Reflecting on Reminiscence

From the desk of Teresa Jordan, Executive Director – Last week marked a milestone in my life that had me reflecting on who I was 25 years ago – where I thought I was headed, what and who was important to me, who I was busy with. 

I think the reason we mark the anniversaries of different occasions is perhaps for this sort of thing – looking at how far we have come, marking the passage of time and noticing that perhaps – in looking closely at photos – we have in fact aged. A quick little check in, to notice and appreciate how far we have come, or grown, or achieved or learned. 

Here’s the thing – I know what that 22 year old girl in the photographs was thinking, dreaming, wanting and worrying over. I know the plans that she had for her long life and I know where she thought her paths were leading. 

“Dear Young Teresa, almost nothing turned out the way you expected. In fact sometimes that path was lost, flooded, turned to loose gravel and shards of glass. At other times it was so surprisingly glorious you could not have dreamed it better. I know that you got mired in disaster and distress lots of times, but you made it through, you were made to do hard things and to find glittery happiness sometime. Love Less-Young, Teresa.”

I guess the thing about all this reflection this – I have realized for all my planning, unexpected things happened. For all of my sleepless nights of worry, unexpected things happened. For all of my times of great sadness, or joy, or excitement or stress, unexpected things happened. 

And while I know my nature is to think and plan and worry, if there is any take away from thinking about the anniversary of my first marriage, it is that there is much to be said for trying to stay in the present and be grateful for exactly where you are. 

Yes, I tend to think too much, perhaps worry and plan too much. This reflection has been a good exercise for me; it is a reminder that if I could sum up the last 25 years of my journey – with all its joy, sorrow, laughter, love and tom foolery – it would be that most of it was unexpected. Which is exactly as expected, really.

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Sole Searching

From the desk of Teresa Jordan, Executive Director – Many people know that when I recently went on a canoe trip it did not go as planned. Due to unforeseen circumstances, when we needed to get the canoe out of the water I did not have any shoes. 

This lack of footwear presented a challenge being that we were at the side of a bridge and there were hazards, like glass, in the ditch at which we were disembarking. We needed to get the canoe from parallel to shore to turned and headed up the bank. 

In my shoeless state, and the task of taking the top of the canoe up the bank, I almost immediately lost my footing. I found myself laying flat on my back on the bank, in the ditch. 

Laying there I realized that I still had a good hold on the canoe, and with the solid foundation of my position, I could easily turn and lift the craft up and over my sprawled body to where it needed to go. This technique was actually far easier that what I was trying to accomplish in my bare feet!

I have to reflect that something like this ‘canoe scenario’ is not unfamiliar to me. There have been times when I thought I could stay in a job I loved forever and something out of my control changed, or times when relationships that I wanted to be in for the rest of my life, ended. There has been grief, flopped projects, embarrassing misunderstandings and stories I was telling myself about a situation that proved entirely untrue. 

I have been sort of flattened in a proverbial ditch, kind of, a lot. Two things – in the ditch I am done falling, I have come to a stop, resting on the foundation of all that I know to be true, on my skills, my abilities, my family, my connections and what I know to be true about what I can do. I can rest on that solid ground and, since I am facing up, I can start to strategize and move – or move something – forward. 

And even though I am feeling a little battered, a little insignificant and wondering what kind of beer bottle shards are beneath me, if I think, regroup and force myself to actually take in the situation from my unexpected new vantage point, there is usually a new and sometimes better direction for me to go. 

The canoe often still needs to be hoisted, but just as in my ill-fated paddle of two weeks ago, I can usually get done what I need to get done, change my expectations and / or directions and get moving again.  Maybe that is just as it should be… if all things went completely to plan we would miss out on so much – unplanned joy, so many new directions, so many brand new skills. 

When the only direction is up and there is no possibility of actually living in the ditch, solutions, resilience and a new approach will be found. We will all get to where we are meant to go and will find new shoes along the way.

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Cold Comfort

From the desk of the Executive Director, Teresa Jordan – This past Sunday my son and I packed a lunch and headed off for a canoe paddle down a section of our Pigeon river. The day was wonderful, sunny and cool, and the water was like glass.

While we are not experts, we canoe often, and we quickly found our rhythm. Not sure really what happened, but we failed to communicate, we were perhaps both shifting, and the next thing I knew I was in the very cold water.

The Pigeon river has no real bottom and my jean clad legs were sinking deeper into the unknown. I was in the water, my shoes lost to a muddy grave, and I was cold. My drenched son was bailing with what seemed like a bucket from Barbie’s boat kit, it took a long time.

In those cold minutes in the river I had to focus on one thing: buried in 8 inches of mud, how was I going to get back into the canoe?

Thankfully, Spencer found a root in the riverbed that would hold us high enough to hike ourselves back into the canoe.

So, there we were, drenched, cold, covered in that weird black mud of the river, and back in the canoe with our soggy lunch.

And you know what we did next? We both burst our laughing; we laughed until we cried and promised each other not to tell anyone that we had overturned (editorial note … too late!).

Sometimes miscommunication and or misfortune dumps us into the cold. And while the mud and cold is easy to wallow in, the business at hand is finding a solution that you can stand on. Find the joy of successful problem solving even if it’s covered in mud.

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Beauty Basics

From the desk of Teresa Jordan, Executive Director – I was recently talking to someone about my drive to Haliburton this week. She responded to my comments about enjoying the drive with the lament of, ” Too bad the leaves were not at their peak.”  While I did not take issue at the time, and probably just said, “Yeah, they do get very beautiful,” I have since been mulling over her reply.

Leaves at their peak seem to last about four minutes. So, for a really short window some autumn analysts declare that a certain region is at its most beautiful. 

What does that even mean? That the maximum number of leaves have turned before the majority have fallen? That the largest amount of different hues is present at the same time? That enjoying the changing leaves is completely a waste of time at any other juncture? 

No, really, I do understand the quest to see leaves at their most beautiful, but what do we miss out on while we are waiting for that peak? It is just like people that say – “I love the idea of learning to ride a horse, so when work slows down, little Johnny graduates from med school and I lose 40 pounds, I am definitely going to learn to ride, it will be tremendous. “

I just drove to Haliburton and yes, we are not even close to that colourful   autumn bounty, but there are leaves changing, there is a touch of colour and the crisp morning air created a kind of mist that accentuated the greens to be wondrous in their own hues. There was beauty all around and I just had to notice.   

I love the fact that most experts agree that perfectionism is a form of procrastination – this is largely because things like my slapdash approach to painting makes perfectly-oriented people cringe and because I know that waiting for the stars to line up takes a really long time. 

Yes, there is such a thing as a peak for most things, but there are plenty of almost-peaks, sort-of-starting-to-be-gorgeous, leaves-half-gone and still-lovely moments all over the place – a huge pile of moments for taking in the leaves exactly how they are, learning to ride and loving it exactly where you are, and just starting to paint like crazy while others perhaps rush to put up a drop sheet and take some pictures down. 

Trees make a fabulous back drop to any road trip any time of year; all we have to do is notice and let our presence and appreciation stay steadfastly at its peak!

Happy autumn!

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Trust Worthy

From the desk of Teresa Jordan, Executive Director – This past weekend I went for a boat ride down the Scugog river. In case you are picturing cedar planking and white pants, our boat is a 14-foot aluminum vessel, seaworthy and really all we need.

I was struck by the boat launch process. You must back almost into the lake and completely submerge the trailer – both of which seems a little daunting. Then when you are just about to panic, the boat floats off the trailer, you untether it and the vehicle and trailer safely pull on to dry land.

There are all kinds of things in which you must trust – that the boat launch is well conditioned, that the water you are backing into is not full of spikes and nails, that once where you need to be the boat will actually float.

Such is the way that life often seems – we have to back into murky unknowns, have faith in the work of others and be ready to untether in order to really float. On the other side of all those tricky and scary manoeuvres a grand new adventure awaits.

What are we in charge of in this new adventure is the seaworthiness of our boat – making sure that all is ready to embark and when in the right position there will be lift off.

Additionally, in boating and in life, we need to have a good strong hold when the floating starts so that we do not lose hold of the next big excursion.

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Mything the Point

beach woman sunrise silhouetteFrom the desk of Teresa Jordan, Executive Director – There is a piece of advice that I try to pass on to my daughter, my sisters and, well, anyone who will listen really. It is forget all of this time we spend thinking that we need to look different, be slimmer, have nicer clothes, better hair, less gray hair and on and on. We are imagining that the people we meet, spend time with, pass in the street and see from a distance are all sizing things up in the same way we do. 

I will profess, I am not an expert at applying this advice and can easily fall into a pattern of thinking that I am not quite enough, but I have really tried to take to heart my own counsel. And it is this – all of those people who we imagine are deciding whether we are cool or beautiful or enough, are not even paying that much attention to us. And do you know why? Because they are embroiled in the exact same thoughts about how they measure up and are being judged. 

Truly, with I suppose the exception of a very limited few, nobody is actually so interested in me that they notice all those things that I worry are completely holding me back from being “enough.” So I tell my daughter to walk confidently, focus on how she wants to feel and do what makes here feel beautiful.

There is a multi-billion dollar industry working against me here, but I am up to the challenge. So much of what we see is actually manufactured to tell us we are not enough and if we only drank the right beer, had the right hair, saw the right number on the scale we could really be cool.  

I recently heard of 21 year old girl that has regular Botox injections, I see the people I love making themselves small in full rooms, and I see way too many cover-ups at the beach.

So here is what I think – you are beautiful, you are enough, you make every room cooler by being in it – so never shrink, hide or decide that you are not measuring up because everyone you think has the measuring stick in their power is hiding beneath a swimming cover up too… and really we should all just be enjoying the beach, all the time.

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Enjoy the Ride

black and white roller coaster

From the desk of Teresa Jordan, Executive Director – One of our past board presidents   said, “Life is what happens to you when you’re busy making other plans,” so often that I had no idea that it was not her original quote. I accepted this wisdom from Shirley as part of her much-appreciated knowledge, coaching and if am honest, wild-ride kind of life experience.

What Shirley was trying to teach me was that I could mill around in my own mind and create all of the plans, dreams, goals and contingencies that I wanted, but in the end –
stuff happens. So here we are in 2020, the year of epic stuff happening that we were not expecting, and I am reviewing my plans.

I am reflecting on goals that I made last September for the year. I did not include any suggestion that PPEs, infection control, isolation, quarantine, or any other pandemic related action would eclipse all.

This pandemic happened despite my clever, spiral-bound operational plan. And while this virus a huge lifetime event, a lot of things have derailed my otherwise super sweet plans as I have journeyed through life. Some were better, some sadder, some joyfully
unexpected and others just all together different for which I did not plan.

So, I guess what we have to remember is that while we are good planners with our magical brains able to think abstractly about everything that might happen there will always be the unexpected – the mudslides, the worldwide pandemics, the uncharted or mapped experiences.

All of this adds up to Shirley’s kind of “wild ride” memories – the stuff of this radiant and spectacularly surprising life.

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Destination Discourse

austrian-national-library-mQiHukQGPx4-unsplashFrom the desk of Teresa Jordan, Executive Director – I participated in track and field all through high school, and as you can probably guess this was not in the long distance running events. I participated in the throwing events: javelin, discus and shot put.

What I remember most in my training and practice was that no matter the steps that I took in the lead up, when I was ready to throw I needed my feet to be pointed in the direction I meant the object to go. So, if I was spinning with the discus, when I stopped to throw I could not be in a half turn or facing the crowds; I had to have my feet pointed to the open field.

In the same way, I was coached to look not at the javelin or my feet, but instead where I imagined the landing. I was trained to look well into the distance and visualize the end result being exactly where I wanted it.

I have been doing some reflecting about goals and dreams lately when suddenly I remembered this training.  Yes, pandemic and other pressures sort of have me spinning around, but I need to point my feet in the direction that I want to go and look well beyond the circumstances of today and its challenges.  This seems a lot, as the present is very demanding… but what I am trying to keep in focus is where I want things to land in the future.

And that landing for me is not in the crowd, or on the wrong side of the chalk lines or backwards toward the other competitors.  I am trying to set goals both big and small that, when I look to their landing, are lofty, triumphant and exactly right for me. It is difficult to think beyond this challenging present, but I can’t think of a better time to ensure that amid all the noise your feet are planted and heading in the directions of your personal dreams and goals.

Here is the thing – I wasn’t that good. Nobody was ever seriously hurt, but those javelins ended up all over the place.  And I suppose the same could be said for plenty of my goals but that, I think, is just how life is. We all just need to continue seeing into the distance and know where we want the shot put to plunk itself down. And when it doesn’t plunk itself down quite where we wanted, we just try again, keep looking into the distance or in fact change our event all together.

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A Roll of the Dice

person about to catch four dices

From the desk of Teresa Jordan, Executive Director – In second year university I shared a three-bedroom apartment with two roommates. While we did not know each other that well before moving in together and all took different courses of study, we had one major shared interest – Yahtzee! And yes, I am talking about the fast-paced dice game that requires math, luck, and a little strategy. We played it by the hour.

There are things to be learned when you play a game of mostly chance – such as that it’s often a matter of probability, strategy and a keen sense of competitive hunger for the win. Since that time, the problem has been two-fold – firstly, finding anyone who really loves Yahtzee and secondly, finding someone who plays at the same level. There is still fun in playing with people who do not know to load up the top part for the bonus or waste turn after turn trying to create a straight.

The real magic happens when we have a shared interest and level of skill at the game. And I guess that is the way it is with so much – we need to connect, and keep connecting, with people with whom we share an interest with – people who can challenge us to try new things, think from different angles, feel a little overwhelmed and not get complacent in being sure of our next roll.

Getting all the dice to match in Yahtzee is 50 points. However, if you spend too many turns trying for a Yahtzee you waste the chances for so many other ways to get big points. We need to keep an eye for all opportunities.

And what is the main goal here anyway? It is about fun, leisure, connecting with others and, of course, bragging rights for a few minutes until everyone moves on to the next adventure. Roll on.

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Condiment Conviction

condiments in restaurantPhoto by Brett Sayles on Pexels.com

From the desk of Teresa Jordan, Executive Director – I read a book while on vacation because I loved its title – Get Out of Your Own Way. In the book author Dave Hollis talks about the scenarios that we often face in work and in life when we have to deal with people who are vastly different from us.

Hollis uses a great analogy about ketchup. Some people keep ketchup in the cupboard, he began. I have to admit that this was a new fact to me as I was raised in a household that kept ketchup in the fridge and I have never, ever questioned this in my adult household.  I just keep it in the fridge.

Hollis pointed out that if everyone on your team is the same there will be gaps and blind spots in whatever project or plan that team is tackling. And of course his playful illustration was that if the entire team is made up of “ketchup in the fridge” people, there will be no ketchup at all if the group is working in a place where the ketchup is in the cupboard. Ketchup will be available, perhaps even in abundance, as with me, not a single person on the team would consider looking in the cupboard and would therefore miss out on the tomato-y goodness.

This analogy is a great reminder about difference, and how we are perhaps drawn to the like-minded … but in order to stretch, reach further, develop a great plan or just be better today than we were yesterday, we need to lean in to other perspectives.

So, yes, there will always be people who agree with us, get our sense of humour,  work so seamlessly with us that it is like magic – and we gravitate to them when there is heavy lifting to do. This story is just a reminder that there are untold condiments of improvement if we look around and think about what perspective or personality or experience is missing and hunt for it to ensure we have the full picture.

There are different questions that can only be asked if there are different lived experiences and points of view.  There are different angles and ideas that, if we hold space for them, will make our projects and plans better. And, as in the case of the room temperature ketchup, we will come to understand that world around us better and be better able to relate.

Don’t get me wrong, it is way more comfortable to go with the people who quickly understand my way of thinking, always laugh at my jokes, like the same things and keep their ketchup cold… but we need to keep urging ourselves to seek out the different ideas and the folks who can rub us the wrong way.

The grilled cheese sandwich is a wonderful culinary delight, but it is even better when you consider that some outside thinker decided that ketchup would make it even better, whether cold or at room temperature.

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