Horse Sense

I had the chance to spend about two years in the harness racing world many years ago. I was often overwhelmed with the degree of care and horse psychology that trainers and owners would share with me. For instance, on race day one owner allowed no one in the barn in the afternoon, set lights to dim and played classical music so all could rest up.

I was told by many that horses should never train alone, that at least one other should be on the track to help both learn to pass one another, get competitive and get left behind. The trick of this was to urge the horse to race past its partner, but equally to let the horse know that it can relax at times and let another pass. The thinking here was that a horse that always beats out its training mate would be so discouraged if passed in the race that it would give up. 

Races are won, I was told, when a horse could handle the jostling and passing and then when urged could reliably dig deep for the natural talent, energy, and speed it had, not worried about the others around them.

Isn’t that just like our days and weeks, there are always people and situations, lifting us up, sometimes knocking us down, trouble and triumph each in their measure. The trick is to know what we have for ability and energy, and run that race like we were on the track alone and rested up, every time, win or lose.

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The Hole Truth

I recently went to a great meeting a local church. In the bathroom I could not help but notice that both doors to the stalls had a square cut out of the bottom right corner. It just seemed odd as the doors were wooden with a trimmed edge and then this divot clearly cut out. The doors were painted and appeared in good repair, but they had this notch missing and perhaps I was a little distracted, but I could not help but wonder what would have happened to cause anyone to fire up a power tool and cut the corner of a wooden door in such a way.

Washing my hands, beginning to focus on something beyond my stall door musings, I looked across the room and realized that the doors swung in and the cut out prevented the doors from banging into the toilets. So, the toilets could have been replaced and were larger, or someone with access to a saw was annoyed by the collisions. The fix, it would seem, was a simple one, just carve a hunk out of a well-made trimmed wooden door in order to alleviate a troublesome situation. 

How often does this happen, that we hacksaw something of ourselves or our lives in order to make it fit better with something else? Maybe you used to travel a lot, but new demands of work or family have caused you to carve that out. Maybe you used to be completely confident about singing in public or doing magic tricks, and things have happened over time that cut a hole in that part of your repertoire. 

I think the thing about passing time is that no matter what we are changing, the circumstances we are in are changing and sometimes the old bumps up against the new. I feel like the church had some choices here, make the staff longer, change the direction of the doors or be more careful about the size of new toilets. I think that change is good and necessary and inevitable, I just also think that when tempted to rush to the skill saw to hack off yet another piece of yourself to fit a new situation, maybe pause. Is it you who must change or are you in fact trying to fit into the wrong stall? Or is the collision of new and old, or differing opinions and ideas exactly what is needed right now, and no holes are necessary until a new solution emerges. 

Chopping off bits to make things fit can sometimes work; however, awareness of the number of holes your making is critical to ensure that you are in fact still true to your core being and unique presence in this world.

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A Storied Vision

I have had one of those weeks during which I have talked to dozens of people as part of my work. I love holding just a little space to get to know more about a person. This week I talked to someone whose work links them with Buckingham Palace, to someone who is facing a health challenge, to an admin assistant who moved from being a dental hygienist, and a person recovering from an huge accident at work who knows that his smashed hard hat saved his life. 

Stories, stories, everyone has one, everyone can expect one, and life keeps offering up just enough change to make for a glorious web of adventures that interlace in a million ways with others. I have read that there are stores now that have a slow check out at which the cashier takes their time and has a good chat, that people who are lonely can choose that line and for a few moments feel heard and connected with someone else. 

I have been watching an old show that takes place in the late 90’s – not that long ago I would say, but it is striking the difference, very few people have cell phones, no one texts yet and computers are novel.  It is alarming the difference, people meet at the pub to catch up, the landlines in the characters home ring and get answered with no visible call display. This is not pre-historic living, it’s just a couple of decades ago. 

I have read a number of times that true listening means that you are prepared to have your mind changed in some way. True listening means that you are not crafting your answer back while the other person is speaking. There are conversations waiting to be had all around, which that change how we see something just a little. After this week, I will not see a hard hat exactly the same way again – let’s talk. 

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Ordinary Magic

I try to spend time being grateful and “looking up” – not always easy when life serves up the normal amount of challenge and busy-ness and nearing impossible when disaster strikes. All my companions would say that I am not that good at talking about sports and weather, but love talking about the best part of the day, a moment of magic or something fantastical. Every night at supper for years and years we go around the supper table asking what the best part of the day was, and most nights it’s all pretty routine – this delicious supper is my son’s go to response with some nights getting an add-on about an additional item.

So, all the people in my circles eventually have to come to know that I am far more likely to ask about what sparkled up your day than about the hockey score. Imagine my surprise when one of my grumpier friends responded to one my plying questions about today’s magic with, “Just the ordinary magic.” The ordinary magic, the moments that come and go sometimes without us noticing, the otherwise mundane tasks can become joyous, the little sparkles all there each day just waiting to be noticed. The ordinary magic of people entering, of a fabulous cup of coffee, a great meeting, a moment of joy, a laugh or two, and perhaps even a great hockey score. The ordinary magic, the great taste of a well formulated sandwich, a compliment, a feeling of a job well done, a good text from a friend, a joke shared.

I have been told often enough that there are many in my acquaintance who would really rather talk about the weather, luckily for us all the weather can often offer up its own magic. Ordinary magic, everyday wonders and when we are on the lookout, and once in a while, more often when we look, extraordinary magic happens along.

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A Moment’s Treasures

I have the privilege and challenge at times, of sharing my life with someone who suffered great loss when his first wife died after a battle with cancer. There is a great deal of wisdom, perspective and insight that my partner offers me about the day-to-day challenges and heartaches and hardships that knit together make up this thing we call life. My partner has this grand metre stick by which he measures what is truly a calamity, and he grounds me in that experience when I begin to horribilize or dwell in the realm of catastrophe.  

I had a setback this week when I learned that a close friend was just diagnosed with stage four cancer. He has just retired at the wonderful age of 58, I am sure planning for a long well-deserved, adventure-filled time. His hobby is running marathons, for fun I guess (I have never understood), and now he faces this diagnosis. 

I railed against the reality with full on temper tantrum moves and then my husband calmly reminded me that looking for life to be fair is just not a good use of my precious present. Things are not fair; life is not a series of checks and balances. All we have is right now.

To be honest, I was not really ready to hear my husband’s wisdom. I needed to talk to my friend and his wife, to have an episode of despair under a warm blanket and to partake in some sugary carbs. After all that, I could start to come around, this is how it is.  Good things happen and rotten things happen to all of us.  We change what we can, live with what we cannot and fight for what we want. 

What’s next? How do we collectively face this great unknown? Together, one day at a time, knowing nothing is guaranteed, taking nothing for granted and wringing every last bit of fantabulousnous out of each moment.

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New Year’s Revolution

I listened to the King’s Christmas speech, and I appreciated it very much, how he was more inclusive and how he talked about the light that overcomes the darkness. 

When I worked in Community Homes, we used blister packs for medication. I used to hate how at the end of the month the packs were all mangled and messy; how delightful it was to start a new month, crisp, even and smoothed out. Here we are at that same point in the calendar, about to turn the page on a wondrous year, with all of its messy bits, and start a bright new fresh one. 

In Anne of Green Gables, Anne remarks that each new day is a fresh start with no mistakes in it. Here is our new year, we have all the luggage of past years in the form of learnings and yearnings, joys and regrets. Choose carefully what you feel you need on the voyage, and jettison the rest. 

Hold fast to the times spent with people you love, shenanigans with friends, great meals, spontaneous bouts of laughter, magical moments. 

Endeavour to leave behind the regrets, fearful moments and sadness, shaving that stuff down to the lessons and memories made. 

You can walk into this fresh, smooth, unmangled year with no mistakes in it, and know that all those blisters of joy, sadness, triumph, and mischief await your dispensing – the sort of thing that the light is made of, that will in time overcome any dark. 

I wish you joy. 

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Treasure Hunt

I love auction sales and I have been partaking for my entire life in the thrill of the competition, the hunt for treasures and the banter of the crowd and auctioneer. A few years ago, I bought a wonderful pair of earrings for $45. They are so pretty, they drop down and have garnet-coloured stones and I have worn them a hundred times.

Recently one of the lever-back bits broke. So, I took the earring to the repair shop, and I was surprised when they said they would call with a quote before fixing the issue. A few days later the shop called and said that the charge for fixing my earring would be $134. Intuitively picking up on my complete shock at the cost, the repair person explained that what I had dropped off was an earring that was 18 carats rose gold; I explained that I really had no idea of that fact. The person went on to say that the set of earrings should be insured for $800. I needed a minute and said I would call back.

Quick conference with my husband and he urged me that if I truly loved the earrings, I should pay the amount to fix them. So, my favourite earrings are fixed. But now I know what they are worth, and I have not had the courage to wear them for fear of losing one. I have worn them all over the place, without a care, loving them as a $45 treat from a fun auction and nothing has actually changed about the earrings themselves except my opinion and knowledge.

I think its like that with a lot of things, we can go along with one idea of something or someone’s gifts and then we learn something that changes our view. And in fact, maybe we should challenge ourselves to learn something new about people all the time. I can say for certain, there are treasures all around us – first disguised as earrings that I am not sure I even took off before to go in the pool, that now I have trouble even contemplating wearing.

The jeweller wears the funkiest little magnifying glass on their glasses so they can see the fine details of the quality of gold. I think we should try the same in our everyday interactions, a little second look at the maker’s mark whenever possible.

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The Season’s Greetings

I had the pleasure of being part of the Santa Claus parade in Haliburton with our stupendous Community Living Trent Highlands float. The tiny Haliburton parade boasted a record number of floats at 47 and we were near the end. We had all practiced our very best “Merry Christmas” greetings and waves. 

Once on the route we knew that the large crowd had already been waving and watching for 50 minutes… would they even look up at us? Yes, they did, more than 50 people told me to have a good Christmas and I gave them my brightest smile and best wishes right back. Sure, one could argue that we were all just doing what was expected, but you could also think of it as the best we humans have to offer one another, perfect strangers on a cold dark November evening, excited by a community event and truly wishing one another the best of the holidays.

This not unlike the way at the end of the day we often tell one another to have a good night or have a great weekend. And yes, this is somewhat social conforming, but if examined I think each of us could agree that we do want each other to have a good night or a merry Christmas or a spectacular weekend.

When I blow a kiss to my two year old nephew he mashes the imaginary kiss into his cheek with his hand and rubs it in. We could do the same when we are wished well – take a moment, take it in and take another second to mash it in good. 

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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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