where my demons hide

 When you feel my heat /Look into my eyes

It’s where my demons hide / It’s where my demons hide

 Don’t get too close / It’s dark inside

It’s where my demons hide / It’s where my demons hide

                                               –From “Demons” by Imagine Dragons

 

It has been a pivotal theme in centuries of great literature. It is Joseph Conrad’s “heart of darkness.” It is the “dark night of the soul” penned by 16th century mystic Saint John of the Cross. It is the tragic flaw the drives MacBeth to his doom. It is the crime in Crime and Punishment. It’s what drives those awful kids in Mean Girls.

Carl Jung called it the shadow.  It’s that dark place we all carry within us. That place we strive to keep hidden from the world. That thing about our past, or our present, or our expectations of the future that we are most unwilling to show or share. That piece of myself I find hardest to love.

We all have it. The irony is that sometimes the harder we work to keep it under wraps, the more we inadvertently trumpet it to the world.

I’ve been thinking about my demons lately. My misplaced negativity. My petty grudges and resentments. All the signals I send that say, “don’t get too close, it’s dark inside.”

I’ve been thinking about my demons because something happened lately that brought them to the forefront. It started with a conversation— a conversation in which I just may have offered up a fleeting glimpse of the dark place where my demons hide.

A conversation that stayed with me long after the tea cups were washed and put away. A conversation that rattled around in the back of my brain for a couple of weeks while I went about my daily busy-ness. A conversation that validated my anger and gave me permission to feel hurt.

A conversation that made no attempt whatsoever to contradict or debate or change anything about me.

Paradoxically, a conversation that changed me. Shone a light into a dark place. Someone dared to look into my eyes, and in the process stared down a couple of particularly tenacious demons. I can’t even really put into words what changed. All I know is that there is a particular anger that I have been carrying around for a long time that suddenly just isn’t there.

I think that’s called grace.

 

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First you save a life

I can’t pass up today’s Daily Prompt, which invites bloggers to “Tell us about a bullet you’re glad you dodged — when something awful almost happened, but didn’t.” My biggest challenge is deciding which bullet to write about.

In a previous post I treated you to an excerpt adapted from an unpublished book manuscript. Here’s another snippet from that same manuscript…

030117-N-5996C-003It is never fully night in the Intensive Care Unit. There are always lights, and a steady buzz of human and mechanical activity. If you are in the ICU, it is because you are not stable enough to be entitled to eight hours of uninterrupted sleep. You need frequent checking, and so do all your neighbours.  The classic hospital joke—where the nurse wakes you to say it’s time to take your sleeping pill—is not a joke in ICU.

Although ICU nights consist of catnaps wedged between inspection tours, there is a distinctive rhythm to the 24 hour period that helps to maintain some semblance of day and night. Hospitals in general are very rhythmic. Everything is scheduled—except, of course, the crises.  If you want to see frenzied improvisation at its most improvisationally frenzied, hang out in the adult Emergency Room of a downtown hospital on a Saturday night. Travel up into the medical wards where people with slower paced problems are slowly getting better (or worse), and you will find everything chugging along like clockwork. Mind numbingly boring clockwork.

But in ICU, the two poles of this continuum arc around and crash into one another. This is the reason that, in my opinion, there is no human being—not even the most perfectly disciplined athlete or ballerina—who can embody a more exquisite balance of precision and flexibility than an ICU nurse.

The ICU nurses I encountered were made of tough stuff. They worked 12-hour shifts tending to the sickest of the sick. They were in constant motion—each nurse only focused on a couple of patients per shift, but they kept up a seamless rotation of activity. Check vitals. Clean patient. Change bedding. Calibrate tubes. Chart progress. Repeat.  Competent, efficient, and in the case of the nurse I recall most vividly, in possession of a wicked sense of humour.

You’d have to have a sense of humour to survive a job like that. I think ICU nurses would make good astronauts. They have the patience and attention to detail necessary in a situation where the smallest error could mean the difference between life and death, and when the crisis hits they somehow keep that control and levelheadedness, but at a much accelerated pace.

The ICU doctors too, were a different breed. As the head of ICU, succinctly put it: “first you save a life.”

His colleague explained this philosophy in more depth to my mother: “When someone is as sick as Anna is now, our priorities shift. Priority number one is to keep her alive. Priority number two is to save her kidneys. Priority number three is to get the bleeding under control.  While her eyesight is important, at this point, it can wait for another day.”

Of course controlling the bleeding would have been easier if they had known where I was bleeding from— they still couldn’t explain why my haemoglobin kept dropping.  The doctors were now tossing around terms like “multi-organ breakdown”—as always more descriptive of what was happening than of why. One doctor admitted to my husband that the entire medical team was “baffled” and they were considering the option of transporting me to the Mayo Clinic.

But by the next day it was decided I was too unstable to transport, so the Mayo Clinic was out.

Unstable I was indeed. An MRI confirmed that the fluid was now collecting in my head—putting pressure on my brain and messing with my perception and cognition. Sometimes I had double vision, and sometimes my vision was clouded. I was vomiting blood, and the diarrhoea continued unabated. Pressure on my lungs from the fluid in my abdomen made it difficult to breathe. Dialysis made me dehydrated, but they were afraid to give me fluids because they still couldn’t explain why I was retaining so much fluid.

I was anchored to the bed by an impossible spaghetti-tangle of tubes. I had IV tubes to keep me hydrated. Stomach tubes to deliver the liquid food substitute on which I was subsisting.  Oxygen tubes clipped to my nose. And the nasty intra-jugular tube, in my neck, through which I received hours and hours of dialysis for my failing kidneys as well as transfusions of whole blood and plasma.

Shortly after my arrival in the ICU, one of the nurses decided it was warranted to bend the rules and allow my five-year-old daughter in for a visit. Much later my husband confessed that the staff agreed to the visit on the grounds that, at that point, the odds of me making it out of ICU alive were looking pretty slim.

I was too weak to interact with her. She just stared down at me from her father’s arms, wide-eyed and silent. Back at daycare, after what must have been a truly horrific experience for a 5-year old, she made an attempt to express the inexpressible in a drawing. On a tiny scrap of pink paper she drew a meticulously detailed depiction of me—in a bed—surrounded by a tangle of tubes. Her caregiver recounted to me later how she laboured over the portrayal of each tube. When she was satisfied that she had captured the scene fully, my daughter sat back and stared at the portrait in silence for a long time. After this period of reflection, she picked up her pen again and scribbled a heavy “blanket” over the figure in the bed—effectively obliterating the tubes from view. If only.

The ICU was a big room with patients arranged in a ring around a sort of “command centre.” The beeps and hums of the machines busily keeping me alive blended into the beeps and hums from everyone else’s machines, and the result was an oddly comforting white noise.  I didn’t mind the machine noise, but the endless talking of the staff irritated me and kept me awake. Each bed had a curtain for when privacy was called for, which didn’t seem to be often. The fact that I was too sick to care about my surroundings meant that I equally didn’t care about being “on display.” If I wasn’t noticing my neighbours, they sure as heck weren’t noticing me. Although it was possible to see other beds, they seemed to be arranged so that, open curtains notwithstanding, I was never really aware of what was going on with the other patients.

Except once. On one of the not-quite-nights when I was at the lowest of the low, I had more trouble than usual sleeping. In my disoriented state I was having trouble making sense of what was happening around me. I remember feeling irritated throughout the night by the lights from the neighbouring bed shining in my eyes. I was vaguely conscious of a commotion that deviated from the usual slow dance of night-time activity. I recall a curtain being sharply drawn—enough to obscure my view, but not enough to mask the lights and sounds. Still, I didn’t put it together, even in the morning when I could see that the bed next to me was vacant. It was evening again before my husband explained to me that my neighbour had gone into cardiac arrest in the night and had died.

            It felt quite plausible that I would be next, so I started mentally planning my funeral.

Body and Soul: of mundane miracles and secular sacraments

Like all good little cradle-Anglicans of my day, when I reached the age of 12 I signed up for Confirmation class. We met crammed into a too-small but oddly symbolic “upper room” off the church balcony. I remember exactly two things from my weeks of Confirmation prep. The first is the lesson where we read and discussed the miracle of the feeding of the five thousand. The minister who taught the class took it upon himself to challenge us with some liberal theology, and pressed the point that perhaps there was more than one way to make a miracle. Perhaps Jesus didn’t conjure extra loaves and fishes out of thin air after all. Perhaps when the members of the crowd observed one person sharing the provisions he had brought, they were inspired – or shamed— into digging into their packs and bringing out their own secret stash of snacks to share. It had never before occurred to me that people might be invited to participate in the making of miracles. Indeed that we might be expected to participate. That perhaps that was how miracles really happened.

I also recall learning about the sacraments. I learned that Roman Catholics recognize seven sacraments, but that Anglicans observe a sort of “sacraments light”—zeroing in on Baptism and Eucharist. Mostly I can still hear the priest repeatedly intone—“a sacrament is an outward and visible sign of an inner and spiritual grace.” Kind of like sharing your picnic lunch with your neighbors to show that you are a community.

After Confirmation I promptly stopped attending church for most of my teen years. There was no noisy rebellion on my part—mostly I just had lots of other ways to spend my time that seemed far more relevant and interesting than my parents’ church. As a young adult I found my own way into a faith that was mine, not just a parroting of my Sunday School and Confirmation lessons. And I grew to appreciate more and more what it meant to do things that were visible and external as a reflection of what was going on invisibly and spiritually within.

When I turned 40 I had a huge celebration. Forty is a milestone birthday at the best of times, but it is often celebrated with a wry sense of doom and despair. (“Oh no I’m getting old…”) For me, 40 was a really big deal because I wasn’t dead. I had, by contrast, spent my 38th birthday in galloping kidney failure, being readied for what was very nearly a one-way transfer into intensive care. Through a series of miracles supported by the participation of various members of the medical profession, I did make it back out of intensive care and into the world, but not before I had battled temporary vision loss, taught myself to walk again, and recovered from brain trauma.

Catastrophic as that particular illness was, it was not the first time my body betrayed me. The truth is my body has a long and tiresome history of betraying me. I was diagnosed with Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis at the age of two, and spent most of elementary school sidelined in gym class with painfully inflamed knees. After a teaser of a remission period during my teens, the arthritis came back in full force just as I was poised to graduate from university and start a teaching career. As if my bodily betrayal was not enough, one of my professors heaped coals on the fire of my frustration by musing to my face that “perhaps I should consider a less physically demanding profession” than the one in which I had just invested five years of preparation.

Then, in a whole new set of bodily betrayals, my attempts to have a child were thwarted by repeated failure. My first two pregnancies ended in early miscarriage. Surgery for an ectopic pregnancy went wrong, and I nearly bled to death from an internal rupture. My fourth pregnancy ended in fetal death at 12 weeks, but I didn’t miscarry. Apparently my body couldn’t even get miscarriage right. While I did eventually succeed in carrying two children to term, my eldest was born after an extraordinarily long and difficult labour that resulted in a caesarean. The technical term for this particular bodily betrayal was labour that “failed to progress.”

So by the time I hit 40, my relationship with my body was strained at best. But in spite of all the trouble it had caused me, I was still alive. That seemed worth celebrating. I wanted to make peace with this body that had failed me so many times, but that had also rallied from so many close calls. Like an old Timex watch it took a licking and kept on ticking.

So I got a tattoo. I had been contemplating the notion of a tattoo for about three years, but took a while to decide when, what, and where. Having decided on my milestone birthday as a perfect “when,” I found the “what” while gazing around my living room one evening are realizing that ALL the artwork on my walls bore the images of loons—a creature that has always held significance for me. I chose the image of the adult loon with its baby riding on its back—an image that reflected for me the extent to which my body—and my life—had been marked by my journey to, and through, motherhood.

legAs to “where,” I opted for a spot halfway up the side of my right calf. I reasoned that in this position I could show off the tattoo without getting half naked, but could keep it hidden if that was appropriate in a professional context. I assumed, in fact, that I would want to keep it hidden at work. It oddly didn’t dawn on me at the time that hemlines might rise.

To my surprise, I gradually became less and less concerned with when it might be “appropriate” to let my tattoo be visible. I started wearing shorter skirts to work and not caring who saw the tattoo. Somehow, making my body a canvas for this work of art made me more comfortable in my own skin.

I didn’t think about the tattoo as a sacrament at first. Over time I began to realize that what had felt at first like an act of belated adolescent rebellion held a much deeper significance to me. Curious about what motivated other tattoo bearers, I read and heard deeply touching stories—tattoos marking the death of a loved one, tattoos marking a significant life event or choice, tattoos remembering a lost friend, tattoos marking a battle with disease or addiction, tattoos enshrining a powerful memory. I came to understand that I had marked my body in this way as an outward and visible sign of a truth that I couldn’t really put into words, but that I carried deep within me.

Between my 40th and 45th birthdays, my inner truths underwent a profound transformation that culminated with the outward sign of divorce. Searching for the right ritual to mark this transition, I knew it was time for another tattoo.

This time I approached the tattoo more consciously as sacrament. This time I also knew immediately and intuitively what the image would be. Another loon, but in the aggressive stance—wings upraised—of a loon that is charging an enemy. I’ve been charged just so by a loon, while inadvertently canoeing too close to her nest. They are powerful creatures—and bigger than you think—especially at close quarters in their threatening “don’t mess with me and my babies” posture. This tattoo is quite large, and is centred between my shoulder blades. I have to twist and crane in the mirror to see it myself, but I am always conscious of it—always sensing that it pushes me forwards and gives me strength.

Someone once remarked that the image reminded them of a phoenix rising—an apt coincidence, since the inner transformation that the image was crafted to represent was very much a rising from the ashes of my failed marriage—an emergence of new life in the wake of grief and loss.

Now into my 50’s, I continue to negotiate a tenuous truce with my unreliable body. Most recently, my left hip joint has betrayed me utterly, and for its troubles been banished from my body once and for all in favour of a slick new titanium and ceramic replacement.

It’s hard not to call the outcome of this surgery a miracle. After taking painkillers day and night for I don’t know how long, within two weeks of being rolled out of the operating theatre I no longer needed any pain medication. None. Is it a miracle that the research has produced a prosthetic hip that works and an effective process for inserting it? Is it a miracle that my surgeon was skilled, or that his team provided me with such a comprehensive preparation?

I went into the surgery knowing exactly what I would need to do to contribute to my healing: I would need to haul out my own resources and apply them to my healing process. Provide my own loaves and fishes. Perhaps it’s enough of a miracle that after all the times my body has said “I quit,” those resources are still there.

Maybe I should get another tattoo.

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Honestly Daily Prompt, I sometimes feel like you are stalking me. This is not the first time you have posted a prompt just AFTER I have posted something relevant to that prompt. So although this was originally posted on November 23, I am linking it to the December 1 Daily Prompt: “Tattoo…You?”

Peer Recognition

I was kind of taken aback at first. In the two-months-and-a-bit that I’ve been writing this blog, I still get a little thrill every time someone actually comments on what I’ve written. So imagine my surprise when one of those comments contained an award!

Angela at the awesomely titled Not Appropriate For All Audiences has nominated me for something called the Liebster Award.  As Angela explains:

The Liebster award is given to up and coming bloggers who have less than 200  followers.  What is a Liebster?  The meaning: Liebster is German and means  sweetest, kindest, nicest, dearest, beloved, lovely, kind, pleasant, valued,  cute, endearing, and welcome. She further describes this award in the following fashion: “one mark up from a participation ribbon, it’s one part chain letter mixed with equal parts fraternity hazing and bragging rights, with a generous heaping of exposure.” Basically, it’s a means of saying “good work and welcome to the blogging community – we like you.”

Aw shucks. 🙂

I was flattered, of course. Then I was a little conflicted. You see I really don’t like chain letters. My kids were never allowed to participate in them, and I don’t go along with the whole “copy and paste this into your status” schtick on Facebook. So I did a tiny bit of research (because that’s how I approach anything new) and found a few references to the origins of the award, although the original post seems to have been lost somewhere in blog antiquity (if there is such a thing).

Interestingly, the original terms were a bit different. When the award started circulating it was aimed at bloggers with less than 3000 followers, and you were supposed to nominate 3-5 other bloggers. The current criteria are a bit more demanding, but I will play along as best I can.

And as for my whole “but it’s a chain letter” angst– I got over that pretty quickly. What I don’t like about chain letters is when they threaten horrible consequences for breaking the chain, or alternatively promise  grand things they can’t possibly deliver. (I never DID get the 20 postcards from all over the world…) But the Liebster award seems to be all about peer recognition and community building, which are two of the things I like best about blogging. So I’m in!

The  current rules are as follows:

1.  Each person must post 11 things about themselves.
2.  Answer the 11 questions the awarder has given to you, the awardee.
3.  You, now the awarder, create 11 questions for your nominees, who are now the
awardees.
4.  Choose 11 awardees, link to their website, and notify them.
5.  No award-backs

#4 is a bit daunting, but I note that Angela has been working at doling out her Liebster nominations for a while, so I will adopt the same gradual approach! I am also going to go with 10 facts about me and 10 questions, because that’s what Angela did, so it means I get to be a rebel and a follower all at the same time, and I just love that sort of contradiction.

First then, 10 scintillating facts about me:

  1. I used to be an English teacher, so I’m apt to go around using words like “scintillating” and pointing out when your pronouns don’t have clear antecedents.
  2. loons1I collect artwork with images of loons. Really.
  3. I own five pairs of black pants.
  4. I taught eleventh grade geography for three years. The highest  level at which I studied geography was tenth grade.
  5. I have come close to dying three times. If I was a cat I would still have six lives to go.
  6. I once crossed an international border carrying no identification and wearing nothing but a hospital gown. (see # 5 above)
  7. I have two tattoos. Guess what images they are. (Hint: see #2 above)
  8. I do not currently own a television.
  9. I love the movie Waitress. If you haven’t seen it, do. It will restore your faith in humanity. And pie.
  10. And speaking of pie, it’s a generally accepted fact that I make awesome pastry.

loons2

Secondly, my responses to Angela’s questions:

1.       As I love books, you probably could have predicted this one, what’s your favorite book and why?  Oh goodness you can’t be serious. You might as well ask which of my children I love best! Let’s see, there’s just about anything written by Margaret Atwood and Margaret Lawrence.  And Jeanette Winterson. Virgina Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own. Wuthering Heights. Massive amounts of Young Adult Science Fiction (seriously!– I’m currently reading Ender’s Game) and just about anything futuristic and dystopian.

2.       What other bloggers (if any) do you currently follow? Please leave links. Lots, actually. Here are a few faves:  Bulging ButtonsMust Be This Tall to Ride, Fish of Gold, Lost in Berlin, and that cynking feeling.

3.       What are three reasons that you think my blog is super fucking awesome (because of course you do)? Because how could anyone NOT love a blog with the tag line “Keeping Shit Real and Alienating My Relatives?” Because you’re an awesome writer. And because I have tremendous respect for anyone who is open and candid about living with any sort of mental illness.

4.       Do you believe in love at first sight?  If so, would you also be willing to admit that you are highly delusional? I refuse to answer this on the grounds that my response might offend the unicorns.

5.       If you won the lottery, what is the first thing you would spend your money on?  You mean after paying off my never ending mountain of debt? And securing a good education for my kids? And socking away an adequate retirement nest egg? Probably chocolate.

6.       Have you ever had a cool celebrity encounter? Please describe. I once had mail  that belonged to the captain of our local National Hockey League franchise misdirected to my address. So I went to his house to deliver it to him. My hockey-loving nephew has never quite forgiven me for not taking him along.

7.       Okay: What’s your porn star name?  – Name of First Pet + The Road You Grew Up On =  Peter Deer Lodge. Doesn’t really work, does it?

8.       List three to five songs that have been in heavy rotation on your (iPod/CD player/cassette tape) lately. When I think to put on a CD at home, lately my first choice is anything by a local group called The Weakerthans.

9.      Do you believe in miracles? Absolutely! (See #5 in previous list)

10.    If I sent you my address, would you please mail me a pair of underwear to make up for those disappointing chain letters? Honestly, no (see previous comment about chain letters). But neither will I ask you to send me a postcard from some far-off country, so we’ll call it even.

And now, my questions for my nominees to answer…

  1. What inspired you to start blogging?
  2. If you could spend an hour with any person, famous or otherwise, from any point in history, who would you choose and why?
  3. Coffee or tea?
  4. Cats or dogs?
  5. If your life had a sound track, name three songs that would figure prominently.
  6. Choose your superpower.
  7. If you were offered a “do-over” on one day of your life, which day would you pick and why?
  8. Have you ever successfully folded a fitted sheet?
  9. Why do I always get stuck sitting next to the people who talk at the theatre?
  10. Do you believe in miracles?

Finally, here is where I will introduce you to the folks on whom I bestow the Liebster Award…

Flowing

“You cannot step into the same river twice.” — Heraclitus of Ephesus

freezing 3

I can’t keep up with the changes. I managed to snap some photos a few days ago that captured the beginning of ice formation along the edges of the river. But they are already historical artifacts. The ice spreads and thickens daily, and the riverbank is now blanketed in snow.

I wanted to capture the river’s changes as it transitioned into winter, but it seems that the changes march on without waiting for my feeble attempts to record them. It’s dark when I arrive home from work now, and even if there was enough light left for picture taking, it’s difficult to fine-tune a camera focus wearing thick mittens. And you really don’t want to take the mittens off for long.

Under the forming ice, the river continues to flow. In the spring, when the ice breaks up, it will be a different river flowing past my door. It may look the same, but as Heraclitis sagely observed some 2500 years ago, it won’t be the same water, and I won’t be the same observer.

I talk about change a lot. I crave change. I find it energizing and exciting. Without a regular infusion of new challenges, I get restless. I probably use “change” as a tag more often than any other word.

I wonder if my interest in change was nurtured by growing up next to a river. Or  do I find the river soothing because its constant changing resonates with my thought processes?

I don’t suppose it matters. What matters is that the river’s lessons have seeped so thoroughly into my frame of reference that I know exactly what is meant by “you can’t step in the sane river twice.” Because the kind of change that interests me is not a change in what one does. It’s a change in who one is.

freezing 2A fellow blogger got me thinking about transformation this evening–  about the kind of learning that moves you into a place so different from where you began that you can scarcely communicate what the change is all about.

I know I’m not the same person I was ten years ago. The person I was twenty years ago would be surprised by the person I have become. The person I was 30 years ago would scarcely recognize me. In truth, she would probably find me shocking and perhaps a little frightening. Certainly she would be confused by some of the thoughts and things I now hold dear, and baffled by those I have chosen to leave behind.

But, like the continuous flowing of the river, all those versions of me are seamlessly connected. The paradox of the river is that, while it is constantly in a state of change, it is always in the same place. Likewise I am still me, in spite of, or maybe because of, all my transformations.

Without a net

What’s the thing you’re most scared to do? What would it take to get you to do it?

I always chuckle a little when people ask me about my “career plan.” I’ve had a varied career– made several significant changes in role and focus. But there wasn’t a lot of planning involved.

Well actually there wasn’t any planning really. What there was, was a lot of gradual evolving and (sometimes very happenstance) networking. And lots of being in the right place at the right time.

And, there has been an unbroken safety net positioned squarely underneath every one of my career moves.

I’ve been fortunate in that I’ve always been in a position to move from one job to the next without a gap– without unemployment. And I should also acknowledge that I have the good fortune to never have had a job that was so stifling or unpleasant that I felt I just had to escape regardless of the risks.

But I would be lying if I said I’ve never been tempted. There have been lots of times when I have fantasized about walking away and winging it. Times when I’ve thought “what if…”

But I’ve never had the courage to jump without a net. The closest I ever came was leaving a full-time, “permanent” teaching position for a part-time term position with an employer I considered more desirable. But even then I was going directly from one paycheque to another. One pension plan to another. One benefits package to another.

You get the idea.

Once in a while I catch myself dreaming about going out on my own. Freelancing. Consulting. Being my own boss.

I know people who’ve done it– who do it very successfully. I know it can be done.

But I always stop short of giving up the net. When you get to my age, a good pension plan can be pretty addictive.

The good news is that, notwithstanding the fact that every job has its ups and downs, I actually like where I work right now. Fortunately I am in a job that has enough change built right into it to satisfy my endless craving to learn new things.

I don’t know who it was that originally said, ““Change happens when the pain of staying the same is greater than the pain of change.”  Perhaps I’ve never had the courage to just plain quit any job because I’ve never had a job that was that kind of painful. I know I should be grateful for that. Because I know people who have reached that kind of breaking point in their work life and have had to make the leap–without a net–for the sake of their own well-being and personal integrity.

I still think it takes guts to jump overboard, even if  you are convinced the ship is sinking!

A couple of months ago Marina Shifren resigned from her job with a video that went viral. Now that’s what I call jumping without a net.

Busy learning

The Daily Prompt is a lofty one today: What do you love most about yourself? What do you love most about your favorite person? Are the two connected?

The snow has finally arrived. We woke this morning to white on the ground. White in the trees. White on the car.

Every errand takes a little longer when you have to stop to scrape the ice off the windshield. When you have to stop to put on your boots. When you have to slow down to accommodate the slippery roads.

And yet, at this time of year things don’t really slow down at all. Rather they start to speed up with an ever accelerating frenzy. Shopping for gifts. School concerts. Seasonal social events. Some years, by the time I rolled up to Christmas I have been practically panting from exhaustion.

I have been very busy this weekend. Too busy to squeeze in even a short walk along the river. Too busy to sit and write. Too busy even to reflect on what I might want to write about.

All of the busy-ness consisted of things I wanted to do. Things I enjoy. With people I love. If I had the weekend to live over, I don’t think I would change anything. And yet, I feel the lack of opportunity for reflection on a cellular level.

The truth is, there aren’t enough hours in the day for all the things I want to do. Consequently, it is all too easy for me to get snowed under with activities, only to find myself feeling frantic for a few minutes to stop and think about it all.

I don’t think there is one thing I “love most” about myself, but I know I love that I am always learning. I know for certain that I don’t have a “favourite person”– there are too any people who are dear to me for me ever to be able to single one out above the rest– but I do know that my favourite people tend to be the busy ones. They tend to have lots of interests, and be forever venturing out in new and often unexpected directions. They aren’t just busy for busy’s sake. They are busy with a purpose, not just filling their time.  And they are able to balance the busy-ness with quiet and contemplation–with the right amount of reflection time to enable them to mine from their varied experiences the richest gems of learning.