Non-Useful Musings

“Thank you, Auntie Jane, that was a very useful conversation we just had,” says my nephew as we lay side by side in hammock on my recent visit to Florida.  Bemused, I accepted the compliment in stride as evaluating all the other “non-useful conversations” we’ve had this week will just lead nowhere useful to the enjoyment of this little moment of relationship.  Seeing the look of satisfaction on my nephew’s face, my niece hops into the hammock as her brother vacates to see if she can derive the same “usefulness” from me.

Photo by Vu Thu Giang on Unsplash

Reveling in my sister’s hospitality and generosity, I have been spoiled to enjoy this particular visit alone.  Usually attended by my children who capture the complete attention of my nephews and niece with their ability to do everything amazing and teenagerly, this visit I left the competition at home and have appreciated the opportunity to connect with them.

Setting my intention for this visit, I committed to follow the little openings that life with children allow in order to get to know them all a little bit better.  Some of them are more eager to connect then others, and I had to make sure that I took advantage of every moment whether they were convenient for me or not.

I am happy to say that I have succeeded in my intention.  These delightful little souls of curiosity and joy have made me laugh, be patient and listen, but most of all remind me of the gifts of living with an open heart.  

Intentions are like donning a pair of glasses and choosing which way I want to view the world.  Do I don the ones that show every wrinkle in harsh detail or do I choose the rose-tinted lens that bring a hue of sunshine and brightness?  I wish I could say I always choose the rose-tinted lens, but instead of beating myself up for my flaws, I will celebrate my wins…and this trip was one of them.

Useful or not, from my perspective, it is indeed an honor to be “Auntie Jane.”

Afternoon Despair

With a roll of the dice, fortunes are gained and lost.  Head in one’s hand despair and frustration give way to joy and exultant glee; yet even amongst the rubble of poverty, there is an opportunity to extend a helping hand and to show generosity of spirit…that is unless you’re related to me and stakes are Boardwalk and Park Place.  Yes, my friends, this is the unpredictable world that is Monopoly.

I tend to be one of those parents who is invested in encouraging my children to pursue topics of interest and know that this investment means a large portion of my own time will be spent pursuing this interest alongside them, learning something that I up to this point have been totally uninterested in learning about, but gradually as in all things, the more you learn, the more your interest develops.  I can credit my children’s interests in having an assortment of miscellaneous information that I never in my lifetime thought I would accumulate from an intimate knowledge of spiders (total terror has turned to respectful fear) to building a personal computer (where is the on button to is that video card compatible with that motherboard) to learning how far we can distance cycle (never thought the end of the block was so far to wow, where’d these muscles come from!).  All this and more, I can credit to my children’s various passions through the years.

There was, however, one rather long-lived passion that could render me into my own abyss of despair and that passion was Monopoly.  Never in my own personal experience was there a game that could occupy so much time and result in so many tantrums including my own.  My children also had a knack of requesting said game around lunchtime which basically meant that my entire afternoon was now gone to be spent in the clutches this game.  Still to this day, I don’t fully understand the lure of this game for my children…it was so long!  My suspicion was that it was the feeling of all that cold hard cash.  Nothing thrilled them more than a pile of $500 bills and the joy of holding your fate in their hands.

Sadly, I even tried to throw the game in order to maybe obtain a little time with my book while my children played together, but to my kids’ credit, they always tried to make sure everyone stayed in the game as long as possible with loans and forgiving of debts.  Nope, once you were in, you were in.  To this day, I think the developers of this game have a cruel sense of humor. 

Having passed through this stage (happily) with the lure of video games, imagine my horror at being requested to play this game at a recent visit to my sister’s followed by the realization that I will never be free of this game.  If it’s not nieces and nephews, it will be grandchildren.  Being the good auntie that I am, I sat down with a wave to my afternoon.  However, there was a silver lining.  Apparently, technology has indeed shortened our attention spans, and in an effort to stay current, the manufacturers of Monopoly have shortened versions of their game.  With the same tantrums, the game can now be zipped through in less than an hour and sometimes twice!  Hello, Junior Monopoly!

Whoever espouses the view that video games are the epitome of evil will be staunchly opposed by me. All I can say is Thank goodness for video games…now, where’s my book!

The S Word

When my children were little, there was one word which they knew they were not allowed to say. Upon hearing this word from others outside of the family or within it, they would look at me wide eyed, mouth gaping open in shock and whisper “they said the S-word!” The S-word was stupid.

This word came back on my radar after a recent chat with a group of friends. In the course of the conversation, comment was made that there was very little difference between courage and stupidity.

What?! (Sound of car brakes squealing)

An ocean of difference resides between courage and stupidity, but not being one of those quick on my feet thinkers, I couldn’t articulate why in the moment and stowed the comment away for further reflection. It saddened me though to hear those words used in conjunction with each other and within a group of amazing, courageous women.

The definition of stupid as per Google is “having or showing a great lack of intelligence or common sense.” The definition of courage is “the ability to do something that frightens one.”

Would you rather be someone who does something unintelligent with courage or would you rather be someone who does something stupid that frightens them? I can see how the definitions could get intertwined.

Admittedly, I speak with bias. Stupid is that word for me. That jarring word conjures up an image of a heart and a small knife…death by a thousand cuts…soul death by a limiting belief.

The oceanic difference between stupid and courage is energy. Words (spoken or unspoken) have energy attached to them, either positive or negative…rarely neutral. Sometimes, we infuse the energy, and sometimes, the word holds the energy already. Word energy manifests through feeling and effect. Courage lifts, stupid puts down. Courage is vulnerable, stupid is small. Courage welcomes the lessons of failure, stupid fears and avoids them. Courage invites company, stupid stands alone in shame.

With time and internet access (that’s what I’m blaming), my children’s height and vocabulary have expanded greatly, and while they humorously enjoy testing out their new definition of the S-word on their poor mother (who feigns wide-eyed shock and mouth gaping…my teens like a little shock value), the original version of the S-word is one they still choose not to use and for that I am grateful.

Don’t Wanna

“Don’t wanna,” my tired brain screams as my son asks me to join him on his school cycling project of seeing how far he can bike each week. In a flash of a second, I go through the litany of excuses…too tired, too much work, not an interest of mine, my endurance on a bike is nil, when is my time? In a flash of another second, I recognize the honor of being asked by this teenage son of mine who towers over me, I see how fleeting time is and how I won’t get this moment back and I see a future in which I get too much of “my time.” I paste a smile on my face and answer “I’d love to.”

Being a comfortable in my rut introvert, having those friends/family who continually challenge me to get out of my comfort zone has been good for me. At the time of initiation of said challenge, it feels a bit like eating my broccoli as opposed to a chocolate chip cookie, but most of the time, it turns into the cookie.

When my dad passed away, I made a promise to myself that I would stop living in the mediocre. I would show up more fully and say yes a bit more often. It was at a time in my life where I could see myself making a lot of excuses of why I couldn’t do things or backing out of things I had committed to. My biggest reason was tiredness, and it was always a handy excuse…after all wasn’t I always tired. This wasn’t to say I abused myself…I am a card carrying member of the Seven to Eight Hours of Sleep a Night Club and am a jerk to live with if I don’t get it.

However, death has a way of both widening and narrowing your perspective to what is truly important in the long term, and I think when you lose someone you love, there is a desire to make some kind of meaning out of tragedy, a way of honoring the dead by living well.

So, here I am peddling away, butt sore, wind knotting my hair and loving every second of it. My son grins at me as he has to wait for me yet again as I am not as fast as him, but I don’t feel bad for slowing him down. I figure I’m the one who makes him notice things…how green the grass is, the lovely wind that cools us as we peddle, the cluster of geese…by slowing him down.

In the process, I make a mental note to myself to notice how good I feel, how the fresh hair has perked me up, how physical fatigue feels so accomplished and what a pleasure my son is to be with, and I file this feeling away for the next “I don’t wanna” moment.

Thanks for asking me.

Dance with Reliability

I’ve had a dance with reliability ongoing my whole life. This has not been a beautiful graceful dance, but rather a dominant partner whisking their victim around in endless circles. Sometimes, I have been in the lead and other times I’ve been taken for a ride, but nevertheless, we have been partners.

My own definition of reliability pertains to relationships, particularly friendships in my life. I’ve had big issues with friends who cancel appointments repeatedly and use words like “flow with life.” When they say “flow,” I hear “you’re not a priority.”

For a period, I thought something was wrong with me. Why was I so darn sensitive and needy? Why was I so bothered by “flowing.” In essence, flowing is a beautiful thing. It’s being mindful, isn’t it? Did I have so little in my life that I needed to be upset by these frequent perceived rejections?

Then for another period, I felt that something was wrong with them. Were they so wishy washy that they couldn’t commit? If you were going to be this type of friend, then I needed to cut you from my life. Only reliable friends need apply here. My armor went up.

Cut is such an ugly word. It’s a word that makes me feel powerful, but really keeps me small. Cancer needs to be cut out. Harmful relationships need be cut out. Relationships that challenge me to grow are a part of my spiritual journey.

At the age of 44, I am now tired of playing these mental games with myself, and I am definitely done with apologizing for my “defects” or perceiving others to be defected. Leaning in towards acceptance, I understand that I require reliability to have a trusting relationship. Those people are a part of my inner circle, and I am so grateful for them. My friends who flow I celebrate that they are following their authenticity and have set boundaries (limits that create healthy mental, emotional and physical energy) that honor us both. They are my “don’t life so seriously” reminders.

The dance with reliability is much more beautiful now, graceful and allowing, What a lovely things to be able to let all that negative energy go.

unsplash-logoJulia Caesar

Carving Out Time

It is 4 a.m., and this is what self-care looks like. Perhaps, you muse there’s a masseuse waiting behind the door for my 30 minutes of serenity or the sounds of a plane taking off as I taxi my way to a scenic tropical destination complete with a swim-up bar and a bathing suit of coconuts.

Nope, not so much.

My self-care episode takes place in the form a hot cup of coffee, two dogs lying by my side and my laptop computer. No, the digital world has not yet mastered the virtual massage…I’m writing.

I know later I will have to blot the large bags under my eyes with a little extra age-defying lotion and will yawn apologetically when my family is talking to me, but my hope is I will also bask in the knowledge that I did it…I finally sat down and wrote something.

The road to eloquently and intelligently expressing myself will be a long one. Right now, I equate that I am at the caveman “Ug, me write” stage; however with time in spent on my craft, I know I will achieve my goal of being able to convey what is in my heart and my head to the written word in a way that resonates.

This writing journey, however, gets even longer when I continually allow life to prevent me from taking the first steps. My fear is that I will not spend time doing any writing until life is convenient (e.g. retired and no children at home) and then start writing about my hip pain and bunions (which could be equally fascinating subjects in an accomplished writer’s hands!). Let’s face it, for me the chaos of life with my family, work and all the unexpected moments that ensue is subject material and the hardships I face at this stage are ones of great personal growth (the forcible improvement of oneself as a human being in spite of one’s adult temper tantrum).

A fascinating fact in my world is that I will always allow time for work and will always achieve my deadlines; however, I will not do the same for projects in my life that do not provide financially (yet) for my family.
The solution…take a little of my usual work time and turn it into writing time and play catch up later with work instead of trying to fit writing into my day. Brilliant!

So here I sit, sipping my delicious coffee and making the first step in a journey of many 4 a.m. mornings.