Filling my cup

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This is the high season in the hospitality world for resort operators. While the start of the season was extremely stressful having to have so many safety procedures in place, we are succeeding on a daily basis and giving those who had been isolating in the larger urban areas a chance to socially distance while relaxing and unwinding in cottage country.

For most of the month of July, I have spent my energy filling cups that did not belong to me. My cup had a small reserve, enough to keep me putting one foot in front of the other and do my job to the best of my ability, but it waited to be filled with the things I needed to bring me back to me.

During the busy season, I get one day off a week. Yesterday was that day. Instead of going out for socially-distanced visits, I chose to stay home and fill MY cup. I allowed myself to sleep in. I cranked show tunes while I cleaned my house and I got back into my kitchen for the first time in a long time. I love to cook, but Covid-19 had all but squeezed the life out of every molecule that gave me the desire to create food, until yesterday. It was a small step making Vegetable Soup, but it was a step in the right direction.

Each day I make an effort to fill my cup is a day I am headed on the path back to myself. Each moment I choose to find the beauty and the fun in the things I did before the coronavirus took over the world is an achievement I find worthy of celebrating. Life may not be normal for a long time, but those moments I can bring as much normal and joy back to me is a small victory.

As I type this post you are reading this morning, several hummingbirds visited my feeder and my juvenile groundhog friend, Chunk, munched on the quarter of a watermelon I left out for him. Life really is about the small things and those little moments filled my cup. I’m ready to start another week and face the challenges that may loom in the distance.

 

 

 

 

Getting my characters out of self-isolation

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The voices in my head, the ones I admit I listen to on a regular basis, have been annoyingly silent over the past few months. Those tentative whispers that regularly woke me from sleep at three in the morning have taken self-isolation to a whole new level and have remained reticent since the Covid pandemic took the world by storm. I am not ashamed to admit I miss the sleepless nights. I long for the wee hours when I can wake up with new ideas for my book and the characters trip over each other to take a prominent position to tell their stories.

I have never been one to write an outline for any story I am creating. I am merely the vehicle for my characters to drive in any direction they choose. My responsibility is to follow the rules of the writing road to keep them from careening over a cliff or crashing into a cement barrier. It sounds much easier than it is if I am being honest.

I have always been a big fan of fiction that is character driven. Sure, it’s nice to read stories that are wonderfully descriptive but, if I cannot find endearing qualities in the characters, I tend to lose interest if I am unable to find a connection to the personalities who are telling their stories. I had developed a wonderful rapport with my new characters and am thrilled they felt comfortable enough to share their narrative with me.

But the time has come to coax them out of hiding. I am going to bait the trap. I am going to lure them out of their cushy recesses and put them back to work. They have a story to tell and my fingers are hovering over the keyboard, ready to make some sense of what they are telling me. I went back to my job after a government regulated hiatus. It is time for them to do the same.

How live-streaming helped me live again

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Covid-19 has taken a huge toll on me, not physically but, mentally. After cresting the half-century mark last year, I am blessed to be able to say I had never struggled with anxiety or depression. What I would have first described as a distraction slowly burrowed into my brain and riddled me with emotions and a sadness I had never had to deal with before. Having been an extrovert by day and introvert by night, I became overwhelmed by the isolation that came with being advised to stay at home and only go out in public when necessary.

Looking back on the past few months, I should have known I had been affected more than I care to admit. The things I loved to do in my spare time became a burden and I forgot the pleasure I felt when I cooked a wonderful meal for myself or sat down at my computer and let words cascade down from the heavens to help me write the novel I am working on that has been untouched since March. The passion I once had for my hobbies became non-existent and that made my sadness feel even more powerful.

But life has a way of kicking us in the pants and it chooses interesting ways to send us compelling messages that cannot be ignored. I spent forty minutes watching a live stream on Patreon by someone I greatly admire. During his video, he emphasized how important it is to put ourselves first and to take time each day to do small things that bring us back to ourselves. His message couldn’t have been louder or clearer. I had been so focused on things that had nothing to do with me that I had all but forgotten to focus on myself and the things that are important to ME.

I have not posted on my blog since April 27th. It pains me to say that. This space has always been my sacred space. This space has let me be myself and free the words that want to be freed whenever I feel the desire to let them loose. But those words have been muted by the blanket of stress I have let weigh me down. NO MORE! Today I take back my power. Today I let the words oppress my thoughts and unleash themselves. Today I will create a spectacular meal for myself because I am the number one thing in my life. If I don’t take care of myself, how will I ever have the energy to take care of anyone else? Thank you, Jamie Lambert. Your words did not fall on deaf ears.

 

When I can’t cope, I cry and then I cook

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A lot has happened in my little world over the last three months. I won’t bore you with the details as most of those have been documented in previous posts if you want to go back and read through them. Imposed quarantine and my immense fear of the Coronavirus aside, the calendar year of 2020 has felt like a battering ram and I am the feeble wooden gate, splintering with every blow.

I have always been the person who was very quick to hatch a Plan-B. I don’t dwell on the details of what just happened. My brains kicks into overdrive and I immediately search for a plan of action to move forward. But something in the way my neurons have always fired in the past has recently changed. For the first time in my life, I feel completely overwhelmed and uncertain about where I go from here and that, for me, is the true sign of how affected I am by what is happening in the world right now.

I try my best to process all of the information presented online but when those reports become too staggering to deal with, I purge my accumulated emotion and I cry. I make no excuse and I don’t fault myself for my behaviour, I just cry. Once I have released the intensity of those feelings, my focus shifts and I want nothing more than to be in my kitchen. I have recently renamed my kitchen my “solace room” because it is the only place where I can feel a true sense of peace.

Today is no exception to that rule. My dueling crockpots and my Dutch oven will be filled with a myriad number of items that will produce the combined aromas of onion, garlic, bacon and a collection of other ingredients that will eventually become an assortment of soups and stews I will share with others. One person, in particular, will have his freezer filled with these items as a dear friend has just been diagnosed with advanced brain cancer and is awaiting the plan for his course of treatment.

So, this morning, I am shutting out the socials, and the rest of the planet, to bring my focus into a world I can control, into a world where I can be helpful even if it is on a very small scale. And as the onions caramelize and the bacon is rendered, I know I will cry more tears today because it is what I need to do. I can only hope when this pandemic is over and we are able to live our lives again, I can say I was able to recognize the best parts of myself and know that I gave everything I could to make things a bit better for the people I love when they needed it the most.

 

 

Yesterday was that day

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Once a week, in the midst of our current global situation, I prepare myself for a full-on ugly cry because I know it always lurks in the shadows. I embrace the reality of what we are all going through and become a victim to its weight, enough so that I let it bring me down and send me into wracking sobs to purge the emotion I feel. It is the release I need to climb out of the darkness and allow myself to see the immense light that keeps us all going. And there is so much light.

Yesterday was that day, for me. It wasn’t planned. I wasn’t counting down the minutes until I could cry, I just cried, and it came at the most unexpected moment. I had just watched such a joyful live-stream on Facebook and I cried tears that were filled with more happiness than sadness because I realized that all of us are struggling and trying to make the best of an unprecedented situation. We are all just doing the best we can to make it through, one day at a time.

Life, online, is our new reality. My recent presence on social media has increased at an alarming rate, but this is our now. Social media is our way of holding tight to the people who bring us joy and keep us grasping at snippets of a life we once knew and, one day, we will know again.

Life after Covid-19 will eventually return. It will be a very slow process and one that we will venture into with distrust, at first, but it will return. I’m sure most of us will be wary of shaking hands or giving hugs, but life will slowly evolve back to where we were and we have to have faith in that truth.

I send so much gratitude for those on the front lines, from medical staff to essential services. I send my undying appreciation for those who are self-isolating to flatten the curve. And I send my plea for those who take this situation lightly to rethink your actions and embrace this pandemic seriously. This virus is unforgiving. It is severe. And I would hate to think, one day, you could look back and think yesterday was that day, the day I could have stayed home and really made a difference.

 

 

 

 

 

It’s okay

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I know myself. I know I will feel this global crisis at a molecular level because that’s how I feel everything. I’ve been called an empath but, regardless of labels, I can only say I suffer from the human condition very deeply. I am a minuscule fragment of the blanket that covers us all and that blanket seems to be unraveling when it should be binding itself tighter than ever.

Over the last week, I have done my best to follow the guidelines of social distancing and self-isolation. Sadly, the one thing I did not do was to ignore social media. Although there are so many positive posts and people sending uplifting messages of hope, there are countless people who Just. Don’t. Get it. This is MY forum and, for those who DO get it, I want to tell you it’s okay.

It’s okay to feel overwhelmed. The world is closing down around us and the sudden onset of panic is inevitable. Those who embrace the steps we need to take to flatten the curve will welcome the closure of all non-essential services. Those who don’t grasp the significance of those steps will continue to spew nonsense and put the rest of us in jeopardy.

It’s okay to feel emotional. I went for a forty-minute walk today, with musical theatre tunes blaring in my ears (thank you, Collabro), and I cried for the duration of my walk. I cried for those who have already succumbed to Covid-19. I cried for those who will still fall victim to this new pandemic. And I cried for the people who think those of us who are taking this so seriously are misinformed.

It’s okay to be scared. I’m petrified. I’m not so scared about the disease itself, but I’m truly frightened for the result that will come because of the ones who choose to believe that their actions will not have a harmful effect on others. They will. Your inability to see the larger picture is utterly disheartening and inevitably harmful.

It’s okay to be mad at people who just don’t get it. Not everyone thinks the same way but, as my mother used to say, we need to take the higher road. For all of you who choose to think this is nothing, think again. Communities, cities and provinces are shutting down to thwart the spread of this disease. Put yourself aside and think of the bigger picture. You could prevent dozens of people getting sick by staying home. By simply not going out in public and potentially spreading this virus, you can prevent the influx of people gathering in our hospital waiting rooms and reducing the number of fatalities by lessening the amount of human contact. Sure, you think you may not be infected but what if you are asymptomatic and spreading the virus without even knowing.

It’s okay to be silly. I’ve put my Christmas lights back on. It may be a ridiculous gesture but, to me, it’s a symbol of happiness. This small, albeit frivolous act gives me a ray of hope that everything, one day, will really be okay.

A Journey To The Past

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If loving musical theatre has taught me anything, it is to pay attention to the lines of iconic songs that truly bury themselves deep into our hearts without really knowing they have woven their way into our reality.

Yesterday was the day I refer to as my bridge day. March 8th is the day between the anniversary of losing my mom six years ago on March 7th and losing my dad fourteen years ago on March 9th. It is the day I inhale deep breaths after setting aside hours to remember all of the wonderful things about my mom before I do the same thing for my dad the next day. They are never far from my heart but these days, in particular, I set aside time to go through old photos and really bring them back to my “now”.

We were a very close family and the memories of being kids at the cottage are always the first flashbacks to fight their way to the surface above my tears. That place on the lake was the focal point of our childhood. It was the place we spent hours dreaming of who we would be, the place we learned to swim, to fish and to sail. And it was the place we spent many days having cookouts at the point of land between our family cottages. It was that point of land we chose to spread some of our parents ashes yesterday.

As a young girl, I spent many contemplative moments on that rock, never realizing what a special place that point would become to me as an adult. Standing on the frozen lake and looking back at the property that cradles so many wonderful recollections of family occasions sent me on a journey to my past and I could not imagine a better place to leave behind a small bit of two of the most important people who made those memories possible.

Life really is a journey. Much of it we spend looking forward to the things we want to achieve for ourselves and our future. But every so often, we need to take the moments to enjoy that journey to our past, to the people and to the places that have shaped our lives and brought us to where we are now.

 

 

 

 

 

The Cat Came Back

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I remember this song (the title of this post) from my childhood but it never had as much meaning as it does now.

Those of you who read my blog know I had to put my dog down on January 3rd. It was a terrible start to a new year and a new decade. My emotions have been raw, to say the least, and it took every ounce of my strength to really process that loss and keep putting one foot in front of the other. My dog was my world.

Fast forward to last week. My boss and his wife were going away and the person who usually tends to their cat during their absence was also going to be away so I naturally agreed to look after Lulu. In the temperate weather, she is an indoor/outdoor cat. She loves to roam the property and in the winter months she is content to limit her time outside to a couple of hours. I let her out last Tuesday morning and she was there to greet me at noon when I arrived to let her back in the house. Last Wednesday was even milder and she was anxious to get out and enjoy the early spring weather but when I arrived at noon to let her back in, she was nowhere to be seen. When I went back at four o’clock, she was not waiting for me on the porch.

For the two days that followed, we checked the porch many times, searched the area and continually shook her container of treats hoping she would return, but all our efforts seemed to be in vain. I was devastated and finally had to make the call on Friday morning to let them know Lulu had been missing for two days.

The gentle temperatures plummeted at night. Spring was a thing of the past and the icy talons of winter had their grip on us once again. We hoped for the best, but we feared the worst. My boss’ son was home over the weekend with friends and there was still no sign of Lulu. I was gutted. Not only was I still dealing with my loss but was now dealing with the fact that I felt responsible for the loss of another family pet.

My boss and his wife arrived home late on Monday and were greeted by an empty house. They spent yesterday shedding many tears for Lulu and trying to process the fact their family pet was gone. But the cat came back! After six days, Lulu appeared at the sliding glass door yesterday. She has shed a few pounds, but she is home. I cried when I got the text and am still fighting back tears. Lulu is home.

 

 

When you just have to sing show tunes

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Musical theatre was a big part of my childhood. Once upon a time, our tiny community centre was host to many fantastic productions of popular musicals and, in my teens, my friends and I could be found in the front row, hanging on every word and every note of those shows. We became such a part of the production that we were welcomed into the rooms below the theatre each night after the show had ended to hang out with the performers we came to know and love.

Music has always been a focal point in my life. My dad had a wonderful voice and my mom, although she admittedly could not carry much of a tune, also embraced the sounds that were able to transport her into another world. I easily followed in their footsteps. There is nothing more magical than being able to lose yourself in the arrangements of a musical soundtrack that can send you to a place where simple words have no meaning unless they are delivered in a four-part harmony.

This year did not start well for me. Every creative outlet I had turned its back on me and I struggled to return to a place of happiness after suffering a devastating loss. The light that held out its hand to me, the light that pulled me out of the darkness, was music. I began to listen to familiar songs that held a special place in my heart. Musicals that had long-since buried themselves in my past came rushing back and made me remember the joy I felt when those notes awakened my senses.

After spending many hours on YouTube, replaying songs from musicals I could sing in my sleep, I found Collabro. Five, now four, very talented young British voices that echo my love of musical theatre took me from a place of innate sadness to a place where joy still lives, and that joy has now cultivated a seed that has been given a chance to grow and thrive. Songs I knew so well, and songs I am now discovering, are taking me from the depth of despair to a place where life has been given new breath all because I am, once again, finding myself in a place where I found such great comfort.

Cradle your contentment. Sing show tunes. Embrace those things that may make others look at you sideways but bring you joy. Judgement is subjective. Happiness should be indestructible.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’ll have the large ego with a side of narcissism

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I can’t be specific about the details that led me to post this story but I could not let this one slide. The human condition influences everyone and it is how we choose to accept and live with that condition that defines us. Our choices create a finite map of the paths our lives will follow. They establish the moral compass we abide by and we are afforded the wisdom to comprehend the moments that are best left alone without comment or judgment. The choice made by one particular individual adhered to none of those things.

I was presented with a question following a series of emails that had gone back and forth. I answered the question with a succinct and honest response and was shocked, but more than that I was perversely amused, by the six paragraph diatribe that followed my response. Contained in those six paragraphs were lines of self-flattery, condescending comments made to provoke a response and an overall lack of understanding for the reason the conversation began in the first place.

Being a writer and loving the opportunity to embrace each moment I am able to use my words, I wisely declined to comment on this onslaught of nonsense and I took the higher road. I’m sure my lack of response will have more of an effect on this person’s psyche than any string of phrases I could ever write in reaction to his mindless observations. But being a writer also means I am adept at doing research online and I spent some time attempting to find any corroborating evidence of his claims. I found nothing.

In the age of being present online to sell yourself and expound on your abilities and achievements, especially for a narcissist, the crickets chirped louder with each questioning line I typed into the Google search engine. This person, the man who expounded on his many great accomplishments in his field, wasn’t even a blip on the radar that is so keen to share prolific details of any public success. He is a ghost.

The precious moments of time I spent disproving his claims may be seen as impractical but I needed that vindication. I am unable to walk away from a situation, even something as petty as this, without knowing I gave him every benefit of the doubt. This case is now closed and he, his ego and his narcissism can all live happily ever after.