What You Look For, You will See

Drew Dudley would say that impact is a commitment to making moments for which people feel they are better off having been with you. And he would challenge each one of us to think about, each day, what we have done to recognize someone else’s spark and to create impact. Every day. 

I love this, I love typing the words. But let’s break it down; the challenge here is the everyday. My energy seems to be at an all-time low right now, I am having trouble staying healthy, and the challenges that I usually love are feeling heavy. What I know for sure though is that what I look for I will find. So, if I set up a tent in the “I am overwhelmed, too busy and exhausted” campground, I will surely have my thoughts reinforced with every question, deadline and initiative. I know that when you are tired you have choices: Ask for help, break it down into chunks, rest when you can and check on what you are looking for. 

If I say to myself that I am surrounded by great people who will see me through this rough patch, I will see them everywhere because they are everywhere. I will see what I am looking for, so the trick here is to look for the good, the creative, the impact and the help. I will be lent strength, just as I can lend strength, and will get through. 

Everyday seems like a tall order, but everyday is how we live our lives; there are none who are so inconsequential that it would be OK to just grumble it away. Moments, there are a lot, and any one can change the entire campground.

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Wrung Out?

I noticed on my way to Port Perry that a sign outside a local business simply said, “ladder broken.” It took me far too long to realize that this was in reference to the sign itself and that it did not have any witty messages or blue light specials listed. However, let us break it down – they would have needed a ladder to put the ladder sign up, so really, they’re just taking a break from updating their sign.

Made me think of a lot of conversations that I have been having lately as we all face this battalion of viruses and the world opening up after the slowed down pandemic years. A lot of people are needing a rest, unplug, recharge, just take some time away. There are plenty of broken ladder reasons being offered to justify the idea of going slowly or stopping for a while.

I recently went to a training event at which another participant challenged me that no leadership value could be realized if life balance was not part of the equation. Wellness, rest, pause, reflection, recharging and just taking a break then are equally important as planning, learning, evaluating, jumping into important tasks and making good things happen.

Use the ladder to put up the message – taking a break, be back in moment, can’t come up with a witty sign or special on animal feed – and know that you will be back after the pause, ready to take on the next challenge. And when the ladder is truly broken, lean on the tools that others have around you to help you get the work done, find inspiration and make good things happen again.

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Make Magic

I had a chat this week with someone during which I admitted that I choose to live my life believing in magic. Now, I was not riding a unicorn, conjuring gold bars or flying at the time that I said this, but I was talking about the little coincidences, the magical moments of beauty when you take the time to notice, the cool things you can see when you are really looking. 

I had the privilege recently to help with a project honouring veterans in my community. I loved seeing the photos, hearing the stories and honouring these brave men and women with banners. For a long time, I would have said that my own family does not have a deep military history, as I was unaware of any veterans. However, careful research based on some old photos of men in uniform has led met to discover far-flung relations who served. 

One of these relations was a cousin of my grandfather who served in WW2. He served in the RCAF on a bomber that was shot down. I have a photo of Norman and my grandfather together in 1945 – Norman in his RCAF uniform – two years before he was killed in action. What I am proud of is that Norman was an only child and now there is a banner that ensures his life, sacrifice and service is remembered.  In further research, I found that Norman’s birthday is the same as my dad’s, June 23 – cool coincidence and magic.

Setting up for the banner ceremony, I made about 12 trips to get all the items that were needed from my car and trailer, it was only me and my son to-ing and fro-ing in this way.  As I was thinking about the veterans that we were remembering, and Norman on the last trip, I happened upon a dime on the step going into the hall that I had not seen before. And I know that it could be explained away in a dozen logical ways, but for that moment, I just chose to think that there was magic in the message. You so often find what you are looking for, so look for magic, look for good, look for opportunity, gratitude and ways to express yourself. Make magic. 

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I had a piece of pie at a café last Sunday, and while enjoying it I recognized someone with whom I have had dozens of email and phone conversations. I caught his eye and smiled, and he looked away not acknowledging me. And strangely, for a few moments, I was actually trying to think of in what way I have caused ill will between us. Had I not returned an email promptly? Had I been short? Did I say something wrong?

Funny how we all do this sort of thing from time to time. We make grand documentaries in our heads of how we have not measured up, with a play-by-play of all the possible mistakes we have made rolling along in Morgan Freeman commentary-like style. I often read that most of such self-talk and musing in our minds is bunk. We worry, we rationalize, we internalize and the solution or the real present situation is sort of left dangling while we fuss some more.

As we were leaving the cafe, I spoke up and said who I was. Here is the thing – in all my docu-drama speculations I had forgotten that we have only met in person once before and that was over 6 years ago. He simply did not recognize me and was so glad that I approached him.

I guess we all need to remember to stop the train when it starts to run away and actually say to ourselves, what is really true here? And then once what’s true is established, we need to act accordingly in a way that makes a difference, tell Morgan to clam up, we have work to do to make things better right now.

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Puppy Matters

I recently had my niece and nephew over for the weekend as my brother and his wife were going away. Because no one would be at their home I also had their two beagle puppies in tow.

I loved having the children, an excuse to play games, do crafts and watch kids’ movies. However, the dogs were a handful for my normally adult home. Although their training was going well where they lived the excitement of my home, the grumpiness of my older dog and the new smells seemed to have an affect on their ability to “hold it.” Soon every mat in our home had a wet spot, and we were getting frustrated. 

Later in the weekend my daughter complained to me about the situation and said, “All the mats in this house have pee puddles.”  And my niece, who overheard responded with, “Why do you have so many mats?” 

I love it. The problem as my little niece heard it wasn’t overactive puppy bladders but the fact that we have too many mats. Fewer mats would be wet if we had fewer mats. This is sound logic, really. 

I think we all do this sometimes; we know we have a problem or that something isn’t working, and we leap to what we can see, or what we interpret through our view or the first thing that presents itself. It takes a degree of patience, of asking more questions, of looking at all the angles and we might still get the first solution wrong. Am I open to the idea that, unrelated to the puppy situation, maybe I do have too many mats? A lot of tools are available to make sure we are asking great questions, and looking more deeply, and at the end of all that the messes of our entire problem will hopefully be lessened.

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The Next Move

Chess, the age-old game.  This past weekend I played with some of my nephews and they had a keen interest in learning the game.

Chess is a difficult game of strategy. Players need to always anticipate the moves that can be made well after the one at hand.  With my young nephews, it was a constant match of trying to put me in check – that became their singular focus. So, while each one took their turn to go against my limited skill, I was able to remove their pieces one by one with great efficiency because of the preoccupation each had with placing me in check, from which I easily removed myself each time. 

Sometimes I worry that this is a little like our days and weeks; we can get focused on one issue, problem, or challenge and all of our work and worry becomes laser-focused on that. While we double down, all kinds of opportunities, joys, possible solutions and new challenges could be getting plucked off the board like a ruthless aunt creaming us at chess.  

Chess is about the immediate move and the possible next three or four. Our day to day is about the present, mindful of all that is around us now, with an eye to all that is possible once we make our next move.

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Falling for Autumn

There is such magic in the changing of the season to fall as so many different colours present themselves all around us. The trees wow us with all of their beautiful hues, frost-kissed plants turn yellow and even the remaining green conifers pop against the changing colours. I think that might be what I like most about autumn, that not all trees change.

Women’s magazines often talk about outfits that you can wear to work and then with a just a small change, go directly to an evening party – add a scarf and a different jacket, change the shoes. It’s amazing for all the fashions I have seen presented this way, how little this comes up for me. I leave work and go home.  

The deciduous trees are glamming up for a fall night club and the coniferous trees are just holding strong in their work clothes. The mix makes for a glorious fall display. Which I would say sums it up for all of us in the fall, some love the cooler weather, the pumpkin spice, the frosty mornings, definitely embracing the quick change to a night on the town. Others are wearing flip-flops and shorts as long as they can, having great difficulty with the earlier darkness and sort of marching into the season with no wardrobe change. And I guess I cannot leave out the last group and that is the group that cares not what the fashion of the season or day is, they are fully focused on Halloween decorating. All together, the mix is Vogue worthy.  

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What Can You Reach?

I decided to paint my pantry. Now, painting a pantry sounds easy, but because my house does not have a basement, this 5×10 room I call the pantry also houses the furnace, washer, dryer and air exchange. So, the painting of this room really requires a higher degree of yoga flexibility than it does painting skills.

On the second evening, I was trying to paint around the furnace and various pipes, vents, and hoses. I could not seem to get a stool that would get me high enough that would fit in the confined space close enough. A discouragement melt down ensued during which I wished I had never started. My husband, listened to my whinge and then said,“For tonight just do what you can reach.”

I went back into the cramped corner and just painted what I could reach. No longer trying to strategize and plan, I just painted with the only goal of doing what I could reach; I’d solve the unreachable another night. I just focused on the areas I could reach and, in fact, after all those little efforts I had painted the entire wall and ceiling around the furnace! I did not even realize that I was painting with success, I simply kept reaching into the paint can and painting the small patch in front of me that I could see needed paint.

Lots of times I have had a discouragement meltdown – I think we can all feel that emotion, when the issue seems too big, the solution too far away, the task too mighty. Then with little steps, small wins, days broken down into hours – or even minutes – the goal gets closer, the solution arises, the work gets done. Just paint the small patches, the wall takes care of itself.

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Enlightened under the Twinkle Lights

This past Friday we had our five year anniversary party in person and it involved the three major components of a great gathering: food, friends and dancing. 

The entire night had so many highlights and moments that made lots of people smile. I am especially grateful for a time when I was in the corner of the room and I was reminded by the person next to me to just take it all in. Just be in this moment – right here in the twinkle lights, loud music, laughter, dancing and chatting – and just be present. Like a few seconds to take a mental photograph that I could hold on to for the busy weeks ahead of a time where I was in a room filled to the rafters with joy. 

Things are getting busy and in some ways back to the kind of jam-packed weeks that were had before the pandemic. There are long to do lists, probably some unwashed laundry, some cluttered corners waiting to be straightened out. 

My daughter is a great teacher for me as she is so in tune with her own anxiety.  She told me this week that if she begins to worry when she goes to bed she simply takes a deep breath and says – that is tomorrow Emily’s problem.  So much can be said about staying present and realizing that all we can ever control is our own reactions.  Take a photograph of where you are right now and what is full of joy to remember, and take your worries and delegate them to your tomorrow self.  And whenever you can, find an event with the three joy making components of food, friends and dancing.

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A Storied Story

I had to call a complete stranger and my opener went like this: “Hi, my name is Teresa and I got your name and number from a friend about playing bagpipes, does that make sense?” And the complete stranger without missing a beat, responds “Which part, that I play the bagpipes or that you have friends?” And yes, it worked out that he could play bagpipes at the event that I am helping to plan, but more importantly, he took a chance that I would get his kind of humour – and he totally won the bet because I have been cracking myself up all week and telling the tale to anyone who will listen.

When the kids were small – which they are not anymore, having just experienced my final back to school first day with year-four university for my youngest – we had a favourite book. It was about reworking a favourite piece of clothing each time it wore out into something smaller, until finally it was lost but reworked into a story.  I love a good story, I love hearing about things that have happened to others, that make me laugh, cry, even tick me off sometimes. But at all times, I’m happy to be a part of other people’s experiences and able to learn.  Shared human experience, a moment of conspiracy in this thing called life that we are all trying to navigate in our own way is precious.  It makes me take everything just a little less seriously. 

Have I told you about the time I called a bag piper? Stop me if I have already told you that story, or not. because it’s a great one. A great story is something from nothing that lasts.

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