I had a gentle reminder last night that it is important to celebrate the little things in life. Sitting here in my fourth decade of life, I think of things like birthdays as something that come and go. Do I make a big deal out of my kids’ birthdays? Yes, of course. Would I consider doing the same for my own? Absolutely not.
Last night, we celebrated a dear friend’s birthday. It was not a hallmark birthday, just a birthday. He invited a few of his closest friends and families, and we went bowling. The kids had a blast, and so did the adults! Afterwards, we went back to his place for cake and wine, and played couple games.
Why do we (or perhaps just I) not consider celebrating our own birthdays? Yes, there are many of them once we get to this stage of our lives, but why not celebrate them with youthful vigour? It certainly is one way to beat winter depression, and it created some fun and lasting memories along the way.
Lose a minute, not a life. I read these words five days a week as I drive to work. I see them because they are on a sign outside an elementary school that I pass by every day. I’ve read them, and they have made an impact on me.
Lose a minute, not a life. It seems so simple. Slow down, be patient. Pay attention. Why is this so difficult for people to do sometimes?
I have a story that needs to be told. It doesn’t have a tragic ending, although it could easily have been. Earlier this week, I was driving home. It had been a long day at work. I had just given a blood donation after my workday ended, and was finally making my way home. It was maybe a half past six in the evening on an early January Thursday. Living here in Canada though, it was already dark as it typically is in the sleepy months of winter. I was minutes away from my doorstep, and slowed to make my right handed turn into my neighbourhood as my turn signal clicked like a metronome. I had a large diesel truck behind me, clearly impatient for me to turn move out of his way. I had also noticed that there was a lady walking her beautiful dog across the street where I was turning, but slightly ahead. She did everything right; she was crossing the street in the designated crosswalk zone. She waited until it was safe, knowing I was turning. What she didn’t realize is that this driver behind me wasn’t able to see her. She couldn’t have known that he was going to be impatient and cut into the next lane to speed past me. I watched in horror as I sat in my car, unable to help her, as she had to run to escape this accelerating metal battering ram.
Her life was spared by a literal inch.
LOSE A MINUTE, NOT A LIFE screamed inside me. I was shaking, and can only imagine how she could have felt. I regret the inability to be able to report the licence plate. It happened too fast, it was too dark, and the plate was too dirty from winter roads. I regret that I did not turn around and check on her.
I made my way home, traumatized by what I had witnessed. I sat, head in my hands and cried. Why can’t everyone just lose a minute, not a life?
With each new year, I, like many others, use this time to reaffirm the things I am doing in my life. I use this time to evaluate what is working and what isn’t, and to decide if there is value in changing things.
I don’t necessarily like the term ‘resolution’ because to me that has a fairly negative connotation. I don’t need to change everything. But I do take this time of year to reflect on the past, and to help me see where I want my future to go. I evaluate my financial standings and make my goals. I evaluate these goals frequently through the year and celebrate when I achieve a personal victory. I refigure things when something unforeseen comes up. As I take down the Christmas tree, I reaffirm my commitment to minimalism, and give the house a good scrub to ring in the new year. I use my vision board to help me map out my personal goals and desires. Am I where I wanted to be? Is there anything I need to adjust to get there? How is that book coming along? Have I made my goal in my photography progress? Did I finish that course yet? If the answer isn’t yes, then why didn’t they match up? If they did, what are my next goals?
We sit here, on the last day of the year. There is much joy to be celebrated from 2017. There will also be much joy to come in 2018. With some planning and positive reinforcements, it will be a great year to come.
Here we are on Christmas Eve.
In all the bustle of the season, have you forgotten about your own self care? Did you spend more time in the social world than you felt comfortable with, and spent your sleeping hours reeling from the experience, unable to rest? Have you spent hour after hour with cooking, cleaning, shopping and wrapping, giving up the time you needed to be your best self?
Self care is vital for your own mental and physical wellbeing. Yes, the holidays can be overwhelmingly busy, but you still have the power to say no. Say no to the social engagements that do not serve you well. Say no to the purchasing of gifts for people you may only see once or twice a year. Give gifts of experiences that extend beyond the physical gift on that one day of the year. Buy your holiday baking. Seek out a restaurant that you can purchase the holiday meal from, or have guests all bring a dish along and spread the load and the enjoyment.
Take time for you. Go see a movie that you want to see by yourself. Grab a book and sit in a quaint coffeeshop with a tea or a latte and enjoy the alone time while you read or watch people as they go about their own day. Take a bath, paint your nails, meditate or pray. Do whatever feels right for you to recharge your own soul.
Christmas is one day of the year. There are 364 other days that really are all the same, if we as a society hadn’t created such a demand for this particular calendar date.
Take good care of yourself.
This weekend, my youngest son and I went out for a while, just the two of us. There is a local centre that has a few boutiques that was having a family fun day. We decided to go and check it out. We wandered around and looked at the fun garden pieces they had for sale, and looked at the delicious organic candies and cookies. I offered to buy him a cookie so we could sit and enjoy the moment, but he opted not to. He asked instead if we could go and find a present that he could gift to his brother for Christmas. We decided to go to Indigo, but before shopping for his brother, we opted to sit and have a drink at Starbucks. He loves the vanilla bean Frappuccino, so I ordered him one of those, and I bought one of their specialty holiday hot drinks for myself. We sat and talked about the holidays and the excitement. We watched people as they came and went. He sipped from his straw as his feet dangled and swung while he sat in his chair. I watched my youngest son as he showed pure happiness by just having some one on one time with me, his mother.
Families often do things together, but it is so important to give children one on one time with their parent too. My older son gets his one on one time as we share our common passion of photography, but there was something magical about this time with the younger one. He is still so full of holiday excitement, seeing the magic of the season. I love the shimmer in his eyes as he talks about our traditions. And the most wonderful part is that none of it involves receiving gifts. It is all the other stuff: the holiday treats, the music, the friends that we gather with, and the special dinner that we decide collectively on having.
This was one of those moments where my heart swells with pride and love. My son is growing up with love and compassion in his heart. As he grows, he is thinking of others more and more. He is becoming more like his older brother every day. They both make me very proud.
Yesterday, I was out for breakfast with one of my newest, yet closest friends. We have regular ‘dates’, but sometimes they get shifted around due to other schedules. We are ok with it, and sometimes it allows us the opportunity to do something different and fun. We missed our regular Friday night get-together because of a work Christmas party. Instead, we opted for Saturday morning breakfast at a popular little restaurant in town.
We did our usual chatting, catching up on the last couple of weeks. Then she stopped and noticed something about me. She said how she can see me with short hair when we are older and showing more grey. She commented on us still getting together when we are old friends.
The thought of having old friends has always been elusive to me. I have been the type to move every twelve years or less, but knowing I will be here, in this location, for far longer it finally dawned on me: I can have old friends here. I have never given myself permission to look that far ahead in relationships because none of them, except for my absolute best friend 2000km away, has ever lasted the distances. Old friends. Greying, aging, and still there for each other kind of old friends.
This innocent comment that I am sure she had no idea of its impact, was in fact, the best gift I could have been given.
There is a certain sense of accomplishment that comes along with having a clean home. I find there is pleasure not only in the final product, but also in the process. I wouldn’t say I love to clean, but I do love when it is clean; but to get to that point, the action has to be taken.
I devote certain days to cleaning. I do a seasonal deep cleaning, so like spring cleaning four times a year. I love the freshness of this routine. It helps me get to the areas that I may have forgotten or overlooked during my routine cleaning. It is also that sense of accomplishment that rewards me every time I do it. It also helps me to flush out the unwanted clutter that somehow always seems to make its way back into my spaces.
Yesterday was one of those seasonal deep cleaning days. It was the three of us working away at it. Ok, it was mostly me, and my older son was a great help, but the younger one did minimal work because he has been down with a hefty cold and lacking on energy. Still, that feeling when you sit down, sore back and dried out hands from soapy water washes…that feeling is so rewarding. Good, old fashioned manual labor. It still has a place in our technologically driven world.
With a minimalist-style lifestyle, the seasonal cleaning sessions, as well as the weekly and daily I might add, they have become easier and shorter sessions. They no longer take a week, or a weekend. They take an afternoon, give or take. Another reason why I adore this philosophy. Now there is more time to do what I want, and I was able to sleep well last night knowing that the chore of house cleaning was completed.
We live in a world where everyone is busy; the faster the pace, the better. But what would happen if we chose to slow down, even for a day? What would happen if we said no to all those things that are supposedly so important that we can’t make time for ourselves or our loved ones?
With the spending season upon us, and Black Friday happening a mere two days ago, we are being bombarded with advertisements and flyers to buy this and spend our money on that. But the things the stores are selling are far from the greatest gift you could give your child, spouse, or even your best friend.
My Black Friday evening, because I worked all day, was not spent shopping the so-called deals. My Black Friday was spent enjoying the company of one of my very best friends in the world. We gave each other the best give we could: our time and our attention. It was a lovely three or four hour visit, sitting in the corner of a quaint tapas bar. We enjoyed a couple glasses of red wine and a cheese board together as we took the time to catch up; to fill each other in on our lives. There we were, sitting inside in the dim ambiance, with a tea light candle at one side of the table, and beautiful pieces of art on the walls next to us. Outside, there was the bustle of the winter festival where we could see families passing by and enjoying the mild winter evening together. We watched as children explored the fire truck parked just across the street, and the horse drawn wagons pass by with children happily waving at patrons as they glided by, courtesy of the team of horses and their driver. We saw couples hand in hand as they walked past the window, smiling and clearly enjoying each other’s presence.
Time is more precious and more valuable than money. In my world, if I want to show someone how much I care, I give them the gift of my time. It is the most precious commodity I have. Consider this, as we enter into the holiday season. Consider re-thinking that expensive give in exchange for something that is far more precious and valuable. Give the gift of your time.
With November comes the prelude to the holiday season. The buying season. It makes me cringe thinking about it sometimes. There is nothing that I need, except for a few renovations around my house. My children have everything they need too.
The holiday season is that time of year where you feel that push…that obligation to buy things that really have no business coming into my home. I do not need more kitschy knick knacks. My kids don’t need more useless toys that they won’t play with. And I certainly do not need to get deeper in debt for a holiday that seems more and more to be focused on spending money instead of time.
I am digging in my heels this year. Yes, we have preplanned gifts from my parents, and that will still happen. But, I have already forewarned my children that there is a strict budget in place for Christmas spending, and I will not go beyond it this year.
The great thing is, they are old enough to understand that the less we buy, the more money we can save for vacations and adventures. This appeals to them; well more so to one of them, but the other can be fairly easily convinced…
As a minimalist (in the making), I feel that I need to cultivate the principal of spending more time together over spending more money on each other. I hope this will become a trend with my loved ones. Life is expensive enough without having to keep up with the Jones’, or even the exes for that matter. I hope that one gift I can give to my children is the understanding that the holidays are meant for spending together, and not for overspending on the budget.
Yesterday was Remembrance Day here in Canada. As a child, I would go to parade and watch as my father participated. As an adult, I would attend out of honour and duty to those who have served the country and for those who lost their lives during war. It has been ingrained in us that we should consider these people heroes, giving the ultimate sacrifice for their country.
I do not disagree. They did give their lives fighting for what they believed in. I will not take that away from anyone.
What troubles me is that I want peace in the world. I know many people want peace in this world; yet we create things like movies, books, and yes, parades, to glorify war…all in the name of peace. It feels like an oxymoron. I am conflicted.
I, too, once considered a military career. I had trained myself physically for the task, and I truly believed that this was a career path that made sense. Life chose something different for me, and I believe there must have been some universal or divine intervention on that one because I do not know how I would have managed a career such as that with the inner turmoil I feel when it comes to war and fighting other humans.
So, how do we justify the wars and losses of life when we look at a world pining for peace? How can we move forward when we constantly remind ourselves of the conflict that we could not overcome without mercilessly killing other humans? Will our human race ever be able to rise above the seemingly ingrained desire to fight in order to create a harmonious planet?
I did shed tears yesterday, as I often do on the eleventh day of the eleventh month. I shed tears this year because I fear that we will never achieve that balance, globally. Not so long as we have people who are willing and eager to eliminate others because they believe that their way is the right or only way.