One morning a few weeks ago, near the end of one of the most bitter winters in living memory, I was walking to my chiropractor’s office. I go to his office once a week – the only time I take that route.
Along the way, I pass a community garden marked by a white picket fence. That morning, the shadow of the fence undulated in blue lines across a gleaming, fresh snow drift. I considered stopping to take a photo of the fence, the shadows, the brittle, diamond-like snow reflecting the blue sky.
But it was so cold. I didn’t want to stop and take off my mittens in the frigid temperatures or take the time to find my phone. “I’ll get that picture next time,” I told myself.
But there wasn’t a next time. There was never another week where the snow was that fresh and cold AND the sun shone AND the light was right.
Just in case I hadn’t gotten the message clearly enough, the Universe reiterated it for me last Sunday when I went to a drumming recital. At the end of the session, class and audience were invited to take up a drum or other percussion instrument and jam together. It was an amazing, collective experience. Afterwards, one of the leaders noted “The music we just created will never exist again.”
I’m glad I was fully in that moment.
Each spot of time is unique. Be in it. Absorb it. Appreciate it. This moment is the only moment and will never be again.
My body is fat, with a BMI that makes my doctor tilt his head like a quizzical dog and sigh. My body is also strong and healthy. Maybe that’s what has my doctor so quizzical. My body is defying all the conventional wisdom about the perils of obesity.
My body has 46 inches of scars (from one surgery!), a tattoo, four missing teeth thanks to orthodontics, and extra bones in my feet that hurt. All. The. Time.
I used to hate my body. It didn’t conform to the flawless and waif-thin images that our society cleaves to. I, on the other hand, did conform to all that conventional thinking about what was beautiful, and that made me hate my body.
Because I hated it, I mindlessly treated my body terribly, eating the wrong things and too much, not exercising enough, sleeping poorly and doing things that did me no good.
As I grow older, I’ve realized that my body – my healthy, perfectly functional body – is one of the most cherished and valuable things I have. It’s my most important tool. It gives me joy. It lets me experience life. It’s powerful, ever-changing, self-calibrating and amazing.
My body. In every sense it’s a really big deal.
We are never done changing and growing as human beings.
Psychologists say that by the age of five our personalities are fixed. That may be true.
But our experiences, perceptions, responses, opportunities and consequences are very much in flux throughout our lives, and the people around us can profoundly influence us.
Remember as a teenager when your parents didn’t want you to hang around So-and-So because he/she was a bad influence? You rolled your eyes in response and thought (or said) “No one is going to make me do anything I don’t want to do.” Maybe So-and-So couldn’t make you do things, but they could introduce you to ideas and activities you didn’t even know you wanted to do – and some of those things could be questionable, stupid or dangerous.
Conversely, people in your life can introduce you to brilliant, stimulating, uplifting ideas and experiences.
Studies show that spending time with the same social group can limit your growth. The reasoning is that your exposure to new information and ideas is limited. Media coverage on abuse and bullying, which happens at home, school and the workplace, reminds us daily of the low self-esteem, anger, depression and despair these situations produce.
People will come and go in your life and they will help shape your understanding of the world and of yourself.
Don’t underestimate the influence of the outside world on your growth and well being. And never forget you have the power to change who and what you keep around you. Choose well.
p.s. I mean no disrespect to dogs; I love them all – even the ones with fleas.
My friend, Leah, does this amazing thing that I admire. Actually she does a lot of amazing things, but this is the one I’m going to tell you about.
She sets goals and works to achieve them. And then she assesses and is willing to say “This isn’t working. Let’s change it.” Not many of us will do that – scrap hard-earned goals that just don’t fit.
When I first met Leah, she and her then fiance were about to buy their dream house. This was going to be their forever home in a suburban neighbourhood with lots of space for a family to grow in to.
Soon Leah and Rob realized the home was too big with space that they never used but still had to heat and clean.
They had to admit they didn’t have the time or inclination to plant that sweet little veggie garden they’d envisioned, and outdoor maintenance was something neither of them liked.
The mortgage strained their budget and didn’t give them much space for savings or the lifestyle they enjoyed.
Rather than hunker in and make excuses for why this, their dream home, would and should and did work, Leah and Rob re-assessed their dream.
They carefully looked at what they loved about their home and what wasn’t working. The weighed what they could give up and what was a must have. And then they made their move. Literally. They bought a charming but slightly smaller townhouse condo with an almost identical layout and feel to their original home.
Sure, they gave up the suburban dream of a big, detached house with a yard. However, now their mortgage payments and other costs are lower. They don’t have to do any outdoor maintenance and have more time to enjoy themselves.
Most importantly, they are happy.
Pride and shame are opposite sides of the same coin – a coin we create to keep ourselves separated from the rest of humanity.
At the start of their shows, stage hypnotists say jokingly to their selected subjects, “Don’t worry. I won’t make you commit any crimes. I can’t make you do anything that goes against your morals or ethics.”
It’s the same for us. Short of holding a gun to their head, there’s nothing you or I could do to make a person behave in a way that is not in already in their character.
And yet there were times when people I have cared about treated me badly, and I would struggle with feeling ashamed, thinking I had done something to make that person behave so horribly.
Why did I feel ashamed? Why did I think I was the reason someone had behaved badly?
It wasn’t shame. It was actually a twisted case of pride.
I was mistakenly thinking I was so extraordinary I could cause someone else to behave a certain way.
Of course I understand now that when people behave badly, that’s their choice and their response. And my response – pride masked as shame – was my way to make myself special, other and separate.