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Extended Absence Greeting 4 comments

Hey there – remember me? 🙂

So, the last few months of 2009 became a muddy blur during which time writing, and exercising, took a backseat to the following:

  • caring for the lovely Freddie as she recovered from surgery to repair ruptured discs in her spine (neck). My home became a baby-gated, cushioned, modified pet crate for seven weeks. My dog was in pain and I felt helpless. And then, shortly afterwards, broke. So grateful that Freddie’s Other Mom, and the lovely WWBA, were able to be such a supportive part of this adventure. But it did take its toll. Freddie needs to be carried up and down stairs and, at first, needed more, shorter walks. I live up two flights of stairs and my routine was tied more than ever, to Freddie’s requirements. I was exhausted.
  • … and thus got I ill myself with a persistent bronchial infection – several weeks of coughing and hacking and sleeping badly.
  • having my car vandalized, right here in the underground parking lot. Stuff stolen, car damaged. Much time and energy lost over a 10 day period, dealing with this. Not to mention feeling just a wee bit violated.
  • grading 174 really sub-par essay-like business reports in 3.5 weeks. That is a real number, 174. 87 in the first round that had to be done quickly and returned so they could have feedback to complete and hand in the second round. Second round to be graded to the grade submission deadline at the end of term. This activity will suck your brain out through the eye of a needle and will rip your heart out of your chest, tossing it away like last year’s PlayStation. Don’t let anyone tell you that teaching isn’t an emotional pursuit. After teaching plagiarism (how to avoid it, not how to do it) as a topic in class, finding students who persist in the behaviour is like getting smacked up the side of the head with a 2 x 4. I’m not sure I can explain why, it just feels … horrible.  It does get balanced out, of course, by students who really do make incredible progress and there were some really fine moments of this as well. Somehow, though, this term, the amount of grading and the roller coaster ride it took me on just about did me in.
  • ongoing negotiations with management on workload issues (see above) and the looming possibility of a strike that no one wants yet that seems difficult to avoid. Multiple meetings with management over next term’s workload. A workload review by a larger committee. Not much progress. Stress. Self-doubt. Worry.

As you can see, not a lot of writing took place. Furthermore, I actually have found myself daydreaming of the smell of my gym. What I’ve learned is that my mental and emotional health is linked to these two activities. Thus, I resolve to re-prioritize and get both disciplines back into my life. Although I’m going to wait until mid-February to actually step on the scales, I think. Yikes.

Anyway, thanks for your patience – all three or four of you. 🙂 Stay tuned for more … as for now, I’m off to the gym!

Put It In The Sun 3 comments

An ex of mine's grandfather was a doctor. Or at least, that is how I remember it. When at a loss addressing some problem, my ex's mother was taught to "put it in the sun". Thus, this was also my ex's counsel. Some wound not healing? Put it in the sun. Stains not coming out of clothes? Put 'em in the sun. Ear ache? Put it in the sun. Can't get the lid off a jar? Put it in the sun …

I have often wondered about this, especially since we are in the era of UVA/UVB rays and associated melanomas. Being as we are in Canada, and sun is at a premium, this bit of advice also must have a seasonal aspect to it. Nonetheless, I think there is a subtextural wisdom here that I will get to momentarily.

It is funny what we remember from our exes. I know that there are little bits from every person I've been close to that travel with me, either literally or figuratively, and this bit is one of my favs from this particular ex. I happen to know that, from me, she carries with her the folk "wisdom", or myth, that if cows are lying down in the field, then it is going to rain. I don't think this is as useful as "put it in the sun".

I awoke this morning a bit out of sorts. It was non-specific, one of those moods in which one cannot say "because of x, I now feel y". But I felt vaguely disappointed and dissatisfied … things not moving fast enough, feeling like I haven't done enough, situations not unfolding with either the speed or outcomes that I'd hoped for, or planned for.

Following both my Sunday morning proclivities, and my ex's advice, I put it in the sun for a while. Made coffee, bought a newspaper, took my dog to our favourite park, and sat in the sun, sipping excellent java while poking through the paper. My dog snuffled through leaves, greeted her friends, and also sat blinking in the sun. Maybe she needed re-charging, too. The sun feels so good on the skin after a long winter. I felt 100% better after putting it (me) in the sun.

Here is what I think "put it in the sun" really means:

There isn't a magic pill, or a perfect solution, or an exact linear path that each person can follow to find their Nirvana. Life is about finding the unique process that leads to the outcomes you desire. Sure, sometimes there are windfalls and lucky breaks, but mostly there is continuous hard work or, one hopes, smart work. Lots of it. It is more important to do the right things repeatedly, to incorporate the most beneficial behaviours, to find a routine that works, than to look for instant gratification, or instant success, or that one magic "thing" that will make one's dreams come true.  Sometimes you have to just do the right things and then measure one's progress in small steps. Look for small ways to improve. Keep one's eye on the long term. "Putting it in the sun" means giving it time and space to happen. Remember that patience and hard work wins out over instant gratification.

There are are many elements in my life that are pointing me towards this particular lesson right now. Weight loss, for example, isn't something that comes easily, but it is coming steadily over time. As I've noted before, it isn't linear and, in some cases, it isn't even logical. With attention and the right adaptations in behaviours, a few additions to the routine … it is happening. Similarly, a few runs at circuit training isn't going to give me that killer bod that I have in mind, but it will get me a little bit closer. 

One of the most important "needs" that I was seeking to meet when I moved back to Toronto was to find a sense of community. A sense of belonging, being part of something. I felt pretty depressed, to be honest, for several years after the break-up that led me back here. Disappointed that this sense of belonging that I so very much wanted to have fulfilled was eluding me. Well, guess what? I have it now, sometimes in spades. It took so long to evolve, but it was a matter of joining the right groups, following my instincts, making the right friends, choosing the right "family". I made mistakes along the way, some of them quite dramatic. But now, I'm feeling like I've found "my people" within this chaotic urban environment. I think this sense of having landed really started to be present for me about two years ago. Meaning that it took five years to happen. Not overnight, by any means.

Put it in the sun. Leave it there a while.

By some measures, my business is growing every week. I'm trying to do this organically, to allow myself enough leeway to try things and find out what I enjoy, what energizes me, and what I can leave behind. This takes time and will not happen overnight. I'm doing the right things and getting good responses … I need to remember to put it in the sun, too.  (Note to self: I've only been truly "self-employed" for 11-12 weeks. Get a grip. Put it in the sun. Leave it there a while.)

I'm taking a similar approach to dating / relationships. Stay open, stay busy, meet people. Have a good time. Don't push it. Put it in the sun. Leave it there a while.

Speaking of which, the sun has just broken through some clouds … looks like my dog and I need to get back out there in it.

Maybe you should, too. 🙂

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“I’m On A Schedule, Here … “ Click Here To Comment!

My ex and I share custody of our dog. When we were together, it took us four years of debating and discussing to really decide that our lifestyle was able to handle the structure required to give a dog a decent life. Four years after acquiring said pooch, we broke up. Things have worked out well, though, and our dog (who is about to turn 10 in October) spends part of her time with my ex and part of her time with me. As of last Sunday, I have her for three weeks. Her name is Freddie. (That's the dog's name, not my ex's name …)

All this by way of saying that when I am on dog duty, my life shifts into a different set of gears. I have to be home more often and with more regularity. I don't have a back yard, exactly, so her exercise and, er, business need to be taken care of according to a reasonably regular walking routine.

Enter: new job. I now work 1.5 hours out of the city, however I only need to make the trip physically two or three times a week. This is the first week I've had both new job and Freddie, and I'm spending quite a bit of brain-time figuring out how to do errands efficiently and still make it home within my own personal expectations of being a responsible dog-owner.

On Monday, I had three errands to tend to after work and decided one was best done on the way home and the other ones could be done with Freddie in tow, and after her walk. Although I left Guelph later than I should have, traffic wasn't bad and I was back in the city by about 5:00 p.m., looking for parking on a residential street just north of the Danforth. I spotted a silver Toyota that the driver had just gotten into, put on my signal and waited. Nothing happened for the longest time. The driver, a gentlemen in his late 60's I'd say, seemed perturbed. Finally, he got out of the car and walked over to my car and said, "My car won't start – I think the battery is dead."  Here, on my blog, I admit that my first thought was, "Oh, for Pete's sake … now I have to find another spot cos time she's a tickin' …" but then I remembered that I *still* have those cables that my colleague P "lent" me. I use the term "lent" loosely as she put them in my car two years ago and I haven't given them back … yet. I took a deep breath, shoved aside mental images of my doggie with her legs crossed, and smiled at the man. "I have some cables – I can help." His face brightened considerably. "Really?" he said, with relief.

I moved my car into position in front of his and rummaged around for the yellow bag with the cables. Here, I must admit I've never done this before. Sure, I've stood around while other more competent people have rigged up the cables. I've watched and I understand the basics. However, when you have two older brothers who delight in scaring the crap out of their little sister by making sparks fly using booster cables … and when they loved to do this as often as possible on every piece of farm equipment that even remotely needed a boost … well, one treats this whole process with some respect.

"Sir, would you mind holding this end of these cables for a minute? Thanks. No – wait …hold them apart from each other, don't let the metal parts touch … really, you do have to be careful about that … see those plasticky-rubbery handle bits? You really must keep your hands on those. Good … OK … red on my red … red on your red. Check. Black on your black … black on my ground … "

You know, on modern cars, plastic looks a lot like metal … not much was happening at first. I took a deep breath and moved my black to the black post on the battery and … voila! Presto, starto … now, to carefully remove the cables …

"Sir, I'm going to hand these to you as I take them off, in order. You really MUST touch only the plastic handles … and you really MUST NOT let the metal parts touch … "

The whole thing took less than 10 minutes … what really surprised me was the helplessness of this fellow. He had a sort of lost kitten look about him that made me wonder if he was really capable of driving a car. Then, I wondered if the car with dead battery thing was just a ploy to keep Alzheimer's ridden grandpa at home … but he was well down the street by the time this thought occurred to me. I just did what Mom taught me to do – tried to help where I could. It is possible that what feels like helping, to me, might not actually be so helpful at all … as I pondered all this, thoughts of Freddie with her legs crossed began to intrude, and I hurried through my errand to make up the lost 10 minutes.

I made it home to find my dog not in distress at all. As per usual, she slept for most of the day and, as far as she was concerned, I might have been gone only one hour instead of much longer. She seems way less concerned with the whole scheduling thing than I apparently am.

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