Saturday, September 29, 2007

Dealing with What Is

A man in a wheelchair – can’t be more than 42 – tells me it was a car accident. Someone hit him from behind at a red light. And now he can’t feel his legs below the knee.

I think most of us take our mobility and good health for granted. It’s hard enough to age in this youth-oriented society without losing our autonomy as well. No one wants to be that man.

Some would say our destinies are mapped out before we’re even born. We may be slated for fame or riches, a difficult childhood or a series of failed relationships so that we can have that experience. The purpose, always, is to learn and grow.

Whenever we feel trapped in our limitations, what really helps, I find, is to appreciate the parts of our lives that still work. If we picture our basic needs as sections of a pie – e.g. finance, personal relationships, health, career and family – many of us have at least one or two missing pieces. Maybe we have a great romantic partnership, a thriving family life and good health – but we are unhappy at work and in debt. Or we have successful careers, along with broken family ties and on-going problems with our children. Some people have a serious health condition which is a life-long concern.

Those of us who seem to “have it all” are in the minority. Even if we are satisfied with all aspects of our lives, things can change. It’s best not to long for a perfect life, but to acknowledge what we already have. To savour it.

I carry around with me a small gratitude journal. Every day I jot down three things that I am grateful for – whether it’s lunch with a close friend, the smell of freshly-mown grass or the pleasure of a leisurely walk. No matter what happens to me tomorrow, I am absorbing the benefits of today.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Winds of Autumn

Tonight a cold wind rustles through the trees and puffs up women’s skirts on the street. I can almost hear it whistle. Now that summer’s nearly over, I feel it was far too short.

People walk faster outdoors, their minds working as hard as their legs. There’s a surplus of energy at this time of year. Even as I push forward, I find myself looking back. I work vigorously on the 2nd draft of my novel, making notes and scribbling out new chapters. When I pause, I often switch gears. Friends and acquaintances of years long past come to mind… and I wonder who will next cross my path.

The trees are only starting to lose their leaves. It saddens me to see branches stripped of their foliage, a harbinger of what lies ahead. Human life, like the seasons, suffers loss before renewal. The only thing that seems to help, once I am buried beneath snow and ice, is to keep a little spring in my heart.

For now I plan to enjoy the kaleidoscope of colours that comes with the first frost.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Saturday Night Blues

Everyone knows that Saturday night is for couples – dining out, dancing or ignoring each other on the living room couch. Like so many other singles I find myself alone. Instead of dozing in front of the TV set, I get dressed and head for “the Main.” In Montreal this is a busy boulevard (St. Laurent) that runs north to south in the center of the city. Crammed with shops, restaurants and cafés, it’s also a multicultural street. As I approach a well-lit area, I see people of all ethnicities, many of European stock such as Hungarian, Greek or Portuguese.

The outdoor terraces overflow with patrons eating or sipping wine. I smell moussaka and fried squid. From further down the street come the strains of a live band, a bluesy sound that could have been from New Orleans.

I enter my favourite café and order bottled water and a bite to eat. Then I sit, watching people and cars stream by. At this corner there are pedestrians of all ages - families, friends, lovers or singles like me. Some walk briskly, on their way somewhere; others step in tune with each other, chatting as they go. Several of them are leashed to Irish wolfhounds, poodles or Pekinese, the dogs as diverse as their owners. A middle-aged man strides by with two bouquets of flowers wrapped in cellophane. I wonder if he's booked two dates in case one doesn't work out.

I sink my teeth into the strawberry scone. It’s doughy and satisfying, not too sweet. Reminds me of the desserts my mother used to bake; recipes she has long forgotten.

The street is half-closed due to construction. Cars now edge past my café window, bumper to bumper. Everyone wants to be somewhere else.

For me it’s enough to be here, my senses absorbing what’s around me. I am at peace with the world, even on a busy Saturday night.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

The Little Things

These days I appreciate the little things – discovering a toothpaste (baking-soda-based) that actually whitens my teeth, crunching a crisp apple from the Fall harvest or gazing at the ghostly outline of the moon in the morning sky.

Like so many others in the working world, for much of my life I focused on making money and getting ahead. I was caught on a treadmill that seemed to roll faster with the passing years. Every now and then I paused to admire the scenery or do some serious reflecting but it frightened me how quickly the weeks and months sped by. I needed to get off the treadmill and schedule my time according to my own rhythm and priorities.

Before turning 50 I left the business world to pursue my interests in motivational speaking, article-writing and storytelling. It’s been quite an adventure and even five years later, I don’t know where this road will take me.

When I die, will I miss the money or possessions I might have accumulated? I doubt it. What I will certainly miss is the softness of the breeze upon my cheek, the stunning colours and intoxicating scent of flowers, or the grateful smile of someone I have encouraged.

All things that are perhaps NOT so little after all.