Thursday, 30 January 2014

It might take months

A gardener learns more in the mistakes than in the successes.
~ Barbara Dodge Borland

Who has learned to garden who did not at the same time learn to be patient?
~ H.L.V. Fletcher 

Much to my Mom and Grandma's dismay, I did not inherit their green-thumb. I do not have a talent for gardening and all things related. I cannot name that rare gem in the flowerbed, though I will agree it's very pretty. I take pictures of flowers when I travel because my Mom and Grandma will be interested. I go shopping at green-houses with them for the quality time spent together, though I bore and tire much faster than they do. And when I receive a plant as a gift, in addition to the appreciation and desire for more greenery in my home, I feel an immediate sense of guilt knowing it will likely not survive me nor my plant-nibbling cat.

But I continue to try. Always hoping that eventually one plant will survive! I'll pay more attention to the instructions my Mom gives me. I'll do my best to remember when I've watered it last, and to notice when it may need more (or less) sunlight. I'll put it in a hard to reach place and shoo my cat away. Yes, each time I have the best of intentions...

My three success stories involve a cactus, a swamp-like plant that was most happy sitting in water (both of which went missing at some point), and a bonsai tree which seems to be tougher than dehydration, over-watering, and a pot-shattering fall from the window sill (though this is currently at my Mom's awaiting re-potting).
But I have lost track of the number of times the same spider plant has visited my Mom to be nursed back to health. Last time I just left it there.

My current attempt involves a jade. Apparently these plants are among the easiest to care for. They do not require direct sunlight, nor do they require much water. Very little in fact.

I over-watered it.

Not to be completely discouraged, this hearty plant stores water in it's leaves, so it was just the bottom that drowned, rotted and broke apart. I still have healthy green leaves on top. Phone call to Mom – how do I save it?

“Put it in wet soil & leave it alone.”

(Did I mention that I'm not a naturally patient person?)

A couple weeks later I tested it. No roots had started. I've watched my Mom put parts of a spider plant into a cup of water and roots started to grow. I'll try that!

A couple weeks later, the bottom is rotting in a cup of water. Yet I still have healthy green leaves on top! Another phone call to Mom – how do I save it?

“Put it in wet soil and leave it alone.”

Yeah, but I tried that already!

“It might take a long time.”

Like, months?


I know what you're thinking. This sounds like the perfect kind of plant for a non-green-thumb like myself. But did I mention that I'm not a naturally patient person?

Shortly after that last phone call with Mom, it dawned on me. This plant is like a lot of things in my life right now. They might take a long time to take root and actually start to grow – like months. And I will need to keep practising my patience in the mean-time. Not too much water, no direct sunlight.

Just put it in some wet soil and leave it alone.

Hopefully in a few months I might have a beautiful garden... or at least one little plant with the hint of roots! Maybe they've started to grow already. Maybe I should just go check...
(Did I mention that I'm not a naturally patient person?!)

Thursday, 23 January 2014


  “Is it possible to think of nothing and remain awake?
Is thinking of nothing the same as not thinking at all?
Is being conscious of something the same as thinking?

...Thinking is about something or other.”
~ Jeff Mason, Thinking of Nothing

Sometimes I wonder what it would be like to turn my brain off. To think about nothing.

The other day I was getting ready for work: taking a shower, doing my hair, putting on my make-up, getting dressed... All of a sudden 45min had gone by. I hadn't eaten yet, and I was on the verge of being late. I was lost in thought...

I can't even tell you what I was thinking about exactly. Except to say everything.

I tried to take a nap before going to work for an over-night shift. The moment I laid my head on the pillow and closed my eyes, my mind started racing. Song lyrics, to-do lists, e-mails, text messages, processing feelings, events... I was consumed and energized by thoughts of everything.

What would it be like to think about nothing?

To have quiet in my mind. Stillness in my heart. Calm in my soul. Just for five minutes. I'd even settle for 30 seconds sometimes. Thirty seconds of nothingness. I've tried meditating before; repeating one single phrase; counting my breaths. But even then, I'm thinking about that phrase. I'm thinking about my breath.

What would it be like to think about nothing?

I remember often asking a boyfriend years ago, “what are you thinking about?” and being annoyed when he answered with “Nothing.” You must be thinking about something, you can't just not be thinking about anything.

Now, I am some-what envious of this ability to think about nothing. How does one do that, I wonder? And realize that even while thinking about nothing, I am in fact thinking about something.

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

The First Treatment

“When someone has cancer, the whole family and everyone who loves them does too.”
~ Terri Clark

Mom had her first chemotherapy treatment last week. Afterwards, people wondered how it went. Did it go well, they asked?

All I could think was, how would one know that? And can a situation where there is poison dripping into your body for 3 hours really be described as going well?

It was a bit strange being in that room, as someone had warned me it may be. It struck me that cancer really does affect all walks of life: Men and Women; young and old; even the Conservative Mennonite couple in the corner. Most people had at least one friend or family member with them. Some were playing cards, others were reading or watching the personal TV available at each chair. The volunteers were wonderfully and annoyingly upbeat; welcome and welcoming to first-timers. One of the nurses said to me, as we were gathering our things to leave, that if we wanted perhaps next time someone could drop Mom off and pick her up again after. That there really wasn't much for us to do during the treatment. I was slightly offended by this. Why should anyone have to wait out their treatment time on their own? Sometimes it is reassuring to have someone just sit with you. To know you are not going through it alone.

Yet, I was most intrigued by a man who sat by himself. With a small grin ever-present on his face.

He had no book to read; no friend to chat to. The personal TV above his chair remained silent, pushed back facing the wall. He simply sat there, tubes attached to his arm, taking in the room around him. With a small, contented grin.

I found my attention returning to his face time and time again. I wondered, what was it about that place that inspired that contented grin. What was it about his situation that allowed that contented grin. And what was it about that grin that offered me a small morsel of peace, of hope, of contentedness. There, in that room full of poison. Full of cancer.

Every once in awhile it will hit me anew: my Mom has cancer.
And it takes my breath away.

I admire her strength in facing this, her hope and optimism in this fight.
For, as younger Brother highlighted, “I don't know what we can do... she just has to go through it”.
As do we all, really. One treatment at a time; one day at a time.

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

What if I'm just not lucky?

 “I'd rather be lucky than good”

During a conversation with a friend a few weeks ago about a sense of entitlement, luck, and getting what one deserves; I mentioned that I have often felt lucky. “How so?”, she asked. “Well,” I responded, like I have never really had difficulty getting a job. Typically if I actually get to the interview part of the process, I'm offered the job.” 

“What if it wasn't luck?” she pushed further. “What if you were just the best applicant?”

Her questioning made me pause. And consider in a new light this “am I enough” question I have so often struggled with. What if she was right? What if I wasn't lucky, but qualified?

I started considering this prospect in other areas where I've felt lucky:
What if I wasn't lucky to have met all the great people and friends I have over the years; but have an attractive personality and am a good friend myself?

What if I wasn't lucky to have usually found just enough money to scrape by at the end of the month; but resourceful in managing my money?

What if I wasn't lucky to have gotten into grad school; but smart?

What if I wasn't lucky to have travelled the world; but motivated to chase my dreams?

What if I wasn't lucky to have gotten to where I am today; but hardworking?

          What if I'm just not lucky... but deserving? 
                                                           What if I'm just not lucky... but good?

Last week I found out that I wasn't offered the job after the interview. And it was disappointing. Definitely not lucky. But in a feedback conversation with the interviewer, the message I received is that I was deserving, qualified, and would have been an asset. The decision in the end came down to experience. Which, while mine was less than the other candidate, does not take away from the other positives. And is something that can – and will – be fixed with personality, resourcefulness, smarts, motivation and hardwork. All things that have maybe benefited me in the past.

I used to really dislike it when an old friend of mine would say “I'd rather be lucky than good.”
But the truth is, there is a responsibility that comes with being good. A responsibility to own your successes, and failures, and to push yourself with those things you are good at.
Luck – well, luck doesn't really require much effort. So I guess I can understand wanting to be lucky rather than good; to put in little effort vs. taking responsibility.

I would venture to argue that in most instances, a little bit of luck is present and helpful. Still with the realization that maybe I'm just not lucky, I'll settle for being good!

Thursday, 2 January 2014

Be Breathless

New year, new moon, new normal. 

I spent New Year's Eve with some pretty amazing friends. All evening I had this excited energy in the pit of my stomach. It seemed to be saying that despite all the reasons I have to feel sad, angry and scared as this new year begins; this year perhaps more than any other needs to be fantastic. And it just might be! 

I didn't want to make this yet another New Year's blog full of reflections, resolutions and goals. Because as one friend said it on Facebook:
 “Here's some truth for you – the only thing that changes tomorrow is the last digit when you write the date. Life is neither short nor long; it's exactly what you make of it, so make fewer bucket lists and just do it...”

Truth is: the only reflection of last year that I want to remember is that I did try to live up to my mantra from when I started this blog, to Be Vulnerable – even in the uncomfortable places – and I did begin to live more wholeheartedly.

Truth is: there isn't really much I want to change for the coming year, though I know lots of things will in their own time and place.

What I do want is to continue to be vulnerable. And I want to step back in all those moments – the good ones and the not-so-good ones – where I am trying to live wholeheartedly and vulnerably, and to: 
Be Breathless 

So that is my mantra this year. I want to face, learn from, grow with, and enjoy every moment, every change, every challenge, every opportunity that life throws at me, and to
Be Breathless

I want to measure the next 525 600 moments of my life by being

I wish the same for you!