Snow blind

This week we had an epic snowstorm – the biggest one since 1999. The snow began overnight and kept going all through the next day – wispy flakes blown horizontally by the wind, falling steadily for hours. By the time it stopped, there was about 50 cm ( a foot and a half) of tight, compacted snow on the ground.

Throughout the day, lots of crazy stories emerged of people struggling to get to work – cars piled up in ditches or jackknifed across highways, buses stranded, transit cancelled and pedestrians being blown about, trudging through unplowed pavements, walking for miles.

I waited until the afternoon to attempt the trek back home from my mom’s. My journey wasn’t as bad as it could have been. I managed to find transit that was still running and only fell over once crossing a snow drift. I also helped to push a car which was stuck in the alley behind my house. I saw many other signs of this – people helping to push or dig out cars, or out all day shovelling snow in the neighbourhood. Even the driver of the bus I was on waived the fares.

Unfortunately, as the week went on – and the snow remained – I saw less and less of this kind of help and if anything, more signs of people being mean and impatient with one another.

I think in times of a shared crisis, we are very good at helping one another, the immediacy of the extreme situation rallying us to unite in our efforts to help one another. What if we could be like this every day? To treat every day’s circumstances as precarious and see that any of us can be vulnerable at any time.

I think the snowstorm also made it clear to me how lucky many of us are to have a home to shelter and work in and take refuge from the storm. Why not share our good fortune with others whenever we get the chance – every day and not just snow days.

Working on it

This week I attended an online workshop for job seekers – another one, I should add, as I’m still having trouble finding a job after several months of applying to various positions. What I learned most of all from the workshop is how hard you have to work just to apply for a job, with each post’s dizzying array of requirements and the fierce and endless competition.

I did the workshop because I felt I ought to learn how to become more savvy in applying for jobs I thought I ought to be applying for. But is this really the right approach to finding work? It’s certainly making me feel more stressed and unhappy.

What if instead I just took out the word ‘ought?’ There are many of us are engaged in pursuits that take up so much of our time and energy and that we feel we ‘ought’ to be doing, for whatever reason. And sure, financial, familial, societal and other pressures put us in situations that can be difficult to manage. For me, I’m fortunate that I don’t have financial constraints at the moment and can try a different approach to work, instead investing my time and energy in finding something that is truly right for me.

And in the meantime, writing. I never feel that I ‘ought’ to be writing. It’s my passion and comes from my heart, with my mind conjuring up words that I hope will resonate with other people. It’s why I began to write this blog regularly, as well as it being an example of something I heard recently – ‘Dream big and start small.’ We can all do little things, take small but definitive actions that help us reach what we’re really after and a fulfillment of who we truly are.

What will it be for you? I invite you to and ask and in answering this question, see what initial steps you can take towards going after your dreams. Everything starts with a beginning, and it’s the movement towards a particular direction that will eventually get you there. Possibilities may be endless, but what is not in infinite supply is time, so perhaps the real work is in taking concrete, committed actions towards reaching a better outcome for tomorrow.

Suited to a tea

Now that we’re back in semi-lockdown again, things like indoor dining are banned. The night before these rules were reinstated, myself and my dear friend visiting from England were discussing how we ought to frequent the local café we kept talking about and walking past, as this would be the last possible opportunity for at least three weeks and during the time that he was here. So, although it was now dark and cold outside, we stirred ourselves from the cozy nest of my home and walked the several blocks to the cafe, only to find that it had been closed that day due to unforeseen circumstances.

Disappointed, but undeterred now that we were out, we decided to take a walk round the ‘hood, including a visit to the local library, where my friend managed to find an excellent book on his current topic of study. Then we walked down a side street and had an encounter with an adorable and friendly 4-month old Siamese kitten, who was being taken for a walk by his owner. Then we popped into the local mall to see the Christmas gingerbread installation, along with passing various other twinkly lights in the ‘hood. So, we ended up having a really nice little jaunt, though far from our original plan of action.

This is only a little story, but it illustrates something I’ve encountered many times in my life – that it’s always good to start off with an idea that that touches your heart in some way and then be open and see where it takes you. It may be off in an entirely different direction, but if you are open to discovery, you are then able to enter the realm of magic, joy and infinite possibilities.

Learning to ask questions

Happy New Year everyone. This past year has been very challenging and still more uncertainty looms. This past week held additional challenges for me, as my dear friend from England was due for a visit. There was already mounds of stress in getting him here amidst all the Covid regulations which severely restricted his movements initially. So tensions were high by the time we decided to rent a car and take a few day trips throughout the province. Trying to rush around to places in the limited daylight, combined with paper-map navigation and poor signage led to the subsequent inevitability of getting lost and we ended up immersed in conflict which I felt was directed at me. At one point, it was so bad, I wondered if our 20-year friendship was in danger of ending for good.

When we got home that night, I decided instead to take a massive step back and distance myself from all of my cascading feelings of anger, disappointment and upset and to take a different approach. I actually wanted to understand how we had got to that point and decided to ask questions. Not pointed, accusatory questions, but open, enquiring ones, to genuinely understand where this person was coming from.

The results were incredible. From just asking questions, I found out things about my friend that I never knew, even though we’ve been close for such a long time. It helped me to understand things much better and to empathize with some of his struggles. And the healing was profound and we were able to move forward and beyond. Knowing what I know now will help me to stave off any potential future problems before they escalate.

As we begin a new year, where many tensions are rife and uncertainty bounds, perhaps we can make things better just by learning to ask questions. We can’t heal or resolve things until we have more information and can better understand what someone is trying to tell us. Undoubtedly, there would be a lot less conflict in the world if we just made the effort to understand each other better and I always say there are more sides to any story than most people are willing to acknowledge. Perhaps we can make this the year that we move out of being immersed in our own stories and learn to make room for the stories of others.