Yellow arrows painted on the paved pathway clearly indicate the direction foot traffic should flow.
I understood why this was necessary during the busy evening events planned for the park. My dilemma was wondering if I needed to follow these directions during my morning walk, when no crowds were present. I entered the park on foot, on the opposite side from the parking lot, so was already going the opposite direction.
After glancing around to ensure no one else would be entering this section of walkway, I strode in opposition to the painted markers. What I did caused no harm to anyone but still left me feeling slightly guilty.
This was about much more to me than following arrows marked on the ground. I have often had to make a decision between taking the designated route or following my own path. What seems to be best or most convenient for me is not always what I should do. My conscience is sometimes in opposition to my will.
These days we are faced with many decisions and opinions. Which way I go is ultimately up to me. I can follow the guidelines and social conventions or I can oppose them, certain that my rights are more important than my compliance.
If my choice causes harm, intentional or not, I will be faced with guilt and remorse. For that reason, I cannot allow personal beliefs to be the cause of disregarding the rules. When it comes to the direction I need to go, it’s seldom as easy as following painted arrows.
At the time of this writing, I’ve been doing an online, self-paced Spanish course for 270 days.
In order to move to the next level of learning I have to reach a certain ranking for the week. Sometimes it takes a few weeks to score enough points to move ahead. Too few points and I could be demoted to the previous level.
A few times I didn’t put in enough effort and barely maintained my standing. This bothered me so I now strive to remain in the top twelve.
Last week I checked my score and discovered I was in first place! It was only day one of the week so, while excited, I knew it might not last. The next morning, I had dropped to second place so spent a little longer online and regained my standing.
This is the way it continued for several days. My competitive nature had me spending more and more time each day. Sometimes I went online a second time to check my score and do another quick lesson. I wanted to finish the week as number one and get the virtual rewards that position offered.
With less than two days to go, someone surpassed me by so many points I would have to spend about three hours each day rather than my daily one hour. If I did this there was a good possibility I could win!
The voice of reason asked me what the cost would be. Time with my husband would pay the price, as would many other pleasures.
As if that weren’t bad enough, when I race through lessons, more intent on gathering points than learning, my retention diminishes. Foolish mistakes are made. Was the intent to learn the language or to come first in this level?
I listened to reason. That left time to bake muffins, go for a walk with my husband, email a childhood friend and work on a writing project. Although I didn’t finish in first place, what I spent my time on definitely made me a winner.
It has become my tradition to share this poem with you as one year ends and we embark upon another. Every year I read it and appreciate what it has to say. Never has it been more meaningful to me than it is now.
My mother gave me a copy of this prayer many years ago so sharing it is also a tribute to her.
My prayer is that each of you will be blessed this way in 2021.
NEW YEAR PRAYER
May God make your year a happy one,
Not by shielding you from sorrow and pain,
But by strengthening you to bear it, if it comes.
Not by making your path easy,
But by making you sturdy enough to travel any path.
Not by taking hardships from you,
But by taking all cowardice and fear from your heart.
Not by granting you unbroken sunshine,
But by keeping your face bright, even in the shadows.
Not by making your life always pleasant,
But by showing you where man and his cause need you most,
And by making you anxious to be there, and to help.
The elderly man we passed in the stairwell used broken English and hand gestures to convey his message. We smiled and nodded, even though we weren’t sure what he was trying to tell us. All we knew was it had something to do with the stairs.
Although our assigned underground parking spot is next to the elevator, we routinely walk to the end of the hall and take the stairs. That is why it was several days after our encounter before I fully understood what this gentleman had attempted to convey.
A glance at the elevator as I passed caused me to stop and read the notice posted there. It was dated a few days earlier and informed us the elevator was out of order until the end of the week.
This situation would be inconvenient when we carried groceries in but was something we could still manage. It would be much more difficult for those in our building with mobility issues, such as the elderly man we saw who slowly made his way down the stairs. Some would be trapped, unable to exit the building without the elevator they relied on.
Being trapped at home is something many of us are experiencing right now. Restrictions on gathering together mean our Christmas will be spent at home and not with our loved ones.
I am one of the lucky ones. As much as I’d like to be with our children and grandchildren at Christmas, I am not alone. My husband and I will spend a quiet Christmas together. Through technology we will be able to connect with our family and watch them open their gifts.
There are many who will spend the day alone. I can’t invite others into my home right now but can reach out and let them know they haven’t been forgotten. Maybe being trapped at home this year will give me more opportunity to share the joy and love of the Christmas season.
My hands retreated inside my jacket sleeves. I flexed my fingers in an attempt to warm them up. My ears stung as another blast of arctic wind buffeted my body. I definitely wasn’t dressed properly for this morning’s walk.
I should know by now that sunshine doesn’t necessarily mean warmth. When I first stepped outside, the coolness surprised me. My body told me to go back for a hat and gloves. My mind said it wasn’t that bad and I’d been warm enough once I started walking. I listened to my body and set off at a brisk pace.
The first twenty minutes weren’t too bad. But now, I was more than two kilometers from home and paying the price for my lack of preparation.
Have you ever underestimated the time something would take or the resources needed and ended up not properly prepared? It’s happened to me more times than I can count.
I may not repeat the same mistake but seem to discover plenty of new ones on a similar theme.
Upon further examination, the problem might not be lack of preparation but an abundance of pride. There is usually some type of warning that I fail to heed, thinking I can handle the situation in my own way. Unfortunately, in these instances, the outcome is not what I had hoped for.
When I admit I don’t have all the answers and use common sense (like dressing for the weather), there is less chance I’ll be left out in the cold.
They say confession is good for the soul, so here goes.
Although I make my best efforts to stay positive, sometimes I fail miserably. Yesterday was one of those days.
To my mind, negativity dominated the conversations in the room. The popular opinion was opposed to my beliefs. I shouldn’t have let it get to me. After all, everyone is entitled to their opinion, right?
Instead, I became inwardly critical of every thought expressed. My judgments of how wrong these people were, took over. I didn’t open my mouth but am sure my body language spoke loud and clear. When a final comment pushed me over the edge, I quietly slipped out of the room. Without even a goodbye, I left.
I’m not proud of my reaction. In fact, I was still unsettled when I awoke this morning.
I stood at the kitchen window and watched the sun rise. The beauty reminded me that each day I have a new opportunity to start again. To do better than I did yesterday. I was determined to make the most of it.
In order to do this, I needed to figure out what had gone wrong. I thought of my husband gently pointing out my lack of tolerance. That certainly got my back up. Couldn’t he just acknowledge that I was right?
Realization struck me like a lightning bolt. I couldn’t accept other viewpoints because I knew I was right! I had chosen to be right rather than be happy. This is something that does not help me live my best life.
This confession is a way of holding myself accountable. When I know better, I can do better.
I am grateful today for the uncomfortable lesson that resulted in a renewed commitment to stay positive and to treat others with love and respect.
Why do you take a camera with you on vacation? I do because I expect to see something I’d like to turn into a memory.
That is also the reason I keep my phone with me when I go out for a walk. I never know what beauty, uniqueness or special moments will be there for me to capture.
Many years ago, I decided to approach each day this way. Not with a camera, but by focusing on the gifts God has placed all around me. During this time, I have observed so much that would have otherwise gone unnoticed.
There are countless reasons to be thankful. Some are large and obvious. Others are commonplace and easily missed. When I purposefully look for them, they become beacons to happiness.
This morning I looked out my window as the sun was rising over the frozen landscape. Instead of thinking how cold it was going to be for me to walk to an appointment this morning, I took a few moments to be grateful for a new day and the opportunity to embrace whatever it may bring.
I may not feel the same when I step into the frigid air, but there is a much better chance than if I approach it with negativity.
The secret to my happiness is not really a secret. All I have to do is open my eyes to all that God has given me. When my focus shifts from lack to abundance, I am more likely to capture the special moments and turn them into precious memories.
Have you ever stood as straight and tall as possible, back against the wall, while your height was recorded?
My childhood home had a wall where such measurements were displayed. A pencil was placed level with the top of my head and a mark made on the wall. If I’d grown, the date and my name would be printed beside this line. The same would happen for my siblings.
I had such a wall for my children and my daughter has maintained this tradition for her children. Down through the generations, we like to see a tangible sign of our growth.
Physical growth is important to record. My grandson, who recently surpassed me in height, can attest to that!
I haven’t gained in height for many years and lately seem to be getting shorter. These days it is other forms of personal growth I’m looking to achieve.
Marks on the wall would make it easier to measure if I’m growing or shrinking but that’s not how this growth works.
Instead I need to ask myself some tough questions. Have I challenged myself to learn something new? Do I explore creative possibilities? When was the last time I stepped out of my comfort zone? Am I reaching out to connect with new people? How am I doing with my commitment to make a difference?
It can be quite comfortable to stay in my safe, predictable routine but that is when my growth stops and my life becomes smaller.
My best intentions have to be put into action to ensure my personal growth. There is no better time than now to stretch myself in new ways. Who wants to join me? Accountability partners are welcomed!
A few crisp brown leaves scutter across my second story deck. The chinook winds have stripped most trees of their leaves. A few, however, seem to refuse to release their once vibrant fall foliage.
I look at one leaf, fluttering wildly to escape as the tree holds on tenaciously. It is inevitable that the leaf will eventually be let go. This is a natural and necessary part of the life cycle.
I understand the reluctance to let go of what has contributed rich colour to my life. There comes a time, however, where holding onto the past prevents me from moving forward. I can appreciate the past and how it has shaped me into who I am today but know I can’t stay stuck there. With gratitude for lessons learned, I now need to focus on what’s ahead.
That doesn’t mean the letting go is easy. Far from it. The familiar is comfortable and feels safe. It may not be exciting or challenging but it also doesn’t involve risk and uncertainty. Unfortunately, this comfort zone prevents me from growing.
Instead of mourning the end of a season, I choose to welcome a new one. Each season has its own beauty and, as the trees are entering a period of replenishment during this time, so shall I. Without past expectations holding me back, I am free to gather knowledge and skills to help me grow.
Like the approaching winter, I have no idea what this season will bring or how long it will last. What I do know, is I will not be the same at the end of it as I am at the beginning. My life will continue to grow and change as new experiences and opportunities are presented and embraced. Let the possibilities begin!
I paused to lean on the weather worn railing of a small wooden bridge fording a stream. Slightly upstream was a beaver dam. The intricate structure of twigs and branches was fascinating.
I scanned the area, hoping for a glimpse of the industrious builder. Since beavers work at night, I had to be content with the stump nearby, bark stripped and teeth marks silently explaining the scattering of wood chips.
I marveled at the hard work that went into creating this structure. The reward would be protection against predators and easier access to food during the winter.
Unfortunately, these dams can also cause flooding and other problems. A few days later a sign close to the stream warned us not to leave established pathways as beaver control was currently underway. From what I understand, this consisted of trapping and relocating the beavers.
When I first saw the dam, my thought was to write about how hard work now can provide the food and shelter I will need when the cold, dark days of winter set in. This was going to be a metaphor for the tough times we all face at some point in our lives.
My mindset altered slightly when I learned of the need to control these industrious creatures.
Yes, it is good to ensure my loved ones are taken care of. It is also important to do so in such a way that I don’t cause problems for others. When I remain aware of conditions around me, I can work to build a secure home without endangering yours.