A Gift Worth Giving

I am sitting Row G, Seat 2. It is intermission, half way through the musical we’ve been enjoying when from midway up the theatre comes a call ringing out through the auditorium. “Is there a doctor in the house?” The noise reverberates. The acoustics are of course meant for this kind of sound.

It takes a minute for the crowd to register what has just been said, for we are still in shock at someone standing up and bellowing. Usually, people try not to draw attention to themselves in public venues such as this is. It is unusual to hear someone yelling frantically. But all this takes but a moment to process, for very soon, we can see that someone is performing chest compressions on another lying prostrate. And very faintly, you can hear a woman crying. The cries begin to sound louder as the noise in the theatre falls to a hush. And we are left transfixed as we gaze upon the scene.

Why is it when someone is in the midst of their most vulnerable moments in life that we as people find it hard to turn away? We cannot shift our gaze? We are drawn to tragedy like moths to a lantern.

Mesmerized.

Quite soon, two ladies begin to make their way towards the commotion. They are nurses. They do what needs to be done while waiting for the defibrillator to arrive. And when the latter does come, there is a audible sound of relief that seems to ripple from the epicentre of all the action. The trouble has not yet passed, but it appears that there is some hopeful signs indicating that things will work out after all.

However. I for one cannot seem to shake that unsettled feeling. A wishfulness, a wanting: to have something of worth to offer.

I turn to my seatmate and say how helpless I feel to be there and not have anything of worth to put forward. I find myself regretting my lack of life-saving skills, something I could offer up in a time like this. But as I have none, I come up shorthanded.

I am neither a doctor, a nurse or a paramedic. I am a teacher. What good is that in an emergency?

After the gentleman in scrutiny is taken by ambulance, the audience is then told by the director of the show that he is on his way to the hospital. The director then thanks the two women who have assisted in the incident and announces the beginning of the second half of the show. We settle in, but if I am any kind of representative for the others there in that theatre, I am sure we are all watching with a little more heaviness and somber tone than when we had begun the first half. One never knows what might happen in the course of an evening. This event just reminds us of that sobering fact once again.

As I watch the remainder of the show, I am struck with a thought. The actors, singers and dancers who entertain this theatre full of people are also unable to help this gentleman’s need for medical attention. As much as they have exhibited their many talents and accomplishments, lifesaving is apparently not among them. Along with the audience, they were helpless to assist in what this man needed most: someone to rescue him in his time of distress.

The more I think about it, though; the more I realize that while this fact is true, the gifts the members of the theatre company had to offer the rest of us were certainly worthwhile and welcome. The gift of a diversion, a welcome offering from this poignant real-life scene we had just been witness to is a worthy gift to bestow. And that we the audience were able to carry on and enjoy the music and dance was testament to the great gifts and talents that this troupe had to offer. Grace under pressure at its best.

It is a gift to be able to distract those who are privy to sorrowful incidents. A gift that doctors and nurses and paramedics are at times unable to deliver due to their primary concerns with matters of a more serious nature. A gift that entertainers were made for. And it’s okay that the gifts which were offered last night were different. Because each person involved last night had gifts to bear. That those gifts were not the same in value and contribution was not necessary for them to be worthwhile, for them to be worth using. That the gifts were used and given over to help in the benefit of others is what really matters.

A couple days ago, I was doing an activity with my young kindergarten students that required some assistance from older leadership students in the Grade 6 class. An Educational Assistant offered to accompany me, but asked if I could also add two of the older students she worked with who have some exceptional needs to my mix. I was delighted.

When I observed the two special students as they interacted with my kindergarten students, I was struck by the gifts these two had to offer: gifts of patience, kindness, and wonder. They didn’t make any of my students feel “less than” when they were unable to perform a particular task, they didn’t ask them to “hurry up” when they lagged behind, and they had immeasurable wonder and excitement in completing the various stations we were involved in.

It was a joy to watch them using their gifts.

Although I can be prone to feeling inadequate when presented with a situation for which I feel I am less than skilled for, less than capable of assisting with. Feeling like my gifts are not as worthwhile, at times, when I see the skill sets/gifts that others have. It is a good reminder to myself that in giving over to these feelings of insecurity, I am allowing myself to be sucked into the lie that tells me ‘some gifts are better’. That tells me some gifts are worth more.

Our gifts were meant for us, designed especially for us. We were meant for the gifts- meant for the life we’ve been given, whatever that life and those accompanying gifts might be. And it doesn’t matter how important or distinguished or notable the gifts of our life are- it matters that we use the gifts. And use them lavishly. And when we do, the gift goes on, used for a higher purpose. Used as part of a bigger plan. Worthy and highly regarded no matter how that gift happens to come packaged.

The gift of being ourselves- it’s a gift worth giving.  Each and every time we offer it up.

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Turning Ten…For the Fourth Time

I turn ten for the fourth time tomorrow.

That’s the big 4-0 to the rest of the world. As in, four decades.  Bless it.  I still can’t believe it. So cliche, I know, but until you’ve arrived, you will never fully appreciate how much your youthful brain is still telling you you’re not a day past 25. Seriously. The other day at school, I told my students that my Husband was planning a surprise for me, and one little guy who has taken to giving me engulfing bear hugs about five times a day looked at me incredulously and said, “You have a HUSBAND????????”

Which is to say (or, what I think he meant): “Your youthful appearance defies that you be old enough for such adult behaviour.” Something akin to that thought.

Whatever…

I am not dealing well with this “going past the thirties” birthday business, so thankfully Husband skipped the Over the Hill party and booked a weekend getaway instead.

Good call.

Except.  Now I feel like the comraderie would have helped- what with the onset of depression and all.  Feel free to message me with tips, if you have already reached this milestone. Every little bit of moral support I can muster helps. We need each other, Seniors. Or at least I do- for emotional reinforcement. And the odd back-rub or two.

Husband told me last night that he wasn’t going to lie: “Getting old is not that much fun.”

Thanks sweetie.  That’s just what a girl needs to hear from her OLDER spouse.

However, I do have to give him props for this: planning a semi-surprise for his wife and not letting her in on the secret. That is, not letting her in on the secret until Thursday.  Just three short nights ago, I was at this very instant (or close to it- who’s keeping track) walking hand in hand toward the setting sun, with Husband by my side, as we lazily travelled along the boardwalk at Peake’s Key. Kid-less. That’s “walking sans kidlets”, for those who are not yet fluent in this language. It all seems like a vague and hazy dream right about now.

I half wonder if it was.

Earlier that day, we had packed the van to the gills, dropped off one child’s stuff at Black Grammie’s house. Packed for another to go to across the road. And then packed snacks, games and more stuff for the other two to go to Charlottetown for the night to White Grammie’s house.

It is a lot of work to get away, people. And age has nothing to do with it…

Thankfully, Hubbie remembered this tedious fact and gave me a forty-eight hour heads up. So, it was with exhaustion and anticipation, we made the trek to Dundee Arms Inn in historic Charlottetown. Meanwhile, all that packing wore me out.  I won’t lie: I had a short catnap en route.

I am forty, hello.

At exactly 5:30 p.m., as we pulled out of my parent’s driveway, Husband looked at me and said with a smile, “It’s officially the weekend!”
And so it was. A beautiful weekend, complete with a lovely quiet supper with delicious food and a beautiful room furnished with antiques and an ornate four poster canopy bed. Such a luxury, this weekend getaway. Dearly needed and much appreciated.

And now it’s over. OVER.

I am back to reality once again, only three short nights later. Dirty dishes sitting in the kitchen waiting to be washed. Crud on the floor to be wiped up. Laundry waiting impatiently to be washed and folded. Children needing baths and stories and tuck-ins. Floors to be vacuumed and on and on the list goes.

Because life goes on.

It always does somehow.

Those moments we want to last? They sadly come to a close. As much as we try to hold on to them, they dissolve and fade into our memory. Leaving us with a sentimental feeling as a lasting token of their occurrence. Wondering if they truly ever really happened after all.
As much as we try, life just keeps forging forward.

And don’t we just wish we could, at times, press the pause button? Maybe not for every moment of the day, but certainly for some of them. Life is just moving past us too quickly.
I for one can hardly keep up.

And now that I am forty years old, I think time will speed by even faster.
It can seem just so discouraging, at times.

I was thinking about this thought the other day- about wanting time to slow down- and my thoughts wandered to some precious loved ones I hold dear. Loved ones who have suffered in various ways and through difficult circumstances. And I realized that for some, time  has been very long. Drawn out. Difficult to bear with and challenging to stay through.

For some, time has been short.  Abbreviated.  Time has quickly come to a close.


For time is only fast and full when we are enjoying and really appreciating  the circumstances of our lives. It’s extremely slow, and at times can even be short when we are not.

For those of us who are finding time is slipping away. Revel in it. Enjoy it. Take pleasure from that time and don’t try to squander it. Time is here for us to use. It’s ours for the taking. We need to make every effort to use our time to benefit the life we’ve been made to live.
And for those of us who wish for time to move a little faster: take heart. This time we’ve been given will soon move us to new horizons. The difficulties of this life and the pain of the here and now: this too shall pass. Time is still here for you who wish it away- it is here for the taking. Make every effort to use the time you’ve been given to benefit the life you’ve been made to live. All too soon, this present here and now will be gone.

We can never get this moment back again.  These moments- they are fragile.  Precious.  Take pleasure in them.
And neither should we want to live them over- there is just too much time in the present here and now to enjoy. To live and experience. To wonder and revel in. And there is always time enough to dream about our hoped for tomorrows.

A dear friend reminded me tonight: we don’t need to dread growing older.  It is a gift that many are unable to enjoy and experience.  So turning forty for the first time is a new pleasure I will revel in.

And I think I just might make this fifth decade of my life the one I cherish most.

The joy of anticipation…

Is it just me, or are we as a western society forgetting what it feels like to anticipate the anticipation of a holiday, season or milestone such as Christmas?   (And this sentiment could be applied to other holidays spread throughout the year).  But since Christmas is coming, and it is the biggest holiday of the year, permit me this rant.   People are anticipating upcoming holidays for longer and longer spans of time so that when holidays like Christmas actually do arrive, the wonder, excitement and magic of it all seems to have dulled.

I am not just noticing that we are preparing earlier.  This fact is obvious in light of the Christmas music that I was greeted to on Remembrance Day Monday this year as I walked into a local grocery store.  A slight to our veterans, I might add.  But still.  I get it.  People love Christmas.  And so do I.

In. December.

I realize that preparations have been pushed back further and further into the mid-early autumn days, so much so that often there is confusion in stores that are offering  (albeit sometimes on clearance, but still…) fall furnishings, Thanksgiving décor, Halloween decorations and Remembrance Day themed items, all while the Christmas boxes are lying in store isles waiting to be unpacked.  Meanwhile, we are unable to anticipate this most important upcoming holiday because we still don’t have closure on the one we’ve just finished.

I just want there to be a gap.  Some white space between sentences, if you will.  Let me end one train of thought before I begin another.  And breathe, even just for a moment.  That is all I am asking for- a bit of time in between holidays where one can just breathe, collect their thoughts, put away their camper and summer lawn chairs before they have to think about setting up and color co-ordinating/over-decorating the multiple artificial Christmas trees one might have set up throughout their house.  Because truth be known.  I personally still have one foot firmly planted in the season of summer, even though I am coming to terms with the fact that this is obviously fall; but might I add that autumn is as close to summer as one can get around these parts?

Call me crazy, but a few things need to fall into place for me before I can begin to embrace the Christmas preparations.  First of all, I need to come to terms with the gift list.  Who I am buying for, when the gifts need to be mailed/sent/delivered and how much I am spending.  Secondly, I need a bit of snow, a drop in temperatures and a spare second to find the five totes in my basement marked ‘winter stuff’.  And thirdly, I need my Christmas perspective firmly in place.

At the end of the day, and all humor set aside, here is my bottom line.  For me, Christmas is the wonder.  The wonder, indeed the miracle of it all.  That first Christmas batch of homemade cookies fresh from the oven.  The priceless expression on our children’s faces when the Christmas lights are turned on for the first time.  It’s un-wrapping the precious pieces that comprise my delicate nativity crèche.  And singing Christmas carols to that woman or man whose heart is breaking from receiving their devastating bit of bad news.  It’s the greatest Christmas story ever told.  Of the greatest gift ever given, wrapped in rags.  Laid to slumber in a dirty feeding box.  Born to die.

These are the reasons I celebrate the season.

It’s the simplest of things, but these are really the most profound.   They are the miracle of Christmas, and they cannot be bought in a store or sold to me by the media.   I just don’t want to miss the wonder of anticipating Christmas by spending the entire month of November waiting around for it (Christmas) to arrive.

Let’s just say that I want to wait to anticipate Christmas until I have my Advent calendar bought and the first door is spread back.  That is when I will unleash my pent up Christmas spirit.

On gratitude…

It has been said a thousand times over.   To have the best life, to live out a life of excellence superior to the mediocre to which we so easily ascribe in the daily grind of the here and now, one must practice gratitude.  Gratitude.  Giving thanks for who I am, where I am, with what I am.  Needing nothing more, nor in want of less.  Grateful for the life I have been given.

Gratitude.  Such a world of possibility, a world within a word that holds the keys to both meaning and understanding.  The keys to life. So much room for discovery, so much I do not know nor see with my mind’s eye.  Uncovering the wealth of life and its many gifts, therein lies the key to becoming gratitude in its many forms.  And I am ready for this discovery to begin.

I am grateful today for this: the freedom to let go and let be.   As I am trying to do here at this humble little campsite in Cornwall, P.E.I.

Camping so far has been a whirlwind of activity.  We are into the sixth day, and I finally feel like I am starting to unwind.  It was an adventure from the very beginning, what with the madness of packing for a month only the night before we were set to leave.  I was filing a report for work mere hours prior to pulling out of the driveway, camper in tow behind the ½ ton, with the kids and me bringing up the rear in the van.  Every square inch of available space used, and then some.   Nearly missing the empty sign lighting up the gas gauge.  Then, unpacking six-hours worth of luggage, Rubbermaid totes, boxes and strewn odds and ends that ended up hither, thither and yon throughout three vehicles.

Good times.

And now, work and the hectic pace of life as it was seems a distant, hazy memory.  When crazy work and extra-curricular schedules have been all I eat, sleep and breathe for the last year.  To relegate it to a compartment in the brain matter is telling.  I never even brought along professional literature to read on this camping trip- more than I can say for last year’s stint at this very campground, when I would sneak back to the camper during movie nights to read my textbooks.

It is freeing to let go and let be.

We are in limbo somewhat with the camper.  Our camper- it has been with us through thick and thin.  One wonders if it is on its last legs, what with all the repairs we had to make just to get ole’Bessy in ship-shape for a month at the KOA.  As I write, she sways in the wind, gusts coming off the water in heaves.  White caps decorating the waves in mid-summer attire, perfect for a day of sailing.

The girls and I are settled for a cozy day inside (Daddy and Oldest are making the trek back home today to mow the lawns and attend soccer this evening, both of which will be activities conducted in the rain.  Um, no thanks, I’ll pass on that one.)  The girls are contentedly playing for a change, and I am enjoying this peace within the confines of our twenty-four feet of available space.  We had listed the camper for sale so as to up-grade.  One month in this canvas get-up was originally thirty days too long for this gal.  However, I am re-thinking the whole plan as I am finally settled in, and I have organized a bit so as to throw some perspective on the whole camping experience.  From this vantage point, life would be a whole lot cheaper (we would be out about ten grand if we up-graded), easier (we would be un-packing whilst the buyer was waiting to purchase and pull out with ole Bessy in tow) and less complicated (we still have to budget for the rest of the summer, so let’s be realistic here: is it really worth it to get a camper now that we are already settled into our first of four weeks?)

To make a decision to not sell and embrace camping done ‘tent-trailer’ style, is also freeing.   I am grateful for the twenty-four feet of space I have.  It is home away from home.  I can live with the creaks and whistles through the cracks along the walls, the dampness in our bed covers at night.  The rain taps over my head a steady rhythm, and it brings comfort.  This is my opportunity to let go and let be.

So, the highlights so far. Those for which, among uncountable others,  I am humbly grateful.  Visiting with extended family.  I love being close to my Mom and Dad, my brothers and sisters and those Maine cousins who just left yesterday morning, whom I was able to see every day because we are camping here in Cornwall.  The pool.  The kiddos are becoming little fish, and are all quite competent in the deep end.  The relaxed pace of life.  Like I said, it is a bit of an adjustment, but I could get very use to living life in the slow lane.  The proximity to Charlottetown.  I love that stores are only ten minutes away. TEN MINUTES, people!!!!!  I can hardly contain my excitement and the adrenaline rush I get just thinking about that little fact.  The beautiful water view I have when looking outside my door- that mouth of water that opens up into the Charlottetown Harbour known as the West River.  Yesterday, it was a sea of glass.  Today, it is a swirling mass of energy befitting those hardy sailors brave enough to set out in small water craft trying to catch the stiff breezes of the day.  I prefer to watch and admire her strength from afar.

My own dear immediate family tucked in together under one tiny roof, safe and sound inside sleeping bags guaranteed to keep little and big ones warm even on the most frigid of nights.  These children of mine- they will not always tag along.  There will come a time in the not-so-distant future when Husband and I will coax and plead against hope that one or more might come along for the ride.   For old time’s sake.  I cannot think of those times being old times yet.  I am here.  And right now, so are they: my infuriating, wonderfully strong-willed, beloved Fearless Foursome…

For life, breath, and a mind to grasp this moment in which I can choose to be grateful, I give thanks.  I am humbly mindful of all I have been given.

Gratitude.  Giving thanks for who I am, with what I am, where I am.

I can, and I will.  Be grateful.  For all this, for all that is yet to come.  It is my soulful offering.

Gratitude.