Saturday, November 5, 2011

A Life Without Regret

It is an awful, feeling.  That terrible knot in the gut, the sinking feeling, the close-your-eyes-throw-your-head-back while taking a deep breath, holding it in and gritting your teeth while you think 'oh my god I was SUCH an idiot'. Those moments in life that you wish you could do over. We all have those. We beat ourselves up. In fact, I have little doubt that each of us possesses the inherent gift of being our own worst critic.

The moments of regret which punctuate life are as inevitable as breathing itself.  I'm no psychologist but I would say that it is just part of 'the human condition'. It is a personal shame suffered in silence, wherein a combination of pride an self preservation combine to keep it internal and intensely personal, regardless of the knowledge that every other being  on the planet experiences exactly the same phenomena.

But this kind of regret about which I have previously written and is not the topic on this particular day. Funny that it comes to life in my consciousness days before the milestone commonly known as a birthday. When one observes this yearly remembrance of his existence, it seems to be equally part of the human condition to spend some time in refection - looking  to and fro in self examination. The past and the future considered from one moment in time called the present.  But it is not static because one's perspective of his past can change as a result of both internal and external influences. My view of the choices I made in my 20's evolves as I mature, learn things about myself and my world, and accepting the fact that I merely played the hand I was dealt to the best of my ability.

Do I have regrets? Absolutely. Not at all. I'm not sure.

Andy Rooney, the American writer best known for his curmudgeonly way of putting words and giving validation to the thoughts of so many 'average people' has died at the age of 92.  He managed to squeeze every last bit he could out of life, and while 'retiring' a mere month before his passing, I have little double that he worked, as any real writer would be compelled to do, right up until his final day on this earth. His last on air interview managed to compact 92 years into 13 minutes and 7 seconds and of that, my 'light bulb' moment occured during about 30 seconds.  Asked what he would do if he had his life to live over, Andy Rooney replied, without hesitation: "If I had my life to live over, I'd be on television, I'd get on 60 Minutes if I could, and I'd do a piece every week of my own. I'd write it and I'd say it. And that's what I do best."

He lived his life, sorry, as in apologetic, for certain small moments, for certain errors in judgement, for mistakes he made which may have hurt or offended others as is the case for any person of conscience. But in the grand scheme of things he lived a life without regret.

Wow.  I have to think long and hard about whether I can speak the same way with conviction.  Better yet, I need to consider all that I do, beginning today, to live a life with purpose such that during my final interview,  I will be able to stand at that singular point in time where there is no looking forward, and look back on a life without regret.

Monday, September 12, 2011

A Life Reduced

I don't bother with my neighbours much. It really isn't all that friendly of a street, which is okay with me. I'm not sure I want to live in a real life soap opera anyway. I would assume that our commonality is limited to geography, but lack the interest and time to be proven wrong.

Likewise, I don't pay much attention to their comings and goings, unless of course, it impacts me directly. They go about their business and I about mine; a polite wave exchanged when we pass each other on the street(with the exception of the freak who lives next door in his parents' basement and who gives me pause to wonder if I could get away with "but officer I really didn't see him dart out from behind the car" after I've run him down) - but I digress - that's a whole other post.

Lately I've noticed something; or I should say noticed someone missing. The old lady two doors over has generally been pretty low key. I am acquainted more with her ex-husband who moved out a number of years ago. Because she is alone, my Matthew has gone over a few times to shovel snow or rake leaves in return for her signature on his community service sheet. Other than that, we hardly see her. Except in the last little while, it occurs to me that I haven't seen her at all.

Then there was the dumpster - the kind people put on their driveways when a massive renovation is taking place. It was quite impressive; I would think large enough to practically take the house back to the bricks in order to start again. At first I thought "how cool - I don't know any old people who would bother with such an enormous undertaking". I mean really, I have elderly family for whom finally hiring an electrician to replace 60 amp service because they couldn't use the toaster and the microwave at the same time just about pushed them over the edge let alone entertaining the thought of retiring the 1970's wallpaper in the bathroom (darn this newfangled technology!) But then, the dumpster wasn't there for more than a week, and I didn't see any tradespeople coming and going.

Then there was the garage sale this past weekend. Actually no, not the kind you see where people put out assorted odds and ends on the driveway. This has been the mother of all garage sales - two full days - with enough items, large and small, to fill a small store. It seemed to be a full blown contents sale.  And while I have never understood the concept of putting one's unwanted 'stuff' on display on the front lawn for total strangers to examine, haggle over and purchase, I was loath to ignore the volume of traffic and the number of cars double parked on the street as they impeded my comings and goings somewhat.

Fascinating.... and sad. A life reduced, at least in the eyes of others, to the contents of a dumpster and a yard sale. Then my sadness turned almost to horror at the thought of people rummaging through my 'stuff' after I'm gone. Certain things which are meaningful only to me for reasons no-one else will ever understand - the antithesis of 'one man's junk is another man's treasure' (the obvious, if not misguided, inspiration for the modern day yard sale) left behind to be examined and judged by family and the cast-offs to be rummaged through by complete strangers. It is all very sad.

I shudder at the thought. I'm off to de-clutter my closet now......

Thursday, September 1, 2011


It's like a craving, a need. And not that I'm always the most articulate person on the planet, and not that I necessarily believe that I have anything to say that the world wants or needs to hear, but still I need to write.

I can't explain it. I can only liken it to people who HAVE to make music; people who MUST compete. It is a compulsion of sorts, this need for self expression.


I wish I knew.

But I'm blocked right now. I can't think of a single topic which compels me to share even a brief sarcastic comment or something bitingly witty. For all the dreams I have of being 'discovered' and asked to write a daily or weekly column or sorts, I panic and thank the stars that this lack of inspiration isn't going to mean that I'm out of a job.

It's like living in black and white. There is no colour, no joy, no real reason to smile. No inspiration. It is all as blank as the piece of paper just begging for some penned profundity.

It's like the name you can't quite remember; a date; an event. It's on the tip of my tongue but nothing comes out.  It's that agitated feeling of being exhausted yet feeling too restless to fall asleep.

The blank piece of paper is the cruelest, mot unkind and stark reality I can imagine. Only I don't have to because it haunts me now.

I'm screaming inside for inspiration. But even the black and white is melting together into the most bleak, nondescript shade of grey which is taking over my thoughts like a vine that grows out of control, choking and killing everything in its path, or worse yet, turning it to apathy.

I can only hope that inspiration will be mine again soon to flood my dark dreary soul with the bright light of optimism, hope and brilliant creativity.

Until then the blank white page taunts me........

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

On my bike...

..there is nowhere I can’t go, nothing I can’t do. The world is my playground. I own whatever road upon which I happen to be travelling.

On my bike...
Every pit stop I make is the quaintest location I’ve ever visited and every cup of coffee is the best I’ve ever enjoyed. The sky is more beautiful. The air feels cleaner. The beauty of my surroundings rivals the world’s greatest landmarks. I am right where I am supposed to be at that moment.

On my bike...
I am alone with my thoughts. Or I have none at all. There are no mortgage payments, car payments, bills, appointments, obligations or worries. On my bike I don’t have Lupus; I’ve never had a heart attack; there is no pain; no fear of dying young; I am completely well. On my bike I’ve never suffered trauma or abuse. I am strong. I have never said anything stupid and there is nothing for which I need to feel embarrassment. On my bike there is peace and harmony. There is no conflict, no differences of opinion, no diplomacy is required. On my bike there is no depression, sadness, tears or regret. On my bike there is joy, freedom, inspiration, creativity and love. On my bike anything becomes possible as I embody infinite potential. On my bike I am in control of my destiny; I am supreme; my word is final. On my bike my life is absolutely perfect and I exist solely in that moment. I am one with myself on my bike.

And during the stark, crushing reality which exists in between, through the pain, sorrow, regret and despair; in my mundane existence I daydream, scheme and plan how I can make my next escape.... on my bike.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

They May Not Remember What You Said....

Kim's back!

Tonight I was out and about doing the things that Realtors do in the evening. And as is often the case, I was worked up from work, not quite ready to go home and wind it down,  and was deciding whether I needed to do any errands first. There was nothing, but I was craving chocolate, so I decided to pop into Shoppers Drug Mart. I walked in and there was Kim!

Kim  has been a cosmetician for quite a long time. I really like her because she know her stuff: she understands what products I need, has a knack for choosing the cosmetics that complement my complexion, and makes the process of dropping a hundred bucks or more even seem fun! But three months ago Kim got a promotion and left Bradford to manage her own cosmetics department in Toronto. Shopping for beauty products just hasn't been the same. In fact, I had even started looking for other places to shop - there just wasn't anyone who knew my needs like Kim did.

So I went in to get my chocolate bar. "Oh my god Tina you look fabulous!" I looked up and there was Kim behind the cosmetics counter. I ran right over and she came out from behind the glass divider and a spontaneous hug as we squealed like old friends who have not seen each other forever.

We hung around and caught up, chatting about her experiences in Toronto, comparing notes about the holidays, talking about real estate, and the familiarity of it felt good.

Suddenly  I asked about a product I had been meaning to check out but had put off because I really didn't have anyone  who inspired me to feel confident about making the purchase.

Then Kim did what Kim does best. "Tina, remember you said you really liked....... well you should see this......." It went on like this and the next thing I realized I had spent 90 minutes in the cosmetics department and still had no chocolate bar to show for it. My purchases (plural) were lined up and ready to be rung in and I made her wait while I ventured to the other side of the store in order to add a chocolate bar to the pile.

90 minutes and (bleep) dollars later (censored) I left the store feeling really upbeat. I just topped off a good evening with a fun time!

Aha! There was a lesson in it for me too. They may not remember what you said, but they'll never forget how you made them feel. I've heard that many times but tonight I experienced it firsthand.

And I realized that as good as I am at my job, I can do better in different ways, especially as I seek to build relationships rather than completing transactions. Kim, through excellent service and by demonstrating genuine caring that made me feel like I am important to her, has made herself indispensable, even if only in a very small corner of my world. Imagine becoming indispensable  to every person who has ever bought or sold with me. I would never have to look for clients again!

I think lessons present themselves to us in ways we could never imagine. Acquiring the discernment to recognize them makes me a better person on so many levels.  Lipstick and a life lesson.  Very cool.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Giving Back

Politician bashing is a bit of a sport in our Country, manifesting itself in many ways.  Rick Mercer has mastered the art! And of course while anyone who puts themselves 'out there', making their lives a matter of public record may be targets and/or subjects of scrutiny, it seems to be the Politicians who are most subjected to criticism and ridicule. I mean, athletes and entertainers behave badly and we hero-worship them - go figure. A Politician has a temper tantrum in an airport and we all shake our heads disapprovingly. We expect more from them and we cut them little slack. Rightly so... to a point.

I know; I've done it! I'll probably continue to do it in a partisan fashion that would make our Prime Minister proud were it not for the fact that he and his party will most often be the targets of my biting rants. (I'd like to say sorry, Helena, but you were such a target rich environment!)

But there's a flip side here - an important one!

Inasmuch as we love to hate our Politicians, I believe we need to consider that these men and women often put a lot on the line to serve Canada. Many of us take for granted the freedoms we enjoy because of our democracy, which would not exist  without people stepping up and running for office.

Jim Prentice recently left public service to take a top banking job - good for him. I'm not a fan of him or his government, but I do recognize that 10 years of an MP's salary is a lot less than he could have been earning  all this time in the private sector.

We do owe a debt of gratitude to men and women of all political stripes who choose to serve in this way!

It is with this sentiment that I'm proud to throw my support behind Kyle Peterson in Newmarket-Aurora as he seeks the Federal nomination in that riding! Kyle is a passionate Liberal, an articulate communicator, and will make a fine MP. A lawyer, Kyle grew up in the area and is married with one young child. That he is willing to dedicate himself in this way at the prime of his career and earning power is admirable, for sure.

To all Liberal minded folks in the Riding, please sign up HERE for your Membership so we can confirm Kyle's nomination and be ready for the next election!

And to all the others who serve (yes, even you Mr. Harper), Thank you!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Is life worth the risk?

Risk. I think this word is fascinating because it is both a noun and a verb. Risk in one's life, therefore can be either a passive or intentional thing.

If I do not pay attention to the fuel gauge in my car, I run the risk of running out of gas. It is avoided by taking an alternate action.

But sometimes risk isn't  just incurred by failing to act; it IS a course of action, and that's when life can become really interesting. And just because the English language is so wonderfully complex, even risk as an action  is comprised of different, sometimes subtle meanings.

Risk without consideration of the consequences is throwing caution to the wind - like the compulsion of spending one's last fifty bucks at the casino instead of buying food. Often in this kind of risk, one lacks the  possession of clear, rational thought or self control, and behaves recklessly.

When one takes a calculated risk it is usually a deliberate, well planned, well thought out process. But even that can be done for different reasons. A wealthy business person may risk a small fortune on a business venture:  If it fails, the loss, while disappointing, ultimately lacks the ability to have significant negative impact, while its success would be a wonderful bonus. This is about the closest thing to a best of both worlds scenario that exists. Nothing ventured, nothing gained!

Sometimes one 'takes the plunge' and even though the action was thought out and the consequences considered, it is done because there is an underlying sense that little choice exists but to give it a go, see what happens, and hope for the best. Having things turn out well under these circumstances is the ultimate satisfaction, while the alternative can be completely devastating.

I think for the most part, I have played my life pretty safely. It has had all the makings of a very conservative investment portfolio. No big surprises. I can pinpoint only a couple of times in 46 years where I have actually taken risks that will change the entire course of my life. One paid off quite nicely.

The other? I hope to write about it someday. It is still in play.

Will I regret it? Quite possibly, but I have no choice and the unknown that would haunt me forever because of inaction would ultimately be the biggest disappointment of my life.