Am I Too Sensitive?

I’d like to think that I treat people with kindness, class, respect and dignity. The only thing is that being consistent in that regard can become difficult when that treatment is not reciprocated.  Similarly, it is hard to be gracious when I am met with negativity and judgement.

As I found out, I seem to be quite sensitive to the energy around me. Negative energy can be pretty contagious.

That being the case, I often found myself stepping back from certain situations and wondering to myself, “Am I being too sensitive”?

Intuitively, to survive in our sometimes not-so-kind world, I managed to develop a thick skin and just enough armour to make my way through life without getting trampled or taken advantage of… most times. And those who did cross the line remained on my “naughty” list for years to follow. Some might call it a grudge, but I prefer to call it a defense mechanism to prevent it from happening again.

As I head into the second half of my life, I realize that being empathetic, kind-hearted and sensitive is my natural way of being, and that’s OK. My challenge is that I tend to be overly sensitive to others’ feelings, and that I worry about it… a lot. And then my resilience pays the price.

Most time, it is not a horrible problem in itself. What a wonderful world it would be if people actually did take a moment to care a little more about others rather than taking people down a peg, giving people a piece of their mind, and losing sight of the fact that we are all human beings.

But it becomes a problem when my sensitivity toward others’ feelings becomes a higher priority than my own.

In recent years, I’ve had my sensitivities overwhelmed by a number of external factors at the same time. During that time, I often felt pushed beyond my limits yet was still determined to be the nice guy, to not make waves, and to make sure everyone was happy… except me.

But then I finally got the memo! To return to the guy known for his positive energy, sunny outlook and “relentless cheerfulness”, I needed to strengthen my boundaries and my boundary-setting skills to maintain my energy for my family, my friends, for my work and for my favourite activities.

A recalibration was necessary. I made a few changes to eliminate (or at least moderate) those situations that pose a challenge to my sensitivities, and a drain on my energy:

1-I have moderated my intake of news. When checking out the news online, I have stopped reading the comments.

2-I don’t discuss politics.

3-I have accepted that I cannot be in more than one place at once. I am not Samantha Stephens.

4-When people start stirring up drama, my response is usually flat and without encouragement. I don’t play along. It’s exhausting.

5-I don’t read social media feeds during live events anymore.

6-The musical playlist for my commuting is usually very calming and soothing.

7-I have accepted that I don’t have to be right and I don’t have to agree with my counterpart with whom I am debating. It just means “agree to disagree” and to walk away.

8-I have accepted that I don’t have to fix things for everyone.

9-I have accepted that I am not responsible for everyone’s happiness. I am solely responsible for my own happiness.

10-I try not to be as hard on myself. It’s about moderating expectations and seeing beauty in life’s imperfections.

11-Even though I am a planner by nature, I try to remain open to life’s occasional randomness.

12-I try to reserve a little buffer time between potentially stressful or challenging situations to regain my footing again.

13-When given the choice, I may need to opt out of a situation that I know will be overwhelming and stressful to me.

14-When facing adversity, I try to remember to take deep breaths and to take the steps necessary to relax and ground myself along the way.

15-And the most challenging change: Getting better at saying “No, I’m sorry”.

In doing so and in asserting myself, my limited supply of energy is reserved for what energizes me, rather than things that overwhelm my sensitivities and tap my energy.

I think the key to being “successfully sensitive”, if that’s a thing, is to care less about the things that shouldn’t matter and that exhaust me personally.

By channeling my energy mindfully and selectively into joyful priorities that matter more, I can keep the good vibes circulating, and continue to treat people with kindness, class, respect and dignity.

Did you enjoy this post? If you haven’t already, you can check out the rest of my blog at andrebegin.blog. From there, you can click on the “Follow” button to receive future posts directly in your inbox.
Also, don’t be shy, feel free to tell a friend or to share the link.
Sincere thanks for reading!
Have a great day,
André

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A Bucket List Trip to Las Vegas

A busy evening on Las Vegas Blvd.

When it comes to Las Vegas, I am definitely no stranger. Despite the distance from Ottawa, I have been there enough times over the years that I seem to have lost count.

It’s not that I consider myself a big gambler. It’s quite the contrary. There are so many things to see and do, whether you like entertainment, food, shopping, sightseeing or just the dry warm weather, Las Vegas can appeal on so many levels.

Back in the early 2000’s I wrote a “Vegas Top 10” email that I kept in my drafts folder for whenever friends and colleagues asked what they should see on their visit. I guess you could consider that my first travel blog entry, before blogs became popular.

The challenge now is that after a decade’s absence, I suspected that my list was getting out of date and not worthy of posting, given the pace at which Las Vegas seems to reinvent itself and to update its attractions.

The opportunity to visit Las Vegas, and to potentially validate my Top 10 list, presented itself last fall as my partner and I decided to treat ourselves and to celebrate our birthdays with tickets to see Cher and Céline Dion in their residency shows.

We were fortunate that our late November travel dates are not considered high tourist season. We believe that this played in our favour as we got pretty good deals on the points required to fly, as well as for our “once-in-a-lifetime” bucket list stay at the Bellagio Hotel.

My new discovery when comparison shopping for hotels in Vegas, was something that I don’t recall from my last visits, an item called “Resort Fees”. Even though they offer a range of additional services to the hotel stay, they vary from one property to another, making an exact comparison a bit more challenging. By paying attention to the fine print of the resort fees in our shortlist of hotel options, I am convinced that we made a well-informed decision.

After a long travel day and a refreshing night’s sleep, we were greeted with open arms at our first breakfast at Café Bellagio by an outgoing server named Heidi. She made us laugh, she made us feel at home, and she made me feel like my gluten intolerance was no problem whatsoever for the serving staff nor for the kitchen staff. The service she provided was worthy of the name Bellagio. In my feedback to the hotel, I made the point that Heidi was the reason we ended up returning each morning.

A colourful fall display at the Conservatory in the Bellagio Hotel.

With our tummies very full from the hearty breakfast, our first day of sightseeing consisted of walking around the hotels south of the Bellagio, an area that had developed considerably in my ten year absence. We enjoyed a browse through the Cosmopolitan Hotel and we did some window shopping through The Shops at Crystals. We ran into some cheery fellow Canadians at the CVS pharmacy, who told us they loved Céline’s show despite her feeling a little under the weather.

We continued our stroll through the Monte Carlo to locate the venue for Cher’s concert later in the week, then stopped for refreshments at the Shake Shack as it was starting to get warm. We continued on to New York New York then zipped across the street to check out the MGM Grand and the Hard Rock, picking up some snacks to tide us over until dinner.

It was an incredible stroke of luck that we happened to be there in the middle of a heat wave. Where the average temperatures would have been typically in the low 60s (Fahrenheit), the afternoon highs reached the 80s each day, which made hanging out by the Bellagio pool so inviting, offering us one last taste of summery weather before heading into a cold and snowy Canadian winter.

We returned to Café Bellagio to check out their dinner offerings. While I am not usually one to pull out my phone at the table, when I finished my meal I did take a quick glance at my email. Maybe it was the Canadians we met at CVS that sparked my intuition, combined with a recent run of bad luck of concert cancellations due to illness. Then the bad news came: Céline had cancelled her show that night due to back issues… the day of John’s birthday. He was crushed! I was crushed because I had never seen Céline in concert yet (another bucket list item!)

The beautiful fountains in front of the Mirage Hotel.

Given that we have both dealt with back issues, we understood… reluctantly… but we understood. So we paid the bill, dusted ourselves off and dashed to a ticket booth to see what other shows were available as a last minute substitute to try to salvage the spirit of this milestone birthday.

He chose Cirque Du Soleil’s “O”. What a great choice! As my first Cirque du Soleil show, what an amazing introduction. “O” opened my eyes to the idea that Cirque du Soleil is not like the circuses that came to town when I was a kid. It’s theatre, it’s great music, it’s art, it’s dance, it’s acrobatics, it’s comedy and it’s mind blowing. I even admit to shedding a couple of tears from the sheer beauty of the entire experience. I was instantly transformed from someone with an aversion to circuses to a Cirque du Soleil goodwill ambassador.

Following another generous breakfast at Café Bellagio, our second day focused on Centre strip, as we explored the sights around Caesar’s Palace, Mirage, Treasure Island and the Venetian at a leisurely pace. In the afternoon we took another dip in the pool to cool off.

What we hadn’t anticipated was that because it was Thanksgiving, several of the sights on our list, like the Neon museum, were closed. When does Vegas ever close? But we made the best of it.

For John’s special birthday dinner, we enjoyed a delicious meal at the Gordon Ramsay Pub and Grill in Caesar’s Palace. We followed it up by taking back to our room some scrumptious selections from the Cheesecake Factory, also conveniently located in Caesar’s Palace.

Our third day started with another huge breakfast at Café Bellagio and the indecision as to whether a visit to the Fashion Show Mall on Black Friday was a good idea. We decided to check it out anyway with the agreement to a “safe word” which meant it was time to leave. Strategically, it worked out nicely to be there soon after it opened and to not spend more than a couple of hours as it did indeed get quite busy. Nonetheless, we each found a few items to challenge our packing skills for the return trip home.

Cher making a big entrance at her concert.

It was a bittersweet moment to take our last dip in the pool that afternoon, knowing that this was the last warm weather we’d see for six months. We savoured every last moment, to the point of almost needing a crowbar to pry me away from the railing around the pool area, but I knew what awaited later.

We enjoyed a most delightful prix-fixe dinner at Wolfgang Puck’s Cucina in The Shops at Crystals. We agreed that the serving staff was top notch, striking a perfect balance between professional and perfectly choreographed, while still allowing a relaxed vibe to prevail. We would recommend Cucina in a heartbeat!

For our last evening, we were back at the Monte Carlo to see Cher’s show. Even though we had both seen Cher in concert before, we just can’t get enough. A Cher concert is the real deal offering wonderful music spanning 6 decades, beautiful costumes, great dancers, a stunning set that’s ever changing, and a bona fide living legend in the centre of it all. We loved every second. We will be seeing her again, I’m certain of it, whether in Vegas or on her next farewell tour.

In a few short days, it seemed that we crammed in a lot of activity, yet we were still able to enjoy it at a fairly leisurely pace and see so many different things.

In previous visits, I have seen hilarious comedy shows, amazing live music, the best lounge acts, and beloved Broadway shows. I’ve been in a parade float, I’ve been to the top of the Stratosphere, I’ve gone up the Eiffel Tower and I’ve shopped ‘til I dropped.

And that’s the beauty of Las Vegas. You can visit several times and still come up with different itineraries each and every time.

I’ll be back!

A winning combination at the slot machines!

Did you enjoy this post? Please check out the rest of my blog at andrebegin.blog. From there, you can click on the “Follow” button to receive future posts directly in your inbox.
Also, don’t be shy, feel free to tell a friend or to share the link.
Sincere thanks for reading!
Have a great day,
André

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Top 10 Reasons Why a “Quick Run” Is Impossible

I admire those people who say they are going for a “quick run”.

They are those phenomenal runners who stack up personal best after personal best, while barely breaking out in a sweat, who can simultaneously update their Facebook, Twitter and Instagram feeds with professional-grade photos of wildlife, beautiful scenery and gorgeous skies.

They can carry on a conversation without ever being out of breath. And they look so graceful, from the beginning to the end of the run, like gazelles out for a joyful dash through the savannahs.

They inspire me! I love them and I am incredibly jealous of them.

Meanwhile you can find me at the back of the pack, fiddling with something or other, or holding a part of my anatomy that’s complaining, wondering why a 3 kilometer run takes me an hour… or two.

Here they are, my top 10 reasons why going for a quick run is impossible (for me). Continue reading

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How I Organized My Kitchen on a Budget

“A place for everything and everything in its place” was the advice I was given as a child when I misplaced something, which I have to admit was often enough.

But whenever I had a chance to put things in order and to give things a designated spot (and I made sure to return the objects to their designated spot after use), it seemed that losing, misplacing and hunting for things became a rare occurrence. Mom and Dad’s advice was proven right, again and again.

I was working in the kitchen a few days ago when I realized that my kitchen was not following that mantra. I had teas scattered in three different cupboards. I had bags of bulk store products piled on top of one another and sliding off each other. Even my cat’s cupboard was becoming an avalanche-waiting-to-happen.

My spring cleaning instinct went into overdrive. It was time to tame these cupboards and get the kitchen organized once and for all!

It’s not like I’ve never done this before. A few years ago, I containerized the different kinds of gluten-free flour I needed, just to keep them clearly identified and organized. Gluten-free recipes were a breeze when I could tell my tapioca starch from the potato starch, and the white rice flour from the sweet rice flour. Every time I baked or brought back more flour from the store, I was so thankful that I had this section so neatly organized.

It was time to apply the same makeover technique to the rest of the kitchen. Continue reading

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How I Die a Little Each Time Someone Says “For Your Age”

I always appreciate the kindness and generosity of spirit when someone sends a compliment my way or I get a good news from a medical check-up. But there is no faster way to turn my smile upside down than to pause and conclude the statement with “… for a guy your age.”

“You look great… for a guy your age.”

“Your test results are great… for a guy your age.”

“Your eyesight is good… for a guy your age.”

What does “for your age” mean exactly? “For your age bracket you are doing well, but when compared to the overall population, you suck?” Well that’s certainly a feel-good moment, isn’t it?

When exactly did I get old enough to earn the qualifier “for your age” and why do I hear a roar of horror movie sound effects whenever someone says it?

I know that I will probably never have the same constitution as I did when I was 20. Back then, I burned up calories faster than I could consume them. I could work out every day and rarely feel the burn the next day. When I wasn’t so kind to my body, I could get by on 4 hours sleep, I smoked, and my diet rarely included leafy greens. Yet somehow, I still functioned reasonably well.

Things are different now for this quinquagenarian. One salty meal and I puff up like the Pillsbury Dough Boy, and “feeling the burn” the next day is often the result of something as challenging as opening a jar with a tight lid. Significant adjustments were needed out of necessity. Continue reading

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When Your Feline Friend is Chatty Catty

When I first met Ivy, she was sitting in upper bunk of her cage, supervising the goings on at the pet store, like a queen on her throne overseeing her subjects.

She wasn’t terribly responsive to my first attempts at getting to know this beautiful rescue cat. She just looked at me and didn’t say a word, which seemed a little odd compared to the other recue cats who either sniffed me or stuck their paws out of the cage as if to say, “Take me home!”

The same thing happened on my second visit. I thought to myself that maybe she was a little shy or perhaps just calm, cool and collected. Either way, that was OK with me and perhaps what I needed in a cat.

After a couple of days of thinking about it, I called the pet store and asked if she was still available. She was. I asked if she was always this “chill”. They said she really was that mellow and, in their observation, didn’t seem nervous about anything, even other cats and dogs visiting the store. I told them that I thought she was “the one” and that I’d pick her up after dinner.

The minute she was in the car, everything changed. Continue reading

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Ruminating, Racing Thoughts and Overthinking

… or does “Overthinking, Racing Thoughts and Ruminating” sound better?

… or should I say, “Racing Thoughts, Ruminating and Overthinking”?

… or perhaps “Ruminating, Overthinking and Racing Thoughts?”

As someone who considers himself a proactive person, it is well within my nature to think things through before acting.

Not only do I want to avoid making mistakes, but when I make a decision, I’d like to think that I have been responsible, thoughtful, balanced, sensitive and kind.

I admit it, I don’t deal well with surprises. Getting blindsided sends steam shooting out of my ears. Getting pressed for quick decisions and reactions without the proper time to process the situation sends my blood pressure through the roof.

While I think others have more confidence in my handling of things than I do myself, perhaps it is a sense of not wanting to let people down by appearing unprepared, that I try to eradicate surprises before they happen.

But that’s exhausting. Anticipating every possible outcome is next to impossible and developing an action plan for every negative scenario is hard on the mind, body and spirit.
This is not to say I can’t be impulsive or spontaneous. I have a pretty good sense of what works for me and what doesn’t. Over 52 years, my gut has rarely steered me wrong. I just need to trust that instinct. Continue reading

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