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Summer’s Children-Part Two

Through play, we learn about ourselves and others around us—siblings, parents, friends. It all starts with how we play. Do we observe, get stuck in, wait, or blunder in, and see what’s happening as we go? How we play as children, provides indicators of what and how we will do our lives as we grow through the years.

I have been conducting an informal study on play for over fifty years. I started as a teenager looking after neighbour’s children. Three; the middle boy scribbled on walls, jumped on couches, threw pillows and defied everyone as he pushed boundaries. He defied preconceived notions and rules surrounding him. He exasperated his mother and his father dismissed him.

I found his capacity to play extreme as he pushed limits with a mischievous smile. He seemed defiant to see how far he could go. His ingenuity was captivating as he tested, re-tested and continued to test. I discovered his play was integral to what he expressed emotionally and later, how his life unfolded. What he felt came out in his play. As the young teen I was then, I witnessed links between behaviour, play, and attitude.

He became a salesman, and a general all-round dare-devil; motorbikes, jumping out of planes, extreme sports. It was part of his play at four, and it manifested in his play at 14, 24 and 34 each time intensifying play. I’d hazard a guess that at fifty-four and eighty-four he will somehow push boundaries.

Of course, I’ve had my own kids since that time, have grandkids and have worked with hundreds of young people and I have to say, in general, how a child plays as a youngster is frequently a gauge for what they will chose as work and more importantly, what activities really make their heart sing—where time evaporates—sometimes called soul or spirit purpose.

On those occasions, where we cannot imagine doing anything else; that activity that wakes us in the small hours, get us up in the morning early on a weekend, even on holidays. Chances are—our spirit awakens us to this activity because even in its most challenging moments—it feels like play. 

This excitement is what I see in children, still. I see the adult they will turn into and those activities that bring them alive. I think the sadness of it all, is not that it exists in each of us—that is its gift— it is rather that so many of us ignore it, and feel the drive and perhaps obligation to do what makes most money, rather than allow our awareness to grab onto that one thing that makes us come alive. It isn’t easy that much I recognize. We wander around a bit, sometimes an entire lifetime, but when we arrive at that place that ignites us, inflames our heart, that is our happiness, our joy.

Perhaps it is a luxury of opportunity, yet I see it as an inner compulsion that we are unable to let-go of because it feels like play to us. It helps us to connect to ourselves. Our inner selves and if there is a luxury attached to it, it is the luxury of age, and having time to reflect, and give it breath in our lives. That play—perhaps not the actual play of our youth—but our attitude toward play, still exists in our lives as elders. I like to track it backwards now, see if I can guess what they did as a child, and see how it is reflected in their life today. Awesome stuff!   

Writing Practice: Remember a time when you were actively playing as a child where time seemed to disappear. Write from that standpoint; identify your feelings, thoughts, the activities themselves, and how your inner and outer landscapes altered, or didn’t, during the experience. If you can’t remember a specific feeling, or thought, imagine it as you re-tell the story. How does this reflect in your life today? Does it? If not imagine how it may have. Have fun with this; its play!

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Summer’s Children – Part One

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Summer is vital (we get to PLAY), energy is vital, combined there is no stopping us—any time of the year.

All we need is a simple unfoldment of time, experience with a dash of hutzpah then combine this with our know-how, open mind and our sense of curiosity—and in the words of my 98 year old former mother-in-law—bingo, bango. Her expression when something is complete or understood—my interpretation—you’ve got it, all is good, let’s do it, there you go… 

These six ingredients: time, experience, hutzpah, know-how, openness and curiosity individually or collectively give us the backbone to embrace our lives, the ups and downs and the ho-hums.

Last week I spent the day with two very wise elders’ also known and dubbed wrinklies by my elderly folks. As a boomer wrinkly myself, I am not insulted by either the name, or the implication. It’s true, wrinkles emerge. Reality is such, we are born, we die and it is what is done in the in-between times that can change the world, for better or worse, and that is a choice we make in each moment of our life, knowingly, or unknowingly slowly, at the same rate as our wrinkles surface. They are the indicators of time and a life lived fully. They are the contours that represent our journey.

One woman, born in Holland was nine-years old during the occupation of WW2, the other was born on the coast of Nova Scotia. One travelled over a mountain pass with a baby in a hand carved papoose on horseback to the back country with her Park Warden husband with four months’ supply of food; the other lived in the States, Mexico, Montreal each time following her husband in his work, learning the language, raising the family and adapting to the cultures. One became a well accomplished wood carver, the other a well-rounded pianist. Both hold the keys of engagement in a life well-lived, well-embraced and well-balanced.

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Writing Practice: What is your recipe for a good life? What are your six main ingredients? Play with it; bring joy into the experience. Create a visual representation of your recipe. Tack it on a fridge, on a mirror. Smile at it, embrace its sentiment. If your recipe alters, change it, write another. The choice is all-ways yours!


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Simple Permission

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Giving Ourselves Permission

There are overgrown areas in my yard. Tall grasses, quack grass that weaves itself among the perennials its roots a web of succulence and tenacity, its tallness swaying in the breeze, its rustle a whispering whoosh that embraces my ears with hugs of comfort. To the untrained eye, it is a mess of weeds that need attention. To me it is the prairie alive and healthy emerging from its own perfect origin.

Sure enough there are perennials amidst the grasses. Someone else’s attentions still meanders among the grasses; poppies, day lilies and harebells; a splash of colour that seems to fit into the otherwise wild scape.

There are also monkshood, columbines, ferns and edibles behind the shade part of the garage, overgrown and woolly thick with foliage. It needs digging—one day—divided and transplanted. And when I have made a decision about the garage, a solid fir built structure built in the late 1920’s when two by fours, sixes and eights were the real McCoy and where roof asphalt was attached as siding; when I have decided how to preserve this little bit of history of this small town, I will get to the overladen beds outlined by flat river rocks, each flat side butted to the next that makes a border between bed and grass. Today mingled and blended. I will get to it; I will, but not today.

This year, out of the grasses and day lily leaves, I spotted a surprise brilliant green jewel woven into the fabric of new and old growth. A clover leaf wonder sprouting leaves mottled, patterned and distinct in its singularity. What a delight, what a joy.

In the six years I have experienced this garden there are wonders each season. Had I made a decision about the garage, had I dug in and dug-up rather than allowing the garden to reveal itself to me, I would have missed this little gem; this piece of paradise. The decision to allow the garden, the wild, woolly and formerly cultivated to emerge and reveal itself to me is a process much like healing from inside out.

It takes time, its takes patience; it takes fortitude to allow the process to reveal answers on how to move forward without tampering prematurely, and by giving ourselves permission to stay with it, no matter what—always takes time, even years perhaps.

Giving ourselves the go-ahead to take that time is likely one of the most consistent challenges of our lives. The question I ask myself frequently is, if not now; when? As John Lennon said in the song Beautiful Boy — life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.

Had I dug-up the garden bed I may never have seen the magic of this beauty. In this writing, I have witnessed again  the value of capturing a moment of my life to share and more importantly to write for my own health and well-being,  and in the event it gives others permission to write4health—their health and well-being—I am delighted! In-joy.

Writing Practice: Take time out from your busy-ness however it shows up for you. Pause; focus on one thing in your direct vision; a paper clip, an abandoned toy, a bird, a scattered garment, a leaf, spilled milk, dirty dishes, a discarded wrapper, a puddle reflection, and write from there revealing a personal story through its lens. Find your senses in what you see, include them, exclude them, engage them, identify or discard them. Write from inside out, and witness the landscape before you. write4health; your health, your well-being…


Frankie’s First Kiss

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I have a new boyfriend. Divorced with two young children, I am cautious about another male figure in their young lives, in the event he opts-out. It’s been over a year, and we’re about to embark on our first camping trip into the wilds of British Columbia. It isn’t the wilds, but it feels like it.

We plan to talk with the kids about getting married next year. It is dependent on their response as to how we proceed. There is no point in upsetting the apple cart —as my mother advises— when the children are two and six.

We pull the car over at a rest stop in a mountain pass. Annie wants to pee, while Frankie wants to stretch his legs. His new runners are itching to take a spin.

“Look mom,” he says. “See how fast I can run. See the grip-shun.” He starts to run as fast as his legs will carry him.

“Watch the road now,” I warn. I grab Annie’s hand to take her down the hill to the restroom.

When we get back, Frankie is running back and forth like a maniac as he takes his new runners through their paces.

“See how fast they run, Mom,” he stops suddenly and spins.

“Let’s have a snack, before we hit the road,” says Danny.  He grabs the picnic basket from the trunk. Annie holds his free arm as they walk to the picnic table.

We’ve snacked, juiced-up, and Frankie has tested his new runners.

“I’m over-floating with love for you mom,” he says cramming his egg-salad sandwich into his mouth.

He opens-up his arms towards me; stretches them around me, leans in.  He plants a kiss on my lips—and he won’t stop. I raise my arms to his shoulders and try gently to pull him away. I start to hum, mumble and giggle a little, as I try to disentangle from Frankie. I struggle to be released from his suction-cupped, eggy lips. He presses harder.

Suddenly a smack occurs as his lips release.

“So, that’s what a kiss on the lips feels like,” he says. “Aren’t my runners cool, mom. See.” He lifts his legs out from under the picnic table, shows his runners again, then takes them for a spin again..

“Me too,” says Annie as she chases Frankie.

Danny and I look at one another and laugh. “You really want to be part of this family?” I ask.

“Race you.” He starts towards the children. He stops, turns and grins. Blows me a kiss.     “Absolutely,” he mouths. I unscramble from the table and head towards my clan. In the wilds of British Columbia, I begin to feel optimistic.

Writing Practice: Tell a story, a simple scene, a life vignette that impacted your life: an incident, an emotion, an expression, a dialogue, or an image. It can be a jumping off point to something real or imagined. Weave a short tale that captures this moment expressing an emotional landscape of the time.  Short scenes painted with words, can at a later time, be strung together to make a story, a chapter in a book, or simply act as a reminder of how these moments capture  and make up our lives. Perhaps a moment like the one remembered here was the beginning of optimism for me and writing for health—mental health. Writing is certainly a low-cost mental health tool and can be used anytime, anywhere, and as needed. In-joy!


I was Nameless

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I was nameless—I walked two steps behind him; my father, my husband.

At seventy-eight, Alice has given up. There is a glimmer of hope, faint and disappearing faster each day. I hold conversations with her. I latch onto to any spark I witness in the hope something will ignite. She doesn’t want to die, but she is S-L-O-W-L-Y. Her brain is held captive inside an inert body.

Thoughts attach to possibility; but she doesn’t know what it is, yet… Her will wanes, shrinks to wilt. I offer suggestions. Each time a wall sprouts; “My life was sheer hell then,” she balks at childhood memories.

Chores before school; watching the bus appear half a mile away. Finishing feeding, rushing indoors to wash; change into cleaner clothes. Eat a spoonful of porridge; make a lunch if she was lucky, dash to catch the bus before it turned in the farmyard and drove away.

School—work—home to work. A field of potatoes to pick up; after the horse and plough left them behind, exposed, sundried. Knock off dirt. Collect. Basket full to unload. Root crops to the root cellar. Schoolhomework by candle flicker.

Up before dawn, work clothes—out to do chores again. Watch for the bus; sprint into change before the bus enters the yard. Sheep, cows, chickens, milking, feeding, cleaning; repeat.

She flinches at memory of ranching with a husband that left her for a younger woman. Her albums are full of him, with her, and their children. Her heart blisters; her story is cast in linage and amnesia and she can’t escape, except by death.

I’m a liability she announces. In this long-term care facility, I watch people at different stages of dying. I’m waiting to die. I want something meaningful, a purpose to live for. Somehow, together we identify some straws to clutch-on to for the future.

Writing Practice: April is National Poetry Month [NaPoMo]. For several years I have challenged myself to write a poem a day during the month of April. This unique experience and practice has garnered both observation and attention to detail that perhaps would have otherwise slipped by.

Here is a suggestion offered by Juliane Okot Bitek a poet and writer.

“Listen. Listen to your body and to what it is saying. Listen to what’s going on, sounding, vibrating, floating about you. Listen to the misheard statements and how they rub up against each other and sometimes beg to be the beginning of something.”

Surprise yourself; write4health, write poetry and PLAY!


Be Brave, Start Small

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“Transformation is opportunity and change disguised and waiting to burst into new form however, it reveals itself to you, and those around you.  Charged with Change—author

Living in Gratitude by Angeles Arrien divides her book by month and provides good fodder for contemplation, consideration and reflection each month. For March (p.65) Arrien quotes from Compassion in Action: Setting Out on a Path of Service by Ram Dass and Mirabai Bush, and identifies this list from that book.

  • Be brave
  • Start small
  • Use what you’ve got
  • Do something your enjoy
  • Don’t over commit

I read this last year, made a poster and posted it on my wall. At the time I felt overwhelmed with all the stuff on my list and was being propelled by tremendous self-imposed timelines. For a year, I have been heeding this call to action particularly when I feel I am moving towards what I call—make work projects; saying yes to something, before I’ve considered implications that often lead to busy-ness.

In other words, I have let-go of preconceived ideas and notions, just because…I wanted to, or I chose to. I have reined in my compulsion to dash off, commit to projects because I liked the idea before considering the long-term effects on my health and capacity to follow-through with the passion I enjoy.

I have been known to follow-through because I have given my word, and in turn this has impacted my heart, mind, body and spiritual health and well being.

Sounds kind of simple, but this last year I really have understood how “no” is a complete sentence—no justification, explanation, excuse necessary. A simple no, says it all. It may be—no not right now, no forever, no I’m uninterested. However, I recognize how unnecessary it is to add anything to the word, no. In its simplicity it holds such wisdom.

I find those five sentences above inspiring also. I often use them as a guide to consider whether to move ahead on a project, or put it aside for the moment. My gratitude extends to the wise among us daily—or however it shows up…

Writing Practice: Find a quote or list that inspires you. Create a poster and post it as a reminder. In-joy.

 


Us is marvelous…

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Us is marvelous. We are the best. The ones that can be anything we choose. Us is miraculous which doesn’t mean we perform miracles although that might be the case. You decide. Miracles are such that they go beyond human or natural powers. Not really sure what that means e-x-a-c-t-l-y, but I can guess.

Let me have a try. Being attached to this earth, I suppose I can be classed as human. I have a body, mobility which when you really think about it—in and of itself—is miraculous. It just happens. That autonomic nervous system is something else. It just runs without me doing something or anything at all. I can’t believe it sometimes. It is only when something is out of whack I actually even recognize it.

Beyond that it simply hums along—not me e-x-a-c-t-l-y—but my body sings its own tune. I hear it sometimes gurgle and burp, whine and squeal. It makes me laugh at times in the most unexpected places.

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