Epiphany

Holiday or feeling? How about both? Depends on what you believe.

Down here in Mexico and in many other countries around the world, January 6 is a celebration day. It marks the end of the 12 days of Christmas which begins on the 25th. El Día de los Reyes (The Day of the Kings) is the name of the day and the 3 Kings were thought to have brought presents to baby Jesus. Children will typically get presents and the family celebrations will include sweet wine and the 3 Kings Bread, which is also sweet and filled with dried fruits.

The term epiphany means a “vision of God” and this day is a Christian feast celebration to honour the revelation of God the Son as a human being in Jesus Christ.

image

Epiphany is also used to describe an experience of sudden and striking realization. Generally the term is used to describe any situation in which an enlightening realization allows a problem or situation to be understood from a new and deeper perspective.

I can’t say that I have this kind of feeling on a regular basis. But, I do think back on accomplishments and get a sense of all the little pieces coming together. Everything fell into place accordingly. The realizations happened slowly.

Until today.

I’ve been mulling over a few ideas for quite some time, (years actually) and have not been able to make sense of them. I knew they had to be connected in some fashion, but the framework and structure has eluded me. Like a waft of morning dew, I could sometimes get a clear sense of it, but as I moved closer, the spark of understanding would be just beyond my reach and then disappear altogether.

It is a fantastically energizing experience to suddenly have a crystal clear series of thoughts, which have eluded you for so long, sitting right there. It was all I could do to quickly grab a pencil and paper and get everything down.

With this roadmap sitting right beside me on the table, all my thoughts have changed. It allows me to think of problems as opportunities, take negative ideas and turn them around to positive, quite amazing really.

To quote the 1980’s one hit wonder by Timbuk3. “The future’s so bright, I gotta wear shades.”

Grown Up

My Mother has a theory in regards to becoming a grown-up. She thinks we all pick an age, for her it was 29, and she doesn’t feel older than that. She must sometimes be shocked to see this much older face and body looking back at her.

I’ve had this conversation with many people, actually a good dinner party ice breaker. Most people have an age and a pretty good reason for picking it.

This might explain why so many people have such a tough time reaching the age of 40. The mid-life crisis time period. But maybe they simply picked an age to stay at that was too young. Forever after that, the march of time will appear as a huge disappointment.

I’m not sure I have picked an age yet. I kind of like getting older because I feel a wisdom taking hold. There is a sense of calm under the heat of pressure which I did not experience before. The indecision, sometimes even panic has started to dissipate. This is a nice time for me. Why on earth would I want to be younger? So much self-doubt. Watching others make, what I was convinced were mistakes, but having no experience to frame it with.

But there are moments when I feel like an impostor in my life. I am an interloper who is playing at being grown-up. I’m not responsible enough to own this house? My children can’t be this old already? And then it fades back as quickly as it came.

Emilie Nicholas of Oslo, Norway sings a hauntingly, beautiful song called “grown up“. It reminds that I am grown-up, a parent, a wife, responsible. But, at the same time, there is the distinctly clear memory of the early days, when I was just grown-up, still a kid, really. Those were heady times, filled with firsts of all kinds. It makes me smile to remember them.

The Good Life Project

“The good life is a process, not a state of being. It is a direction not a destination.”   ~Carl Rogers 

Jonathan Fields runs a website called The Good Life Project. He interviews amazing people and gains their perspective on life, and at the end asks specifically what they define as living a good life. The answers are, of course, as interesting as the discussions.

I wish I had more time to watch them all. But for now, here are some of my favourites:

The last name on the list has landed there by chance, not because I like the talks in order, or chronological of when I first watched them. The position of Simon Sinek’s name is almost serendipity, which is the topic of where this list started. Kind of spooky, but awesome at the same time.

In a way, the content of these interviews is far more impressive than a TED talk, because the setting is so personal. A one to one chat. You almost feel like a third person sitting to one side forming a “C” shape.

I thrive on this kind of thing. And to think, there are so many projects like this going on today, but we don’t hear about them. Tell someone about this, watch them, share.

Nostalgia

I was listening to a song on the radio today. The lyrics took me back to a time when I was 9 years old, living in Houston, Texas. My parents were barely 30, young ex-pats enjoying life in the South to the fullest.

There was not a specific day that stands out, but more a montage of typical things we did. The heat, the accent falling off the tongue, the larger than life attitude we all had. It was a good time for my whole family to become closer whilst embracing so many new things at the same time.

Then I shot back to present day and pondered the fact that my daughter is also 9 years old. I wondered, will she have fond memories of this age? Or will it be more of a feeling, wrapped around certain events? Will these be her “good old days”?

nostalgia

The walk down memory lane was a reminder of how quickly time passes. I certainly don’t feel that young anymore, but it is hard to reconcile my real age, with how I feel. It is also more of a sombre realization around how quickly time is counting down.

My feelings of nostalgia were flashing between my childhood and my daughters. I almost envisioned what she would think about when she too becomes a grown woman. Maybe a Katie Perry song will put her right back to this house in White Rock, to the neon green cover on her first iPod.

Many people write about nostalgia with a pessimistic attitude. But if you remember a single event or a stretch of time, fondly, that doesn’t mean everything else was perfect. It is just where your mind wants to go. Who would want to have a brain that only remembers bad stuff?

Great thinkers

This extract is attributed to Loren Eiseley:

“The journey is difficult, long, sometimes impossible. Even so, I know few people who have let these difficulties stop them. We enter the world without knowing for sure what happened in the past, what consequences this has brought us, and what the future may have in store for us.

We shall try to travel as far as we can. But looking at the landscape around us, we realize that it won’t be possible to know and learn everything.

So what remains is for us to remember all about our journey so that we can tell stories.
To our children and grandchildren, we can tell the marvels that we have seen and the dangers that we have faced.
They too will be born and will die, they too will tell their stories to their descendants, and still the caravan won’t have reached its destination.”

Thinker-galaxyLoren Eiseley (September 3, 1907 – July 9, 1977) was an American anthropologist, educator, philosopher, and natural science writer, who taught and published books from the 1950s through the 1970s. During this period he received more than 36 honorary degrees and was a fellow of many distinguished professional societies. At his death, he was Benjamin Franklin Professor of Anthropology and History of Science at the University of Pennsylvania.

According to his obituary in the New York Times, the feeling and philosophical motivation of the entire body of Dr. Eiseley’s work was best expressed in one of his essays, The Enchanted Glass: “The anthropologist wrote of the need for the contemplative naturalist, a man who, in a less frenzied era, had time to observe, to speculate, and to dream.” (Wikipedia)

Where are these great thinkers today? Maybe I am as guilty as the rest of society. For the most part, the famous names I know are the ones plastered on the glossies at the grocery store. The heroes that we worship today, have insignificant accomplishments, in the grand scheme of things.

It is time to discover some of the great thinkers of the last hundred years. I suspect there are many out there, going about their work, with very few paparazzi chasing them down.

Getting old

What on earth is good about getting old? I suppose it depends on your perspective. Who can remember what life was like before we had all the pre-selected, limited choices we have today? Remember when you had to walk or ride your bike everywhere? Even your phone privileges were limited. Now we jump in our cars and talk on our smart phones at will.

My daughter can’t wait for the day that she can get her ears pierced and wear “real”, high-heeled shoes. (No wonder her first word was shoe). And eat whatever she wants. These notions represent the perfect life we adults have and she does not.

I like the feeling of being older when it comes to making decisions. In many ways, I feel more sure of myself, like there is some pool of wisdom I can now draw from. I feel more calm, most of the time. Which for me, is a major accomplishment.

And one of the ways that I look the part is by wearing my glasses. I only need them to see distance. And even then, mostly I use them for driving or watching a movie. In fact, I really need bifocals to watch a movie and knit at the same time. But, I’m not ready to concede to being that age yet.

When the adults get older, so do the kids. My son and I had a really nice Japanese dinner tonight. He ordered everything, using all the correct words and pronunciation. We made small talk, as people do. He had some juicy details about the grade 7 graduation that took place the evening before. Who was crying and why.

Gomae

I clearly remember feeding this same boy, bits of rice from my chopsticks while he eagerly opened his baby bird mouth for the next bite. How 10 years can fly by in an instant.

So what is good about getting old is that all these experiences have happened, they were lovely and they are mine to remember whenever I want.

Purpose

I went to a bookstore and asked the saleswoman, “Where’s the self-help section?” She said if she told me, it would defeat the purpose.   ~George Carlin

It is interesting to think the your purpose will affect the outcome. Here are a few examples:

  1. Flying – no matter how much you repeat the mantra, “Miracle of human flight”, the overnight flight to Europe is a drag if you are doing for work. But, imagine you are alighting the doorway of a 777 with your loved ones for a fun-filled vacation, all expenses paid?
  2. Digging dirt – is a back-breaking task that represents the ultimate in mindless drudgery. But, digging into rich soil and preparing it for plantings that are beautiful or will produce wonderful food, (or both), is a wonderful job that I look forward to.
  3. Washing dishes – yucky, stinky, slimy, gross, is how I would have described this, every time my name came up in the ritual “draw” at my parents dinner table. But, what about the time to have a nice, quiet think? And if others have caught onto the thinking bit, what about the time to have a nice quiet chat with people whom you love?
  4. Grocery shopping – the novelty of shopping for entertainment wore off some time ago. This can be viewed as a rather routine job that just about anyone could do. But, if you have spent a couple of hours very carefully planning out your week of menu’s using multiple cookbooks, would you trust the procurement of the supplies to just anyone? The sourcing of the perfect tomatoes, the wonder about what will be available, local and in-season from the farmers market, these are pleasures.
  5. Commuting – this is akin to wasting time and who in their right mind would consciously do this? When you look around you at all the other drivers in all the other cars, you wonder, have we all gone crazy? But, you can slip in an audio CD and your mind moves into a space of learning and entertainment. In a weird way, you begin to look forward to the drive. (The library lets you borrow all this content for free! My library system even lets you request titles from all other branches and transfer it into my location, for free!)

Next time you find yourself cursing under your breath about how bad something is, (I do this all the time), try to turn that energy towards the positive. You might say, “Well what if my plane ride is always for work?” That is when we must turn to that amazing human ability called imagination. It is available anytime you call on it and it is free.

Work-life balance

This is an idea that I have been turning over in my mind for a very long time. On one hand, I am pretty sure that for most of my days, my balance is fair, maybe even good. I know there have been long periods where the scale has tipped way over to the work side.

What I am beginning to discover is that when I work less in the evenings or on the weekend, I am happier. When I am happier, I am far more productive during proper work hours. 

According to the tried and true management philosophies that guide corporations today, what I have described above is a bit of a Paradox. Definition – “a seemingly contradictory statement that may nonetheless be true.” 

♥ Here is what makes us feel good about ourselves: (http://www.chipscholz.com/2011/04/26/the-progress-paradox-doing-better-feeling-worse/)

  1. Our ability to manage energy and stress in a positive way so that stress activates us
  2. Our social support network is strong and positive
  3. Most importantly, we must have a belief that our behavior matters

 Happiness is a precursor to success, not the result.

♥ A couple of excerpts from Nigel Marsh’s TED Talk:

  • There are thousands and thousands of people out there leading lives of quiet, screaming desperation, where they work long, hard hours at jobs they hate to enable them to buy things they don’t need to impress people they don’t like.
  • Being more balanced doesn’t mean dramatic upheaval in your life. With the smallest investment in the right places, you can radically transform the quality of your relationships and the quality of your life. Moreover, I think, it can transform society. Because if enough people do it, we can change society’s definition of success away from the moronically simplistic notion that the person with the most money when he dies wins, to a more thoughtful and balanced definition of what a life well-lived looks like. And that, I think, is an idea worth spreading.

So the question becomes – “How do you manage your work-life balance?” I have been spending some quality time with myself, my computer and my thoughts trying to sort it out. All I’ve got so far is what I have collected in these digital pages. What I can say for certain is that collecting the ideas for “The Good Stuff”, has been good fun for me.


Strömstad

The days are getting short in Sweden. Quite the opposite of 6 months ago when dusk didn’t fall on us until 10pm.

For perspective to North Americans – the 58th parallel in Strömstad, Sweden is at the same latitude as Juneau, Alaska. For those of us living down around the 49th the difference in daylight hours is striking.

Couple these “short days”, with the general weather patterns of the fall season and the effect is not very sunny to say the least. Even though our conference was in a resort with 20′ glass window views to the sea, the effect of less sun can have an effect on overall mood.

But, we are all used to this kind of thing. The bi-annual conferences are about a week in length and we tend to work from about 8am to bedtime, (which varies wildly). Even when eating dinner, or having a drink at the bar, networking and shop talk is always taking place. Hence, no matter where we are, or the time of year, we are sequestered away from the sun for most of the day anyway.

So now I have explained why the pictures look the way they do. A view from the bar at night, behind a pint of beer. A cloudy view of the harbour and some cottages near to the resort. In the summer, the long days and sunshine takes your breath away. In the fall, the peaceful, muted scene allows for repose.

So glad to be home

Even if it just for a short while. My travel season has begun at work and won’t let up until mid December.

Once, a long time ago, I was returning to Canada from a trip to Vietnam. I had been away about 2 weeks. The stretch from Hong Kong to Vancouver is a pretty long one and I started talking a woman sitting beside me. I can’t remember her exact circumstances, but needless to say, she didn’t fly very often and had saved a long time for her trip. I complained, maybe even whined about how horrible my life was. Something about flying all over the place for work. And as we talked about the kind of hotels I stayed in, the meals I ate and the actual work I did, her eyes got bigger and bigger. She finally concluded, and rightly so, that I was sounding a bit like a spoiled brat and that lots of people would rather be in my place than the drudgery of a 9 to 5 office job.

Since that time, whenever I start to feel sorry for myself, I check my need to complain about the product of my choices. Travel was what I signed up for. And in most ways, there have been rewarding experiences and great friendships that I otherwise would have missed out on.

But for today, I am so glad to be home.

One percent

It is funny how statistics can be manipulated. One percent, for example seems like a very small number, no matter the context.

This past week, there have been demonstrations across Canada for the “Occupy” cause. The demonstrators are claiming to represent 99% of Canadians. To qualify that, the 1% are 250,000 people who earn an annual salary of more than $400K per year. I listened to some coverage on CBC radio this morning. The panel of people being interviewed were in the top 1% of Canadians. The usual, intelligent arguments were made about these people of influence, the far-reaching effect of the 1%. But the really interesting facts were presented at the very end of the segment:

  • Canadians that earn $55,000 per year are in the top 1% of the entire planet
  • Canadians only have to earn $1,000 per year to earn more than 50% of the entire planet

I think that would be really sobering news to some of the folks who think we, in any way, have it bad here in Canada. I’m not in the 1% of Canada’s top earners, but I feel rich beyond compare. Whenever I have to be away from home, for any reason, I almost want to kiss the ground upon return to YVR.

The morning routine

Every house has a different one. We all know about how important it is. Some enjoy it, way more than others. One person’s enjoyment almost adds to the misery of another.

We have a variety of personalities in our house. No surprise that the day starts with everyone at a different speed.

My Mom tried, I think, to get everyone up in a good mood. “Good Morning Sunshine!” she would sing to us in the early days. Later on, my Dad would make it crystal clear before we went to bed on the weekend that we would be up by 9am, or suffer the consequences.

As my husband and I created our own routine, it became apparent quite quickly that he did not grow up in my parents house. He is in a terrible mood in the morning and will sleep as late as possible on the weekend. Lucky for us, he has a million projects on the go and wants to get up early. I don’t think it would have been so easy to adjust to a man who would sleep until noon.

We have settled into something that seems to work for everyone, for now. When the kids become teenagers, I’m sure some adjustments will be required from all of us.

I make breakfast and lunches. I can’t stand the idea of what they would eat, left to their own devices. Today it was maple chicken sausages, (tolerable levels of sodium and fat) and leftover blueberry pancakes that had a square of chocolate in the middle. Grapefruit with brown sugar.

My husband has decided that, while he is clearly not a morning person, he would rather fight the traffic en route to work than organize anyone at home. Probably a wise decision. This is the benefit of age, I think. Back in the early days or our marriage, there was not so much harmony in the morning.

The main idea behind our relative success today is that we have remained flexible to change. When something isn’t working we revise, adjust make it easier in some small way. I am the most optimistic about the effect of small changes. And when something gets better, my husband glows with compliments.

Time disappeared

“A good holiday is one spent among people whose notions of time are vaguer than yours.”    ~John B. Priestly

As the kids summer vacation draws to a close, I was reflecting on the next phase they are about to enter at school. With my son just passing his 10th birthday and starting grade 5, I had to ask myself – “where has the time gone?”

I completely understand it has not “gone” anywhere and that time doesn’t “run” faster in one decade than another. But how much gets accomplished and just packed into any given day when you are a parent distorts your perception. When I was a child, I watched all this happen around me with my parents at the helm, but I had no idea of what it would be like.

“Half our life is spent trying to find something to do with the time we have rushed through life trying to save.”    ~Will Rogers

I sometimes think that given how many air miles I have amassed in my working life so far, maybe a part of me is still circling the globe on one of the jets. Like a little shadow, it will someday finally catch up to me when I stop travelling so much.

“You must have been warned against letting the golden hours slip by; but some of them are golden only because we let them slip by.”   ~James Matthew Barrie

I suppose accepting that my life is on some sort of permanent fast-forward, is the first step in helping myself. Trying to cram more into a day, clearly is not helping. Slowing down, and maybe trying to do a little less is sage advice I have been given. Appreciating how I have chosen to spend my time, when I am in the middle of it, now that would be nice.