Connecting The Dots

Discussing the threads of my own passions which have culminated in my work as coach, mentor, presenter in my own business.

The Joy of Cold Days

Mary Johnson - Wednesday, February 06, 2019

It's been cold. Really really cold! The Polar Vortex has made its presence know all over North America though it has decidedly settled over Alberta. Yesterday morning was minus 34 though colder here in the burbs. Damn! That's just cold. 

Now it's pretty easy to get caught up and moan and groan about our winter fates. It is a challenge on many fronts. Yet there are some fabulous things that cold, cold weather invites you to take advantage of. Here are some of my favourites!

1. A glass of wine, good music by the fire.

2. Time to read some of the great books I got at Christmas!

3. An excuse to say 'No, can when it warms up!'

4. Cooking hearty meals with enough for hearty left-overs.

5. Cozy sheets and blankets.

6. Sleeping better under those cozy sheets and blankets.

7. Catching up on my PVR'd shows.

8.  Sitting around the kitchen table chatting for longer because you aren't rushing off somewhere.

9. Your neighbour driving! :))

10. Taking a little longer over the paper (yes we still do an actual paper) and coffee. 

11. Planning your garden, ... maybe ordering seeds.

12. Knowing how wonderful and energetic you'll feel after this enforced downtime.

Yes there is much to appreciate during this time. We know it won't last forever. So dive in and make the best of it. What choice do you have!?

 

From yesterday's conversation

Mary Johnson - Friday, January 18, 2019

Had a marvellous conversation yesterday with a dear and very long time friend. She had read my previous blog Seeking and finding delicious and had a caution for me. 'Be careful when you open yourself up, make yourself vulnerable, you may get sick. I did.' Hmm this rather took me back. Eleanor is one of the most 'there's a way to resolve this' kinda gal I know. Her saying this wasn't proposing that sickness would happen. It was just a heads up not to be surprised at what does indeed appear. 

My immediate counter was that perhaps her illness was always there ticking along below the radar. Or not. She has had a hectic couple of years of Board work, grand babies, planning a wedding, etc. There are many of us who completely miss the niggles and hints that our life's are out of sync. Certainly it's been the case with me a couple of times. My friend admits to being on a learning curve with this one. She has no choice.

Doing some conscious work on this time of life will no doubt bring up some unresolved muck in my life. Frankly I'm counting on it! For years I've been a follower of the philosophy of Scarlett O'Hara - I will deal with that tomorrow, .... There are a lot of tomorrows buried in my psyche. Yet I'm ready to pull out, examine, integrate and perhaps put a new perspective on my story. I believe I am more resilient now. Have a much broader perspective on the ebbs and flows of life. This puts me in a better place to welcome what shows up as I learn to sit in solitude, silence and stillness to contemplate the whole of my life - good, bad, indifferent. One of my favourite poets, Rumi, had it right.

The Guest House

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
Some momentary awareness comes
As an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
Who violently sweep your house
Empty of its furniture,
Still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
For some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
Meet them at the door laughing,
And invite them in.
Be grateful for whoever comes,
Because each has been sent,
As a guide from beyond.  

I suspect Eleanor and I will enjoy more delicious conversations about the guides from beyond


Seeking and finding delicious

Mary Johnson - Tuesday, January 08, 2019

Happy New Year All! Hope it's a great one for you!

Last year I felt somewhat rudderless. Usually my year has a theme. Some word or phrase or sentence that captures the essence of how I see and feel about the year ahead. The theme emerges rather organically rather than through some sort of deliberate process. I am always surprised and delighted at what shows up. Nothing came to me early or at any point during 2018. In many ways it was signalling a transition for me though I really didn't want to see that. Over a coffee, a dear friend of mine prodded me. "You've been writing a lot about letting go. Have you?" Good question! There wasn't tangible evidence that I have let go so much as aspects of my life were letting go of me. My work softened, relationships changed, people became ill, moved or died. The house got an unexpected emptying when the kids moved in this Fall. "I could never be a gypsy" was scratched off my 'never' declarations after our 7 week sojourn down east. Gypsying is rather fun!

Coming up to this year I did a check in. My energy is running low. My house is full of the new young family and, for the time being, no longer my refuge. Enthusiasms for things I've done before not really there. Clearly not a time I can push or conquer up something even if I wanted to. It was into this 'Oh dear!' space that my theme popped into my head.

"If it's not delicious, it's NO!"       

As soon as it came to me I felt this incredible sense of relief. I had given myself permission to say NO! The letting go thing I have so often alluded to was my wanting to do just this. Say NO to the things that for now feel heavy with obligation. Looking for delicious is starting to feed me. It's a being pulled toward rather than pushing way energy. And it's working! A mere 8 days into the new year and delicious has put in an appearance everyday. Sometimes several times a day. Unexpected letters, invitations to events I wouldn't have seen, good folks I haven't heard from in a while calling to get together. 

There has been a shift around saying NO. Some asks are an absolutely clear. With others it's looking for where the delicious resides. Or delaying until delicious can be felt. It's become kind of a game for me. What I know so far is that my life is taking on a slightly adventurous feel. With practice maybe even daring!! 

On my January calendar is a saying from Thich Nhat Hanh.

'Waking up this morning, I smile. Twenty-four brand new hours are before me.' 

 May 2019 be full of your version of delicious!

From Parker J Palmer

Mary Johnson - Monday, December 31, 2018
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Parker J Palmer has shared a poem by Anne Hillman and beautiful thoughts on the New Year. Much more eloquent than anything I could say. Please enjoy and wishing you a delicious 2019.

"This “New Year” thing is a curious fiction, isn’t it? The hoopla we make at midnight on Dec. 31st is a tad over the top for what is actually just one more tick of the clock.
But this annual ritual allows us to imagine that maybe, just maybe, we’re on the threshold of something new and better. And some of our imaginings might come true, depending on what we do.
As Anne Hillman says, “we look with uncertainty” to the future. But rightly held, uncertainty can generate creativity instead of anxiety. To that end, here are five questions that Hillman’s words evoke in me—five questions for crossing the threshold that, if we took them seriously, might be life-giving for us and our world:
• How can I let go of my need for fixed answers in favor of aliveness?
• What is my next challenge in "daring to be human" in personal, relational, and political terms?
• How can I open myself more fully to the beauty of nature and human nature?
• Who or what do I need to learn to love next? And next? And next?
• What is the new creation that wants to be born in and through me?
Nobody knows what 2019 will hold. But if we wrap our lives around good questions—and try to live our way into good answers every day—the better world we want and need is more likely to come into being.
HAPPY NEW YEAR, everyone! May 2019 be a year of Light and Life for you and yours. And may we help make it a good year for others with whom we share this brief but beautiful ride around the sun."

[If you’d like to learn more about Anne Hillman’s wonderful work, please visit http://annehillman.net.]

Christmas Carols

Mary Johnson - Tuesday, December 18, 2018

One of my favourite things this time of year are the playing of Christmas carols. When we put up the advent calendar December 1st, on goes Burl Ives, The Robert Shaw singers, The McDades, Bing Crosby, church organs and choirs. I love to do my Christmas baking to the music, tidying the house to Holly Jolly, journaling and now this year singing carols to baby Hailey. Have to tell you she's a most attentive audience! There is this amazing internal unfolding of love, memories and warmth for me as I croon along. I can tell Hailey feels it!

There is lots of fabulous music that has been a part of my life. Growing up listening to mom and dad's big band sound. Singing in the church choir. Being a child of the 60's and 70's. Smoking hot tunes from that time. Neil's love of opera and the classics. Listening to the tunes of my kids as they grew up. So much variety and delight. Different songs underscore different events and people in my life. 

So never really thought why playing Christmas carols every year is so satisfying. Then a chance comment shared by Serena Ryder with Terry David Mulligan Saturday night on CKUA struck a chord. (Ooo bad pun!) It was about the fact this music is played this time of year. Year over year. Bingo! The one constant, the one genre of music that has been a part of my life - my whole life, is the music played at Christmas. I revel in it for a whole month. See myself as a young child enchanted by all things Christmas. The women in my life - Grannie, Mom, Auntie's Audrey and Betty making the season merry and bright. Our joy as parents of our own children as they experienced the wonder of the season. And of course playing carols for our grandchildren. With luck this will become a forever part of their Christmases. Then like all good things the music, decorations, tree all get put away to again be brought out and savoured once more next Christmas. 

May your Christmas and holiday season be blessed with the love and companionship of good people, good health, happiness and of course good music. xox        

A baby changes everything

Mary Johnson - Monday, December 10, 2018

Our new wee Miss is almost 2 weeks old. She entered this world reluctantly her momma and dad told us. Inside seemed a better proposition than the outside world! :) None the less she's made that leap. Our son and daughter-in-law are living with us for a time. Not an easy transition for Neil and I. Can only imagine how it is for my son and daughter-in-law. Surprisingly or maybe not, all those edges or little rubs of adjustments have disappeared. We all are focused on this new little person. Our house is overflowing with the new gear required for a baby. The coffee tables covered with little barf rags and soft blankets. A bottle tree decorates the kitchen. Hungry crying along with the stretches and squeaks when she sleeps. It's an old world made new again. 

32+ years ago we had a baby on this sort of basis. My baby now has his own. Old patterns of rocking, talking, changing diapers and feeing have come rushing back. Caring for a baby is wired in the bones. It's not that I wouldn't want a baby of my own again. It truly is the work of much younger folks. Still to have a little person to discover and watch unfold is a unexpected privilege and delight. Neil and I smile and laugh a lot more watching it all unfold. Our house is overflowing with love. A baby changes everything!       

Tomorrow a new baby arrives

Mary Johnson - Monday, November 26, 2018

There's a huge anticipation in the air around our place. Tomorrow our youngest son and his wife officially become parents. For them much focus is on the upcoming birth. The questions about how will it be? how will I be? am I up to the delivery? The angst is overlaid with nervous laughing, occasional tears and a flurry of activity to be ready. I remember that worry.

What is almost impossible to explain is that this part is a matter of a few hours in a lifetime. That as of tomorrow your life is irreversibly changed. It's a shift in a couples paradigm that you only 'get' once baby arrives. I know we didn't get it. Our friends still kid us about our insistence that nothing would change. Neil and I would continue quite as before, .... just with a wee one in tow. Ha! I look back and realize how naive we were. Blessedly so! Once we were into the swing of parenting, we had 2 more. The wonder and joy of being a parent had us commit readily. The whole birthing process didn't stop us. 

Time puts a sweet perspective on things. I love being here, at the Grandma stage. The new one will be a delight. All the ups and downs of parenting a child are not ours to do. We just get to love this baby. And hold a space for the new parents to find their way. 

Tomorrow a new baby arrives. Wish the new parents well!       

Be all I'm not

Mary Johnson - Sunday, November 11, 2018

Sunday is an extra special reflection time for me. I have some questions I pose to myself at the end of each week to capture the essence of what the week has been. Every once in a while there's a loud Bingo! While doing a stream of consciousness writing about 'My Joyful Life', I wrote to be all I am followed by to be all I am not. I stopped (not what you are supposed to do with this type of writing). It hit me. Hard! I don't go near the things I am not! They are weaknesses, not 'positive', can pull you down. Focusing on them dooms you to be buried there in the mud fixing something that can't be fixed. Or so say the current wisdom. 

The Bingo was what if I embraced the things I am not as heartily as the things I am? Rather than skirt, hide or diminish them,  I loudly declare who I am not! It felt like a missing piece for me. That whole other side of me that is not acknowledged for fear of not showing up as positive, chipper, go-getter. Yet all I am not defines me too! So here goes.

I'm an Extrovert and tend to love being with people. Yes! And now a days many people are not to my liking, crowds energy sucking and it turns out I often rather like my own company.

Generally I see or work hard to see the good or other possibilities in situations. And sometimes what shows up is just wrong, stupid or just not my worth time or energy so I turn away and don't engage. Turn off inane TV, unless expecting an emergency turn off your phone when we are having coffee. Please don't ask me to 'Share if you agree'.  

I  care about my family. A lot! But sometimes it's just all too much and I don't care - for a time.

Been married 40 years and have been a pretty good partner for the most part. The other part - I can be a bitch!

This isn't the whole enchilada but you get my drift. Saying any of this isn't something I want to debate. This is, well, 'is' stuff. The world doesn't always show up nice and either do I. Declaring there's a cranky, don't care, disengaged gal in there sometimes means I have a chance to make peace with her. Something I have been loath to do. I'm thinking this might just be a good thing.   

   

   

Baby toes

Mary Johnson - Friday, November 02, 2018

What brings you joy? .....

This is a question Kathleen and I have on our Life Review for our women over 60 program (Offerings). When we invited the participants to complete the review questions before session 2, the difficulty of answering this particular question came up. It had struck a nerve. Almost everyone at first blush was having trouble naming what brings them joy. I too remember struggling with the whole concept of 'joy'. The picture in my mind's eye was of a one thing that propelled me into a constant state of happy. That somehow I was to be in a place of perpetual joy. Silly me! of course there is no such thing. Of course if someone has an idea of what would this, do share! 

So a good while back I sat myself down and redefined for myself what 'joy' was to me. It range from breath taking moments like driving through red maple country this fall to quiet times of deep contentment like at the end of a productive and meaningful day. Plus a whole lot of stuff in between! Watching the squirrels cavort in the green space behind my home, a juicy conversation with a friend, meeting someone with an unusual take on life, drinking a cup of coffee in the quiet of the morning. With this I understood it was an internal marker vs an external check mark. This too opened up possibilities! With this new context my noting of joyful activities and moments came easily. With some of this discussion the women were sent home with the 'homework' of coming up with their list of what gives them joy.  

Session 2 began with them putting up their ideas, one per stickie note, one a wall. The seed had been planted. Up went the beginning of a listing of wonderfully joyful experiences. One of the items took my breath away. Baby toes the stickie said. I was immediately transported to a time of wee, wee ones and the wonderful smell, feel and look of baby toes. In that moment it became a whole body experience. So incredibly simple and oh how joyful!      

Walls vs Doorways

Mary Johnson - Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Last evening marked the first workshop in a 4 part workshop series on 'Life's Third Act' or life after 60 and our fourth offering of this program. Gathered was a group of 11 women transitioning, for the most part, away from traditional work and looking for 'what's next?'. Many expressed the frustration of feeling stuck. Most of our lives we look at life as a series of obstacles to be tackled, dominated, worked around, climbed over. Goals are set. We march out to accomplish them.

As we find ourselves contemplating our Third Act, the whole goal thing becomes blurry. We don't know what we want to achieve, do, contribute. We can't see beyond the walls, barriers we erect around our not knowing. Not knowing is darn uncomfortable! So we rail and fight against the wall in front of us. 'I want to know!' 'I hate being stuck.' 'Tell me what I am supposed to so.' The more we argue with the walls the more we feel stymied.

What if those walls in front of you aren't walls but doorways? That going over, under, around them is not what you are to do. You need to go through them. This means making friends or at least a truce with 'not knowing', 'feeling stuck', 'no goals', 'no clue'. A most uncomfortable place to be!! Perhaps THIS is what this time is about. Getting comfortable with being uncomfortable. Not having all the answers. Allowing what's next to arrive without man handling the whole situation personally. Trusting 'Life' a little more. Oh this is not easy. Especially for high achieving, capable, competent women (and men). 

So consider befriending 'the wall' so that the doorway through appears. This quote showed up for me today. Bingo I say! It from one of my favourite human beings and coach extraordinaire Doug Silsbee.  

"Presence requires us to stay with even what is uncomfortable, so that it becomes tolerable and so that we can organize ourselves towards what matters, rather than away from discomfort."