Monday, 29 July 2013

Attitude Adjustment

“The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failures, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill. It will make or break a company...a church....a home. The remarkable thing is we have a choice every day regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past...we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude...I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it. And so it is with you...we are in charge of our attitudes.”

I'm sure we've all met at least one – that person with whom certain interactions brings out a side of our personality that we aren't necessarily proud of. That we maybe don't fully know how to deal with, alter, or react to.

It's definitely happened to me. One time in particular was at a cottage with old and new friends. I decided not to return the following year if the group was the same, because I didn't like who I was and how I acted and reacted with one of the other guests. It affected my enjoyment of the trip, and I'm sure it affected others' enjoyment as well. It wasn't a side of myself I wanted to emerge again, especially on vacation.

It's happening again now. With someone I can't so easily “decide not to go to the cottage” with; someone I see on a more regular basis. Someone whom I would not be surprised if the feelings are somewhat mutual; and who I'm sure can “justify” their frustration/annoyance just as easily as I can “justify” mine. Whether fully and truly valid or not.

But I realized something the other night. This situation is likely not going to change for some time. And it has more than once ruined my mood for an evening. That last point is the rub... Stronger than my frustration and annoyance with this person and our interactions, is my frustration in myself for allowing it to have the effect of ruining my evening. Why give this person; this situation; this relationship as it is so much power? It actually only increases my frustration with is displaced onto this individual, increasing my frustration again, and further ruining my mood... and so the cycle continues.

It is true that we cannot change or control another person. The only person we can change or control is ourselves. And while we may not always be able to choose or control how we feel about a certain person or situation – we can choose and control what to do about it; how to react in the moment and how it affects us (longer term).

Truth: I don't fully know how to deal with, alter or react to this or similar situations because even though it's happened a few times, the situations have either been brief, far apart, or with a clear end-point that the need to figure out how to deal with, alter or react was seemingly unnecessary. I simply chalked it up to life's experiences and moved on.

That isn't so easy to do this time.

So perhaps I have an opportunity here. An opportunity to change the way I deal with, alter, or react in this type of situation. An opportunity to change my attitude about this situation from one of on-going and increasing frustration, to one of increased personal awareness and growth. And considering earlier blog posts, we all know how much I love an opportunity for increased personal awareness and growth ;)

Wish me luck!

Thursday, 11 July 2013

...we're a nice normal family.

This sign hung in the kitchen doorway at the cottage. “We're going to be in the next blog with that as the title, aren't we?!” asked my brothers with a chuckle during a late night card game. Little did they know how right they'd be. :)

My parents celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary this past spring. And so as a family we rented a cottage on Rice Lake for a week. One whole week we spent together – all 16 of us.

We laughed together. We ate and drank together. We cooked and cleaned and played together. We swam, fished, read stories (to the kids), played baseball, played endless games of Trouble, made S'mores around the campfire, and “ooh'd and awed” at the fireworks. I cuddled with my nieces way too early in the morning, and tried to avoid the restless kicks of a 4yr old throughout the night. For 7 days we tried to forget that the outside world existed, and just enjoyed each others company in a way that one-day family dinners – interrupted by rushing to get the kids home to bed – doesn't allow. We celebrated 40 years; we celebrated each other; we celebrated the tie that bonds us.

...we're a nice normal family.

A friend commented, “40 years, wow. Is it a happy marriage, 40 years later?”
I flashed an understanding smile at the cynicism behind the question, and responded: “Yeah. I mean all couples and families have their ups and downs, but yes. They're happy... inspirational! Something I likely will never have that long myself...”

My family – we are relatively close. That's how I describe it. We share some laughs, we share some tears, we keep some secrets. We love each other quietly yet deeply; and that shines brightest when one or more of us are openly struggling with something – in “crisis mode” I call it.
For example, my parents have welcomed me back to their living space time and time again over the last 10 years when I had no where else to go; and when my heart was broken 7 years ago my protective big brothers stepped up and offered to break some legs. To this day they still get tense and wary when I refer back to that time, or talk about another who has or may hurt me.

Truth is, I have loved watching my relationship with my parents and each of my brother's change over time – as we have experienced our own life stages and events; with the introduction of sisters-in-law and children; amidst travels and moves that have taken us away from and/or brought us back to each other; through successes, challenges, and growth. Not always close, not always harmonious, but always present.

...we're a nice normal family.

Reading this sign, I had to ask myself “But what is 'normal' anymore, really?”
Families come in all shapes, sizes, and colours these days – marriages that last 40+ years, and significant relationships that don't last 40 days. Siblings who are best friends, and those who never speak. Children who are born to a family, and those that are adopted in whether legally for honorarily. So what is it that truly characterizes “a nice normal family?”

For us – I think it is an underlying respect, acceptance, and the often unspoken love. That we can be so different in our growth experiences and who we have become, yet stay connected and find our way back to each other with that thread – the tie that bonds us. Our nice normal family!

What is it for you and your's?

Thursday, 4 July 2013


“Life will break you.                                                                                     
Nobody can protect you from that,
and living alone won't either, 
for solitude will also break you with its yearning. 
You have to love. 
You have to feel. 
It is the reason you are here on earth. 
You are here to risk your heart. 
You are here to be swallowed up. 
And when it happens that you are broken, 
or betrayed, or left, or hurt, or death brushes near, 
let yourself sit by an apple tree and listen to the apples 
falling all around you in heaps, 
wasting their sweetness.
Tell yourself you tasted as many as you could.”

It's like this black sludge that creeps in through the cracks. Just when you think you've got them all blocked up – with friends, family, hobbies, self-care... and then there it is again.

The thing I miss the most – not the cuddling, not the +1 for parties, not even really the reason to come home at the end of the day – the thing I miss the most about being in a relationship is having someone to call. Anytime, day or night. For good news or bad. To chat, or just to hear a voice say hello.

I love my friends. And I know my parents would answer the phone. But it's not the same thing.

It's not the same thing as the secrets you share. The venting you do. The laughter. It's not the same thing as having your own person the way your friends and parents have their own person. Because you know that if their person called, they'd take the call... And you want them to take that call.

I know I'm not alone in this. I know there are others – both single and in a relationship. Because this kind of loneliness is not reserved for the single... in fact I would argue that it's harder and more painful to be this kind of lonely in a relationship. I've been there too. But sometimes reaching out to those others, we end up commiserating our loneliness... and sometimes what I want is someone to help heal it, if only for a moment...

Still, I'll call a friend. I'll visit my family. I'll play my guitar, read a book, and watch some TV. I'll write a blog about it and eat brownies and ice cream at midnight. And once the cracks are all patched up I'll truly and genuinely smile and laugh. Appreciating the high, knowing that the low will eventually come again. And I'll appreciate it too, for the reminder of how sweet an apple can be.