Angel

The last of my family has departed the Vancouver area. They all arrived at different times, but we managed to get everyone over to the Celebration of Life for Tory Westermark on Saturday afternoon. The program that afternoon was requested by Tory – “keep it light”, which was a hallmark of his great sense of humour. That sentiment was echoed by many of the speakers who took the microphone to share. Lovely stories and thoughts, honouring Tory’s request.

When Tory’s granddaughter started to sing, (she has an amazing voice), I started to fight back the tears. I knew the song well, but had lost connection to the lyrics. They brought up all kinds of emotion that was laying dormant, anything but light feelings buried down there.

“Angel”

Spend all your time waiting
for that second chance
for a break that would make it okay
there’s always some reason
to feel not good enough
and it’s hard at the end of the day
I need some distraction
oh beautiful release
memories seep from my veins
let me be empty
and weightless and maybe
I’ll find some peace tonight

in the arms of the angel
fly away from here
from this dark cold hotel room
and the endlessness that you fear
you are pulled from the wreckage
of your silent reverie
you’re in the arms of the angel
may you find some comfort here

so tired of the straight line
and everywhere you turn
there’s vultures and thieves at your back
and the storm keeps on twisting
you keep on building the lies
that you make up for all that you lack
it don’t make no difference
escaping one last time
it’s easier to believe in this sweet madness oh
this glorious sadness that brings me to my knees

in the arms of the angel
fly away from here
from this dark cold hotel room
and the endlessness that you fear
you are pulled from the wreckage
of your silent reverie
you’re in the arms of the angel
may you find some comfort here
you’re in the arms of the angel
may you find some comfort here

On April 26, 2015 at the age of 87 years, my great uncle Tory, surrounded by his family, passed away. I was half a world away, in a hotel room in Kragerø, Norway. It took some time for the news to make it over to me, through the channels of my family. I was immediately struck by the significance of distance. Both the physical distance from my loved ones and the eternal separation from my favourite great uncle.

I didn’t take the opportunity to speak about Tory on Saturday. I feared my thoughts were not well formed and I might not make a whole lot of sense. While I’ve spent some time thinking about it since, these thoughts might still seem disconnected.

What I know for sure is that Tory was a leader. He brought his family and friends together and created a very welcoming environment. Conversation was stimulating, yet humorous. I came to Vancouver as a plucky 21 year old and Tory watched me evolve over the last 24 years. He was never critical. In fact, he always had a sparkle in his eye, a curiosity. He would often ask me, “what is the news?” He wanted to be the first in family to have it. My friends and I were invited to cocktail parties where we hobnobbed with UBC Professors. We thought that was the height of sophistication. Tory made a wonderful speech at my wedding, recalling the long tradition in his family of vetting a potential suitor with “the questions”. I learned to embrace my Swedish heritage from the example set by Tory and his wife Vida. The daily kindnesses, acts of simple gratitude, I will never forget. I hope I am modelling these traits in my own house.

As the weekend unfolded, we had time to chat about everything. We shared. There was laughter and a few tears. We promised to get together again. The question was raised, “What do you want your end of life celebration to be?” Hopefully we have some time to answer that question, but one never knows for sure. However, we have pledged to recreate this weekend next year – same time, same place. Until then.

Skål, Good bye och god natt!

Unpacking

I’ve been home from Hong Kong for about 3 days now. But I lost Tuesday. I got younger by 4 hours that day. Time travel is tough.

I have some rules. Unpack immediately. Put everything away. Then it seems as if I was never gone. But a nine-day trip, with a 15 hour time change takes a bit more to recover from.

I was lulled into a false security by sleeping straight through the first night home. But it doesn’t count when you don’t know if you are coming or going. Last 2 nights have been a bust. I may have to take a sleeping pill to get over the hump tonight. As I toss and turn for hours, I keep pointing out to myself, “at least you are not on the plane”.

I’m just finishing the last of the laundry. Mostly everything is put away now. But I find moments where it seems like my body is still in Asia. My mind wanders there too.

For me, most places in Asia are a riot to your senses. Exotic tastes. Wild scents. Overwhelming crowds. Cities which really never sleep, no quiet. There is a strange harmony to a place like Hong Kong. Somehow it all “works”. It just can’t properly be described. It has to be experienced.

Personal moments

“Time is at once the most valuable and the most perishable of all our possessions.”   ~John Randolph

“This time, like all times, is a very good one, if we but know what to do with it.”   ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Don’t wait. The time will never be just right.”   ~Napolean Hill

Since coming back from the Christmas break, where I took a longer-than-usual-amount-of-time away, my schedule has become a real bear. It is like karma is paying me back for still having sun tan lines. I had too much fun, therefore I must pay. At least that is the way it feels, just a bit.

I shouldn’t complain. In the scope of things, having a busy life, full of rewarding experiences and fabulous relationships is a gift. But, I do need, (everyone probably does), some personal time. A few moments in each day that are for me only.

About a month ago, I started a book that is divided into a dozen chapters. A new daily action is recommended to be added at the end of each week, (time needed to absorb the chapter and teachings). By now, I should be on chapter 4 and finished my 4th new daily action. I have not passed #1 yet. I just can’t seem to devote 15 minutes each morning when I wake up, to myself. How sad is that? But, I keep trying, some days are better than others.

exercise-comic3

I was recently asked if I had started working out? I must be looking a little less heavy than normal. I replied, “no – that is stress weight loss. I am still thinking about how to add exercise into my life.” Can you imagine? I am not a Nike commercial, (Just do it), that’s for sure.

And so I have to commit. To myself. The time to become better, be inspired. The time to keep my body strong.

Other related posts:

Fast food salad

Friday night, walking in the door at 5:05pm. Picky eater #1 in attendance, whom also eats slower than molasses in February. Must be heading out the door again by 6:10pm for an MMA belt ceremony, AKA cannot be late.

This would be a perfect time for take out? But now that I know more about what goes into that kind of food, why would I do that for my son who has a big performance night?

I basically re-made a dinner from earlier that week that I knew would go over well.

Japanese greens with noodles

  • large serving plate loaded with baby spinach
  • 200g soba noodles, cooked el dente
  • 2 cups edamame beans cooked for 5 minutes
  • 2 green onions sliced
  • 1 baby cucumber sliced
  • quick dressing of 3 T sesame oil, 2 T tahini, 2 T rice vinegar, 1 T soya sauce + water to thin
  • black sesame seeds

In hind sight, we needed something else to fill us up. I offered a piece of toast to my son, but he went for a bowl of cereal. If I had cooked the whole box of soba noodles, it would have worked well. And I was thinking of adding the dressing to the noodles before piling on the platter. But I liked the look and the taste as they were.

Picky eater #1 had a fit as the dressing was going on the platter. I strongly objected as we had just eaten this dinner to her total satisfaction! We were so loud at each other, my son had to leave the room. Then she tucked in and ate her whole plate in roughly the same time as the rest of us. I hope, one day when she is an adult, her therapist can uncover what her food premonition problems are.

We were out the door by 6:11pm. My son was promoted to a brown belt.

P.S. – if this looks exotic for a nine year old to eat and you think my expectations are too high, just imagine this. Only 2 years ago she would eat a hamburger without the burger. In other words a bun. So she is coming along. I have to remind myself.

Timing is everything

“Lost time is never found again.”   ~Benjamin Franklin

“The only reason for time is so that everything doesn’t happen at once.”   ~Albert Einstein

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

And so it is that time again. Instead of just trying to keep myself on track, it is time to get my children to start planning their own way in life. Yes, I mean goal setting.

My Mother reminded me tonight that, as children, my sisters and I did not like this activity. But, memory is a funny thing, because I seem to remember how good this process was. So much so, that I am going to teach it to my children.

For me, it is like a new school year, breaking out the new supplies. The promise in the potential of a new start wafting off the smell of a clean piece of paper. Sitting down to the first brainstorming session tonight felt just like that.

My children had blank little cartoon bubbles over their heads and polite smiles on their faces as they poised their gel pens ready to write. Then as the flow of ideas started to take shape, their heads were down and there were multiple lightbulbs popping above their heads. New colors of gel pens, more and more writing, a pause to contemplate which category needed more work.

The experts tell us that good goals need to be time bound. Which I agree with. But if the goal is not ready to be started, if it is the wrong time, that will not create a good goal either. My children seem to be ready for the process. Now to carefully structure a well designed set of goals. Then ever so gently urge along the follow through process.

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.

Taking time

I find myself taking the time to appreciate things on this trip that seem to be beyond my notice in my regular life. I spent the better part of an hour watching the wind blow the trees in the aftermath of a thunder-storm. I closely listened to my children talking during a car trip the other night, they had some really interesting things to say.

It makes me wonder how much of life I am missing. All these small moments that can sometimes be essential keys to what people are thinking, passed by without my notice. Or those longer stretches of time that are required to charge up a persons spirit. If you continually neglect yourself in this way, there will be consequences.

I have been trying to insert small changes into my regular schedule that have been highly beneficial. One of them is a weekly session with an RMT. Adding that on top of everything else sometimes feels like more work than it is worth, until the hour is finished and I feel like I am walking on cloud 9. My therapist says that some people let stress build up in their muscles so badly that they end up not having enough strength in their arms to hold a cup. And it then takes months to relax and work out the tension.

Sometimes I wonder if my interest in finding a better balance is a mid-life crisis. I certainly never needed this before. My ability to focus exclusively on work related activities was a source of pride. Now a 2 week business trip to foreign destinations really wipes me out. I just don’t have the stamina for it.

As I write this, relaxing in a king sized bed overlooking a forest looking forward to doing whatever I want tomorrow, time is stretched out in front of me. It feels great.

2 guys taking time