Snippets of overheard conversation can sometimes have a profound impact on my life. Such was the case when a young boy and his dad cycled past me. The boy said, “The ground is really hard if you fall.” His dad agreed and told him that was why they had worked so hard on balance, so he’d be less likely to fall. That is all of the conversation I heard, but it was enough.
The thought of balance stayed with me. Not balance on a bicycle, but in life.
My life consists of many good things. The problem comes when I focus on a few of them and neglect the others. Without a proper balance, I become unstable. This may not be evident right away, but eventually, my quality of life is affected. If I don’t pay attention to the warning signs I’m headed for a fall.
Like the young boy on the bicycle, I have fallen and experienced some hard landings. Getting back up can be difficult. The bumps and bruises remind me to be more careful next time.
The simple wisdom I overheard was timely. Fall is typically a season of new beginnings as activities resume and days get busier. In the past, I have been known to take on too many commitments. Time and attention are taken from other areas in order to keep up. This creates an unbalance physically, emotionally and relationally.
I’m getting too old to pick myself up easily after a fall. For that reason, I’m working hard to keep balance in my life. I know I can’t be the only one who struggles with this.
How are you doing with maintaining balance and do you have any tips to share?
“Your garden is beautiful,” I told her. “People tell me that,” she replied. “But I think they’re just being nice. When I look at it, I see areas that need more mulch and it’s definitely overdue for a weeding.”
Her front yard was a riot of colour from all the flowers in bloom. The peonies alone were spectacular!
This woman was focusing on a few flaws and missed the colourful display everyone else saw.
I realized that most of us, myself included, do the same with our lives. It is difficult for us to accept a compliment because we are always thinking of our less than perfect aspects. We try desperately to hide the weeds in our lives. “Don’t look too closely,” we think.
Another friend and I had recently had a discussion about the need to celebrate our accomplishments rather than focus on what didn’t go according to plan.
In essence, we tend to neglect the flowers and tend to the weeds. There is something very wrong with this picture.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying to let our weeds grow strong and tall. They need to be kept under control, just not at the expense of enjoying life’s fragrant blooms.
I’ve had a productive couple of days and choose to celebrate by spending time with a cold drink and a good book. What are you doing to cultivate the garden of your life?
One of my long-term goals has been to have a story published in a Chicken Soup for the Soul book. In order to achieve this, I would regularly check their website for upcoming titles I could submit to.
I would find a suitable topic, write something, second guess myself and finally step out of my comfort zone to actually submit it.
After several warm-up attempts, also known as submissions that didn’t make the cut, I came up with the right story for the right book.
Get Out of Your Comfort Zone was the perfect place to tell of an experience I’d had with my granddaughter, Faith.
For this fun-loving girl’s nineteenth birthday, I suggested the two of us go on a water-water rafting trip. It sounded like fun and we were both excited as we made our plans. Little did I know the fear this would induce and how I would react to it.
What happened? My story, titled I Feared for My Life, can be found in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Get Out of Your Comfort Zone.
The book released this week, and can be ordered from Amazon. You can also get a signed copy directly from me!
I’m thrilled to be a contributor to this amazing book. I had no idea that fighting fear and getting out of my comfort zone could also help me achieve one of my dreams.
So, when you have the opportunity to get out of your comfort zone, my advice is to just do it! The results could lead to more than you expected.
Something as simple as a walk in different surroundings caused me to reflect on the journey of life.
I left our campsite and headed to the wide, paved walkway I’d taken the previous day. This was a safe, predictable route, and I had confidence in where I was and how to find my way.
Set on a slight rise, I was able to have a good view of my surroundings. Off to one side I could see streets and houses. On the other was a river which disappeared into a forested area.
My goal was not a destination, but exercise and enjoyment. Was predictable was enough or did I want more?
I made a decision and headed for the trees. On the heels of that decision came another. Before me were several paths, leading in different directions. Which one should I choose?
Since the area was unfamiliar, I chose the one running parallel to the one I’d come from. With the paved walkway in sight, I wouldn’t get disoriented or lost.
I thought of a sign I’d seen earlier that said Adventure Awaits. What kind of adventure did I want this morning? Was it one to keep me feeling safe and secure or one to help me experience something new?
More choices of paths presented themselves. I decided to explore the unknown and ventured deeper into the woods.
My first obstacle came in the form of a large tree, fallen across my path. I could turn back, find a way around it, or climb over. Feeling quite pleased with myself, I chose the latter.
The next bend caused me to catch my breath in awe. Silvery green leaves glimmered on both sides and in front of me. I couldn’t even see the path ahead until I moved forward. This beauty would have been missed if I’d turned back at the first challenge I faced.
After a few twists and turns, I came to a steep hill. Could I climb it? Yes, but it would take me back to the main walkway and I hadn’t finished exploring. I turned and headed in the opposite direction.
Every fork in the path (and they were frequent), caused me to make another decision. So many options were available. I followed my instincts, knowing if it didn’t work out, I could go back and alter my route.
A clearing ahead led me to a large, flat area beside the river. I took time to savor the vision of trees from the opposite bank, reflected in the calm, crystal clear water. My body and mind refreshed; I followed the river until I reached the bank taking me back to the main walkway.
As I returned to my campsite, I reflected on the times I’ve struggled over which path my life should take. Some have given me the security of familiarity. Others have taken me over more scenic routes. There are also the ones that provided challenges, thrills and excitement. Often, these paths intersected at unexpected places.
Every path I’ve taken, even the ones I thought were mistakes, have led me to where and who I am today. They all served a purpose. I am aware that in order to keep moving forward, there will be more decisions ahead. It’s my choice to either make safe, predictable ones or explore new possibilities.
“Did you see that?” my husband said. “No, but I heard the ding, and wondered what it was for,” I replied.
We had picked up our rental car a few hours earlier. The car was so new, it only had eleven miles on the odometer and we were the first to rent it. There were several features we’d never seen before and the ding and accompanying message were among them.
After driving for a certain amount of time, the tone would sound and a message flashed up on the dashboard. It showed a picture of a cup and saucer with steam rising from it. The words, Driver Alert and Take a Break were printed above and below the image.
The car was advising us to stop for rest and refreshment! We soon discovered that if we ignored the friendly advice, it would be repeated with increasing frequency. After taking a break, the timer seemed to reset for 1.5 -2 hours before reminding us again of the need to take the necessary steps to stay alert.
Along with Lane Assist, that physically moved the car back if we ventured too close to the side of the road, this car was providing added protection so we would reach our destination safely.
I thought about how useful these features would be in my everyday life. When I’ve been working on something for an extended period, I can become complacent. My focus starts to blur and I’m not as productive. A break or change in activity refreshes and restores my ability to concentrate. I know this but since I don’t always do what’s best for me, a reminder would be helpful!
I don’t know about you, but I have been known to drift off course. Distractions abound and before I know it, I’m not where I wanted to be. The trick is to catch myself soon enough that no damage is done. Something to assist me in staying on course would be wonderful.
Maybe it’s as simple as scheduling breaks to stretch my limbs, change my focus and appreciate new surroundings. By doing this I will better be able to reassess my direction and reach my desired destination.
I was at my second airport of the morning, heading to my next departure gate. This was going to be a long day of travel.
Most people we saw looked tired or stressed as they speed-walked between gates.
This young girl was holding her dad’s hand, skipping and carrying on an animated conversation. She was obviously happy and excited. I watched her tug on her dad’s arm to get his full attention. Once eye contact was made, he was rewarded with a huge smile.
Out of the thousands of people we saw in four airports and sixteen hours of travel, this young girl is the one I remember. Maybe it’s because I saw so few smiles that day.
The excitement of travel and new adventures is lost on most of us. We tend to set our sights on our final destination and forget to enjoy what is between point A and point B. The joy of the actual journey is nowhere to be found.
In travel and in life I am often guilty of this. Distractions that slow me down are seen as inconveniences and not as pleasant diversions. Unfortunately, this means my enthusiasm for everyday life is sadly lacking.
I hope the memory of the young girl in the airport stays with me to remind me to experience joy in my journey.
Nervousness and excitement competed for prominence in my mind as I arrived for my first day of classes. The school, in the small town of Chicxulub in Mexico, had an open-air courtyard with classrooms around the perimeter. It was nothing like the modern schools we have in Canada.
I waited outside for a few minutes and entered together with my fellow teaching volunteers. The crowded room was set up with six tables. Each could seat four students and two teachers.
Before the children arrived, we spent thirty minutes getting acquainted, reviewing the lesson plan and distributing supplies for the day.
The students were led from their regular classroom into our room. They entered to our greeting of, “Good Afternoon” and chose where they wanted to sit. Of the 28 registered in the class, only 17 were present that day; 5 boys and 12 girls. This number varied from week to week and we never had a full class.
The first task was for the students to make nametags. They wrote, I am and their name on a card that was placed in a lanyard around their necks. Along with the students and other teachers I stood in turn, held up my nametag and said, “I am Tandy.” This was our first lesson and the way each class would start.
The children were polite and extremely reserved. It was a challenge to get them to speak loudly enough to be heard. Over the next two months, this shyness persisted for most of them.
Each component of the lesson plan was explained in English and Spanish from the front of the room. Some phrases were written on a white board so they could be referred to.
Then we would work with the students at our table to help them learn necessary words in this foreign language. Over the weeks we taught them through the use of flash cards with words and pictures. They learned: I am, I have, I want and I need. As we added: I am not, I do not have, I do not want and I do not need they were able to form simple sentences with the flash cards. Colours, people, animals and simple objects were incorporated into these sentences. To understand the correct meaning of the words and sentences they formed was quite an accomplishment.
Numbers were also taught. They knew the numerals, but the English words for them proved difficult. We played games to make it enjoyable. In some cases, like when we played Snakes and Ladders, they were having so much fun, it didn’t seem like learning!
Our hour-long classes passed quickly. Each week, the happy students would line up, a table at a time to leave the classroom. They were handed a simple snack and would say, “Thank you” to which a reply of, “You are welcome” was given. As well as a treat, this provided another opportunity to practice English words.
After two months we came to our last class. These students were in grade 6 and this is the final mandatory year for attending school. Most would not continue their education. We were in an economically challenged area and families could not afford to keep their children in school. We hoped the little we’d been able to teach them would be of benefit to them in the future.
As the class ended, the children surprised each teacher with handmade cards of thanks. Some even contained a few of the English phrases learned. I received my cards and hugs of thanks with tears of gratitude. The opportunity to have been part of this important program was a highlight of my time in Mexico. I look forward to returning to volunteer again next year.
Have you ever found something that seemed to be just what you needed when you didn’t even know you were looking for anything?
That’s what happened to me when I read the social media post.
A call for volunteers touched a chord deep within and I was compelled to respond. Emails were exchanged, information given, a questionnaire completed and I was accepted as part of a team to teach English to Mexican students.
We were divided into groups and I was one of those placed with a grade six class.
An orientation was held the week prior to starting. This answered questions and gave us valuable information on the school and the students we’d be working with.
The school system here houses two separate schools in the same building. One has classes in the morning and the other in the afternoon. Each have their own teachers and principal. We’d be in the afternoon school for one hour a week.
We were told that the school was in an extremely poor area and the majority of the students came from homes with no electricity.
Grade six is the last mandatory grade and very few would carry on with their education past this level. The children had little hope for the future, and were resigned to their lot in life.
Our job was to give them some basic language skills and to make it enjoyable. Fun for both the students and teachers was important to this program.
We would also take turns providing a snack for the students. This would be handed out as the students lined up to leave the room at the end of the class. Many would take this snack home to share with younger siblings.
That evening as I sat under electric lights with plenty of food in my fridge and cupboards, I reflected on the vastly different lifestyle, only a few kilometers away. I prayed that I would use the abundance I’ve been given to ease another’s burden and not take for granted what I have.
Although I wouldn’t meet the students for another week, I knew they had already impacted my life.
“Gran, would you like to learn the barn dance?” Emily asked.
We were at an out-of-town Highland Dance Competition and were filling in time as we waited for the earlier group of dancers to finish and her group to be called.
There was a small cloak room just outside of the auditorium and that is where Emily had just taken my husband through the steps of this same dance. I enjoyed watching the two of them and had even taken a few pictures.
It looked like fun but my mind immediately came up with several reasons why I shouldn’t do it. What if someone else saw us? Chances are I’d make a lot of mistakes and look foolish. Would I embarrass myself? I hesitated as these thoughts flashed across my mind.
The hopeful look in Emily’s eyes convinced me to say yes. I stepped into the small room and she took my hand and started to lead me through some simple steps. We repeated them several times.
As I focused on her instructions and not my insecurities, my former concerns disappeared. I had fun and the time passed far too quickly.
Too often I have let my self-doubts rob me from living life to the fullest. I hate to think of all the adventures I have missed. There are so many opportunities that can’t be embraced until I step out of my comfort zone.
I’m not one for making New Year’s resolutions, but if I was, near the top of my list would be to dance like nobody’s watching, because usually, no one is!
On our recent drive from Calgary to Vancouver, we encountered many areas with road work in progress. Signage informed us of the upcoming disruption, often with the words, “Construction ahead, expect delays.”
To allow for the unknown conditions ahead of us, extra time was built into our travel schedule. We were fortunate that many of the delays on this trip were minimal.
Although delays seem to be an inevitable part of travel, do I build the same flexibility into my life? How big a disruption is caused by unexpected events?
To quote a well-known song written by Canadian musician Tom Cochrane, “Life is a highway.” Let me tell you how I relate to this sentiment.
In this journey of life, I encounter accidents or situations that cause damage, both physical and mental. Necessary repairs may require rest and restoration. This unknown is not anything I can plan for.
I am also slowed down by necessary maintenance. The less time I devote to this now, the more time will be needed later.
In my younger years, these delays were inconvenient and caused upset as I wasn’t reaching my destination (goals) on the schedule I’d set out. The resulting stress often compounded my setback.
Now I am learning to look at the delays and detours as opportunities. They take me to places I wouldn’t have otherwise experienced. When I choose to pay attention, there is much to be learned in the pauses of life. They may be there for an important reason.
This is the position I find myself currently in. My priorities are shifting and I am no longer in a rush. Diversions provide some interesting experiences. The pauses restore and refresh. I am still under construction and am determined to enjoy the scenery on this ride!