A Glimpse Within

In the course of getting to know a person have you ever seen a photo of the inside of his or her home and:

  1. knew immediately that you two were on the same healthy wavelength & moving to the same vibe?  Or,
  2. knew instantly that this person was not mentally balanced & that it was time to walk away from the relationship?

I’ve had both situations happen to me in the last month.

I’m not talking about judging the decorating style of a home as acceptable or unacceptable according to your own vision of beauty.  That’s subjective.

I’m talking about seeing how things are put together in someone’s home and realizing that this is not how self-aware, sane people do things.  That all your vague, non-specific doubts about this person have been confirmed by one glimpse within his or her home.  That he or she is, indeed,  just as crazy as you sensed he or she might be.   

My message here?  Pay attention.  Trust your gut.  Live happier.

If only I’d known this at a younger age, I could have avoided lots of awkwardness and craziness.  But I didn’t.

Now I do.

Strange Days Indeed

The other day when I was out for my daily walk and standing at a stop sign waiting to cross the street, a van that I didn’t recognize came to a halt beside me.  I looked inside to see who was driving and saw a former neighbor, K, waving at me.  I always liked K when she lived here, but lost touch with her after she moved away five years ago.  So when I saw her, it pleased me.

She rolled down her window and we started to talk.  Or rather, she started to talk.

She told me she was in town on business, and had borrowed this van to drive out to see her old stomping ground.

She brought me up-to-date on her kids.

She explained why her husband’s job had taken them first to the east coast, and then to the middle of the midwest.  She talked about the houses she’d lived in since she moved;  and how she missed this neighborhood and her old house here.

She knew the whereabouts of a few of the families who used to live on the street back when she was here, and told me about them.  I updated her about the families who were still here– and about the neighborhood curmudgeon’s latest issues.

Eventually the conversation turned to a more personal tone, and I took the opportunity to tell her that I thought her new hair style and color really flattered her.  She’d gone from a long dark brown layered style to a short golden blonde bob.  She looked great.

And then the conversation got strange.

She laughed and said, “Thanks.  I decided that I wanted to die a blonde.”

At first, I thought she said: “I decided to dye it blonde.”  But slowly it registered in my brain what she had said;  and that she was waiting for me to respond.

Hoping that I had misheard her, but fearing that I had not, I said: “Oh, that won’t be for a while.”

But I was wrong.

Come to find out, she has terminal breast cancer with a couple of years left to live.  The change in hairstyle happened after many rounds of chemo during which time her hair fell out and then grew back gray.  So she decided to take advantage of the situation, and become a blonde.

Being totally stunned and at a loss for words, I said a few trite, encouraging things to her;  but I imagine that she’d heard these sorts of platitudes many times over.  So I just let her continue to talk.  There was nothing much that I could add to the conversation.

She talked a bit more about the details of her disease, and how her faith in Jesus was helping her cope.  She talked about how she wasn’t really upset anymore about the unfairness of this situation, and that she was just doing what she wanted to do all the time now.

Then she looked at her watch, realized what time it was, and started to say good-bye to me.  I asked her for her email address, but she said she couldn’t remember it.  I told her mine, but I doubt that she really cared.  This was to be our last conversation, I realized.

With that, she thanked me for talking with her and drove away.  Drifting off in that casual way of suburban acquaintances.  Just gone one day, never to be heard from again.

Leaving me standing by a stop sign– sad, confused, numb.  No longer interested in going for a walk.  No longer sure about much of anything.

Apparently I Belong In Canada

“How do you define a better life?”

An intriguing question, yes?

One that I’d never put much thought to until I found the Create Your Better Life Index, a simple interactive tool, which helped me focus on what is important to me and how to prioritize it.  Using this tool I realized that for me the topics that make life better are: community, education, safety, housing, jobs, health.  I place much less emphasis on: environment, governance, work-life balance.

By evaluating my preferences, the Create Your Better Life Index told me that I belong in Canada.  Or Australia.  Or New Zealand.

Okay, I can see that.

I also learned that I absolutely don’t belong in Chile.  Or Mexico.  Or Turkey.

Well, no big surprise there.  

And as for the USA?  It turns out that it is my 11th perfect country to live in on earth.  It follows seven northern European countries.

Hmmm.  Didn’t see that one coming.  

While I take the results of all online tools with a grain of salt, this one made me smile and reflect upon the fact that we are who we are– no matter where we live on the earth.  Geography exerts its influence, but temperament trumps it more times than not.

N’est-ce pas?

[Added 06.06.11 – Check out this article from MSNBC: “US doesn’t make cut for happiest nations list” – More info re: top 10 happiest countries.]

And Then Good Things Began To Happen

I’ve said more on a personal level this week than I usually do in this blog [or anywhere else for that matter].  I’ve been detailed and intense, not my usual light-hearted self.  Talk about going outside your comfort zone.

But you know what?  I’m really glad that I did.

Within 48 hours of publishing– what I will always think of as– my adios posts, I received five messages from friends and family who I haven’t heard from in months, or even years.

Not one of them had read what I said in the blog, but all had suddenly thought of me– not to get something from me or to put me down— but to say “hi!”

On top of that, five people who I don’t know but seem rather pleasant,  just kind of appeared in my corner of the blog-o-sphere/twitterverse to say “hi!”

So here’s what I’ve learned this week: for me it is difficult to put personal relationship stuff out there in the world, but it’s worth the risk.  Life balances.  Out with the negative and insincere.  In with the positive and authentic.

Wonder why it took me so long to figure this out?

Just grateful that I did.

Late Winter

It is drab outside.  Dark brown, gray, rust with hints of dingy green.  My light-sensitive eyes enjoy not squinting, but my spirit longs for sunlight, growth, something new.

***

Fresh flowers.  Citrus fruit.  Coffee.  These are the items that keep me whole during these last few weeks of winter gloom.

***

Raining and bleak outside.  Late afternoon.  I stop at our local grocery hoping to grab a few essentials.  The place is crowded with shoppers who, to put it politely, are very focused on their objectives.  Chaos.  Unhappiness.

Waiting three deep in front of the milk case I notice an older woman who is completely relaxed in the middle of this madness.  She radiates health, calm– and has excellent posture.

Intrigued, I look more closely and realize who it is.  Lilias Folan.  Of PBS yoga fame.  I quietly congratulate myself for paying attention– and stand up straighter.  Stomach in, shoulders back.  Move forward with grace.

***

I buy a bright yellow and green pillar candle.  At home I put the candle on a plate and set it on the granite counter in the kitchen.  I light the candle and the reflection of the flame on the counter gives me hope.  There is Spring in our kitchen.  For now.  I feel better.

***

Weekend plans keep me focused on doing.  As much as I want to, I can’t sit and stare out the window at nothing.  I must prepare.  Get ready.

***

Purple.  Orange.  Yellow.  Pansies planted in the fall.  Which colors will survive the winter?  Every year it is different.  I wait to see.  Curiosity replaces ennui.

***

The dark green stems of the daffodils are shooting up in the backyard.  Cheery yellow.  A bit of orange.  Color is on its way.  I am revived.