Category Archives: Lifestyle

Failure to communicate: A lesson for our galaxy from Sesame Street Martians

As a child I giggled out loud every time the Sesame Street Martians encountered another Earth object and tried without success to understand it or communicate with it. The ringing phone? Still cracks me up all these decades later.

But these days, when I despair about the harmful actions people are taking in the name of hate-driven agendas, I think those Sesame Street aliens illustrate part of the problem. Groups of people from the same galaxy but different neighbourhoods can’t figure each other out. Research in books leads to wrong or incomplete conclusions. Even if two groups stumble across a common word or phrase, the true meaning of what that sound communicates is misunderstood.

Sometimes the misunderstanding and miscommunication leads to a distrust so profound that people murder each other because of it, without remorse and sometimes with glee. 

Sesame Street doesn’t provide the solution, and guaranteed there is no fast and simple one. But if the Martians spent a little more time on the ground with the Earth objects, instead of just descending now and then in their spaceship, they would figure out what a cow, a cat and a chicken really look like.

Perhaps the modern transportation and communications system of our big galaxy will allow people from different neighbourhoods more time to just be together. Then, perhaps, in time, understanding will grow and everyone will learn that a ringing telephone needs to be answered.

Take time for time

Exactly three years ago, on July 12, 2013, I posted a piece called “No time for time.” Perhaps mid-July fosters impatience in me, because lately incomplete projects irritate me. I have no time for time! I repeat the silent mantra, “I want it done now!” 

The long-term writing project I’ve been working on? I want it done now!

My overdue house cleaning and decluttering? I want it done now!

Incomplete renovation work? I want it done now!

Any change in plans, setbacks or unexpected obstacles set my teeth on edge. On Saturday, for example, I drove home from my work at a local library with the firm intention of spending the afternoon performing a white wizard cleaning job on my house. I arrived there to discover we had no power; the passing winds of a thunderstorm had knocked a huge tree onto power lines nearby. I didn’t realize how dark our house is during the daylight hours of a stormy day. I could not see well enough to do an effective cleaning job. The cleaning had to wait. Grrr . . . I had no time for time. I wanted the cleaning done now!

I grumped and muttered and stomped around for the afternoon (my family dutifully staying well away from me) while I worked at allowing time for time and accepting what “was” in place of what I thought “should be.”

My thoughts turned to “coconut time” and the piece I had written about it before. Here it is again, in case you have any projects in the works that need time to ripen.

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No time for time

When my son was 10 years old, his first zit appeared on his chin. Offended by the mar to his perfection, he pointed at it with a jabbing finger. “What is that?” he demanded.

“Well, now, I’d say that’s a zit.”

“How do you get rid of them?”

“Time,” I told him.

“Time!” He was alarmed. “I don’t have time for time.”

We live in a hurry-up, I-want-it-now world. We want to control what happens when, and manipulate the world to our convenience. We have no time for time—except when we have no choice.

Polynesian countries know the wisdom of “coconut time.” We can’t rush a coconut to ripen; it happens in “coconut time.” What’s more, we don’t need to pick coconuts; they fall when the time is right.

We can’t grow old before our time. We can’t rush a coconut to ripen. And zits, they just take some time.

time

This Sane Idea: Cocked guns

“This Sane Idea”
by Hafiz, The Great Sufi Master, as translated by Daniel Ladinsky

Let your
Intelligence begin to rule
Whenever you sit with others

Using this sane idea:

Leave all your cocked guns in the field
Far from us,

One of those damn things
Might go

Off.

A weeping yogi

       A weeping yogi

“The yogi weeps because the world is profoundly sad, they say, and someone has to always be weeping for its sorrows, so that you can be joyful. Hand-carved in Bali, these yogis take your pain so that you can enjoy life. Known for their gentle, joyful spirit, the Balinese believe that sharing your sorrows lessens the load and sharing your joys helps you grow: so share your sadness with the yogi and share your joys with those you love. Holding his head in his hands, the yogi seems to be saying, ‘If it’s too much for you, please share it with me. It’s why I’m here. It’s what I do.’ Some feel that the yogi has either just moved into his pose of sadness and sorrow, or is about to stand up in happiness and joy.” 

Accepting our children as is: The true task of motherhood

A memory from the years when my children were in their early teens: I went grocery shopping one morning, without my children, of course. We all know that teenagers would rather insert burning hot needles into their corneas than be caught in public with a parent.

I stopped by the breakfast cereal and debated whether to stick to high fibre, healthy stuff or submit to my son’s plea for Reese’s Puffs. As I stood contemplating these options, a young mother with a baby about ten months old in her cart turned the corner. I watched her approach. She wasn’t looking around at anything in the aisle. (No Reese’s Puffs for her!) Instead she bent forward over her baby and crooned to her with unadulterated, innocent, devoted mother love. I could tell that, in her eyes, her child was perfection itself, incapable of any wrongdoing.

I thought “She has yet to learn that her child is a human being.”

Well, actually, if I were a perfect person, I would have thought that, but I’m a complex, independent, imperfect human being, so what I actually thought was, “She still hasn’t learned that her child can be a little rotter.” 

Don’t get me wrong. My children are fabulous, and they make me proud every day. But they’re human, so they are complex, independent and imperfect. They are learning, and they do that by making mistakes.

I still remember the exact moment I learned that my daughter wasn’t perfect, that she wasn’t going to instinctively sense all I wanted her to be and fulfill those expectations. She was three, and her baby brother had just learned to crawl. She didn’t bother much about him before he could move under his own steam, but the minute he crawled across our family room floor and picked up one of her toys, well now, that was a different story She sensed the threat to her domain. My daughter jumped up and began hiding toys out of the reach of her brother.

I watched, aghast. My perfect child was not perfect! She wasn’t instinctively and selflessly going to share everything? What? 

My son also had issues with sharing, but his revolved around food. My daughter wasn’t big on sharing toys, but she did share food willingly and joyfully. With a big smile on her face, she offered up french fries or spoonfuls of ice cream without being asked. But my son? No, no, you never could take food away from him. If he sensed an invader, he wrapped his arm around his plate to protect it and shoveled food in before anyone else might get to it.

That day in the cereal aisle the jaded mother of teenagers who had witnessed her children succeed and fail in different ways wondered what that mother’s moment of revelation would be. What would that beautiful, perfect, imperfect baby girl do someday that would open her mother’s eyes to complexities and to the human capacity for meanness or selfishness? What would happen to make that woman realize how different her child was from herself?

Because that’s what the real challenge of motherhood is: Opening our eyes to the complexities and imperfections of our children and accepting them and loving them exactly as is.

Beautiful, perfect imperfect children

My beautiful, perfect imperfect children, before I became the jaded mother of teenagers.

Facing fear: Cost or benefit?

Last week I wrote about a meeting with a group of people who have to make a difficult decision. The facilitator asked everyone to consider the costs and benefits of saying “YES” and the costs and benefits of saying “NO.”

The group considered financial repercussions, the effect on personal relationships and the overall societal implications—the usual stuff. When listing the benefits of saying “NO” one group spoke up with: “If we say no, we won’t have to face our fears.”

People nodded. True. So true. The status quo—the comfort zone—is very appealing. The people in the room agreed that saying “NO” would, in many ways, make life a little easier.

But it only took a second or two before there was a reflective pause and a murmur. “Wait a minute,” the murmur said. “Not facing fears would also be a cost.”

We realized that not facing fears is an ingredient in recipes for stagnation, disappointment, dissatisfaction, guilt, depression, anger and lots of other unpleasant aspects of life.

It’s not the easy choice. It’s not the comfortable choice. But sometimes it’s a whole lot of fun, and it’s better than getting stuck between the cracks of life.

Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson, April 16, 1991

Up close and personal with the other side of the story

Yesterday I took part in a meeting with a group of people who have to make a difficult decision. It is the kind of decision that touches people in a deep place, so we know that no matter what the result will create some uneasiness.

The facilitator for the group asked us to consider this: If we say “YES,” what are the benefits of that decision? If we say “YES,” what are the costs of that decision?

I have an opinion on the matter, so I knew that listing the benefits would be a breeze. Easy-peasy. No problem. But I thought I would struggle with pointing out the costs. I was wrong. I was surprised by how readily I was able to come up with both costs and benefits.

We were also asked to look at the situation from the “NO” side. If we say “NO,” what are the benefits of that decision? If we say “NO,” what are the costs of that decision?

the-two-oneAgain, both costs and benefits came easily to mind. I didn’t have to dig around in the recesses of my mind to find them. I didn’t have to struggle with them or make something up. Both sides of the issue were ready for plucking off the surface of my brain once I chose to look for them.

I was surprised by how up close and personal my relationship with the other side of the issue was. 

I realized that I had already, subconsciously or unconsciously, weighed the costs and benefits. I had arrived at an opinion having considered the costs but seeing the benefits as more important, on balance.

It made me wonder, how many people hold strong opinions on a matter without any awareness of how up close and personal they are, or have been, with the other side of the issue?