Wednesday’s Words of Wisdom (And Whimsy)

Posted on August 30, 2023 under Wednesday’s Words of Wisdom with no comments yet

 

Pondering my next story

 

“I will remember you,

Will you remember me,

Don’t let your life pass you by,

Weep not for the memories.”

I Will Remember You – Sarah McLachlan

 

Why do I write?

Looking back on my life, I guess I’ve always been a writer, even though I never thought much about it. Most of us took our first rudimentary steps towards literacy when we learned our ABC’s and penned simple three-word sentences.“See Dick run.” We learned cursive writing. I curse often when I write. My recent experiences back in the classroom have told me that cursive writing is nearly extinct.

In high school and university, we had to write a lot of essays. One of the most memorable that I can remember was when I was taking my education degree. As a future English teacher, we were asked by our English methods professor to pen a piece so that he could assess the talent in the room. He was a severe task master and obviously didn’t think there was much star material in his presence. He eviscerated my masterpiece giving me a failing grade. I wasn’t alone. He humiliated several fellow classmates, bringing a few of them to tears. It was an important lesson for me, and it had nothing to do with writing. I promised myself that I would never humiliate a student.

When I attended university, I took part in many extracurricular activities like intramural sports, learning how to play bridge in the basement of the library (when I was supposed to be in class), and going to pubs. I was also the sports editor for the student newspaper, The Xaverian Weekly. I had almost forgotten about this until a few weeks ago when I was asked by the Alumni office to look through the 1973 yearbook to identify some photos for our upcoming Golden Grad. I was amused to see that I received a “Literary X”. Reporting sports scores wasn’t likely to get me a Pulitzer Prize.

I can’t remember when I started journalling, but I believe it coincided with the birth of my children. My filing cabinet is filled with all kinds of memorabilia, which in due course will likely find its way to the local landfill, but I’m hoping that my children will save the copious, hand written journals. Two in particular stand out. Five years apart in the late 80s and early 90s, I wrote a daily journal, chronicling the lives of my family and my community. It’s pretty mundane stuff but life is ostensibly mundane, don’t you think? I think that this is where I learned the discipline of writing because every morning, between 5:30 and 6:00 a.m., I was at the kitchen table, recounting the events of the previous day. These days, remembering what I did a couple of hours ago can be challenging.

In 2012, on a trip to Florida, I wrote a funny (and a tad sarcastic) piece on the back of my 8.5×11 boarding pass. When I ran out of space, I wrote the ending on a bar napkin. During happy hour at our time share later that day, I read the story out loud. My friends loved it, but I think that alcohol and appetizers may have clouded their judgment. That is when I began writing regularly and discovered that I had a passion for it. Subsequently, I ended up writing a humour column for three newspapers. If I thought that I might scratch out a living as a freelance writer in retirement, that was quickly quashed when I cashed my first few cheques.

And then I wrote and published 7 books.

I am reading a book. It’s called The Library Book by Susan Orlean. The book is about libraries, hardly a page turner, but I must admit that I am learning a lot about the underbelly of libraries. They are much more than a place to warehouse books. When I arrived at page 93, I came upon a paragraph that summed up nicely why the written word is still important. Rather than write a precis (I remember writing these for KM in grade 11), I am publishing it here in its entirety.

“The idea of being forgotten is terrifying. I fear that not just that I, personally, will be forgotten, but that we are all doomed to being forgotten – that the sum of life is ultimately nothing; that we experience joy and disappointment and aches and delights and loss, make our little mark on the world, and then we vanish, and the mark is erased, and it is as if we never existed. If you gaze into that bleakness even for a moment, the sum of life becomes null and void, because if nothing lasts, nothing matters. It means that everything we experience unfolds without a pattern, and life is just a wild, random, baffling occurrence, a scattering of notes with no melody. But if something you learn or observe or imagine can be set down and saved, and if you can see your life reflected in subsequent ones, you can begin to discover order and harmony. You know that you are part of a larger story that has shape and purpose – a tangible, familiar past and a constantly refreshed future. We are all whispering in a tin can on a string, but we are heard, so we whisper the message into the next tin can and the next string. Writing a book, just like building a library, is an act of sheer defiance. It is a declaration that you believe in the persistence of memory.”

I am not suggesting that everyone writes a book. However, you could go and grab a Hilroy and start jotting down memories – while you are still able. And do it with cursive writing! A Hilroy is virtually indestructible. A Word document on your computer is no substitute. Your children, grandchildren and those who follow, will be very happy and grateful that you did. I can see you muttering, telling me that you wouldn’t have anything interesting to say. Agreed, the whole world won’t be remotely interested in the minutia of your life, but your loved ones will. I guarantee it.

My brother is the family’s genealogist. For well over a quarter of a century, he has painstakingly documented the lives of our forefathers (mothers!). Finding old family records is not for the faint of heart. I would have loved to have read stories and anecdotes written by my ancestors. Don’t you often wonder what your great, great grandparents were like?

Why do I write? Am I afraid of being forgotten, just a handful of dust in the wind? Not in the least. Someday, I hope one of my great grandchildren will be poring over my journals or books to understand why they love the outdoors, music and are obsessed with sports.

I write because I can.

And I love it.

Have a great weekend.

 

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Wednesday’s Words of Wisdom (And Whimsy)

Posted on August 23, 2023 under Wednesday’s Words of Wisdom with one comment

Procratinating. Will I or won’t I?

 

Procrastination: the action of delaying or postponing something.

“He who hesitates is lost.” Joseph Addison

I was thinking about writing a piece about procrastination, but I think I’ll wait until next week.

Therin lies the problem with procrastination. It is so much easier to put things off instead of just taking action and “getting ‘er done.”

The list is very long:

I’m going to clean out the freezer.

I’m going to organize the garage.

I’m going to travel to (name your country) before I’m too old.

I’m going to get my act together and lose some weight.

I’m going to quit smoking.

When a person is young, they can afford to put things off. I was a financial planner and very often I heard clients say that they would start saving for retirement after the kids left home or after taking a big trip. And very often, that didn’t happen.

“Time is on myside, yes it is,

Time is on my side, yes it is.”

Time is on my side – The Rolling Stones

Except when it isn’t.

There’s no procrastinating when you have a vicious toothache. It needs attention and you will stand outside a dentist’s home at 1:00 in the morning, banging on his door, to get some relief.

There’s no procrastination when you’re on a road trip and your gas gauge is on empty.

Urgency requires action.

The flip side of procrastination is impulsiveness- acting without forethought.

I often look back on my life and wonder if I have been impulsive. Certainly, there are things that, in retrospect, could have been done more judiciously. We can all say that. Every one of us has made a purchase that we regretted 30 minutes later. Or said something in the heat of battle that left scars. We’re human after all.

Being impulsive can get you into a heap of trouble. On the other hand, being decisive can reap big rewards.

Decisive: having or showing the ability to make decisions quickly and effectively.

It’s much more difficult to be decisive when you are younger and haven’t accumulated enough mileage, knowledge, or scar tissue. Experience gives a person confidence and as we get older, we are much better positioned to size things up quickly and to take action. Sadly, some people never reach this level of self-actualization and spend their entire lives second guessing and putting things off until conditions are ideal. This just in. Conditions are never ideal.

I often say that I am lucky. I refer to it as the “accident of birth”. My mother was fearless and decisive. She never waited until all the stars were aligned properly. She dove in headfirst, never being afraid to try new things. I think I inherited some of that Irish DNA! Agreed, when you dive in headfirst, without checking the depth of the water, you can get a nasty bump on your head but that’s all part of the learning curve of which I spoke about earlier.

I’m now 72. I don’t have time to procrastinate any more. At this age, what in the hell are we waiting for?

Saw this the other day on Facebook.

“Choice. Chance. Change.

You must make the choice,

to take the chance

if you want anything,

In life to change.”

Author unknown

If not now, when?

Have a great weekend.

 

 

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Wednesday’s Words of Wisdom (And Whimsy)

Posted on August 16, 2023 under Wednesday’s Words of Wisdom with no comments yet

Prime time. Singing and playing tunes.

 

“Those were the best days of my life.”

Summer of ’69 – Bryan Adams

Out of the mouths of babes.

There was a television show that aired back in the 90s. It was called “Kids Say the Darndest things”. Art Linkletter talked to kids about a variety of subjects and got their opinion about religion, government, families and other assorted topics. It was hilarious and it was one of the most popular shows on television back then.

Every once in a while, you’ll hear something that is quite startling and unexpected. Such was the case last week, only this time, the comment that caught my attention didn’t come out of the mouth of a young child. A 93-year-old woman received the devastating news that she had cancer and had very little time left. She was crushed and commented that she was in the prime of her life. I digested this. At first, I was amused that someone who had lived such a long time would consider her ninety third year as the prime of her life.

Theoretically, the prime time of life is usually considered as the best years of one’s life when one is at their peak of power and contentment.

When, exactly, is the prime time of one’s life?

If you asked an infant, he or she might say that being fed at their mother’s breast is a pretty good gig. You get to sleep most of the time and all you have to do is squawk a bit and you get fed. You are 100% dependent and have no worries whatsoever.

Is it possible that prime time is the day that you learned to walk? These were the very first steps of independence.

Or, how about your teenage years when you were filled with optimism and raging hormones? For some, the teenage years were anything but prime time. They were downright torturous.

Some of us were lucky enough to go to university, community college or trade school when we finished high school. If we were lucky enough to further our education in another city, this was the ultimate form of freedom. No longer were we under the prying eyes of our parents and we were completely independent. Well, not completely independent. We still relied on care packages from home which often included some much-needed cash. Care packages and cash have been replaced by e-transfers!

What could possibly be better than being married, having children and owning a home? For many, this period of life was truly prime time. We were firing on all cylinders, and we were indeed at the peak of our powers. We worked hard and played hard. Life was exhausting and exhilarating.

The kids are gone. Your debt is gone. You’re retired. What could possibly be better than this? You have the time to travel and pursue hobbies. You can sleep in until noon if you choose and every day is Saturday. You have also learned from your mistakes (hopefully) and are older and wiser.

Ah. The golden years. Your filters are all gone, and you can say whatever you damn well please. You are no longer fixated on making other people happy. Yes, you probably have some aches and pains but there is a sense of peace.

So, I ask you again. When is the prime time of life?

I believe that prime time is any time you’re happy, have a roof over your head, enough food to eat and a handful of good friends.

At the risk of being slapped silly, I think that this 93-year-old woman is a babe. Out of her mouth came words of wisdom.

Old people say the darndest things.

“May God bless and keep you always,

May your wishes all come true,

May you always do for others,

And let others do for you,

May you build a ladder to the stars, and climb on every rung,

 May you stay forever young,

Forever young, forever young,

May you stay forever young.

Forever Young – Bob Dylan

Have a great weekend.

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