through the woods and somehow I know that the boys hold the bouquet of those make-believe late afternoon adventures of mine. In my parents’ backyard, soft grass and green bushes. Back then…

Walk, peel, eat. Try the shoots before they get woody. Meager amounts but somehow plenty. Can I eat the dark skin, mom? I guess… Sasha spits the whole thing out. Laughter. Tangy with a hint of late afternoon forest is better left in the dirt. But how do you know which ones are good to eat? I make up rules that seem logical enough and that’s the kind of confidence that motherhood instills. Mom, a banana slug! The boys roll him to the side of the road. For safety reasons, they explain. Covered in grit and pine needles, the banana slug is saved from big feet and hungry mouths but truth is, its own species would not recognize the poor fellow. Heartfelt intentions, I know that much. Boys are clumsy and beautiful. Thoughtful. Hopping, running, wondering. Questions. Don’t ever stop.

Tony talks about creatures he imagines, stories that have yet to be written. The dark elves are near... Sasha perks up his ears and they both breathe in the dense fragrant forest air. Quiet. Bird songs drop to the ground like rain drops. The boys sudden laughter roll through the soft grasses of my soul. Every now and then Tony looks at me  like he’s seeing me for the first time: Happy Mother’s Day. Mother. I am. Happy. The woods are a shell of warmth and I feel closer to the boys than everywhere else.

A small bouquet of purple spring bells wrapped in a red tulip petal. Gift from Sasha on the way to the woods. I put in my pocket so we can hold hands. Later on I notice the purple bells dropped. Trailing behind like bread crumbs they must be. Hansel and Gretel, you know the story? That way I can always find my way back to the jumps and laughter my boys leave behind. How much will I miss their elf-chasing and ferret hopping? I will.

Running creeks, backswimmers and then the way out. It’s been almost two hours. They did it! Happy Mother’s Day! Dawdling, tiredness, whining. Not a shade of inadequacy. I asses myself often and sometimes I get the passing grade. Sometimes I fail. And fall. And get up again. Not today. The toughest thing, the most profound and beautiful transformation of self into a gentle dragon. And the other way around. Fire-breathing begone.

We eat, watch some Peter Pan, hug. Hug. Can I have one more? And one more? Clingy? We all are. My heart has two pairs of legs. Sometimes they kick the ground, sometimes they kick each other, sometimes they kick me and other times they downright dance. Motherhood means learning to walk and run and dance on all four legs. You’d think it’s a given. Sometimes it is, and then it’s not. Grateful, humbled. Happy Mother’s Day.

I Have What I Need (How To)

Some of what I have, in some particular order (but not spending too much time on being too particular, since it is a very subjective matter to begin with): family, friends, health, ideas, achievements, opportunities, objects. I don’t own much yet what I own is more than what many people around the world would ever have. I’m saying this with a profound sense of gratefulness and humility. So why am I sometimes looking at what I don’t have and make that the compass of my traveling through life? A question that entails a cheeky, rather insufficient answer: because I’m human. Because the human side of me will always have its eyes on the next thing. It tends to anyway.The more unattainable the bitterer the chagrin. It’s not about a consumerist plea, that I know I am not.

“I want to make a smoothie…” was this morning’s request. A fair and yummy request you’d have to agree. Some fruit was available, some was not. Not in season or pesticide-laden means that mom won’t allow. One of the boys choose to use what was available, the other one sulked. The smoothie was delicious. And then I saw it clear as daylight. As long as you have something, you have what you need. You could have more but if more is not to be had, whether now or later, sulkiness and bitterness and weeping over imaginary spilled imaginary milk makes no sense. It won’t brighten the landscape.

Lesson of the day. If I need it, I’ll go for it. When not having something hurts enough then I should try get it. Or not. It’s a choice. Bitterness as a state of being makes one weak and joyless. So I’ll avoid that. I have what I need, it takes stopping and assessing what’s within reach. That’s what I need. People are never happy when they keep wanting what they don’t have and ignoring what they already have, I explained to the boys. Not arguing for death of dreams at all, but rather for how to choose the right basket for the eggs one plans to get. There’s only that much time to do it all and do it right.

The human mind is a wonderful tool of both joy and deception. Ours to steer. To have what you need is to know what you have. Practicing awareness. I can add that to my daily schedule.

Reality Check

Three days into the writing life are a bit of a sore sight. Rightfully so. Just like with everything else, timing is key. The boys are on spring break, on top of it they had a nasty flu and associated bad moods or easily-bothered selves. Between cooking, tending to their needs and dealing with the daily “must do” activities, writing looks like a withered plant. Maybe I’m asking for too spectacular a take-off. Either way, midweek is a good time to reflect on what’s done and what’s ahead.
I’m not discouraged. That’s important to know and believe. Like I said, poor timing can be grounds for temporary disaster. OK, beating around the bush, you might say. I should be telling about those projects I mentioned on Monday and they’re faring so far. The website rewrite is done, two children stories manuscripts are ready to be sent out and, no, don’t get ready to pat me on the back with a congratulatory “see?” because there were six manuscripts I was supposed to go through and plus, the big secret project that I was taunting you with is still on stilts. I only have tomorrow to make it hop a little. So I’m getting ready for a bit of a nosedive. But that only points towards limitations that will lead to improvement. Right?

I have to be on my side. I do better with encouragement than giving myself a hard time for accomplishing what I thought I will and should. But accomplishments go beyond lists, there’s learning that comes with measuring performance, mid-week or otherwise. Here’s what I’ve learned so far:

  • I will have a list everyday in order to stay focused but will definitely stay away from putting only big projects on it. It will be only one big project. That’s it.
  • Emergencies first, followed by leftover, then the rest. No skipping leftovers. I know from parenting (haven’t been the best at reinforcing it, will see if now is the time).
  • Half of the items on the list will have to “leave”home the same day, as in sent out to editors. Gulp. And then gulp again.

I’m tempted to say this might work. Will keep you posted.



Day One In The Office

I know, there is no actual office, I already gave it away. Never mind then, it’s the kitchen table which happens to be a lovely maple shade especially when bathed in the morning light. Today’s not it though, but cloudy and windy is equally appealing to me. As eager as I am to start anew, I will be my best friend and worst enemy – what a cliché but we can all have a courtesy one, no? – and pick up the loose ends first. You know which ones I’m talking about (come on, there’s at least one other derelict writer out there guilty of the same procrastinating crime).  The projects that I worked on for a while, forgot about it or put aside to make room for others, picked up again and then let get full of pixel dust bunnies yet again in a folder I pretended to forget it existed. Well, grown-up status condemns such reckless behavior so here I go.

Today I will wrap up a website rewrite project, work my way through the picture books manuscripts and see if there’s any salvageable material and write the plan for the big project announced two posts ago which will be announced by the end of the week. It’ll be a good day. What can I say, the view from my new office is a bright one. The novice aura, you’ll say… OK, somewhat. But keep in mind, full days of writing are not exactly news to me yet seeing so many one of them together like a herd of grazing wildebeest puts things in perspective. Have a good day everyone!

PS: Today marks the return to running after breaking my leg almost three months ago. Yes, I will go for a run and live to tell the tale.


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