With the finish line in sight for retirement from career #1 and my transition to career #2 as a writer, I look forward to some solid years of finally getting a lifetime of ideas, plots and characters committed to paper.
Some of those characters (and their families) have been taking up residence in my head for so long that I look forward to sending them eviction notices from my brain.
But in writing circles, I often hear why wait until tomorrow what you can do today? …Why wait until retirement?
The answer is a pretty simple one: at the end of most work days, I’m tapped out.
I am extremely fortunate that my career already offers me the opportunity to create, write, proofread and edit a variety of corporate documents.
That is a choice I made and I stand by it, as it has offered me the gift of thirty years of challenging emails, memos, presentations and user manuals. What is most rewarding is that in writing for different target audiences and on behalf of a variety of executives with differing styles and approaches, my creative muscles have been stretched like silly putty in multiple directions. I couldn’t have asked for better training in writing. Continue reading
When my partner first suggested moving to the country, I cannot say I was hugely conflicted by the question.
There were indeed a number of factors to consider and this move would be a pretty big change for this city boy. But the part that required no thought whatsoever was the prospect of having almost no neighbours… and almost no neighbour noise. That part sounded like heaven to me.
I could write a book about my dealings with noisy neighbours, having experienced the good, the bad and the ugly over the last 30 years.
When we pick a place to live, there is always a package deal of pros and cons to consider before signing on the dotted line. No matter how perfect a place may seem, there will be irritants for which patience and some degree of compromise will be needed on both parts.
And just like anything in life, nothing is really certain nor permanent. Great neighbours, as well as the lousy ones, come and go.
As much as I enjoyed my last house for 19 years, it wasn’t without its moments of blaring stereos, roaring cars, screaming kids, disobedient dogs, industrial vehicles and 3:00 a.m. parties, but that’s life in the city when you have neighbours. Part of that package deal was ideal proximity to transit, shopping and an abundance of cultural events.
It didn’t matter if “quiet enjoyment of premises” was supposed to be a reassuring clause in each of my apartment leases or in the big book of condo rules, but someone’s urge to make noise always seemed greater than my craving for the calm to recover from the roar of city life. Continue reading
Filed under 50+, home, Humour
It is a little silly the lengths to which I will go to avoid getting stuck in a pre-Christmas crowd.
The reality is that I don’t fear crowds. I just don’t happen to like what happens to certain people trapped in their hot parkas for too long, among dozens of other people trapped in their hot parkas for too long. It creates a bit of a pressure cooker effect that raises blood pressures and potentially spills over into an eruption of strong negative emotions.
When you add to the mix the ticking clock of Christmas approaching and stock flying off the shelf, it’s that wild card of not knowing when you might get caught in the crossfire of people whose attitude would get them a permanent placement (with glittering gold stars) on Santa’s naughty list, and a free gift card for anger management training.
Despite buying my first presents in August, making about a hundred lists and checking them twice, and stocking up on anything and everything that doesn’t go bad to reduce my number of store visits in December, there are still things that need to be bought at the last minute for the sake of freshness. I accept that.
But to minimize my exposure to people whose tempers need tempering requires strategy, problem-solving skills and a strong Internet connection. Not only does it demand shopping at off-peak times, but around here it also means dodging snowstorms, freezing rain and Ottawa Senators game night traffic.
To calculate the logistics of this early morning weekend run, it starts with a chart of the last minute items, the location of where I expect to find them, and Google searches to verify at what time each store opens.
I’ll then rearrange the order chronologically to try to be at each stop shortly after they open, to zip in and out before the crowds begin, and before the parking lots turn into inescapable mazes of vehicles parked in improvised spots. Continue reading
This past Friday, on my way home from work, I decided to check out a nearby department store to see if they had any stock left for a couple of items I use, which I had seen in their most recent Black Friday flyer at really attractive prices.
I also wanted to look for a few items on my Christmas gift list, which I cannot divulge at the moment as this is classified information between me and the North Pole.
On my arrival, a man bumped into me, trying to exit through the “in” door with a panic-stricken look on his face, as he ushered his son ahead of him. I could have sworn he mouthed the words “don’t do it”, but I thought to myself that I must have imagined it. But being the polite Canadians we are, we both excused ourselves, even though I clearly had the right of way.
Ten feet into the store, I understood the gentleman’s escape route.
I had never seen the store this busy before. Some people were clustered together, blocking the aisles, as they scrutinized their flyer while pointing to empty shelves, to the ire of others trying to whizz by with full shopping carts on their way to the checkout line. I could hear babies crying, young children whining and adults barking at each other. When combined with the aromatic combination of seasonal scented candles, ladies’ perfumes and snow tires, I was heading into sensory overload. Continue reading
It surprises me when I think that this fall, the blog will be five years old. It doesn’t seem that long ago that I was sweating bullets before hitting the “Enter” button, wondering if anyone would actually read it and if they did, would anyone like it and continue reading?
Thanks to you, dear readers, I am still at it. Your wonderful feedback has made it a delight to keep tapping into my passion and to keep working on written material for you, week after week.
Over the years, I have sometimes asked myself if I needed to change the blog’s direction: Should I challenge myself with more topical posts? Should my posts be more serious? Should I use my blog for stronger opinion pieces?
When I listen to my conscience, the answer is an easy no.
From a very young age, Erma Bombeck was my literary hero. I was inspired by her books that shared her insight and observations on suburban family life, with joy, love and a healthy dose of self-deprecating humour.
She connected with tens of thousands of readers through laughter and humanity. For me, that is admirable and serves a definite purpose.
Deep down, there is a little bit of Erma inside of me that inspires and informs the way I write, but my writing style and choice of topics are stamped with my own writer’s fingerprint: Continue reading
Maybe it’s a product of having a busy life and many interests, but I long for the day when I can take a vacation and for it to be entirely made up of time to put my feet up, read a good book and just relax in well-earned peace and tranquility.
Don’t get me wrong, I love being a home owner. I also love taking care of my investment. The problem is that through a normal work week, when you factor in time for social activities, writing, cooking, cleaning and laundry, there isn’t much time or energy left to bring out the power tools and the paint cans to knock things off my home maintenance to-do list.
And even when I do set aside time for do-it-yourself (DIY) projects, I want it done right the first time. I don’t want to rush the project and risk making a mess. For that reason, it needs a generous time allotment.
It would be one thing if I had no natural inclination for DIY projects or if I hated them, but I don’t. I actually think they are a joy and a privilege.
The worst part is that I am responsible for the to-do list and I tend to expect a lot of myself, so the list does get a little ambitious.
That being the case, the list of projects often get deferred to the only time where time and patience are in good supply: vacations… or should I say, stay-cations. Continue reading
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. Continue reading
A few months ago, I published a blog post about my anxiety and the signs that it was time to reach out for help. I knew that by speaking with a therapist, someone outside of my immediate circle, I wouldn’t feel like I was dumping or oversharing. In addition, I thought that a professional might be better able to suggest solutions to problems that seemed to come back again and again.
Little did I know how much better I would feel one year later:
I always knew I was a sensitive guy, but I didn’t quite understand to what extent. I learned to strike a happy medium in allowing myself to be the sensitive guy that I am without feeling that I was out of sync with everyone else.
As much as my triggers for anxiety seemed random and unrelated, they really do stem from a few specific events in the distant past. With the help of my therapist, I am working through those and trying to curb the anxiety response.
A pattern of lack of assertiveness emerged. Now that I know, I have been gently nudging myself into being more assertive in specific circumstances.
I learned that saying no (politely, firmly and without getting emotional) was a valid response that should not be feared when I really want to say no.
I learned that setting boundaries and calmly enforcing boundaries that were not respected, are an essential part of living and survival.
Even in the last few weeks, I find myself proactively drawing lines in the sand because once the boundaries are articulated, out in the open and agreed upon, life is a lot easier when uncertainty is removed from the equation. Continue reading
When I wrote the blog post “How I Became an Early Christmas Shopper”, I suggested that the reason why I felt more inclined to shop earlier and avoid the mayhem of malls in December, was perhaps a question of becoming more sensitive.
One year later, after a series of discussions with a therapist, I realize it may not be a question of “becoming” more sensitive. In all likelihood, I always was.
Even though I stand right on the line between introvert and extrovert, with one foot well into extrovert territory, it is still easy for me to get overwhelmed. There is no shortage of events in the month of December to overcharge one’s senses:
– Faster pace: The office often gets busier with a surge of activity in trying to tie up loose ends on projects and produce the last status reports of the year, before everyone takes vacation time.
– More activity: The social calendar tends to fill with holiday parties and lunches with family, friends and co-workers.
– Sensory stimulation: Shopping malls with lights and decorations hanging from every nook and cranny, with the aroma of hundreds of perfumes hanging in the air, as music blares from shops like they are nightclubs, while kids scream from being hungry, too warm, too tired or all of the above.
– And on an empathetic level, as much as people romanticize it as being “the most wonderful time of the year”, there is no shortage of negative energy in the air to soak up through people’s rushing, their impatience, their aggressive driving and their temper tantrums in stores. Continue reading