Thursday, January 23, 2014

A Family of Friends

Bits of green in January
Yesterday was the third meeting of my Daniel Plan support group. While we are reading from the book together, as individuals we do not all accept the teachings in the same way. This is new territory to me because in addition to discussing our individual goals of fitness, health and balance, we are discussing our individual experiences of faith. This is new and uncharted territory for me because my religious training consists of Sunday School classes about 50 years ago.

More recently, I have read Buddhist books and found them to be helpful in controlling anxiety. I never realized until I was an adult, the debilitating effects of anxiety. Afraid to be found unworthy by the "others", we resort to harmful pretences to avoid exposing our authentic selves. These pretences become " our beliefs about ourselves" and only serve to further alienate us from the others. A recipe for unhappiness….

I am still working with My Fitness Pal to achieve a goal that might take me a year. I would like to lose 40 pounds. We have been talking about realistic goals so I know that I won't do it by February. If only..
Today, I will walk by myself for forty minutes but I have 6 other women in my group to call when my regular walking partner is unavailable.

Monsieur and I were having a discussion over breakfast today. He believes that one can experience ideas in a solitary setting and I believe that it is in the sharing and discussing of ideas that we achieve a deeper understanding.

Speaking of sharing, I took 10 books to my group and they were snatched up. So far, this January, I have been successful in buying nothing but a half-price day planner. I have started an "I want it" list as recommended by Jill. The only two items on my list are a bathroom scale and an attractive zippered tote for travel. My shoulders get sore from carrying a leather purse but I don't want to wear a backpack in Paris or London. I really like the tote in Une Femme's post on travel but Lo & Sons doesn't ship to Canada. No impulse buy is possible!

I am thankful that there is so much support from so many people in the physical world, the virtual world  and the world of faith.

No Man Is An Island

No man is an island,
Entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thy friend's
Or of thine own were:
Any man's death diminishes me,
Because I am involved in mankind,
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;
It tolls for thee. 

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Another Year

Yesterday was my 62nd birthday. I am grateful for all of the devoted and caring friends that I have. Although I am a person who loves to spend time reading, listening to music or just puttering in the apartment, I value the connections that I have with so many different people.

I believe that my life is enriched by association with individuals and with groups  of people who help to support each other through all of life's challenges. On Saturday, I got together for coffee with two teaching friends and we spent 3 hours catching up on news of each other's families, planning music lessons for special needs children and just talking.

On Sunday, I visited with my church community and felt a feeling of peace and renewal as I sang the hymns and listened to a sermon on faith. I believe that the strength is in each of us to create the life that we want. Sunday evening, Monsieur and I had dinner with my brother and sister-in-law at a special seafood restaurant. I do not often spend my birthday dinner with my brother so it was a special treat.

Monday, Monsieur gave me a book by Robert Thurman and Sharon Salzberg called Love Your Enemies. Maman and I had lunch together and in the evening, I had a group discussion meeting about faith. I really enjoy the discussions that are based on the weekly sermons at church. Two of us were celebrating birthdays so we shared healthy snacks.

We all have our challenges and issues in life. When we share them with others, we gain many different perspectives. I feel grateful for all of those people with whom I am connected and who make each day of my life a little richer.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Gathering Strength

Learning to be grey
This week, I have been gathering strength. My physical fitness and diet have improved a lot since returning from my trip. I didn't meet my fitness goals this week but I will stick with them and hope to report to my support group that I have given myself the time to work on my healthier body.

I have spent quite a lot of time this week sorting and decluttering in the apartment. There are a lot of books that I can pass along to others and my storage areas are becoming less cramped. Clothing is a problem but January has been "buy nothing" month. I will wait for more weight-loss and to see how my grey grows in before I purchase anything.

I really respect women who have the strength to make significant changes in their lives. Overwhelmed by obligations and ignoring my inner voice, I have made compromises that have caused me unhappiness. In my case, food and wine have filled the void left by an empty marriage. The ever earnest me believes that if I try harder, look prettier, am more understanding, my husband will act differently. He won't!

Last night, I went to a night club to listen to his band. I am the least noisy night club woman you would ever want to meet. At almost 62, I felt ridiculous and uncomfortable sitting alone in a club as my husband played music. Today, he has spent 7 or 8 hours with a woman singing, recording or something… Despite my unhappiness, my husband will continue to do as he pleases.

I am spending my time creating a stronger me who can choose happiness. I don't want to take antidepressants for the rest of my life or live with a bottle of pinot grigio as my evening companion.
I am a strong woman who needs to gather all of her resources. I don't know where the journey will take me and perhaps that is why right now I am also looking to a faith group for support.

Reba has a song that describes my feeling right now.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Growing Grey

Two months without hair dye
In two weeks, I will have my 62nd birthday. So far, my seventh decade has brought me many adventures and a few losses. Since I have retired, I have more time available for self-exploration.
During my years as a mother and as an educator, my focus was often on my daughter or my students.
Now is the time to nurture and to educate myself in the ways of positive ageing.

This is a decade of physical, cognitive and often spiritual changes. As we lose our elders and watch those who remain deal with the infirmities of age, we can not avoid contemplating our own mortality. How do we want to spend the next twenty years and how will decisions that we make now affect the last years of our lives?

Since the beginning of December, I have been tracking my food and exercise on My Fitness Pal and am happy to report that my blood pressure is significantly lower after just five weeks. Yesterday, some women from my church discussion group formed a support group to help each other achieve a goal. For the next 40 days, we will work on a buddy system to realize a personal health or lifestyle goal.

Since I have retired, I no longer have a group of teacher colleagues or the shared recess and lunch hour breaks. I am new to church-going but the after church coffee time and my small discussion group have filled that void.  As many senior women spend their last years dealing with feelings of loneliness and isolation, community involvement and volunteer work afford opportunities for connection to  others and to a greater purpose.

As someone who loves to learn, books are very important in my life. I have been purging files and sorting through boxes of books and have just begun to reread Claiming Your Place at the Fire by Richard J. Leider and David A.Shapiro.  The book deals with what the authors call "vital ageing".

This year, after 20 years of hair colour, I have felt an urge to experience my grey hair. I am not sure what it will look like or whether it will have any effect whatsoever on how I feel about myself or how I am perceived by others. Today, I am visiting a downtown stylist who specializes in curly hair to discover a "greyer me"
My grey is out there.
I felt weird coming home with my "new hair" but I think the final outcome will be shiny silver hair.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014


In 2014, I will be returning to Paris for 5 weeks but I will also be travelling to the Shetland Islands to visit my mother's relatives. When she was a child, my mum was encouraged to write letters to grandparents and cousins in Shetland. Although my grandfather left the islands to go to sea, he sent money and food vouchers to his Shetland family.

My mother and father were able to visit Shetland more than once and hosted her cousins and their children when they visited Canada. In 1987, I was fortunate to spend a couple of days in Lerwick, the main city of Shetland and to travel to the island of Whalsay where my grandfather was born. His sisters were still living at the time and I even visited the home of one of his boyhood friends.

As years have passed and my mother's cousins are getting older, I am drawn to visit the islands once more. Maman has decided not to visit despite my encouragement and that of her cousins. I still hope that she will change her mind.

Accommodation is scarce and expensive in Lerwick due to the presence of North Sea oil projects but my hospitable kin have decreed that "ye will nae stay in other folks' homes." Perhaps I will need to borrow Mum's Shetland dictionary as the Shetlanders have their own dialect.

I am a woman of the story (any story especially history) so I feel keenly the ties to my family who sailed the seas, some returning home, others settling on the west coast of Canada or in New Zealand. Before I return my mum's book A Kist of Emigrants, I will be rereading to prepare for the hamefarin.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Adieu à 2013

On January 4, my dad died.
When I look back on 2013, it has been a year of loss for our family. My dad died after struggling with heart disease for several years. While I miss him, I am thankful for having a dad until I reached the age of 61 and that I had time in my retirement to spend with him.

Monsieur lost his mother in September. He also had a chance to spend "alone time" with his mother and to experience the joy that she took in the music he played at the care home where she lived.

Although many of us reject the idea of care facilities, both of our parents benefitted from professional care and the opportunities for companionship and enrichment that were available to them.  I recently watched the beautiful French movie Amour that deals with the loving end of life relationship between a husband and wife. The film touched my heart because some of my parents' friends are dealing with these issues right now.

My plan for the first five years of retirement is focussed on travel. I understand that I will not always have the health or resources to continue to travel extensively. The suitcase (valise diabolique) and the absences from my husband are becoming less attractive but there is still much of the world to explore.

I am approaching my 62nd birthday in January and I am experiencing a feeling about ageing that I have not felt before. This is a time to face my life and to try to live with inner and outer peace. I don't really know what that means but I'm sure that it will be a challenge. Each year is a gift to us if we continue to get to know ourselves better.
Last January's snowdrop.
Each January, I look for the snowdrop that is my personal sign of renewal.