Category Archives: friends

the best gift

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.

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.

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your best gift is your time

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.

minimalism and the holiday season

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.

mental health

Taking time for mental health is something often forgotten. While many separate mental and physical health, they are closely linked in my opinion. When something is weighing heavily upon us and we have difficulty dealing with it yet still continue to go about our daily lives, we end up with mental trauma and anguish. 

Taking time to ensure we have good mental health is equally as important as making sure our bodies are healthy. If you suffer from anxiety, depression, suicidal ideations, or anything that is making your quality of life less than ideal, please visit a medical professional. Please do not wait until it goes too far. 

If you see a loved one suffering, do not avoid them. Engage them and offer your support. People need to know they are cared for.  You might be the one thing that shows them that life is still worth living. 

gilmore girls and me

When Gilmore Girls ran from 2000 to 2007, I didn’t pay much attention to the show.  At that particular point in my life, I couldn’t relate.  I was still married at that point and working overtime consistently.  Then had my sons, and I still could not relate because I had sons, not a daughter; I had a husband, although it often felt like I was parenting and running the household all alone.

I have watched the series a couple of times since my divorce.  I find that I can now relate to the characters much more now than I could when it first came out.  There are a few aspects of the show that I find appealing.

I have five reasons outlined here:

I like that Lorelai is a strong, independent single mother.  She stands up for herself and her daughter.  She does not back down when she feels that she is justified.  I like this tenacity, and it gives me strength when I don’t feel like I have the fight left in me any longer.

I appreciate that Lorelai can be alone comfortably, but that she is not bitter towards men, and still has the hope that somewhere out there, she will find the right one.  That goes without saying that the right one was before her the whole time, but she needed to figure that out for herself, and she did.  Sometimes we all need that opportunity to find things out in our own way instead of being told by someone else.

I admire that she has been successful in her own right.  She worked her way up to managing the Independence Inn, worked herself through college, then embarked upon an entrepreneurial venture with her best friend, Sookie.  This shows tenacity in character, one that I hope I can also demonstrate.  I know this is a make believe story, and that many do not work this way in real life, but sometimes we need to believe the story to give us the courage to carry forward.

I acknowledge that the story shows conflict between Lorelai and her parents.  This is realistic as we all have some sort of conflict to contend with.  It may not be to the extreme that this make-believe family endures, but it is symbolic nonetheless.

I adore the bonding between Lorelai and her daughter, Rory.  This is incredibly important to me as I hope that as my sons continue to grow and develop, that we will also have a bond as strong as the one portrayed between Lorelai and Rory.

When I need motivation to carry forward with the things that are weighing me down in my real life, I find that this show gives me courage to continue on.  I gain strength from the idea that I am not alone in the world of single parenting.  I recognize that I should not close the doors to potential romantic relationships, but at the same time, continue on as I would without the thought of needing a partner.  Every time I watch an episode, it provides me with a little something that I am in need of, and for that I am grateful.

A meaningful life

What does it mean to live a meaningful life?  Does it mean success in respect to financial gain?  Success in a career?  A happy family?

Perhaps the definition is different for everyone.  We are all driven by different desires and needs.  Some feel the need to have a prominent career and work long hours.  This may give a sense of fulfillment to that individual, and if it does, that is great.  None of us are made the same.

Growing up, we are conditioned from an early age to think about what we want to be when we grow up.  How you will make your living is supposed to be the biggest part of being an adult, and we tend to get lost in this concept.  We are defined by our jobs.  By our titles.  When we meet new people, that is inevitably one question that comes up early in the conversation…so, what do you do…and of course we rattle off what we do to make ends meet.

But we are so much more than that.  We are not just our jobs.  What is it that you will reflect back on and see that your life had meaning?  Will you look back and say wow, I made a lot of money and be happy with that?  Or will you say wow, I made a lot of money, but I never had time with my loved ones or to do the things I had always wanted to do?

Millenials coming into the workforce have the idea that their time off is equally as important as the time they spend at work.  They appear to value their personal time more than GenXers do.  At least here in North America…Europeans have had a different philosophy for many years, one to be admired I believe.

A meaningful life to me means that I have left this world better than I found it.  That I have touched the lives and hearts of others in even a small way.  I find that I can do that in my career, but I also spend my personal time to do more of that.  I enjoy my family time and give myself to my children with all my heart.  I enjoy my time with my friends, and do what I can to make their happiness a priority too; because when they are happy, so am I.  I volunteer.  I have my own groups that I belong to that bring me joy as well.

I don’t want to feel that I have spent all my time at work without putting in at least equal the effort to make the rest of my life matter as well.  How do you make your life meaningful?  Is there something special that you do? Please comment if you would like to share.

 

taking time

Vacations are wonderful.  You plan and prepare for the trip, decide which sights you want to see and when.  You plan every day to be a full as possible so you can fit everything in to your limited time, because if you don’t, you won’t have a chance to do all the things you wanted to do.

But during that vacation away, did you think to take a day to just relax?  Maybe sleep in a little, or spend a lazy day exploring the forests or the beaches?

These vacation days create a lot of memories too. Sometimes, I wonder if maybe they create more memories than running from the art gallery to the science centre then to the zoo…you get the idea.

We did all of the planning.  I had every day scheduled with where to go and what to see.  In the end, what my children wanted to do won out.  We peeled away one activity for another.  We didn’t do all the things we had planned.  We spent way more time sitting on the beach watching sunsets and looking for crabs instead of going to the sights that we had on the schedule.  We took a morning and strolled through a forest and created a fairy home at the base of a giant redwood tree.

We created memories.

Yes, we did a lot of the scheduled stuff and hit the highlights.  But in retrospect, the highlights really were about exploring nature that was new to them.  About seeing the glimmer in their eyes as they discovered something they had never seen before.  It was about their pure excitement and joy the first time they dipped their toes in the salty ocean water.

These are the things that will create the memories that they will remember for a lifetime.

reasons, seasons, lifetimes

It is important to me to remember that we all have our own journey that we must travel, but along the way, we have companions that enter and exit our lives.  Their stay may be long or it may be brief.  It helps me to think about the philosophy of a reason, a season, or a lifetime.  We all have people who, when they left our lives, hurt us in some way.  Others may have passed by quietly, perhaps relatively unknown, yet there is something to be learned from each and every one of them.

There are those who are there for a lifetime.  These may be your siblings, parents, best friends, or even a romantic partner.  These people are meant to be in your life long term.  They can teach you many lessons, just as you can also teach them.  These people grow with you, and they can be some of the most fulfilling relationships you will have.

There are the seasons as well.  People who are there for as long as you need them, or as long as they need you.  Once that passes, ways are parted and each goes along their journey separately.  These types of relationships may end on happy notes, or perhaps not.  Perhaps it was the first relationship after a divorce, where it taught you that you can move on and learn to love again.  Perhaps it was a teacher that you had in school who taught lessons beyond the curriculum about life in general.

Those who are there for a reason may be simple or complex.  Perhaps you are a service provider, and once the service is rendered, the individual goes on their way, perhaps never to cross paths again.  But there are also other relationships that the reason keeps you connected with them for longer.  These reasons are usually lessons to be learned, and the longer it takes to learn the lesson, the longer that person is connected to you.  One of the lessons I had learned was to treat everyone with compassion for we do not know what happens in their personal lives.  This comes from my experience of hiding things for over two decades.  The realization that if I can hide many things from those around me on a daily basis, then it is also easy for others to hide similar, or even worse things too.  We do not know all the intricacies that make a person behave how they do.  Compassion is key.  It took me longer to learn that lesson than expected, but along with that one, there were many other very valuable lessons that came from that twenty year reason.  I use that example often as I consider how to manage my interactions with others.  I believe that my compassion and empathy for others are directly relatable to the lesson I learned over those many years.

When you have someone who has exited your life perhaps unexpectedly, consider what purpose they had for you.  What lesson was being taught to you for them to be there?  What lesson did you learn after they were gone?  Can you take that lesson and apply it to your life to make your life a more positive influence on those around you?  Can you make someone else’s life a little bit better?  Because to me, that is what this life is about…being a positive influence on the world around us.

adding karma to your kindness bucket

Doing things for others isn’t just a selfless act.  It is a selfish act also.

I’m not referring to the you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours mentality.  When we do things for others out of the goodness of our hearts, we receive gifts back in the form of good karma that we get to add to our buckets.  This good karma comes back to us in a multitude of ways.  Perhaps it is that unexpected settlement cheque that comes in the mail after a minor accident, or the person in the drive thru ahead of you who decided to pay it forward and covered the cost of your pick-me-up mid-afternoon latte.

Beyond that, we also also experience that whole neuroscience of giving part of ourselves to others.  When we help others, we also help ourselves.  We experience an increase in endorphins, the feel-good chemicals in our brains.  Yes, science actually backs up being a good person.  When we have a surge of endorphins, our bodies actually feel healthier.  So there is the selfish part of it.  When we help others, we are helping ourselves too.

The best part is, that helping others is contagious.  Going back to the pay it forward idea in the drive thru, where I live, this has become a bit of a thing that goes on from time to time.  Maybe it is the Canadian kindness mentality, maybe not.  But, when this begins, it can often continue on for a dozen people or even more.  This positive energy leads to more positive actions which means more goodness in our world.

So, keep adding karma to your kindness bucket.  Let it grow and overflow.  Because it’s good for the world around you, and it is very good for you too.

perspective

A few days ago, I met a friend for a long overdue visit.  I have been in awe of this woman since the day we met almost nine years ago.  I adore her.  We gave each other the Cole’s notes version of what has happened in our lives since our last get together, and I think every single time she tells me what she’s been up to, she continues to amaze me.  She inspires me to be a better person simply by being who she is.  She is the woman I most admire, hands down.  It isn’t because she has won the Nobel prize, or has a triple PhD.  It’s because she is completely and entirely comfortable in her own skin.  She is confident, composed, calm.  Not only that, she inspires the same in others without having any expectations other than to just be the best version of yourself that you can be, because that is what she is also trying to do.

As we sat and talked, the topic of trees came up.  Without the context, it may seem irrelevant to speak of trees, so just trust me that it had great weight in the conversation.  Two days prior, we had a storm that downed many trees in the area.  One happened to be in my neighbor’s front yard that fell into my house.  It caused some relatively minor damage and certainly an ounce of inconvenience since I could not access my front entrance very well, and had to walk around my garage to make it to my house, but nothing unmanageable.  That night, after coming home from my regular Wednesday night meeting and coffee with fellow photographers, the sun was still out and the weather shifted to become a rather welcoming late evening.  I decided to take the dog for a walk and assess the damage to the neighborhood.  Walking down residential streets and the trails, the sounds of chainsaws echoed throughout the community as neighbors cleaned the fallen trees and branches in their yards.

After our walk, I came up to the tree laying heavily on my front steps and took a good close look at her.  She was beautiful.  Even though the blooms had not been ready to open, I examined the clusters of buds on the tree top; the ones too high to be able to see when she was standing tall.  But here, she was at eye level in all her beauty.  I grabbed my camera because I felt compelled to capture this glimpse of her life before it was taken away forever.  At this point, the sun was starting to set above the rooftops.  I realized how beautiful the sunset was in behind the tree, and in several shots I was able to capture that as well.

What struck me most is how much beauty there was in the destruction that occurred mere hours before.  How this perfectly imperfect tree could still be so beautiful laying on her side, how the day could turn itself around from the hundred kilometer an hour winds and driving rains to the gorgeous burnt orange sunset I could see amongst her branches.

There is beauty despite the damage.

It seems somewhat like a metaphor that can be used in so many ways.  Many of us are like that tree or like that storm.  Perfectly imperfect, damaged but still with immeasurable beauty.  Perhaps it is in how you view your environment.  Some would surely say the tree was a nuisance, but I am glad that I took the time to thank Mother Nature for the gift she gave me, even if it was fleeting.

The tree is gone now, but I have some memories of her and some beautiful photographs with a story that needed telling.  I am grateful for my friend who saw the value of my story for many may not have understood what I was feeling.  I thank the Universe for her timely fashion in bringing us together when she did.  Long overdue, yet perfectly on time.