My little dog and I were on a long, meandering Sunday beach walk when I came across a fellow neighbourhood dog owner sitting with a friend. She is a large, elderly Eastern European woman and I can never remember her name. I always remember her dog’s name though and, in my mind, refer to her as her dog’s mom.
I waved to her, smiled and asked where her dog was. Her face crunched into a funny look and, in her thick European accent, she told me that she had given her dog up for adoption. I stared at her. He needed an operation she couldn’t afford she continued, so now he’s living with a family up the street. I was shocked. She and her pup seemed inseparable. Do you get to see him, I asked. Before she could answer, her friend piped up “The last time he saw her he looked at her like you’re my mama. Why did you give me to these people?”
I looked back at the former dog mama and saw her eyes well up with tears. In that second, I realized that the last thing this lady needed was my judgement. Everything about her energy told me that she had not had an easy life and her friend was, right now, attempting to pile more guilt on an already heartbreaking situation. I moved towards her, looked her in the eyes and said “You did the right thing” and gave her a big hug.
Did I really think she did the right thing? It doesn’t matter. She needed a little love and compassion and I was honoured to give it to her.
Sometimes we all let our egos and big opinions get in the way of just being there for another person. But when we just let the ego and opinions go and allow ourselves to support someone else without judging, it feels beautiful…for both people.
A world without empathy and compassion would be a horrible thing so I thank my neighbor for reminding me of this today and allowing me to let my better self shine through.
Growing up in rural Ontario, nature has always been my preferred place to be. When things became too boring inside the house, I headed outdoors with my cats and used my imagination to create fantastic jungle stories where my kittens were fierce lions and tigers and the wild grasses were the deep, dark, exciting jungle. I could play for hours in a abandoned lot covered in wild flowers. And this is how I developed a deep love for nature.
There is a pleasure in the pathless woods,
There is a rapture on the lonely shore,
There is society, where none intrudes,
By the deep Sea, and music in its roar:
I love not Man the less, but Nature more. – Lord Byron
And because of this life long love of nature, I can’t help but be concerned about wildlife during BC’s monster fires this summer. Their homes are being destroyed and they can’t get away from the smoky air by going inside an air conditioned building the way we can.
I am incredibly saddened that so many beautiful trees and wild animals have been going up in flames this summer with no end in sight. By building bigger and bigger cities with bigger and bigger homes, we are already encroaching so much on the habitat of the beautiful wild things of our planet. If even more of their home burns, what will be left for them?
Even forests near my Vancouver home (a temperate rain forest) are tinder dry with leaves starting to wilt from lack of rain. It’s hard not to have a heavy heart when I see the forest suffering. We are so connected to the earth but I feel like so many of us have become disconnected from that reality. If Mother Nature is in distress, we are all, sooner or later, going to be in distress with her.
If you would like to help out in this desperate situation, local wildlife rescues are being bombarded with displaced and distressed wildlife, two great ones to contribute to are BCSPCA and The Furbearer Defenders.
These fine people need all the help they can get right now.
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.
I’ve been thinking about people who offer unsolicited advice to others (and the uncomfortable realization that I’m occasionally guilty of this behaviour).
This is on my mind today because I was out with the girls last weekend and a friend of a friend went on the attack over a decision I had recently made. I was surprised at her reaction but defended myself pretty well, the whole time thinking ‘why is this almost stranger so invested in my life?’ The whole exchange was emotionally charged though and managed to bring down what could have been a fun evening out.
By the end of the evening I had the sense that the only personal power this woman could muster was at the expense of others and with the conviction that her opinions were ‘right’. A very sad and, ultimately, powerless way to walk through the world.
The silver lining of this experience, however, is a wonderful one. It made me realize that if someone wants my opinion, he or she will actually ask and if they don’t ask, then my opinion is probably not needed. It also made me realize that I don’t need to defend or explain my life to anyone.
Imagine if we were all a little less judgy and just let people be who they want to be and do want they want to do. Imagine if we focused on understanding and acceptance instead of the upmanship (upwomanship) of judgement.
Imagine how much more wonderful the world would be.
Disclaimer: None of this applies if someone is being abused or harming themselves. Then it’s our duty to, with love, make their business our business.
My word for 2017: Gentleness
Dictionary definition: “Gentleness is the quality of being kind and careful. Your gentleness with a frightened stray dog will eventually convince her to let you feed and pet her. The noun gentleness is perfect for describing the way someone acts when they are soft and calm and sweet to other people.”
We are all in this world together, doing the best we can and often our best isn’t all that great. We mess up, hurt each other (hopefully accidentally) and are just in general perfectly imperfect.
Imagine if we practiced more compassion and gave each other the benefit of the doubt more often. Imagine how we could transform the world if enough of us did that. So 2017 is my year of learning how to be gentle, with myself and with everyone around me.
I think it’s going to be a good year 💖
I lived to play volleyball in high school. For two years it was my full time, happy obsession. I tried out for and made the team in grade 10 and started out as a decent player. But then, a deep, deep love for the sport took hold of me and I started practicing for a couple of hours every evening and as much as I could on weekends. When there was no one around to play with I’d go out behind the house and serve the ball against the wall and dive and lunge to keep it slamming against the wall without touching the ground. So, in a pretty short time I went from a decent player to a really good player. And I practiced for a couple of hours every night not because I thought I should or I had to but because I wanted to. Desperately wanted to. Playing volleyball was the happiest I felt in life. It gave me structure, a great physical outlet for stress and, last but not least, hope. I’m not exaggerating when I say that I lived for the game for those two years.
Then, in grade 12 I had to stop playing. The story of why I had to stop is too long and too sad to write about here. But I had to give it up. And I buried my love of the game…for almost 40 years. Oh, occasionally I’d try to get friends to play beach volleyball with me and once in a while they’d say yes. But some people are intimidated by the game and other people just don’t love it the way I do (which I can’t quite understand lol) so my games were few and far between.
But, this year, magically and happily, I found a group of friends who want to play. And they want to play every weekend, and, as I play with them, and my moves from high school are slowly but surely coming back to me. Something I had to bury a long, long time ago is un-burying (is that a word?) itself deep within my being and I’m starting to feel the happiness and joy that I used to feel when I was one of the tallest girls on the team spiking the ball mercilessly over the net. And I’m starting to practice my moves with a beach ball in my apartment just like I practiced in the “old days”. My dog gets in on the act to and pounces on the beach ball every chance he gets, so he’s loving the volleyball life too.
It’s too late to take this love of the game to a professional level like I dreamt of doing as a teenager but it’s not to late to let myself incorporate something that makes me feel such deep happiness and excitement back into my life. It’s funny how some of the things that bring such get buried over time.
The obsession is back and it’s a happy one.