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Tuesday, July 30, 2013

It's All About Me

Is it sad that the first thing I did on my recent birthday was to log in to my Facebook account to see how many birthday greetings had been posted on my wall?  As much of an adult as I think I am, there are still those moments (and occasionally days) when I get all caught up in myself.  Who's thinking about or remembering me today?

I remember once seeing a titillating Facebook ad that asked "who's been reading your profile?", tempting me to click on it.  And of course, it lead to something else that I had to sign up for in order to see who was looking for me.  Which I didn't.   But I'll just bet you that they got a lot of hits, all because we're so often obsessed with ourselves and we want to know who else might be!

Having said all of that, I do think that a certain amount of time and space is required to nurture and care for our "selves".  When I first became a mother, I was overwhelmed at the amount of time and attention an infant took, and at some point I became aware of the feeling of having lost my "self" in the process.  As much as I wanted to go back to my old "me", I couldn't after that. Even as my children grew and my circumstances changed, it was like un-ringing a bell;  it couldn't be done.

Over time, the same thought and attention was given over to my work, and also to my parents who became more and more dependant on my help.   My needs became less and less of a priority.  The problem is, of course, that we all need a little healthy time spent on ourselves in order to be able to do the best we can for others.  I have had guitar students who were new mothers, and I've encouraged them to get rid of any guilt they feel for spending a half-hour a week playing guitar to do nothing more than simply to please themselves.  A half-hour is nothing, but when you are totally detached from the "real world" for that thirty minutes, it can completely re-energize you.

Which brings me to the point of this post...

Last summer when I took time off from teaching, I had a To Do list as long as your arm.  And although I may have accomplished a couple of things on it, I didn't come anywhere near completing it.  Ultimately, that had the opposite effect of "time off" because I felt bad at not having done what I set out to do!  And what good is that??

We have some plans for a quick getaway, but only for a few days, so the rest of the time is up to us.  And I've decided that the travesty of last summer's To Do list should not be repeated, so my slate is utterly clean.  It sounds deliciously self-indulgent, doesn't it?  Especially when you spend most of your week day time preparing for the next job, student, task, client, customer...whatever your job may be.  My time off this summer is all about me.

I'm used to teaching in the evenings, so last night, Monday, was my first weekly evening off.  And I had no idea what to do with myself.  I tried sitting out on the back deck and reading.  I spent time on my laptop, perusing this and that.  But I was restless.  My husband, who is used to spending alone time in the evenings since I'm always teaching, said that I would eventually figure it out, but I think this "me time" is going to take some getting used to.

Simply going from one moment to the next is a different way to live, even if just for a little while.  It makes me realize how much of my life is lived habitually.  You get up, you read the paper, you shower, you have breakfast, you get on with your day.  I'm still doing the first four;  it's the "rest of the day" that I'm not used to having unplanned.  Is this what retirement is going to be like?

I'll let you know how it goes.

Now I've got to get on to whatever the next thing is...dum, dee dum...

IJ








Sunday, July 21, 2013

Life Must Be Lived "Forwards"

"Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards."
-- Soren Kierkegaard

I came upon this quote today as I was perusing my usual website "hangouts", and it helped me to put this past week in perspective.  It was a difficult week for me, mostly because of my father who is struggling with dementia.  Rather than going into what happened, let's just say that I came to realize that his disease has progressed and his health has declined moreso lately.  When we first brought him to the care facility several years ago, I was sad at the thought of him losing his independence.  But gradually over these years, he has also been losing himself, which is saddest of all.

Last night I got into a conversation with two friends who are also experiencing the difficulties of elderly parents and their various physical and emotional struggles.  This helped me to feel not so alone in my fears and my sorrows...you need to have your friends and family around you sometimes to know that you are not the only one.  It was also a big help when I came home to my two daughters who hugged me for a long time when they saw how upset I was.  I kept thinking that one day, they'll have to go through this with me and with their father and that even though they are sympathetic to my situation, they really don't know and won't know what it's like for a long time yet.  Hopefully.

That expression "youth is wasted on the young" came to mind as we hugged and I thought about the freedom they have from the worries I have.  But the truth is that youth is not wasted...thank goodness we have times in our lives (hopefully!) where we are so utterly oblivious to the problems of the world.  Thank goodness.  I am so grateful that I had days when I had no, or very few concerns.  I want my daughters to enjoy their young lives as much as they can, because everything around them will continue to change and evolve and sometimes you don't even realize how much things have changed until you look back, just as Kierkegaard said.  No, youth is not "wasted";  hopefully it is simply well spent and enjoyed.

Then I thought of Joni Mitchell's Big Yellow Taxi line "don't it always seem to go that you don't know what you've got 'til it's gone?"  Because many times you don't realize what you had when you had it.  Ain't that the truth?  There is a tendency, when we are going through difficult times, to want to look back to when days where happier and when life was easier, and why wouldn't we? It's just that the chances are that we have long forgotten there were also difficult times back then, they were simply different problems or struggles.  My daughters think they have bad days and rotten experiences from time to time, and they do.  It's just that their bad days are different from mine. Youth is not necessarily as great as we remember it was!  And remember how when we were much younger, we longed so for the future and what it would bring us?  Well, here it is!

If I spend too much time looking back, then I am not fully engaged in the present.   So although I want to occasionally look back in order to understand my life and put things in context, I don't want to spend too much time there.  And that's why I'd like to add to Kierkegaard's expression, with apologies to his much higher intelligence.  Life must be lived forwards, but it also must be lived "presently".   I am increasingly aware of what I actually have to look forward to in my old age, for lack of a better phrase, and as I age my perspective changes considerably.   So today I'm thinking more about the line from Carly Simon's song "Anticipation"..."these are the good ol' days."  Because they ARE!

Where are you Irene?
I am right here :-)

IJ

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Should You Hate Ads?

I swear that my dear Uncle George invented the first "mute" button for television.  He was a very clever and electronically savy guy, and I remember going to my Aunt Edie and Uncle George's house many years ago and discovering that he had found a way to electronically mute the television when commercials came on.  It was amazing!

These days, with the flip of a switch, or a click of a remote or mouse we can ignore television or online commercials to our hearts' content.  We love to hate ads.

But here is my confession;  our family income for the last 30 or so years has mainly come from commercial production because that's what my husband does for a living.  Sometimes he turns to me after showing me a new spot (that's television lingo for commercial) and asks me "But do you think it  will sell (fill in the blank)?"  He genuinely wants his clients to succeed.

Now before you write us off as sleazy "Mad Men" ad types, let's take a step back and think about it for a minute.  There are a lot of people you know, perhaps including yourself, who work for or own small businesses or big companies who create services or products that all of us require or want.  How do you let anyone know that you even exist without some kind of advertising?  If you don't get customers or clients, you fail.  If you don't sound your horn as loud or louder than your competitors, nobody hears you.  Our economy succeeds when businesses, big and small, thrive.  And as much as you might hate to admit it, advertising is a big part of that.

Word of mouth is certainly one way to succeed in selling a service or product, sticking out a sign or knocking on doors might work to some degree, but that would confine you to a very small, local circle at first and take time to spread.  Newspaper, magazine, radio and television, and more recently online advertising is a way to spread that word more quickly and to more people.

Now I know, there are some pretty annoying commercials out there, whether it's the voice over (that's lingo for the voice you hear "over" the video you see in television), the weird music, the actors, or just the overall concept of an ad.  Sometimes I watch those over-the-top, big budget national car or perfume spots and wonder "what the heck was that all about??"  I'm sure you can all recall a commercial that really got on your nerves or left you with a ?.

But you have to admit, you've also seen some very creative and entertaining commercials over the years (those of you who have been actually watching or listening for years!).  There are some really clever creative people out there, my husband included, who spend all or most of their time thinking of ways to draw your attention, whether it's by making you laugh, cry, surprising you or simply introducing you to something new and exciting.  And what if you hadn't found out about that great sale at ____? You would never have saved all that money!  When you're in the market to buy something, you are paying a LOT of attention to ads because you want the best deal you can get!

Do commercials succeed?  Well, if they didn't, they would have fizzled out a long, long time ago.   And as little as you might consider it, much of what you hear or view, your favourite programs, online content, radio talk shows, whatever you like, is there for you to enjoy because of advertising dollars.  

I know I'm not going to talk you out of that mouse click or that PVR fast forward, but the next time you see a commercial that makes you laugh, remember that some people went to an awful lot of trouble hoping that you would!

IJ


Sunday, July 7, 2013

Quit The Drama

Victoria BC, where I live, is a pretty quiet city on the southern tip of Vancouver Island, and also lays claim to being the provincial capital.  It seems pretty far away from terrorism, Al Qaeda, or anything like that.  Sometimes I think we really don't know how lucky we are to be where we are and to lead the privileged lives that we do.  Oh sure, nothing's perfect, but I digress...

On the morning of this past July 2nd, spokespeople from the RCMP held a news conference announcing that they had stopped a terrorist plot and had arrested two people who had planted pressure cooker bombs on the lawns of the legislature.  It was pretty shocking.

The next thing you knew, the premier was holding her own press conference, exclaiming in somewhat dramatic fashion how we were not going to be changed by terrorists, how we would carry on with our lives as normal so the terrorists don't succeed in doing what they want to do---scare the crap out of us.  Well, she didn't exactly use the word "crap".  But you get the drift.

Over the past week, we've learned a few more things about these terrorists.  They are a couple who live in a basement suite on the mainland, both having had trouble with drugs, the male having also had several arrests and charges mainly for petty crimes.  They don't have Muslim names, but apparently became enamoured with that religion over the past year or two via a family that befriended them.  They did not belong to a mosque, nor was there any evidence that they had ever had any connections or interactions with terrorists groups on line.  The pressure cooker "bombs" had been made inert before they ever got to the legislature lawns, so no one was actually in danger.

Do you know where I'm going with this?  It was the RCMP themselves who used the words "inspired by the Al Qaeda ideology" and "self-radicalised" at the initial press conference.  This begs the question, who is trying to scare who?  They apparently spent months following these two as they allegedly taught themselves how to make bombs, they must have known everything there was to know about them;  they had little money, the woman was on a methadone treatment program, they guy had his run ins with the law, the fact that they DIDN'T have any connections with ANY terrorist groups.  Should I say that again?

Honestly.

And our premier was too soon caught up in the hype too...trying to be "presidential" in her dramatic speech at the legislature.  Come on.  Could you have found out more about it first before you did your Bush-like mount on the 9-11 rubble?

Don't use those kinds of words.  Especially when they aren't true.  These two were idiots, that's all.  Why they did what they did (if they actually did it), is anyone's guess.

THAT'S what we have to stop;  pretending that everyone who does something stupid is somehow "Al Qaeda" inspired.