Je ne parle pas le francais…..

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When it comes to making decisions, I like to take my time to weigh all my options.  I am not a “fly by the seat of my pants” kind of person so I choose to give a great deal of thought to the choices I make.  Last year, choosing to suspend my satellite subscription was the best choice I have made in a long time because it resulted in me being able to focus on my writing and finish my first novel.

This year, I wanted that ‘lightning in a bottle’ experience again so I contacted my satellite provider and arranged to have my service disrupted on the 9th of February.  I counted on that move to encourage my creativity and focus my attention on my new book.  I hadn’t counted on the Olympics beginning just as my TV programming was ending.

There are a handful of free channels still available on my Bell network and one of those channels is covering the Olympics.  Sadly that channel is a French station and, although I excelled in my Grade 10 French class, there is no mention of the little dog Pitou or finding a sweater because it is cold.  If, at some point, either of the phrases, “Il fait froid aujourd’hui, ou est mon chandail” or “Ou est Pitou?” should ever be uttered, those words will be some of the very few I shall have understood during the entire 2018 Winter Olympics.

Thankfully, emotion is a universal language.  While I cannot understand most of what the commentators are saying during the games, I can comprehend what the athletes are feeling after they have crossed their finish lines or completed their programs.  Exhilaration and anguish do not need words to be conveyed.  On Monday night, I watched Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir perform their Free Skate in the Ice Dance Competition.  Once their program was completed, I muted my TV and simply watched their body language and their smiles.  I didn’t need anyone telling me how they felt because I could feel it just watching them.

Sometimes taking the rhetoric out of a situation allows us to truly perceive the emotion as it is meant to be conveyed – naturally, organically and wordlessly.  Je pense, ne pas etre capable d’entendre les mots m’a fait comprende encore plus.


 

 

The Grandmother Effect

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In the crusade to get my blood pressure back to a normal number, I have been having regular visits with my doctor.  During one of our discussions about why my numbers might be up, I disclosed a few things that have been making me feel anxious, things that never were even a blip on my radar a few years ago but now sound alarms like I am at Defcon 2.   I am nervous about driving at night.  I now take my dog to work as often as I can in the winter because I am paranoid about the heater in my basement catching fire and Callaway being trapped inside the house.  You get the idea.  My doctor merely smiled and nodded, leaned back, laced her fingers together and told me I was experiencing “The Grandmother Effect”.

Never having had children of my own, I was mildly perplexed as to why I would be showing symptoms of a phenomenon that I should not be experiencing.  She went on to tell me that “women of a certain age” begin to worry more about the things that had never bothered them before.  It comes part and parcel with the beginning stages of the dreaded menopause, or as a dear man in my life used to say, “the meno”.

Women’s bodies are finely tuned to develop certain idiosyncrasies as they reach certain ages and their minds are hard-wired to react to those stimuli.  I am certainly at an age where I could be a grandmother and, with an imagination like mine, I could begin to conjure up all kinds of horrific scenarios that may happen to the next generation of my family, had I had children.  Or perhaps I am projecting those fears in regards to my nephews and worrying about them as they navigate their way through this life.  As my doctor explained it further, I could truly comprehend why I was having these irrational feelings and worrying about things that had never bothered me in the past.

The “meno” is coming.  It is inevitable and a necessary step to get to the next plateau of my life.  I have experienced my first full-on hot flash in the middle of the night.  I can only say it was like being on fire but being soaking wet at the same time.  Sadly, the water didn’t extinguish the flames.  I have decided that, from now on, I will refer to any future hot flashes as ‘my personal summer’.

Knowing that my worries are explainable has helped to slightly ease the stress.  Now I can only peer into the opening of the “meno” tunnel and hope it is a quick trip to the other side.

 

 

If I say I’m fine….I’m lying

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Many memes and many jokes (mostly at men’s expense) have skirted around the fact that if a woman says, “I’m fine”, there is an emotional undertone that means something far beyond being fine.  My experience with the phrase ‘I’m fine’ has completely surpassed that, to the point that nobody in my immediate family uses those two words to describe their current state of being.

Both of my parents were alcoholics and suffered through a myriad number of complications through their later years.  It is an ugly disease with ugly consequences.  The worst part of watching the effects of alcoholism deteriorate a human body is having that person tell you that, while they are suffering numerous symptoms and contrary to every doctor’s diagnosis, they are fine.  Fine is no longer a word I use to describe how I feel and for very good reason – it’s bullshit.

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I sent a text to a friend yesterday to ask about their well-being and was given the response “I’m okay”.   Although it was not the tried and hated response of “I’m fine”, it ranked right up there and it made my Spidey senses tingle.  I knew there was more going on but I also knew not to push.

When you get a text message from someone you know on a very personal level, the inflection in their voice is heard loud and clear above the silence of a text message.  The only thing I can do is be here when they need to vent, to be present when they realize that I know they are not “fine” or “okay” and just be ready to listen.

 

One dark cloud can rain on everybody

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Moods are contagious.   When a mood is allowed to live and feed on the energy from which it was born, it is given the power to grow exponentially and infect everyone around it, like a slow-acting poison.  That mood can seep under the skin of unsuspecting people and change the trajectory of their day.

Last week, one dark cloud hovered above my surroundings and it spewed forth its acid rain.  What started as a relatively happy day slowly spiraled into a morning from Hell.  I was astounded at how quickly one bad mood could leech itself from its host into every organism with whom it came into contact.  I bore witness to a malignant energy infecting everyone in its path.

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A quick discussion with my superiors resulted in temporarily removing the poison from our work system and eventually the day became much brighter.  Within minutes of the cause of the discomfort leaving building, calm was restored and the dark cloud was lifted.  The miserable rain ended and the sun began to shine once again.

Although it may be a small cloud in a vast sky, one dark cloud can rain on everybody.   We just need to be strong enough to blow that cloud into a different sky.

 

 

 

It’s just my allergies….

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I have suffered with allergies since I was a child.  My sensitivities are mostly environmental so they are certainly manageable.  As a child I used to break out in hives when I ate strawberries but, I was as stubborn then as I am now so, I ate them anyway and eventually outgrew my reaction.

As I have matured into the person I am today, I am finding an increase in my hypersensitivity to certain things.  The environmental allergies still plague me year-round but I have discovered lately that a broad spectrum of human emotion, compassion and empathy is having a strange effect on my eyes.

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When I hear stories that touch my heart, the redness in my eyes is immediately evident.  There is a small bit of swelling in the upper and lower eyelids and I am guessing my body creates tears to cleanse my eyes of the allergens.  This “allergy” is becoming more and more prevalent.  What was once just a susceptibility to dust, mold, grass and trees now encompasses impassioned stories, movies, television shows and even commercials.  Seeing another human being cry is definitely the biggest trigger for this new onslaught of “allergic reactions” and once the tears are formed the next symptom of these “allergies” is a stuffed up nose.

I have battled allergies for years and these are the only ones I can say I actually don’t mind having.  I have given up wishing I could control these allergic reactions in public.  I’m sure seeing a few tears is easier for others to witness rather than a contorted face that looks uncomfortable and painful.

So, if you see me and it looks like I’ve been crying…..it’s just my allergies.

 

In sickness and in stealth

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It happens at the end of every summer season.  Between the concentrated efforts we all put in for the 9 weeks of our summer season, the short hours of sleep and the continual decrease in the staff roster, sickness strikes.  It is stealthy at the onset, seeming to only target one person, but the snowball of affliction slowly picks up speed as it plunges down the slope, accumulating the remaining staff members like helpless snowflakes.  Yesterday, I became one of those snowflakes.  

I didn’t feel unwell when I woke up yesterday morning but, when I greeted my dog, my usual alto voice was expressed as a baritone.  It came as a shock to us both.  I tried to get through the rest of our morning routine, essentially in silence, and made my way into work.

The three cups of coffee did nothing to negate my feeling of infirmity and, although I gave it my best effort, I eventually conceded the loss to my state of ill-health and came home.  What should have been a restful sleep, thanks to some nighttime medication, became a series of small naps interrupted by superfluous coughing spasms.

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Being sick in the summer is a truly undesirable ordeal.  I struggled through my work day again today but now find myself wrapped in a blanket on my couch on a balmy summer day.  I’m giving this cough medicine one more chance.  If it doesn’t work – it’s Hot Toddies for me tomorrow!

 

 

 

When skin gets thin

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I cannot change the moods or the behavior of others.  I can only control how I let those moods and behaviors affect me.   Today, however, was a glowing example of how that ideal can radically fail.

If I were superstitious, today would have been my Friday the 13th.  My black cat was the neighbors dog, who, first thing this morning, managed to soil, not one but, two pairs of my shorts on my way to work.  The ladder I walked under was the exit door from my house.  And the broken mirror was the negativity that continued to rain throughout the day like the shards of glass falling from that broken mirror.

I am usually very thick-skinned.   Most of the time I can deflect negativity and remain blissfully unaware of the antagonism that tends to eddy in the normally calm waters of my life.  But the vortex of that disapproval became too much.  I, without my life-preserver, was pulled under and was out of breath.

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A little positive reinforcement can go a long way.  As an adult with a great deal of life experience under my belt, I know life is unfair and the wheels can fall off the bus at any given second.   But to focus solely on the loose lug nut that made the wheel come off is negating the safe driving before that wheel fell off and the work that the bus driver had to do after its liberation to safely get that bus to the shoulder of the road.

Thick skin can actually be quite tenuous and a little praise goes a long way.   If criticism is deserved, than criticism should be administered.  But if praise is deserved, it should be just as easily passed from the lips of the people who need to say it to the ears of the people who need to hear it.