A few days ago, as I motored back from the grocery story with yet more packing boxes, I passed an old station wagon in the local mall’s parking lot. There were pillows, blankets, and clothing schmooshed up against every side window. And the front window was impressively ice encrusted.
I am not a wealthy woman. And I have not lived a particularly charmed or lucky life. I am just a little bit fortunate that my husband and I were careful with our money, despite a lot of economic ups and downs over the years, and that we managed to save enough to be able to afford a roof over our heads as we head into our senior years.
But it was clear to me that the people who were in that station wagon, for whatever reason, were not so fortunate.
I’m a mere 10 days out from a pretty epic change of circumstances myself, but I know that my move, although chaotic, likely done in snow and cold, to a background of fulsome curses, and with a future that will probably be filled with many surprises at the onset, is of our own choosing, and that the road we travel leads to a warm home with a roof (that needs repairs) to shield us from the cold and snow.
The snow and biting cold this morning was a nasty surprise. For days I’ve been warning my husband that we needed to get the last of the outdoor furniture, gardening supplies, and the like, under cover and out of the weather. I’ve had a persistent vision of the cursing that will ensure as we try to dig chairs and wheelbarrows out from under a foot of snow and ice, to pile them, dripping with icicles, into the moving truck.
But even yesterday it was warm enough for me to be tossing around boxes in the shed without so much as a jacket. That’s not the case today, when January’s reality has arrived. The birds and squirrels were thick on the porch at feeding time, desperate for the seeds and nuts I provide. That food keeps them alive. I worry about what they’ll do when I leave, and their food source is gone. I’ll leave some provender behind for the next tenant to dole out, but I won’t be here to ensure it’s done on a consistent and timely basis. And that haunts me.
Our little cat also worries me. She has not been herself since she lost Farley, her lifelong companion, in November. She’s old, blind, and seems terribly depressed. Her habits have completely changed. She now wakes, screaming, from a troubled sleep every two or three hours, demanding food, and then has to be soothed back to another short period of rest before she wakes again, howling as she is reminded of her loss. This schedule is not particularly conducive to anyone – either human or animal – getting a good night’s sleep.
Ten days out from the move, I’m in that terrifying position of still needing to pack but a) having little space to put the packed boxes, and b) being pretty much down to the things that I thought I’d need in the last days here.
Of course, I grossly overestimated how much I’d need to keep on hand. I’ve got a king’s ransom of cleaning supplies. I’ve kept enough beauty supplies and clothing on hand to supply a cast of a Cecil B DeMille spectacle. I still have far too much food and drink on hand, though every day I make a dent in what’s been living in the freezer for the last many months.
I’m now at the Sophie’s Choice part of packing – what’s left must be packed, but must be chosen carefully. Essentials misplaced, if mispacked, will cause problems. When we sold our house in Scarborough, all of my shoes disappeared, and I spent six months wearing scuffed orange garden clogs. That’s a fate I wouldn’t wish on anyone, but most especially not someone from Montreal. The horror!
How do you decide what can be safely stowed, and what must be clasped tightly until safely deposited at the other end of the move? I mean, besides the cat … of course the cat will be safely secured, along with her own collection of necessities. I am not at all looking forward to THAT part of the journey;
Today’s the second day of the new year. I’m doing a lot of sorting, a modicum of packing, and an infinite amount of worrying. Hoping all this rehearsing will mean that it’ll be ‘alright on the night,” as they say in the theatre.
Have you ever bought a car, and suddenly noticed that nearly every car you see is the same colour and style? Or, if you are pregnant, have you been surprised to see that it seems that everybody else is pregnant as well?
This is known as the frequency illusion, or the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon. It’s something that happens thru two separate psychological processes –selective attention and confirmation bias – coming together, that makes us believe that there is more going on around us than what meets the eye.
You’ve probably noticed something similar during the last two years, as we’ve dealt with COVID. Our ‘selective attention’ can force us to overlook a lot of other news that might normally catch our eye, since most of us are hyper-focused on anything new or important to do with the protections necessary to fend off the virus.
Confirmation bias leads us to search out this news, and to find ‘experts’ that agree with our already held beliefs. That’s why those people who are convinced that there is something wrong with the vaccines cannot stop searching out those that agree with them. They are desperate to find others who share their thoughts.
Whether it’s COVID, pregnant women, or the incredible number of red vans that prowl the streets of Toronto, becoming aware of something you hadn’t noticed before can throw you for a loop.
Since my little cat died a few weeks ago, I’ve become hyper aware of how many people have also lost pets recently. But it’s quite likely that my sadness and grief has made me more sensitive to information from those who are also dealing with losses.
It is, of course, the frequency illusion that has concentrated my attention on what appears to be an explosion of ill health amongst furry critters that so many of us have been experiencing. If I were not aware of this phenomenon, I might begin to believe that there is something sinister happening to our four-legged friends. There isn’t; it’s just a coincidence that the time of year, the weather, and the inevitable aging of our pets would have to eventually culminate in their passing on.
Whenever something occurs on which we become focused, there are several roads that appear before us. So it was for me, with my mourning of my long-time furry companion.
While I don’t know how I feel about adopting another animal any time soon, I’m very aware of how beneficial it can be to singles and seniors to have a pet that gives them a focus. We grow so close to our little friends, and they give us so much in return.
But pet love is increasingly expensive, and vet bills can cause pet owners a lot of pain – emotionally and financially. Trying to decide when to let a pet go, or when to engage in an expensive fight for its life, often depends on how much money we can devote to that fight.
Pets are incredibly important in the quality of life for those who spend a lot of time alone. My experiences with seniors and senior pets have shown me that there is a need for organizations to help defray final costs. In the future, I’d like to find a way to work with groups working to make that difficult time a little easier for both the human and the pet.
A few days after Farley died, and in the midst of a flurry of friends dealing with the unexpected losses of their pets, a fellow whom I’ve known for many years suddenly went on a Facebook rampage, in which he posited that there was something wrong with those who deeply mourn their pets. Unspoken but inferred was that the public mourning of a furry friend went beyond odd to possibly immoral. He contended that no one could or should equate the loss of a dog or a cat to the loss of a human child.
Of course, these are two very different kinds of losses; a pet is not a human being that we have brought forth from our own bodies.
On the other hand, many people don’t have children. Some never wanted to have children. And still others have children that they rarely see or have interactions with. Regardless of the circumstances, it seemed odd for someone to feel that they had the right to publicly pass judgment over how other people choose to express their grief at the passing of their pets.
I tried to explain that pets play different roles in different times of our lives; during COVID, many people adopted pets to take the place of people they couldn’t see in their isolation. The loss of a pet that has been a constant companion, that is, in some cases, a reason to get up in the morning, can often be no less painful than the loss of a person whom one loves, but with whom one has less frequent physical contact.
This fellow’s insistence on being the sole arbiter of what qualifies as a justifiable emotional pain felt like bullying to me.
I was not the only breathing creature dealing with the loss of Farley; his long-time feline companion was mourning as well. During Farley’s last days, Lady Jade tried to give him comfort, by crawling into his bed and sharing her warmth. For about 17 years, they shared their beds, their treats, and their lives.
After his final trip to the vet, little Jade, who is 18, blind, and quite small, was bereft. She crept quietly around the house, searching for him. She would silently appear in dark spaces, and was often in danger of being crushed by our feet when we’d fail to realize she was there. The only time she would calm was when either Shawn or I would hold her on our laps.
Since we’re packing and preparing to move house, I was having to choose between doing what was necessary, and comforting my poor old kitty. I needed a solution, and came up with an idea.
I often use an organization called Freecycle to give away items that I no longer need, and to find odd things I’m looking for. In this case, I put up a request for a child wrap, or some kind of carrier, that would allow me to cradle Jade against my body, but still allow me to have movement to do household chores, pack, or even to just answer the door without having to disturb her.
Cat slings – it’s a thing.
Within a few days, I received an email from someone who wanted to know if I’d had any luck with my request. This woman was concerned because she’d had a similar situation when her older dog had passed, and his cat companion mourned him so deeply that a vet’s attention was necessary to prevent the cat from dying of grief.
This freecycler wanted to help, and by the next morning, she had decided that she would buy a baby wrap, called a ‘Cuddle Bug,’ that I could use for Jade, and we made arrangements for delivery.
When the packages arrived from Amazon that evening, I was stunned to see the extent of her generosity. Not only had she sent the wrap, she’d also sent an array of Jade’s favorite foods, and a new cat treat – Squeeze Ups – that I’d never heard of that must be kitty crack, because Jade can’t get enough of it.
I was quite dumbfounded by the kindness of this stranger.
In my mourning, there are lessons to be learned. I clarified to myself that my future would involve somehow being of help to others dealing with pet illness and death. I have seen the ugly side of someone who is unable to empathize with the pain that others feel, but I’ve also seen the beauty of a total stranger who responds with their whole heart to a cry for help from someone in pain.
Funny how life can show us the many ways that we can choose to live and interact with each other. Many paths lead us forward, but nothing is quite as wonderful as being able to grab hold of a hand that helps us in choosing the right direction, out of our pain, and into a shared light.
When it comes to excuses, I’ve got a million of ‘em. Even now, as I should be writing this column, I am thinking of two dozen other things that I should be doing first – like alphabetizing the vitamins in the bathroom cabinet or swinging up to the grocery store for some spices that I won’t need until Halloween.
Successful procrastination doesn’t just ‘happen’ – no, you have to work at it. I’ve made it into such a fine art that you can still find unpacked boxes from our 2017 move, marked ‘important’, underfoot and unopened. A tall bedroom dresser squatted in the living room from last November to last week. There are two shelves in the middle of the kitchen that desperately need to get gone, and I can’t decide where they’ll go. I mean, who’s gonna see it anyway, amirite?
The struggle to actually complete the multitude of tasks I set myself every day is real. Quite obviously, the smart thing to do would be to tackle one job, and keep at it until it’s done, damn the torpedoes. But there are so many other, more interesting things, I’d rather do.
I honestly thought that the pandemic and subsequent ‘lockdowns’ would do the trick, finally forcing me to knuckle down and get stuff done, but no. Turns out, no matter how much time I have at my disposal, I’m capable of finding a multitude of unimportant, frivolous time wasting activities to steal that time and then, for those little niggling skivers to demand that I give them even more attention, ensuring that the timely arrival of this column, or indeed, trifling matters like taxes, is backburnered until sirens are blaring and the police car’s strobe lights are scaring the cats.
My lack of discipline has cost me tens of thousands of dollars over my lifetime, but apparently, I can’t be bribed or fined into completing tasks in a timely fashion. Nothing seems to work, though many have tried different tactics, from cajoling to yelling to threats of bodily harm. Nope. Unmoved. It’ll get done when it gets done.
My heel dragging and lolly gagging on some issues is in sharp contrast to my almost manic approach to fresh projects. If I’m fully immersed in a new venture, I’ll work 16-hour days for weeks, to birth this new interest as quickly as I can. Everything will be everywhere, but I’ll make sharp progress ….
Until the day I decide it’s time to take a break. And at that point, sorry, but I just can’t tell you when I’ll be ready to finish – or tidy – the mess that I started. Many times, I’ve considered speaking to the Pope about canonizing my husband for his saintly ability to simply dwell within the chaos, uncomplaining
On the other hand, he’s also long been the beneficiary of my need to “do it all myself,” AND to do it in the hours when he’s elsewhere, like at work. Thing is, since he retired, I tend to get a lot less done, because there never seems to be a time when what I’m trying to do won’t be a disturbance to what he’d like to do. And I really don’t like or want observers when I’m constructing or deconstructing a ‘thing.’
Between a retired husband and two incredibly spoiled cats, I’m run ragged before I even add on any projects of my own that will take up time, space, and sound. It’s always something. Phones are ringing. Cats are yowling to be let out or let in. Delivery people pound on the door with packages for neighbours. Memes must be shared across a crowded room. It’s madness, I tell you!
And living in a very tiny cottage with barely enough room to swing a cat, if one dared to risk the cat scratch fever, or could lift the weight of either of these spoiled felines, isn’t much help. All the articles on how to live in increasingly small spaces advocate using vertical space, but when you’re already surrounded by tall, filled to the brim, book shelves, it appears that the ceiling, rather than the sky, may indeed be the limit.
I really did think that having all sorts of spare time during COVID, what with the lining up to get into some stores, and the downright closure of so many places where I might have whiled away the time being coiffured, manicured, or massaged, not to mention the lack of places to dine, drink or dance, would have freed up so much time that I’d be able to finally set all earthly things to rights, while tossing off a magnus opus or two, without breaking a sweat.
Sadly, I was very wrong.
As it turns out, living through a global pandemic is a little tiring. Worry, fear, and depression can wear the edges off even the nicest, most positive, non-whining person you’ve ever known, so why would you think that someone like me could keep their sunny side up indefinitely? Have you met me?
We’re living through some really rough times, and even Canadians, some of the most easy-going and long-suffering people you could ever hope to find, are on their last nerve. They’ve had it up to their tonsils with poor leadership, restrictions that are often nonsensical and seem more punitive than effective, and the sense that those nominally in charge are in fact spinning completely out of control. Patience wears thin as Year One morphs into Year Two (second verse, same as the first.)
Even a mild form of depression will have an effect on what you’re able to accomplish, even if all you’re trying to do is just limp along doing routine tasks. The world is not easy to cope with, these days, and the things we used to do to cope, like going to a movie, hitting the gym, or enjoying meals with friends, aren’t there to relieve the pressure.
Hey, if this ‘pause’ has allowed you to learn a new language, write a book, or start a business, more power to you! But for many of us, in a world filled with grief, depression and anxiety, putting one foot in front of the other, and remembering to shower occasionally, is all we’ve got left in the tank. And that’s okay too.
Realistically, we’re in unprecedented times, and we need to cut ourselves some slack. You’re allowed to slow down, rest and reflect, and to just say ‘no’ when someone asks you to take on some of their burdens to lighten their own load.
Sometimes we have to let some things go, in order to soldier on in difficult times. Can’t bear to wash another dish? Buy paper plates. Ignore the dust bunnies – they’ll still be there when you’re ready to vacuum.
It’s not only okay, it’s imperative that you make room for a little joy and self-care in your day. You can’t help others if you’ve let all of your own energy drain away. Take the time to pamper yourself a little, even if it’s just having a spa day in your own bathroom with those little face, hand and feet masques you bought for a rainy day.
Just as when, in a flight emergency, we’re told to put on our own oxygen masks before we help others, we’re in a time and place where we have to find ways to put our own mental health first, lest we be in no shape to help those we love when they need us.
In the wonderful “Time Enough at Last” episode of the Twilight Zone, our hero, Mr. Bemis, becomes the last person on earth, with all the time in the world to read without interruption. But he stumbles, and breaks his glasses, leaving him unable to do so, and in so doing, he learns that having time enough can be a curse, not the blessing he’d hoped for. He wanted solitude, not isolation.
This planet is in kind of a similar place right now. We’re discovering that there’s far more to life than we thought, and that time off the grid comes at a cost.
Give yourself a Mental Health Day. Take a load off. Relax in a bubble bath. After all, it’s not like we’re going anywhere, anytime soon. Be good to you. You deserve it.
Humans are incredibly narcissistic. At least one of the many writers of the Bible understood this when they wrote,
“Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.”
That is some kinda entitled privilege, your basic eminent domain mandate, right there. And since Genesis was telling us how much we have in common with the Supreme Being, and that we have ‘dominion’ over all of those other creatures, it was probably only natural that we would assume our own sort of godliness by conferring human traits to these creatures, and then assigning those traits that we perceive and like or dislike in them, to other humans.
It’s called anthropomorphising. We gaze into the faces of our pets, our cats and dogs, and believe that they reflect back our same emotions. But when animals behave in ways we dislike, we can find their actions ‘catty,’ and then apply that characteristic to someone who is devious or spiteful, or view the simple but steadfast hound as “dogged,” which we then use as a compliment for someone who is stubbornly single minded.
We call a fool “asinine” because we believe that donkeys are stubborn and stupid. A hawk, with it’s razor talons and sharp beak doesn’t wait around for prey, and so the bird’s tendency gave the epithet “hawkish” to warmongers, with their aggressive, attack-prone natures.
Sluggish, slothful, fishy, chicken, sheepish, squirrelly …. we see parts of ourselves in each of these creatures.
I’m not the only gardener that talks to her plants – it’s been a ‘thing’ for as long as we’ve been hunters and gatherers.
Proving we crazy plant-talkers right, in 2019 the Royal Horticultural Society researchers discovered that talking to your plants really does help them grow. And they also found that plants prefer a female voice over a male’s, growing faster when spoken to in dulcet tones.
Even the most humble amongst us just can’t help thinking that inanimate objects have human characteristics. Remember Tom Hanks and his volley ball buddy in Castaway? That was a great deal more than just an interesting plot device – it capitalized on a desperate human need for company and some sense of feeling known and understood.
Or perhaps you recall this commercial from 2002?
Of course, the commercial mocked our need to anthropomorphize things. (It was also a paean to gross capitalistic commercialism and a throwaway society, but that’s a tale for another day.)
And – 16 years later – that lamp did indeed find a home.
Because .. again … anthropomorphization. We just love to think that every thing, living or inanimate, shares the same emotions that we do. We are wrong. But that need for connection is the way that we try to sate our craving for social connection.
Since the caveman days, we’ve had the option to either work with or against other humans. We weigh up the pluses and minuses of creating tribes, and usually decide that avoiding loneliness, and of course, enjoying the strength of numbers, is worth putting up with the foibles of other people.
We feel ‘lonely’ when our actual social relations fall short of how much social connection we want. The whole sensation of ‘feeling lonely in a crowd’ has to do with a lack of social bonds within that crowd of people.
We perceive human qualities in non-human beings or objects when we believe we can intuit a human quality that might apply, like when our cell phone suddenly goes on the fritz, right when we’re supposed to make a call we don’t feel like making. Or maybe our car starts making a weird noise and we want to understand what has ‘upset’ the car, and provoked the object’s behaviour.
But mostly it’s when we crave social contact. Lonely people, people with a high empathy level, or people who need a lot of stimuli in their personal space, are more likely to perceive human qualities in inanimate objects.
In psychological studies, they have found that less lonely people were less prone to anthropomorphizing.
So – does a cure for anthropomorphization lie in the flitting of a ‘social butterfly’ ? If we can assuage that social connection craving by other means, will we stop seeing humanity in inanimate objects?
In one psychological study, participants were shown descriptions of four gadgets, inventions that purported to make their lives easier. One was an alarm clock that rolled around, so that the waker would have to chase and capture the clock to turn off the alarm. Another was a “Pillow Mate” – a pillow that could be programmed to give you a hug. Another was an air purifier for people with allergies or respiratory problems.
About half of those participating in the study were told to think about an important and meaningful relationship that they have with another person, and about how they could count on that person not abandoning them. The other half were told to think about a casual acquaintance.
They were then asked how they’d rate the items based on human-like traits, for example, if they thought the item had a ‘mind of it’s own.’
It turned out that those people who had been thinking about an important and close relationship prior to being asked about the gadgets just didn’t see as many human qualities in the inventions. Their need for social connection having been met, they didn’t feel a need to have a gadget that replaced human contact.
Which means that Tom Hanks’ soccer ball would never have become his best buddy, if there’d been another human on that island. Poor old Wilson.
A lamp cannot be sad, but people can be lonely. Loneliness is when we deny our human need for companionship, and if we can’t find another human to bond with, to care about, and to share our lives with, we’re far more likely to see a reflection of humanity in the chromed smoothness of a toaster or the sly sideways glance of a fox.
I originally wrote this column in April 2015. Woke up today unable to write about the things I find so depressing in 2019, so … this retread will have to substitute for new thoughts on ‘interesting times.’
“If music be the food of love, play on!” Like food, music can be comforting. It can also be stimulating, annoying, or cloying. Music releases dopamine, the ‘feel good’ hormone, just like sex and actual food. Music can arouse feelings of euphoria and craving. Dopamine release is at “peak emotional arousal” during music listening, so you really ARE getting a bang for your musical buck.
Although there are exceptions – whether you consider them cursed or blessed, 5% of the population is indifferent to music, and feels nothing when they hear it.
But for the rest of us, music is much like a drug. When you’re listening to music that ‘speaks’ to you, you are completely dialled in to your brain, and that changes your brain chemistry. Music will change or augment your good or bad mood, and can cause you to slow down and relax, or jump up and dance.
Complex changes occur in our brains when we hear our favourite songs. We can be unconsciously manipulated through sound; studies show that listening to sad music can lead to a wide range of complex and partially positive emotions, like nostalgia. Listening to particularly sad or happy music can change the way we perceive the world.
When you’re watching a film, you’re unconsciously processing the background/soundtrack tones and tempos which signal to our brains that what we are seeing should be experienced in the way the writer intended.
The sort of music we want to hear at a given moment has much to do with what we’ve heard before, the sounds that we’ve absorbed through our lives, the sounds that feel familiar, that work within the tonal range that defines what is ‘popular’ in our culture. Which is why Britney Spears’ music has been used by the British Royal Navy to scare off Somali pirates.
Merchant naval officer Rachel Owens explained the tactics: “Her songs were chosen by the security team because they thought the pirates would hate them most. These guys can’t stand western culture or music, making Britney’s hits perfect. As soon as the pirates get a blast of Britney, they move on as quickly as they can.“ (metro.co.uk)
The inherent nature and power of music affects the animal kingdom as well. Cows produce more milk when listening to relaxing music, and 3% more milk listening to slow music over fast. Birds and whales compose musical creations very like man’s, combining rhythm, length, patterns and pitches we can recognize, and both will sing complex songs to communicate with each other, and during courtship.
If your pet has a tendency to overeat in stressful situations, or suffers from separation anxiety, quiet music playing on the radio may calm their anxieties, relax muscles, improve digestion and increase restful sleep. Dogs are particularly sensitive to music, with classical music having been shown to actually calm pups prone to epileptic seizures, and stimulate and release endorphins in the brain that aid in pain reduction.
Our brains love repetition. The first time we hear a song, our brains are processing the input, constantly predicting what will happen next, based on a pattern. And brains are a little lazy … we love repetitive choruses. In fact, for each repetition of a chorus, the chances of a song reaching the top of the charts rise by 14.5%
But there’s a limit to how much repetition we can take. Although hearing a song again and again makes your brain happy, because it’s already done the work to figure out what comes next, after a while, overexposure to songs causes an actual irritation. Like when you can’t bear another chorus of “Jingle Bells,” or break into hives at the ten millionth rendition of “Stairway to Heaven.”
One thing that I always find hilarious is how easily we mishear lyrics. As we listen, we’re actually Interpreting and anticipating what will come next, a combination of hearing and hope. And once you’ve misheard a lyric, it becomes more difficult to process the actual lyrics, especially if a part of you is tickled by how witty you find the misheard version.
There’s an actual term for misheard lyrics – mondegreen. It was coined by writer Sylvia Wring, in a Harper’s piece in 1954. She admitted to mishearing a piece of ancient English poetry her mother had read to her in her youth. Instead of hearing, “They hae slain the Earl Amurray, / And laid him on the green,” she heard, “They hae slain the Earl Amurray, / And Lady Mondegreen.”
Makes sense, right? Even though it’s incorrect, it fulfills the two-step process of hearing – the physics of sound entering your ear, and the part where your brain takes the sound and interprets what you’ve heard. When communication breaks down between sound and meaning – you’ve got a mondegreen.
We take what we’ve heard and shape it to what works for us. Bohemian Rhapsody becomes Bohemian Rap City. Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “bad moon on the rise,” becomes a ‘bathroom on the right.” It makes more sense to imagine Jimi Hendrix kissing a guy than the sky.
Mondegreens work so well, in poetry, music and everyday life, that the misheard can become a new reality. “Spitting image” was originally “spit and image.” (Spit meaning likeness.) It drives me batty when I see a writer refer to an all-intensive purpose, but they’ve come there from ‘for all intents and purposes. “.It’s not ‘tow the line, ‘ it’s ‘toe the line,’ from the early days of the British Royal Navy,(those guys again!) at a time when seamen fell in for inspection barefoot.
It’s a ‘dog eat dog world,’ not ‘a doggy dog world.’ We ‘champ,’ not ‘chomp’ at the bit, and we ‘nip it in the bud,’ not the ‘butt.’ Perhaps these misinterpretations are ‘blessings in the skies.’ No, wait, that would be a ‘blessing in disguise.’ You’ve got another ‘think’ (not ‘thing’) coming if you believe these expressions are really “one in the same,” (one and the same.)
For some reason, Cat Steven’s classic, ” First Cut Is The Deepest” seems to be a mondegreen buffet, no matter who has recorded the tune.
People hear the lyrics, “First cut is the deepest.” and mishear it as ….
First time as a DJ.
The First God is a DJ
First cousin of Jesus
The first God was a teapot.
The first god is a demon.
The first guy is the deepest
The thirst god is the deepest
The first dive in the deepend.
And, ” And I’m sure going to give you a try.” as “And I’m sure going to give you a child.”
And, ” But if you want, I’ll try to love again ” as “But if you want, I’ll try another man.”
And, ” When it comes to loving me, he’s first.” as ” When it comes to love in need he’s the worst.”
People …. enunciate!
But even the grumpiest and most contrary Grammar Nazi can get a chuckle out of misheard lyrics. This video, apparently made as a birthday gift to a friend, captures every nuance and mondegreen that listeners heard in Joe Cocker’s classic rendition.
And the folks at pleated-jeans.com have a ton of terrific videos you can enjoy on Youtube, starting with this one:
and then there’s this :
As a prize for getting through all of that science, here’s my gift to you. SketchShe, the models-turned-comedy act from Australia, released a new video this week. Shae-Lee Shackleford, Lana Kington, and Madison Lloyd debuted their latest ‘Mime Through Time’ sketch – but this time they decided to go topless. Now that I’ve got your attention … here’s a lip sync medley that romps through seven decades of music. Enjoy!
A few weeks ago we had some snow that didn’t really stick. A few days later I saw a young father pushing his kid in a baby carriage. “Are the sidewalks clear?” I asked and he said … “yes .. FINALLY!”
He was a very young man.
And then of course, along came February and THERE you are, you stinky Canadian winter, with your cold and your snow, and your ice hiding under the snow, and that wind chill. There you are, with the dark days and the early nights, and the winds that howl down alleys. I see you, there, with your mittens glossy from rubbing the snot from your runny nose. There you are, with the old peoples’ fear that one false step might be the one that breaks their hip. There you are with the isolation, and the inconvenience and the broken promises to get together.
The cats and I have Cabin Fever. We’ve had too much winter and not enough sun. We are all cranky, we are sniping at each other, and we are all a little depressed and taking it out on everyone else.
Every year I swear that I’ll go south, oh yes I will, and when I get there, there will be sand between my toes, and sea shells stinking up the balcony, and I’ll be warm and I will float in turquoise waters. Instead, I once again add ‘get a new passport’ to the endless ‘to do’ list, and pretend I’m not jealous when my friends post pictures of their adventures in sunnier climes.
And yet, this is also the time of year when Canadians can indulge in cuddles, all curled up under the covers or on top of the mound of blankets, as we watch crappy television for hours. Too much to do in summer. Winter is for snuggles.
These are the days when it is easy to embrace your inner caveperson, and feel that our lives and our world are stuck in a dark spiral, and that the warmth and light of summer will never return, thereby necessitating the sacrifice of some poor creature whose steaming entrails might appease the sungods.
But we are not cavepeople; we have Netflix.
I like to pretend that I will use those indoor winter months to organize my life, sort out the detritus of my life, do my taxes, and write something so incredibly precise and on the money that its wisdom and sense will reverberate through the ages ….
.. but that never happens. I’m more inclined to stare fixedly at a wall lined with items that need to be sorted, filed, categorized, discarded or at least moved to another room, and say .. ‘blue.. that wall would look so much nicer in blue … ‘
This year I’ve made a special effort to take breaks from media of any kind. Our civilization seems to be rapidly unwinding, and as the end draws near, it’s best to take frequent respites from reports from the Front. So I’ll often hide away for a day or more, just to give my overtaxed brain and heart a rest. That, and a steady supply of edibles seems to help.
There is an unending stream of political, psychological, and philosophical nonsense constantly coming down the pike. We can debate endlessly, but sometimes in winter, you’ve just got to slow it all down and let the Muppets decide the subject of your column.
Cabin Fever is a real thing. I can’t even imagine how difficult life must have been for people back in the days before electricity, ski resorts, and hot chocolate. I’m gonna guess a lot of winters didn’t turn out so great for some of those little houses on the prairies.
Cabin fever themes have featured in Charlie Chaplin‘s 1925 film, The Gold Rush, Stefan Zweig‘s 1948 novella, The Royal Game, Stephen King‘s horror novel and film, The Shining,’ and a Simpsons‘ episode called “Mountain of Madness.”
In 1984, The Journal of Social Psychology published a study called “The Meaning of Cabin Fever,” based on interviews carried out with a sample of 35 Minnesota men and women, ages 17 to 84.
The researchers wanted to know how Minnesotans, prone to being forcibly confined to their homes by bad weather for days at a time, survived with at least some salvation of sanity. While four of the respondents thought that ‘cabin fever’ might actually be a mania having to do with wanting to buy a forest getaway, most of the people surveyed were very clear that cabin fever was a condition they had experienced, created by confinement, bad weather, and a lack of stimulation.
Being physically unable to get away from the house and the people inside it made most people prone to depression, boredom, dissatisfaction, irritability, and moodiness.
Having to deal with a bunch of bored children also made the wintertime even more difficult for many respondents. On a ‘snow day,’ parents juggling the needs of the children often found it even more difficult to deal with their own feelings of isolation.
There are coping mechanisms that can help with the winter blues, including activities that can be done inside or close to the home. Some suggestions included resetting your expectations of yourself and others, by tossing out the alarm clock, playing quieter music, or making slow-cooked food. Dig out those board games or playing cards. This too shall pass.
Now, if you happen to live in Toronto, we’ve actually got some stimulation in the form of a bar that is – for reals! – called Cabin Fever. It’s at 1669 Bloor West, near Keele.
Sounds like a good hang. One of the reviewers who opined on yelp said, ” what’s not to love about quality vinyl, pinball machines, and tall boy beers for seven bucks, all packed into a little hole-in-the-wall spot??”
I’ve never been to the place, but it’s open today from four p.m. until two a.m. Locals swear by the ‘pinball, beer and music’ mantra. Might be worth a look see.
I’m just glad that February is almost gone, because my stash of chocolate, fudge, and almonds is at a very low ebb. Thankfully my coffee supply is holding up; I’m always grateful for small mercies.
There’s a pothole in front of my house large enough to swallow a large dog or a small car, and the bird feeder is tilting at a jaunty angle. I’ve had enough of winter, thanks. You can bring on the spring any day now … any day now ….
It’s a cold one this morning. When I went outside to feed the critters, the chill in the air felt positively Novemberish! Time to haul out the long underwear and the cuddly woolies!
It’s been an interesting week all around. On Thursday, I heard an unearthly yowl coming from the front yard, and raced out to see that the psycho kitty I call BlackAndWhiteCat had pinned Lord Farlsworth against the fence. The Lord is a big boy, a twenty-pounder, but he’s a lover, not a fighter.
I came to the rescue, stomping and yelling, but, instead of backing off, BlackAndWhiteCat began slowly walking towards me, moving his mouth as though he was cussing me out. I’ve never seen anything like it.
It looked something like this .. but way scarier. This is a cat that could easily face down a coyote.
In the end, I threw water in the cat’s general direction, and he ran away. It’s always something.
Speaking of cats, today is the big day for Barbette Kensington! It’s time for her Sixth Annual KittyPants Fundraiser!
“The Kensington Kittypants Fund was established in partnership with Dundas Euclid Animal Hospital to support senior citizens on fixed income within their practice to access healthcare for their pet companions.”
Doors open at 3pm. There’s a $15 donation for entry, which includes a raffle ticket. (You can buy more tickets, and you should … 24 local businesses have donated gift certificates, and the prizes are always generous.) There are six acts performing, with Steve Goof, of the BFGs, hosting. Leslie’s Kitchen is catering, highlighting authentic First Nations cuisine. It’s always a fun day, and a sort of a Market LoveFest. Please join us to support this great cause!
Here’s your chance to try moose meat, served with bannock! Oh I love bannock… a good bannock is like eating cake. I’m gonna have to get over to the PowWow Cafe soon, now that the cooler weather is creeping in. Their meals really stick to your ribs!
I’ve been lucky, in my life, to have known a lot of indigenous people. My own grandson is half First Nations. But, like most Canadians, I was raised with some ideas and prejudices about those from whom we leased this land hundreds of years ago. As a child living in Alberta, many of my thoughts and opinions were passed down to me from largely uninformed and bigoted minds.
But if you’d like to know a little more about our First Nations people, you’re in luck; on Tuesday, September 11, there’s an interesting series called First Contact, that that will premiere on APTN at 7 p.m. (PT)
The series “will follow the experiences of six non-Indigenous Canadians as they visit Indigenous communities across Canada over a period of 28 days.
The six chosen participants are all outspoken in their prejudices against Indigenous people. While many have never visited a reservation, they will visit Indigenous communities from coastal B.C. to northern Ontario and Nunavut.”
I’m looking forward to the program. ” The series, narrated by George Stroumboulopoulos, runs from September 11 to 13, consisting of three episodes plus a two-part reunion special. The series will become available online at the APTN website starting on September 17. More information about the show is available at the First Contact Canada (.ca) website.
Now to put the ‘pot’ into the ‘pot pourri’ … we’re edging ever closer to our moment of Canadian Reefer Madness .. and it hasn’t escaped the attention of our southern neighbours.
I’ve written extensively on my belief that the legalization of cannabis will be the best thing that’s happened to Canada in a hundred years. I’ve got my fingers crossed that those in government will see past their own fears and biases, and realize that we have an incredible opportunity to expand and grow a profitable tax base in nearly every trade and business field.
For those who don’t realize how extensive the scope is for this new economic boon … have I got a show for you!
You’ll find me cruising the aisles of HempFest at the CNE grounds next Saturday and Sunday. It’s the place to be, if you want to have a good time with like-minded people, and it’s a terrific chance to see the latest in goodies and paraphernalia. Mama’s gonna be bringing home the swag!
Where you will NOT find me, is anywhere near the United States, where the American Attorney General Jeff Sessions is furiously trying to enact a major prohibition of anything marijuana-based in the States. He’s frothing at the mouth over the states that have used their state legislation to legalize the sales, and wants the full strength of the federal drug enforcement agency to crush them underfoot.
You know .. in the same way America imposed the prohibition of alcohol in 1926. Didn’t work out so well then, either. Along the way, fanatics like Sessions, who were part of the federal government, poisoned alcohol to curb consumption. By the time Prohibition ended in 1933, an estimated 10,000 people had been murdered by legislators allowing this poisoning, as hell-bent as Sessions on enforcing their own will on other Americans.
Sessions, an ardent anti-drug crusader, has already mandated that there will be much stricter controls at the US/Canada border, post October’s legalization, that will cause longer wait times due to enhanced, secondary screening of Canadians. He has also said that he is reopening greater federal enforcement against the possession of marijuana.
Canadians should be aware that they can be denied entry to the U.S., or barred from visiting the United States for life, if they admit to a border agent that they have smoked cannabis, according to a warning from U.S. immigration lawyers.
Well, I’m not headed for the U.S. any time soon, or maybe ever – I’ve never had a yen to visit a fascist dictatorship in the making.
The whole mess going on in Washington, at the hearing to confirm Brett Kavanaugh as a Supreme Court judge, is enough to whiten the face of any person with even the least comprehension of the principles of democracy. The Republican party is bound and determined to force through this candidate, despite not having providing hundreds of thousands of documents that are informative of Kavanaugh’s views on civil rights, employment law, and women’s rights. Supreme Court justices are appointed with ”the advice and consent of the Senate,” but the Democrats believe they have not been given enough information to properly do so.
More importantly, Kavanaugh holds some rather interesting ideas on the rights of a sitting president. In a nutshell, he believes a president is above the law. And that’s not going to be a good thing for either side, in the long run.
And we also have to understand that, regardless of what happens in November or in the next election cycle, the Supreme Court is going to be dominated by the Right, no matter how Left the country becomes, for perhaps the next fifty years. Pretty daunting stuff.
In this same week, portions of the new Bob Woodward book, Fear: Trump in the White House, were leaked to the press, and spoke of a White House in such chaos that those closest to the president admitted to having to thwart Trump’s worst, and sometime murderous, instincts.
“When Trump demanded a plan for assassinating Assad – “Let’s f**king kill him! Let’s go in. Let’s kill the f**king lot of them!” – Mattis said he would look into it before telling a senior aide to disregard the request. To stop Trump from breaking a trade deal with South Korea, Cohn removed the executive order in question from the president’s desk. Trump didn’t notice. He advised another aide, Rob Porter, to do the same when the president wanted to withdraw from NAFTA.”
The day after we heard of Woodward’s portrayal of an administration that holds Trump in contempt, considering him dangerously uninformed and irresponsible, the New York Times printed an op ed in their paper, written by ‘Anonymous,’ someone whom the NYT described as being “a senior administration official” within the White House.
Anonymous painted yet another picture of a Trump presidency melting down in real time. The writer seems to believe that it is only through their actions, and the actions of a few other ‘grownups in the room‘ that a whole scale destruction of the administration and the United States has been prevented.
But I’ve got to question the Messiah complex of the person who thinks that their presence is somehow slowing down the worst possible horrors Trump would unleash on the world without these guard rails.
And I’d like to know where Anonymous was in January 2018 when the Muslim ban came into effect, throwing the entire world into chaos. Where did Anonymous stand when Trump threw paper towels, rather than adequate aid, at the American citizens in Puerto Rico? Maybe he can tell us if he thought that the Comey firing was a good idea, or if he’s got any second thoughts about packing the courts with right wing judges that will impact America’s progress – or lack thereof – for decades to come.
Was his joy at the tax giveaway to the rich, that was essentially a multi-billion-dollar giveaway with almost no macroeconomic rationale, enough to stop him from impeding the decision to tear refugee babies from their mothers’ breasts at the border, and imprison children in cages? Does his ‘courage’ consider that having Kavanaugh shoved thru to a lifetime Supreme Court justice appointment, despite valid perjury claims, might lead to the impeachment of Kavanaugh when the Democrats regain power?
Anonymous is no ‘profile in courage‘ – he’s just another partisan thrall attempting to find excuses for his actions and inactions during this administration for his defence at some future Mar A Lago/Nuremburg trial.
That being said, it would still be a further horrible idea and yet another major step down the line to dictatorship if the Trump administration were to use the Department of Justice to force the New York Times to reveal the identity of Anonymous.
Get to a certain age, or a certain stage, and you’d really have to make an effort not to see that everyone approaches their lives from different angles.
Our formative years often shape how we’ll see our world, but I know people who survived horrific childhoods, yet still managed to live happy and peaceful lives. Their experiences in their youths shaped how they approached and nurtured the relationships they cultivated as they aged.
Other people grew up in the lap of luxury, but suffer through their days feeling that the entire world is against them, conspiring to refuse them the respect and goodies they deserve for merely existing. They can think of hundreds of little ways that life has just not treated them as well as they believed they deserved.
And then there are some who sail through their life without really knowing or caring that other people even exist.
It’s all perspective.
In a recent conversation with my husband, I was stunned to realize how events in our shared lives, be they major or minor in scope, can be remembered in such drastically disparate ways that it seems like the antics of two different people living in two different worlds. Maybe that’s partly the difference in how men and women think, or maybe it has to do with how we’ve personally conducted ourselves during our long relationship. Or maybe it’s a little of both, and a lot about how actions and words can be perceived in multiple ways, depending upon how the person receiving the actions or words receives, and interprets those interactions.
When we ascribe intent to words and actions, we alter how those words and actions are perceived.
When we attempt to interact in society, what we bring to the table varies wildly, depending on our own backgrounds, and the state of mind we were in when we approached a moment in our time. Were we tired? dyspeptic? broke? stressed? Because all of those things will have a huge bearing on how we perceive what others say, write, or do.
You really see perspective and interpretation at work when reading threads on social media. Because it is difficult to convey emotions verbally, spats and name-calling can suddenly erupt based on a simple misunderstanding, a failed attempt at humour or sarcasm, or a word used incorrectly.
But conversely, that’s one of the reasons that the arts we are able to enjoy on the internet can resonate so strongly within us; we are surprised and delighted when an image or a video or a song accurately reflects how we feel about a particular moment, or captures an emotion.. For a brief instant in time, we are completely in synch with another person’s gut take, and yet it is a shared experience, and all the more heady when many of us feel that same recognition simultaneously, and gather to share that experience, even if it’s only on the internet.
While we might like to think that we are all, down deep, the same, it’s both true but not really true at all. We share the human experience, but each of us carries the history our parents bequeathed to us, and over time, we add our own experiences. Eventually we pass that on to our kids, who add their own experiences. And every bit of that combined familial and cultural mosaic makes our perspectives unique. At any given moment, how we approach any event – from how we choose our meals, to how we choose our elected officials – is a result of the lifetime of baggage we’ve brought along for the ride.
As we age and grow, we sift in the essences of the people, events, and emotions that we experience, and let those simmer in our soul stew. In time, we become a person very different from the person we were at birth. Life experiences are the fire that tempers our metal, as drastically as the fabled Philosopher’s Stone was said to turn brass into gold.
Perspective allows us to understand that it is as painful for a poor man to lose a dollar, as it is for a billionaire to lose a billion, because for both, the loss is fear-provoking.
When I was a little kid, I was very, very near-sighted. However, I didn’t know that, since I had nothing to compare it to, and my family had no idea that I had such poor vision, until a teacher in my grade one class noticed that I couldn’t see what she was writing on the board. The day I got my first pair of glasses, my entire world changed, because now, I could see what went on around me like other people did.
My world changed, because my vision changed. And my perspective – quite literally the way I saw the world – was altered.
I wish that finding a little bit of insight into how others perceive what happens around them, was as simple as getting a new prescription for eyeglasses – what a better place that sort of world might be!
But instead, achieving perspective requires that we step back from our own values, attitudes and needs, and mentally and emotionally put ourselves into the shoes of someone unlike ourselves. Those shoes may be too tight, or far too roomy, but until we’ve walked a while in them, we cannot ever know the journey that other person is on.
The cats and I love spring and summer .. and even some of fall. Winter is too snowy and cold, and we’re not too keen on rain; cold rain is particularly nasty.
But having so much lovely, balmy sunshine to enjoy in the warmer months … ahhh! that’s the best! By 6:30 a.m. most mornings, Lord Farlsworth, Lady Jade, and I are on the front porch, where I sip a coffee, and they survey their kingdom.
It’s a time when the world is calm and quiet. You might hear the odd dog bark off in the distance, or listen to an old clunker trying to make it up Vic Park before the muffler falls off, but overall, it is a peaceful time.
At the beginning of this summer, I began feeding a squirrel. She’s a bit of a celebrity on the street. They call her “Mama,” and you can recognize her by the fur she’s missing on her sides. Mama squirrels pull out their own fur to line their babies’ nests.
Anyway, it was probably inevitable that some of the other squirrels would want in on the peanut action. Who could blame them? Free food! And sure, they can be a pain in the butt, when they dig up my flowers to hide the nuts for leaner days, but I like to watch them enjoy their treats.
And they’re so damn cute, with their little paws and interpretive dance poses.
And a whole bag of peanuts is only .99 cents, so what the heck.
The cats don’t mind too much; they’re old. Sometimes the Lord will snarl a little, if they get too close to him. But it’s all good.
I was kind of surprised the other day, though, when something new was added to our morning.
As I tossed peanuts to my adoring fans, I noticed a few tiny sparrows, heads cocked to the side, watching the action.
And then, to my enormous surprise, the little birds began to imitate the way that the squirrels moved and behaved.
The birds were mimicking the actions of the squirrels, in hopes of getting a handout. It was something to see.
I had no seeds to give them, and wasn’t sure how to respond. So I went into the kitchen and found some fresh raspberries, which I washed and dissected into bird-sized pieces. And then I scattered the pieces in areas where the little ones congregate. Not too near the house, because … Lady Jade may be blind, but she’s still a cat.
So now I guess I’m gonna be feeding the birds as well.
On the plus side, I’m hoping there will soon be lots of help with the household chores!
But then again, after all these years, my cats still won’t so much as clean their own litter, the ungrateful buggers.
See, this is what happens to those of us whose early childhoods were shaped by Disney cartoons; we are very comfortable with the idea of animals deserving to be treated with respect, and being part of the family.
We whistle while we work, and know that a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down. We believe in magic, and of an enchanted land that can be found by travelling to the ‘second star to the right and straight on ’til morning.’
We are always ready for an adventure, and would be quite happy to follow a rabbit wearing specs and a vest down a hole, or to open a tiny door at the base of a tree to see what’s inside.
We are, it would seem, the last of the dreamers. In a cold world where it is everyone for themselves, and “I got mine, Jack,” replaces, “how can I help you?,” those of us who can’t shake off that Disney spell are ill-equipped to live in a world ruled by vengeful, egomaniacal, bigots.
We grew up when ‘men were men,’ and manly men like John Wayne were our heroes, stand up guys, who did what they said they’d do, and kept their promises. At least – that’s what we saw in the movies.
It might not all have been real, and maybe we kids of the 40s and 50s were naive and innocent of the real ways of the world.
But we did know right from wrong, and as we grew up, we learned to call out wrong when we saw it. We expected people to act honourably, even if it cost them, financially or emotionally. We took a person’s word as their vow, and believed them when they told us what they intended to do.
We called a liar, a liar, and blamed ourselves if we kept on believing anyone who continually lied to us. We expected consequences for misdeeds.
We kids of the 40s and 50s grew up to be the hippies of the 60s, and again, we may have been naive, and innocent of the ways of the world, but there was something beautiful and pure about that innocence.
Those days were good days. Perhaps it was inevitable that they would end, killed, as all beautiful things seem to be, by those who put money and their own desires and egos over the good of the many. Some of us even enjoyed being exploited. We really were very young, and not very wise.
But for many of us, we will always be those Disney kids, the ones that are a little bit off kilter, and a little too blind to ugliness. The ones with good hearts, that still ‘pay it forward,’ even when they might not have enough for themselves. The ones that see an animal in the wild, and gasp in appreciation of that natural beauty, rather than reach for a gun to kill it. The ones that will still take the time to pick up after those who would mindlessly despoil the planet, unaware of their own place in the cosmos.
It was the beliefs and the strength of people like the Disney kids that pushed forward every good thing that ever happened in our lifetimes, from the programs of the New Deal, to the establishment of civil rights, and the beginnings of universal health care. Our beliefs and marches ended a war. Progress comes from those who were nurtured to BELIEVE .. to believe in the goodness of the world, and the right of all of us – human or beast – to exist harmoniously on this planet.
There will always be the bad guys, the despoilers, the ones who want to bully and control, the ones who believe that strength is power over the weak. Always have been, always will be. What they can never understand is that their power is only temporary, and as nebulous as a dandelion seed; there is always someone with a more powerful weapon, ready to take it all away from them.
The truth is that It takes wisdom and what is called “ego strength” to actually be powerful. The part of our brain that processes threats commands us to ‘flight or fight,’ and for many, our sense of control ends there. Ego strength allows the person to tolerate feeling uncomfortable emotions for long enough to process the fear or rejection, without having to ‘discharge’ the emotions in a knee-jerk compulsion to ‘fight back. ‘
Aggressive reactivity is not strength, it’s a lack of impulse control. It is the behaviour of those who cannot see a bigger picture that is based on building alliances. They cannot recognize complexity.
In a populist world, politicians who use diplomacy are often seen as weak and indecisive. However, assuming that only brute strength can protect our lands can have grave consequences, especially in a world where nuclear weapons are ubiquitous.
These days, we’re hearing that a lot of people are having second thoughts about the vote they cast for Trump. Turns out that his repressive, regressive, and bigoted ways are having actual consequences on them, and that’s not what they voted for .. they voted for bad things to happen to ‘other’ people.
They voted for bad things to happen to ‘other’ people. And then they were shocked when it turned out that THEY were the ‘other’ people upon whom they had wished bad things.
There was a power outage earlier this week. It was a day when I was actually a little ahead of the morning … I’d eaten, dressed, and was nearly ready to drag on my winter boots, when everything abruptly winked out.
Winter’s dark at the best of times, and the sun was barely out. I could make out the shapes of the furniture, but overall, I was just hoping that the cats weren’t lurking in the hallway, waiting to trip me up.
While I waited for the power to come back on. I was pleasantly self-satisfied for having prepared for the morning the night before. I had printed out some course work, checked that I had everything I needed for the next day stashed safely in my purse, and had my transit fare ready in my coat pocket. I was good to go.
That’s when I started to think about how most things that happen in our life – for good or ill – are surprises, that come without warning. You can prepare … you can anticipate … but some things are still a surprise.
We know that our lives will have speed bumps to navigate – that’s just part of the human condition. No one gets from cradle to grave without encountering difficulties. Our characters both define and reveal how we react to those complications.
And it’s always a surprise. That unplanned pregnancy; the school you went to over the school you didn’t; the job you took for the summer that changed the course of your life – to mash up Bowie and Lennon, we never know what ch-ch-ch-changes are in store for the life that happens while we are busy making other plans.
Surprises are supposed to be fun, but not all are. Our whole world can change in the blink of an eye, a fall on the stairs, or the turn of a shapely leg. There’s virtue in steering the arc of our lives, but it’s the unforeseen that often compels its trajectory.
I’m one of those unfortunates that tries to be prepared for every eventuality. That is why my purse weighs 400 lbs. I never travel light; even a trip to the corner store finds me with hair and makeup for a cast of thousands at the ready.
And yet – I’ve been known to misplace my purse. And then the whole facade crumbles. I am lost in a world where nothing makes sense, because I feel out of control.
We live in a world where the winner is judged by the amount of goods and services he/she accumulates, which is why so many of us find ourselves coming to the end of a good run with far too much detritus. Little by little, I’m trying to shed my need to so closely control the ‘what ifs’ of the day. I’m paring down the things I keep and carry ‘just in case!’ in favour of a lighter mental load.
But it’s tricky. And it takes a faith in the future that many lose as they travel through life. If enough events that you perceive as good have lined your path, you will feel differently than someone who has encountered a lot of disappointing moments. It’s like a trust fall .. where you’re neither trusting nor trustworthy.
When I was living in the wilds of Scarberia, and carless, every trip to the grocery store was fraught with a desperation more often seen in someone preparing for a hurricane or nuclear war. I was obsessed with having enough food in the pantry, fridge and freezer to survive to the next shopping trip.
Now I live two blocks from two massive supermarkets, and know that I can get whatever I need, with very little effort. I’m working on the ‘just in time’ model, that businesses rely on to increase efficiency and decrease waste. You buy stuff when you need it, use it, then buy more as you need more. Except cat food. One should always have a surplus of tins and bags of cat food, because … cats.
But I’m still loaded up with a lot of junk that I can’t seem to release without worrying that I’ll need the item ‘one of these days.’ I’m working on it .. but I do still have a box of Furbys from the Christmas of 1998 that I couldn’t unload on eBay.
I’m not fixing to die anytime soon, but nor are most of us, and some of us won’t make the end of this year. It’s just the way it is. Pretending that we’ll always have these fragile lives in our control is what makes our leaving so frustrating to our loved ones.
The latest big thing in organizing philosophies is the darkly named Swedish Death Cleanse. It’s the process of cleaning house before you kick the bucket, rather than leaving the job to your loved ones.
If you’ve ever had to close up a loved one’s home, you know how difficult it is to sort through the gold and the dross, while mourning and trying to lead your own life. Whether you are an aging baby boomer or just bummed with our current reality, it’s a trendy way of dealing with our hoards.
No matter how much we invested in antiques and heirlooms, the reality is that these items are worth less and less as our generation and our parents’ dies off. Our kids probably want smaller, lighter furniture for their nomadic lifestyles. I’m also gonna guess that neither of my daughters is going to want my collection of cassette tapes from the 70s and 80s.
I’ve put a solid dent in the collection of holiday wrap I’ve dragged around for years, but it still gave me a pang to see how many people were recycling full rolls of wrap after this Christmas. Can’t help it. Grew up thrifty.
But I have to get real, living in a much smaller space than before, and I would prefer my kids remember me as thoughtful and tidy, rather than a packrat.
Besides, sorting and donating some of my better ‘stuff’ makes me feel not only generous, but in control of what I’m letting go.
I’m also feeling a relief and lightness in clearing away the boxes. In a small space, it’s easy to feel like the walls are closing in. Ditching the stash opens up your living space.
I didn’t feel the walls closing in when they were lined with books, but just having chotchkies lying around does me in. I’m actually getting to the point where I feel a little creeped out when I see pictures of a typically overstuffed living space. It feels fussy and frilly, and not in a good way.
The Swedish word dostadning is a hybrid of the words for death and cleaning. The idea may creep you out, but what it really is, is a way to formalize what matters to you, and what you want to hand down to your heirs. Keep the things you love. Trash, recycle, donate or gift what you don’t.
Prioritize the preservation of sentimental and family objects like old letters and photographs, but also keep a well-labelled ‘throw-away box’ for things that you can’t part with yet, but would like to keep away from prying eyes, like your collection of sex toys. Tape a note to the top of the box warning that opening the box will sentence the opener to death by face melting.
Life is full of surprises; some good, some bad, but all unexpected. That’s what makes those unexpected moments a surprise.
It’s great to be prepared, and it’s great to live in the moment, but even the most happy-go-lucky person lives happier when their lives are tidy and lack stress. It’s human nature to want the smoothest ride possible on our journey through life. Sometimes we just need to do a little vehicle maintenance to ensure the ride is both exhilarating and fulfilling.