Time doesn’t heal, it just changes your perspective

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I presumably share more things on this blog about my personal life than people want to read. But starting this blog eight years ago gave me a forum to write about whatever I choose to write about and if you, who are following, still want to read along, I thank you for being a part of my journey.

The beginning of this new month, new year and new decade has not started well for me. I had to say goodbye to the truest form of devotion I have known and I miss her presence every single moment. One day at a time, I have had to forge ahead and rewrite the scenes as I go. I thought I would be performing the original script for many more years to come, but such is not the case and the blank pages are waiting for a new story to unfold.

Slowly, I am beginning to build my new life one sentence at a time. As I construct those sentences, they become paragraphs and those flowing, connective words will eventually become a new story. It is an arduous task, but one I have to undertake with a strong will and the faith that good things wait ahead for me.

Over the past couple of weeks, I have begun to focus more on myself. I have selfishly decided the needs of the one (me) might (if only temporarily) outweigh the needs of the many I have been focusing on for a very long time.

Time doesn’t feel like it is healing me, but merely making me look at things with a fresh, and possibly transitory self-indulgent, perspective and, for once, I am giving in to that prospect. I go into the unknown with the understanding that time holds me in its furtive embrace, willing me to see things in a new light.

Side line – as I was writing this post, I was called out on social media for wanting to get a “look at me” tattoo to honor my faithful companion of twelve years. I was made painfully aware that the money I will spend on having her memory etched onto my skin could be seen as a frivolous expenditure and money better spent on causes that could use that donation. My rebuttal to that notion will be as brief as I can make it.

For the past four years, I have spent every Sunday, weather permitting, from November to April, bringing together volunteers to make crockpot meals for our local food bank so the clients can have healthy, home-cooked meals at least once a week. The time spent choosing the meals, making the shopping lists, picking up all of the ingredients and preparing the meals has healed many parts of me and has certainly changed my perspective in many aspects of my life.

Time will never heal my losses. It won’t bring back my parents, my best college friend or my dog. But time will give me many opportunities to put my best foot forward and help in the most essential ways I feel I can help. Time will allow me to engage those volunteers. Time will help me shop for those groceries. Time will help plan those meals and orchestrate the process from food preparation to delivery. And time will help me heal the gaping wounds of my losses by getting tattoos that help me surf the gigantic waves of the grief I encounter from losing those close to me.

Thanks to that hurtful message on social media, time has, once again, changed my perspective. I have time to ignore that viewpoint. I have time to wipe my tears and realize it shouldn’t affect me as much as I let it. And I have time to focus on the good in me and let that good change my perspective on someone I thought was a friend.

 

 

The signs we shouldn’t ignore

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When the souls we hold dear move on to the next realm, I believe with my whole heart they send us signs. As strange as it sounds, when my friend Sandra passed away in 2003 I found my ear drums pummeled by the strains of the song The Girl From Ipanema. It was not a song I would ever have on my play list, and she knew how much that song made me cringe, but its chords would sound in random places and that same song magically appeared on the list of music I have on my iPhone. I have gone through my iTunes history and I have never downloaded nor have I ever paid for that song, but it IS there and I don’t have the will to delete it.

When my dad passed, it was owls. I would hear the Barred Owls at night having what seemed to be a profound conversation and one of those miraculous creatures would frequently visit and perch itself on the largest branch of the tree closest to my deck. When I am having a bad day, those owls seem to make themselves known with their signature call and the calming effect takes me back to when I was a child and would curl into my dad’s protective embrace.

Years later, when we lost my mom, it was butterflies. Although Monarch butterflies are relatively common where I live, these stunning winged creatures would appear in such a way that we knew my mom was letting us know she was close. There was a playfulness to their flight, like she was reminding us of how strong her spirit was on Earth and how that spirit continues to be a part of our lives even though she has been gone for almost six years.

Today, still fresh from the raw emotion of having to recently let my dog go, it was birds. Callaway and I used to sit on the deck together and I would marvel at the unique species that would visit my feeders. There have been many different birds who have frequented my deck, but Chickadees have always been my favorite. With the tears still sneaking up on me, I sat in my living room today and watched at least five dozen Goldfinches jockey for a position on the feeder through the window to my right. The slight movement to my left made me look out the other window and a single Chickadee was sitting on the window sill, looking directly at me from outside the glass. It stayed for longer than a confused bird would and its gaze was trained on nothing other than me.

These are the signs that make me feel like our lives are not limited to where we are now. Every one of the signs I have acknowledged over my lifetime gives me a sense of peace. They provide me a continued connection to those important souls in my life and let me know that they have not actually left, but they are now able to communicate in a way that is special to me.

 

There is wisdom in knowing the whole story

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I have not been very present on social media for a while, save for sharing my blog posts and making a few innocuous comments. Every platform is laden with strong opinions about many topics, none of which I will name specifically, but I’m sure you can figure them out.

This post is not intended, by any means, to shame anyone for having a belief. Opinions are like belly buttons, most of us have one, and opinions can be shared anywhere, anytime. What I struggle with, lately, are the things being posted on multiple social media sites and the accusatory nature of some of those posts without the author having all of the facts.

I have many thoughts on many subjects but I don’t feel I have enough knowledge, or even an inkling of the guts of the stories, to point my finger in any particular direction. I cannot bring myself to judge anyone based on a few snippets of the stories I read online that may be egregious in nature and posted merely to get a frenzied reaction.

This post, itself, may receive a backlash from some who feel they have a right to their opinion and I don’t disagree with them. Everyone has a right to post whatever they want. But I would like to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes, whether they are $10,000.00 designer shoes or a pair of used sandals purchased at a second-hand store, before I cast judgement on decisions anyone feels they are making in their own, or anyone else’s, best interest.

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Some may refer to my affliction as having a bleeding heart but I prefer to classify my perceived misfortune as having an open mind. I cannot even fathom being in a position of great power, extreme wealth or social spotlight. I am writing this post from my tiny home in a small town situated in a rural location in Canada. If for no other reason, I am writing this post to remind myself that everyone has a story. Everyone has choices they have to make, regardless of how well-received those decisions may be. But, most importantly, I am writing this to emphasize, perhaps just for my own edification, that everyone should remain true to their beliefs and follow the path they perceive to be the right course for them to follow.

 

My house is a very, very, very fine house

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Crosby, Stills and Nash permeate my brain as I write this post. In April of this year, I will have lived in my little house for twenty years. Twenty years. The walls surrounding the six-hundred square feet I call home have protected me from the elements, shrouded me from the realities I wanted to avoid and comforted me in my greatest moments of sadness.

These walls have listened to me converse with the numerous characters I have created in my stories, they have reaped the benefits of my good times and they have absorbed the many tears I have cried while facing the catastrophic losses in my life, and there have been several since I have been a resident here.

I dealt with the loss of my grandmother in this house. I came home and sobbed for the loss of my best college friend in this house. I spent many sleepless nights in this house after the loss of my father. I awoke in this house to the early morning phone call that my mother had passed. I conquered my divorce in this house. And most recently, I came home to this empty house after saying goodbye to my dog, who was my child and who lived here with me for twelve and a half years.

These walls are not just walls, they are my asylum. This home is my retreat, my security. There have been many moments when I thought my home wasn’t enough but, when I consider everything it has given to me during the past two decades, I know this home is everything I needed it to be. It will never make the cover of any magazine but it covers me in ways I could never have imagined. It will never be featured in Architectural Digest, but the bones of its structure, to me, are more formidable and more hospitable than any million dollar mansion ever could be. This is my protection. This is my refuge. This is my home.

 

 

New year, new decade, new mindset

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It is the first day of a new year, a new decade, and I have made no resolutions. However, I have resolved to do a few things that are very important to me. A resolution is a decision to do or to not do something. Resolve is a firm determination to do something and I stand strongly in the resolve camp.

I go into this new year with a great deal of hope and while my bleeding heart would love to see the world embrace a new decade of kindness and acceptance, the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Those steps need to begin in many places and go in a multitude of directions and I can only hope the ripple effect of kindness is sent far and wide.

My biggest objective is more focused on the path I would like to follow throughout this new decade. I have resolved to accomplish the things I have talked about but, perhaps, never truly believed could happen. Now, more than ever, I have the steely determination to see things through and to make things happen in my life. There will be no waiting for luck or timing, I am going to make my own luck. I am going to take the bull of life by the horns and stare it down until it realizes my potential.

There are a few facets of my life where this new determination could become a very welcome guest. I don’t have a bucket list. I feel my life is very full with the people and things I have in it and I have no desire to throw myself out of a perfectly good airplane. I am simply driven to succeed, to take my passions and harvest every leaf of hope that grows on their vines.

This is much more than a new year or even a new decade. This is a new mindset.

Playing Santa Claus

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This is the seventh year I have been running a toy drive at the lodge where I work. It had a humble beginning since it was a new thing for us and, for the first few years, we donated the toys we received to the Salvation Army.

For the past few years we have been donating the toys to our local Food Bank’s Christmas Drive. Families were thrilled to arrive at the food bank and realize they could also pick out some toys for their children while picking up all the ingredients for their Christmas dinner.

Over the years, not only did we receive toys but we also received monetary donations that we could use to buy toys on behalf of those who were unable to deliver to the lodge. With that money, I shopped each year and bought as many toys as I could to cover all the bases since I didn’t know if I was shopping for young children or teenagers. This year, we changed the parameters.

I went shopping yesterday armed with a list of suggested toys for each child on our list. Don’t get me wrong, shopping for the past six toy drives has been nothing short of amazing but this year my shopping had more of  a purpose. I knew I was shopping for a ten-year old boy who wanted Lego for Christmas and when he opens his gift on Christmas Day, he will have the toy he wanted. The tree may have fewer presents under it this year, but those toys will be much more meaningful to the kids opening their presents on Christmas morning.

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There is no better feeling than the pleasure that comes from helping others, and not just during the holidays. If you have ever wanted to volunteer in some way but haven’t figured out how to do it, make that your New Year’s resolution. I guarantee it will be one of the best things you ever do.

 

Pay it backwards

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I am not a frequent visitor to our local Tim Horton’s coffee shop. I have my favorite Hazelnut Vanilla coffee beans that I grind daily so my house can be infused by the rich fragrance of my morning java, but lately that has changed.

Over the past couple of weeks, I have been visiting Tim’s more often than I usually do and each time I have gone, I have paid for the order for the car behind me in line. It’s like a Pay It Forward, but in reverse. Some days, it’s as simple as one coffee. Other days, it has been an order of six coffees and donuts for a work crew. Regardless of the size of the order, I drive away with a smile knowing the person in the vehicle behind me is most likely smiling as well.

Simple acts of kindness have a ripple effect. This post is not being written to pat myself on the back for doing a good deed. In light of all the anger and arguing on social media about current events, this simple gesture helps bring back a sense of peace to my brain. It makes me forget the ugliness in the world and focus on small ways to inject a bit of happiness into someone else’s day.

Jennifer Dukes Lee summed it up best when she said, “In a world where you can be anything, be kind.”

 

And how does that make you feel?

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With December rapidly approaching, I am anticipating many social media posts about the Elf on the Shelf phenomenon. What seemingly started as an innocent way to get children to behave during the month of December has morphed into an epic competition to see which parent can get more creative with the benign holiday character.

Many blog posts and articles have been written with very strong emotion regarding this cherubic creature. Parents either love him or their contempt is so strong they hold ill feelings towards those parents who embrace his presence.  Some argue that he is the Elf on the Shelf, with a strong emphasis on the word shelf. He may stealthily maneuver his way around the house in the darkness to take refuge on another shelf, but that is his only purpose. Others, holding tightly to their innovative genes, have created a list of 101 ways the Elf can get into mischief during the night.  Spoiler alert – most of those creative ideas require extensive clean-up the following morning although I’m sure the children would be thrilled to see what mess the Elf made while they slept.

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Had my life been different and I had kids of my own, my children undoubtedly would have been in therapy either during or shortly after the Christmas holidays.  I blame my choice of reading material but my sense of entertainment tends to lean towards the macabre.  Picture Dean Koontz or Stephen King finding indecent ways of displaying the Elf and you have entered the world that my Elf would have had to endure.  There would have been crime scenes, possible Elf DNA and an abundant amount of Police tape. This is the stuff that my dreams are made of, the stuff that helps me write my books. But this is also the stuff that would have a child sitting in the waiting room of an analyst’s office at least once a week.

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For those of you able to remember to innocently and creatively display your Elf each evening after your children have fallen asleep, I applaud you. You are creating memories that your child will inevitably pass on to their children.

As for me….perhaps I will get out the Elf my brother gave me and track his bizarre habits in a journal.  CSI – Elf on the Shelf.  Hmmmm…..I may be on to something……stay tuned.

A visit from an Angel

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For the past few weeks, my driving could have been compared to a young recruit at a police academy on a tactical driving course. The biggest difference is, I had been strategically steering my car to avoid running over fuzzy orange and black caterpillars, not trying to narrowly miss clipping each cone in a line of orange traffic pylons.

The Woolly Bear Caterpillar has been attributed with the gift of predicting the length and fierceness of the upcoming winter. I’m not sure if I would put money on those predictions, but The Farmer’s Almanac has historically used these furry little creatures to forecast the severity of the snowy season.

When I came home from work yesterday, I was greeted by two beautiful butterflies in my entrance way. I have had the pleasure of seeing many Monarch butterflies this year but these were unlike any butterfly I have ever seen. When their wings were open, the combination of colors was stunning. When their wings were closed, the mottled blend of grey and brown would be envied by any living being trying to camouflage themselves to find shelter in the forest.

I thought these butterflies were a product of the orange and black caterpillars I had so carefully been trying to protect, but these winged beauties are Compton Tortoiseshell Butterflies, also referred to as Angel Wing Butterflies. I immediately thought of my mother and the tattoo that has secured a permanent place on my forearm.

My mother loved butterflies. I always knew when she left this Earth she would find ways to come back and visit. Every time I see a butterfly, I know she has made that journey and my heart feels as full as it did when she was still a daily, physical presence in my life.

Never doubt our loved ones who have passed come back to visit. You just have to be willing to recognize the signs.