I can’t decide…

decide

Ferris Provincial Park

“Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.”
[Aristotle]

Lucky. Blessed. Charmed. Fortunate. The adjective is unimportant; just know that I am all of those things. I have a wealth of devoted friends of both sexes who love and cherish me, who celebrate my successes and rally ‘round to support me through my failures. I have relied on these folks all my life. Perhaps too much? Recently, after having read the blog of a much younger, much wiser woman on the other side of the planet, I had an epiphany:

I have never made a decision in my adult life without first seeking advice from someone else.

This truth was a sobering realization. Why and how did this happen? Was it a confidence issue? A validation issue? Did I think my own judgment was faulty? Did I believe that my mum, dad, teachers, minister, coach, professors, husband, friends — choose one — were wiser or better equipped to make choices that only I would have to withstand?

Am I capable of making sound decisions and of living with the consequences of my choices if they’re not based upon the advice of someone else?

Questioning my confidence and defining my competencies was a bit scary. Absolutely essential, though, is that I sort this out. Thus begins this leg of my journey. Aristotle was right — knowing yourself really is a beginning…

This beginning happened at Ferris.

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Ferris Provincial Park

When I am out shooting I am free; there are no demands on me and there is nothing I have to do so I can sit quietly, turn my thoughts inward, meditate and improve my practice of Metta Bhavana. I began by pondering who am I and what my capabilities are, and finished by trying to feel metta for me — not so easy today. The rest of the stages went pretty much as usual and when I’d finished I felt the usual joyful serenity.  Unfortunately, I was none the wiser regarding my subordinated decision-making.

Do I have sound analytical and reasoning skills? I don’t yet know, but what I do know is:

  • Those two skills are the linchpin of decision-making proficiency; and
  • Decisions matter; and
  • Well-made and effectively executed decisions lead to best-case scenarios.

I want best-case scenarios – always – so, my plan is this:  I will be asking my closest contacts their opinion based upon our shared history  (if you get the e-mail, please be honest) and I am going to list and analyst some key decisions from my past, including who I sought advice from, the advice given and whether or not it validated or challenged my own decision.  More to follow.

‘Til next time, y’all…

 

 

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FANFARE!

blog fanfare

Two years ago this blog began with this post:

https://summerattheshores.wordpress.com/2014/04/24/pourquoi-presquile-prologue/

After a year of kidney-related health issues – seemingly constant infections, 260+ days of dialysis that year, and multiple unsuccessful surgeries, I finally had a vein that worked, that stuck, that healed and I knew it was time to speed along the recovery of both body and mind. My nephrologist suggested I write a reflective journal diarising my road to recovery, a blog that he would share with my fellow dialysis patients. He thought they’d enjoy reading it and that many of them would benefit from knowing they were not struggling alone. With his encouragement, “Summer At the Shores, a Presqu’ile Experience” was born and since that time I have amassed some 1800 dialysis patient followers from many hospitals. I have enjoyed the comments you’ve posted about my blog and I’ve loved reading your stories. I know I have made some friends-for-life through this blog and I am supremely grateful for these connections.

The past two years have not been without health issues, some more serious than others, but this week I received the absolute best news: As it has been a full year since my last dialysis treatment, I have been permanently discharged from my dialysis unit and nephrologist!

Perfect news in a week that has not been perfect.

Cause for celebration and immense gratitude!

With my discharge, though, I know that this will be the last post that will be shared through the dialysis network so, with a very heavy heart, I bid adieu to all my neprofriends. I thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for all your support and kindness, I wish you Godspeed and I send you all much love and affection. If you wish to follow along with a newly non-nephro-buddy, here is the link:

https://summerattheshores.wordpress.com

🎶Oh happy day!🎶

A time for faith…

“A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.”
Ecclesiastes 3:8

It has been a hellacious week in our home, complete with hurt feelings, accusations, threats, anger, tears, handwringing and overwhelming sadness… And that was just me. I do not handle confrontation and quarrels well. I retreat. I often come close to giving up on the adversarial person entirely, because my natural instinct is to walk away and cocoon myself. I think I scared us both when I expressed my intention to do just that this week.

Typically I head to Presqu’ile to resolve my problems. In solitude and within the comfort and peace of the park I am usually able to find the solution and restore my equilibrium. This week was different, though. I was afraid that the severity of the issue and the enormity of the cloud of negativity I was surrounded by might taint all future visits to the park, might ruin its healing powers for me forever. So I avoided the park all week. I cocooned, I meditated, I thought (a lot) and I read. This post, probably the most personal I’ve ever written, is the outcome of my week’s cogitation.

“To err is human; to forgive, divine.”
[Alexander Pope]

From the beginning, mistakes were made. I hate making mistakes and when my mistakes hurt someone I hate myself too. I imagine, although it has never been uttered aloud, that there was a lot of that going on in our home this week. Yes, mistakes were made but — like it or not — mistakes are part of life. No one is perfect. Our deadlock made me stop and think about mistakes, about how we react to them (me, this time, without a lot of grace) about what we can learn from them and about how and why we choose to forgive and move on — or not.

Immediately obvious to me was that the burden of resolving this problem was entirely mine and that any solution would be in my ability to see the bigger picture, to see this situation from the other’s perspective which has never been my métier. I hate conflict so my natural compulsion is to fix things instantly but this dilemma would require time; time for judicious consideration and reflection, time to ensure my gut reaction would not irrevocably change my life in a way I might later regret, time to identify and assess my options… This outweighed my need to correct things posthaste.

In a nutshell:  My husband accepts me unconditionally and never once during the past thirty-five years have I doubted that his love for me was unwavering. An amazing gift, non? Such devotion does not deserve to be casually abandoned.  Yet there was this mistake…

“He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone…”
John 8:7

My mum was a very strong and loving woman of deep and abiding faith. She took me to Sunday School or church every week of every year until I went to university. Many a time this week, Mum’s advice and wisdom popped into my head. I could practically hear her reminding me of Jesus’ admonition about casting the first stone. Thinking about this bible story led me to think about my own faith and about what having faith means. Religiously, of course, and very simply put, faith means believing in God based purely upon spiritual conviction rather than scientific proof. I do. In a more broad sense, though, faith is an unshakeable trust in someone or something, which is exactly how I should feel about my husband. I do. Faith?  After all this angst and deliberation, it seems my ability to solve and overcome this problem was reduced to faith.

I had avoided the park all week. Until today. But where better to meditate on the power of faith than in the tranquility park? Gosh, it was a windy, cold day! I wandered through Jobes Woods to the mid-way point of the trail where there are a couple of picnic tables beside a pond. I sat and thought about what truly having faith meant to me, about what having faith in my husband meant to me. There are many parts to this man; he is ever so much more than any mistakes he has ever made. His value, as a man and as a husband, is apart from his imperfections. I have faith that his heart is pure and his intentions are the highest.

So… Forgiveness, then?

Make no mistake — forgiveness is tough! Tough especially for someone like me, who is all about the black and white. Learning to forgive and let go has been a constant learning curve for me on my journey towards becoming the woman I want to be. Forgiveness brings peace. It takes grace to forgive. I want — badly — the grace and I need the peace. So I am forgiving and I am moving forward with ever so much love in my heart for this man.

“To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven…”
Ecclesiastes 3:1

This has been the time for me to have and to demonstrate my faith.

 

 

 

 

Using my life…

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Presqu’ile Provincial Park 9th May 2015

“The whole of life is but a moment of time.
It is our duty, therefore to use it, not to misuse it.”
[Plutarch]

Sound advice from Plutarch and today, at Presqu’ile, I took it to heart!  I always, always feel so much better having had a brisk walk in the fresh air, having shot some (hopefully decent) photographs, and having enjoyed a picnic by the water.  Recipe for good health, for happiness and for the good use of a life.

The breeze was sharp and the temperature a nippy 10℃ as I drove into the park this morning; the sort of day Dad would have described as glorious — always a dead giveaway to Mum and I!  In fact it was a glorious day; the sun was blindingly bright and the sky a brilliant blue, as if Mother Nature was trying to make up for the unseasonable temperature.  The chill kept all but a scant handful of brave souls from walking along the waterfront.  I gave it my best shot but the wind off the lake seemed to be vacuuming the air directly from my lungs so I abandoned the waterfront for the comparative calm of the woods – Pioneer Trail today.

Before leaving I did have some fun with a gull, bobbing along on the crests of the waves.  Had it been fifteen degrees warmer, I’d have been tempted to join him.  I named him “JL”.  Of course!

Perhaps due to the rawness in the air, perhaps because it was Monday but the park seemed nearly empty to me, certainly I was the only walker on Pioneer Trail today.  The birds were singing and with no effort at all, I saw three jays, two Cardinals, two Woodpeckers, two geese, a handful of ducks and too many Robins and gulls to count. The exercise was invigorating and my hike was a lovely experience in every way, thoroughly enhanced by my bird encounters.  (Sorry, no trail photos because, um, camera is strictly verböten until exercise is complete!)

It seems that with every passing day the park changes at this time of year as increasingly more deciduous leaves unfurl and more wildflowers burst into bloom.  It really is an awesome time of year.

My friends often ask if I am not lonely at the park by myself all the time.  Truth be told, I am not.  I relish the time alone, to think, to meditate, to walk or cycle and to meander with my camera.  I often encounter other park friends and members and oftentimes conversations spring up with those folks.  Today was exactly such a day…

It was getting late for lunch so I made my way to the lagoon; the warmest, least breezy and prettiest spot in the park.  I had no sooner spread my blanket on my table and unpacked my picnic when an elderly gent (“You can call me Mick.”) ambled over and asked if he could join me.  I happily agreed.  Mick is a ninety-two year-old widower.  Mick, it seems goes to the park for his lunch 365 days a year.  He told me that for his forty-five working years, every night after supper he’d made and packed a lunch.  When he retired, he just kept doing the same thing but had no where to take it so, after much thought, he bought a park pass and began having lunch at Presqu’ile. I had a very close call with the waterworks at this point but he so clearly did not pity himself that I simply could not either.

Mick unpacked his picnic – three, yup 3 sandwiches which he devoured without delay.  He also ate half my grapes and one of my two cookies.

Mick told me he’d seen me in the park many times taking pictures and asked if he could please scroll through the shots on my camera which he, quite expertly, did.  Then he said he’d seen me taking notes and might he please read some of my journal.  I mean… How do you say no to a gentleman like this?  I surely could not!  So he read several pages, commented, made a few notes in the margins and returned my diary with a big grin on his face.  I’ve saved his notes for another post but trust, you’ll laugh ’til it hurts!

By this point it was time for me to check on my foxes so we parted company, most fondly, Mick asking if he might please join me for lunch again another day.  I said any and all days he felt like company I’d be thrilled to eat with him.  And share photos.  And journal notes. Always.

(Sorry. No picture of Mick.  Not yet!  I promised (threatened?) him that he would be the subject of a blog post one day very soon.

How could a day like this one, fresh air, exercise, photography, birds, flowers, frog song and a new friend not be good use of a life?

‘Til next time, y’all…

Complacent Child

“Lake Ontario is a Complacent Child.”
[Pierre Berton]

This blog began as a reflective journal detailing some elements of my ongoing road to recovery. A recovery, I now fancy, that is progressing splendidly although this is a non-scientific statement. My breathing is greatly improved, my interpretation of which is that the rivaroxaban is doing its job and preventing any new/obliterating the old blood clots in my lungs. The upside is that my team leader has given me permission to exercise more strenuously than mere walking, on the absolute understanding that I carry with me at all times both my oximeter and a tank of oxygen. So, um, no running… After much deliberation, mostly ’round the dinner table, we have decided that I will cycle and kayak as I should have no trouble affixing my oxygen tank to either conveyance. The kayak, a Wilderness Systems Ultralite, has been ordered and is expected by the end of June. Yay!

There are three Provincial Parks along the north shore of Lake Ontario, all are within comfortable driving range of our home, and this week I visited them all: Darlington, the baby, at a mere 209 hectares; Presqu’ile, my home-away-from-home, at 937 hectares; and Sandbanks, including North Beach park, at a whopping 1598 hectares. So, lots of driving, lots of walking, lots of beautiful scenery and, of course, lots of photographs (2000+ images). It was a busy, beautiful week! A week spent scoping out future kayaking trips.

“For at least two centuries, men, women and toddlers
have disported themselves on these waters and on these sands.”
[Pierre Berton]

Part of my research was about safety. As I happily anticipate many hours of disportment at the shores this summer, I am aware that Lake Ontario can be quite rough at times and that the weather can change, seemingly without warning. For a novice yaker, this makes McLaughlin Bay at Darlington PP quite perfect — all except for the noise from Highway 401. Now Presqu’ile, of course, is perfect — you know there will be hours of happy marsh explorations on the days when the chop on the lake is too much for me to handle. My first trip to Sandbanks was a wonderful experience. It is a truly beautiful park and the Outlet River provides the flexibility of the Presqu’ile marsh for those heavy weather days. I am now ready for the arrival of my ultralite and I’m very excited to begin yaking. So do I think Lake Ontario is the complacent child? I’d say so – if she is satisfied with her current status – because I feel the very same way!

Observing the multitude of waterfowl and birds along the north shore this week has, for me, been the ultimate rite of spring. Watching two rival geese gangs ‘rumble’ on the water, watching Red-Winged Blackbirds dive-bomb (and frighten) swimming ducks, watching proud Canada Geese parents present their beautiful kiddos for the first time, watching a Blue Jay “tease” me away from his family’s home, watching a pair of Cardinals take turns warming their eggs, watching the industrious Robins madly building nests ready to welcome their eggs and watching Mallards scope out the perfect nest-building spot — it has all been wondrous and amazing. Quite perfect, in fact. Complacent? You bet! Although I suspect it is not what the estimable Mr. Breton intended when he penned those words, I choose to believe the lake, particularly our north shore, is complacent in the very best sense of that word — happy with how things are and not wanting them to change.

I love nothing better than spending time on the shores of my beloved complacent child and my imagination is rife with the adventures I will be enjoying this summer!

Pretty Little May

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The forest floor is green again.

“Then April cried and stepped aside,
And along came pretty little May!”
[Oscar Hammerstein II]

It was a perfect day to roam Presqu’ile today and I enjoyed every minute of my time. It was warm and sunny, the lake was calm and the breeze was gentle. Although the water level in the pannes is noticeably lower than last week, the frog song is still greeting the visitors as they arrive and as always, their chorus put a smile on my face. They sure seem to enjoy a long mating season these Presqu’ile frogs!

At Presqu’ile, pretty little May manifests itself in many ways, none more special than the variety and colours of the wildflowers:

There have been a few posts on my blog lately about pausing, meditating and simply taking a beat when life gets too busy, noisy, chaotic.  I’m loving the serenity this practice has brought to my life which is ironic because in the past I’ve occasionally been the cause of the noise and chaos.  My photography has taught me the value of being still and being silent — two virtues my parents were spectacularly unsuccessful in instilling in juvenile me so I imagine that, somewhere up in heaven, they’re having a good old chuckle about this newfound quiet calm I’ve been cultivating.  The obvious upside is my experience with the birds and waterfowl; I never imagined it would be possible to get so close to so many of them. Here are some of the lovely birds of Presqu’ile today; the elegant, the active, the flirty, the bossy, the beautiful and the noisy…

Presqu’ile sure is the place to be still, to be silent and to observe.  If you can do that, and if you have patience, she will reward you every time.  Today’s reward was truly special.  Mum and Dad brought their two gorgeous goslings out into the lagoon at Calf Pasture Point to show them off.  Proud parents — just exactly as they should be.  Dad proudly encouraging his kiddos to swim, to forage, and most importantly, to stay close to Mum.  And ohmigosh do the goslings ever make the sweetest noises — a bit like a very quiet duck clearing its throat.  They swam by my picnic table twice, the second time venturing crazy-close, and I was spellbound!  Never once did they seem frightened — of me or of the whirring/clicking of my camera.  It was a beautiful experience.  Here are some shots of the happy family. Enjoy!

I left the park feeling euphoric — easy to understand, non?  I really do love spring, the treasures it brings into our lives and this pretty little May!

‘Til next time, y’all…

Oh, and “May the fourth be with you!”

Pause 3.0 – Reflection

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Reflection

“Hatred cannot coexist with loving-kindness, and
dissipates if supplanted with thoughts based on loving-kindness.”
[Buddha]

Meditation is a pillar of my life. It is becoming ever more important to me. For the past three months I have been learning a new type of meditation and it is bringing great joy and tranquility to my life.

Metta Bhavana

metta (noun) love (affection, not romance), friendliness, kindness
bhavana (noun) cultivation, evolution, progression, development

Hence, the study and practice of loving-kindness.

This meditation, originally taught by the Buddha, aims to develop the mental habits of selflessness and pure love. Lofty goals indeed. No matter how keen we might be to follow in the footsteps of the Buddha, few believe themselves capable of such goodness, myself included. Yet I am resolved to make steady (if slow) progress toward my objective and its sure reward. We are all imperfect. Every single soul. The Buddha teaches us that although we will continue to make the types of mistakes which cause our minds to sour, we are nevertheless capable of growth, of goodness and of arousing the favourable feelings needed to sweeten our minds: Loving-kindness.

A sour mind. Yes, I’ve had that. Twice, recently. Both times it happened because a friend and a family member, separately, tested my love and affection by displaying a complete lack of “communication, consideration and respect.” Those are the three oh-so-impactful words uttered by Kelly Ripa on Tuesday morning, her first on-air appearance after being blindsided last Wednesday by (ultimately) Disney.

Communication ✱ Consideration ✱ Respect

During the past month I’ve thought a lot about these three words:
◦ About how they affected my life, my mindset and my emotions; and
◦ About how I allowed my mind to become soured by the actions of these two women; and
◦ About how I might find my way out of these two dramas unscathed.

First part of my plan is pause. Of course pause, first closing all lines of communication. By stepping back, severing all ties, I realized I’d learn a lot – about them and about me. For instance, did I miss our usual contact, did I feel the urge to pick up the phone or send an e-mail, did their absence create a feeling of loss or emptiness in my life, did they notice my pause, did they try to reconnect with me, or are we perhaps both best-pleased with the cessation of our connection? Most importantly for me, did the pause eliminate the sourness in my mind? No, it did not. The pause, alone, was not enough.

Second part of my plan is meditation. With my teacher, my lovely friend Daishin, I have been learning and improving my metta bhavana, especially the fourth stage: “The Enemy” The enemy is a difficult person who has brought hostility, stress or discord into one’s life. Stage four is about directly acknowledging that ill-will. Whilst trying my best not to get caught up in any feelings of anger or hostility, I must think of those women positively, wish them only the best and send metta to them. Okay, yes! You know I struggle with this stage but, happy news, I am improving and even better, feeling the inner peace that comes with successfully using stage four. Says Daishin: “Metta is the opposite of ill will. You must consciously awaken thoughts of the person to whom you feel animosity. Only in this way can you overcome those adverse thoughts and bring sweetness back into your mind.” The outcome of successfully navigating stage four is friendliness (metta), compassion (karuna), appreciative joy (mudita) and equanimity (upekkha). Who amongst us doesn’t desire those feelings?

At the end of the day, I wish to feel and to always be, kind and caring to everyone in my orbit. Consideration for others, the golden rule, is a huge part of the metta bhavana state of mind. I hope that by constantly displaying such consideration others will accord me the same courtesy, the same respect. Consideration, loving kindness and respect. We all want this. We all deserve this.

’Til next time, y’all…