Tag Archives: guilt

The Joy of a Comfy Hammock

Just a few years ago, I experienced an important first in my life: the first time I enjoyed a moment of serenity, relaxing in a comfortable hammock.

This happened pre-Covid-19 closures, of course, while visiting a friend’s cottage.

The minute I laid eyes on it, I felt a little rush of adrenaline accompanied by a sense of wonder deep inside. I had never been in a hammock before and in fact, “relaxing in a hammock” was on my bucket list.

I confess, my bucket list isn’t filled with thrill-seeking sports or activities to draw out extreme emotions. After a busy career that drew out my extrovert energy on a daily basis, my dream activities are much more subtle and quietly introspective in nature. Peace and calm, as I experience now in my home in the country, is very much in line with these dreams.

Whenever I noticed a hammock making a cameo appearance on a TV show or in a movie, it always seemed to be in an ideal setting, on a perfect day, when the character was enjoying a quiet, easy-going moment. Deep down, I longed for more times like that.

I asked the hostess if I could give her beautiful hammock a try, to which she graciously confirmed that I could.

It was one of those rope-style ones that looked like a fishing net. I knew I had to be ever so cautious in getting into it as I knew my coordination (or lack thereof) sometimes translated into an accident waiting to happen. If I didn’t do this carefully, I could easily end up going through, around or under the netting, to the great amusement of the other guests.

Fortunately, with slow and gentle movement, I managed to wiggle myself into a comfortable position and found a new happy place to add to my permanent collection.

While on the one hand I felt a little antisocial, stepping away from the party for a moment of solitude on a hammock, overlooking the river on a beautiful summer day, it was a moment of sheer bliss. I would even go so far as to say that this was a life-changing moment, thinking to myself that if I had the opportunity to get one, and the right trees around to support one, I would definitely do it. (#retirementgoals)

Fast forward a few years, my partner and I decided that it was time to take the plunge and to look for a place together. At the time, there was not a lot of inventory on the market, but my partner found a home that ticked most of the boxes for us. I checked out the listing on line, and it did indeed offer many of the features we were looking for. He contacted our real estate agent and made the arrangements to go see the property.

The morning we pulled into the driveway, I could not believe my eyes: a rope-style hammock was gently swaying in the breeze, in an inconspicuous spot, under a canopy of gorgeous, mature trees.

The universe works in mysterious ways sometimes. Was this a sign?

The rest is pretty much history. The house was indeed what we were looking for. We put in an offer, we completed the inspections and bought the house. Unfortunately, the day we got the keys to the house, the hammock wasn’t there anymore, but that just opened the door to a new shopping opportunity to find the exact hammock I wanted.

With my retirement fast approaching, my partner knew that I had been thinking about it (actually, I never stopped talking about our friend’s hammock). He generously gave me the green light to pick one out and to buy it.

Given the Covid-19 lockdowns, in-person shopping wasn’t really in the cards, so I turned to the Wayfair website. With the multitude of options, I was able to comparison shop and narrow it down to a model that appealed to us the most.

When it arrived a few days later, I was filled with delight as I opened the box with the same flourish as a kid on Christmas morning, to the point of nearly smacking myself in the face with the wooden frame. Who could blame me? The arrival of the hammock made me feel that much closer to retirement.

After this narrow brush with a potential hospital visit, I took a deep breath, got into the moment and slowed down.

I carefully unrolled the fabric hammock and proceeded to clip it into the hooks in our trees. I could already envision leisurely afternoons sprawled out on the hammock with my sun hat and a good book. My plans were set.

There was only one hitch though, we were incredibly busy with the house. Regular readers know that right after retirement, I was busy with yard work and cleaning up after a very generous apple tree. And this was on top of a few home improvement projects that were delayed due to Covid-19 closures or the temporary unavailability of supplies.

The hammock had to wait, at least in the short term, given the accumulation of time-sensitive tasks.

But as time went on, the universe did offer its fleeting moments when the stars lined up perfectly: picture perfect weather, ideal temperatures, no pesky flying insects, no farm machinery operating in the fields nearby, and no appointments or errands on a given day. Those were the magical days I was able to give myself permission to take a break, to take out the hammock and to fully enjoy being in the moment.

When that happened, I would look up at the sky through the branches overhead, appreciating the sunshine, the blue sky, the perfect summer days, and the peacefulness of rural life. In those moments, I felt a profound sense of relaxation and gratitude.

To me, the hammock became the ultimate symbol of earned time off from a busy and sometimes hectic work life.

The hammock became the reminder to myself that it was OK to “be” rather than “do”, as I seemingly had been programmed for productivity throughout my whole life. I just needed to practice being in the hammock more and not feeling guilty about it.

With fall well underway now, in some ways, I regret that the hammock didn’t get out more than it did this past season.

I accept that the property kept me very busy this year, as I was basically in a steep learning curve and often in catch-up mode. Next year, if I can start the seasonal yard work as soon as the snow melts, and keep up with it in small, steady installments, I should be able to start the season in proactive mode than reactive mode. That measure alone should free up more time for the hammock next year, to fully appreciate the stillness I seek (and have found) in retirement.

To me, hammock time is not only my reward for a busy career, but it is also the focal point of self-care, healing and replenishment of my energy, for the next chapter of life.

Did you enjoy this post? If you haven’t already, 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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Filed under 50+, Health and Wellness, home

My First Apple Tree (Part 1)

When we first moved into our home in the country, we were quite enamoured by the two apple trees on our property.

For me, apple trees bring back childhood memories of a Macintosh apple tree that sat on the property line between our place and our neighbours’. The girl next door and I climbed that tree, we played in that tree and we daydreamed in that tree.

It was the neighbours’ tree however, and the neighbour took care of it, so none of that maintenance work shows up on my CV of my life experience.
Was I prepared for fruit tree ownership in adulthood?

That first season after the move, neither of the trees on our property bore any significant amount of fruit. We ran through a few scenarios to explain the reasons why: Could it be the trees’ age? Could it be the drought that put the trees in survival mode? Perhaps the trees were biennuals.

Either way, I count my blessings retroactively that the trees didn’t create any additional work for us given how busy we were with other urgent home maintenance projects while unpacking and juggling busy careers.

This spring, the apple trees graced us with beautiful blossoms and the greatest hope that we might see some fruit in the coming months.

In early June, the tree with the yellow transparent apples started dropping the first of its teeny tiny fruit. To me, this was a sign that the tree was well on its way. At that point, the apples were too small for any functional purposes so I just picked them up and put them in the yard waste bags.

But every time I looked up and saw just exactly how many apples were in the tree waiting to reach fruition, I wasn’t sure whether I should be happy or afraid. It was a massive apple tree.

Either way, I had TV-inspired visions of leisurely mornings, pulling out the stepladder, picking a few choice pieces of fruit for that day and then spending time in the kitchen making glorious baked goods.

The Pollyanna in me had a very pretty sweet view of what life with an apple tree could be.

That is… until a couple of weeks later when the apples started to mature, and seemingly all at the same time. Some days, they dropped at a rapid pace like a violent hailstorm of apples. It was in that moment that I knew how Henny Penny felt. Continue reading

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When Screening Calls Became Socially Acceptable

I remember the thrill of buying my first answering machine, for my first phone, in my first apartment, at my very own phone number.

To me, this was a huge step forward in my new found independence, not only in helping me run my household but in remaining connected with family and friends.

Just to help set the stage, this was the late 1980s. The concept of handheld devices bombarded by emails and text messages was still years away.

For those times I needed to be in two or three places at once, an answering machine was the solution to ensure I didn’t miss any important telephone messages.

But when I was home, the reflex that many of us shared was to run to answer the phone when it rang.

I reluctantly admit that for my borderline extrovert personality, there were times that the introvert in me needed some breathing space. After exerting a lot of extrovert energy in a bustling office, I just needed some time to recharge.

When the phone would ring, I might have reluctantly said to myself, “Maybe I’ll let the machine get it”. I didn’t do it all the time. Self-inflicted guilt would not have let that happen. Continue reading

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When Life Gets in the Way of Writing

In the fourth season of Bewitched, in an episode called “No Zip in My Zap”, Samantha is in a bit of a conundrum as her magical powers are clogged given Darren’s insistence that she live a mortal life.

In that episode, when “the dam breaks”, the accumulation of spells that didn’t conjure up anything all bear fruit at the same time, creating chaos in the Stephens’ household. “Doctor Bombay, Calling Doctor Bombay…”

As a writer, has that ever happened to you?

I am delighted that at this time in my life I am able to keep sharpening my writing skills in the corporate environment, while in my free time, producing a steady stream of blog posts, while working (slowly) on a few creative writing projects.

I am very happy with that combination and am not pressuring myself to do more. This works for me, right now.

By regularly tapping into my creative spirit in different ways, I feel that I am answering my calling and preparing for the next chapter in my writing life. But that has not always been possible.

Have you ever had those times when the ideas are flowing and you are yearning to write, but life just keeps throwing you curve balls preventing you from doing what you love most? Continue reading

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50 Reasons Why I Enjoy Running

1. It gets me out to enjoy the fresh air and sunshine.
2. It’s a versatile activity: when running with friends it can be a very social activity, but when running alone, it can offer great moments of introspection.
3. There are several great programs and clinics offering information and instruction on how to run injury-free. Checking one out can be the difference between hating the sport and loving the sport.
4. Running helps me to clear my head.
5. Running can be a good activity for stress management.
6. Running puts a smile on my face.
7. Running is a great conversation starter with other runners.
8. The subtle changes I see and feel in my body, when a belt can tighten a notch or when something from the back of the closet suddenly fits again.
9. Overall, I feel more confident when I have been running.
10. Running only seems to require discipline in the beginning. Over time, the sense of progress, achievement and well-being seems to help discipline take care of itself.
11. When I am running regularly, the sense of progress and achievement seems to motivate me to make better, healthier choices overall.
12. The feeling of “ugh, I need to work out” disappears as soon as I am done, which means less guilt for the rest of the day.
13. There is a wonderful sense of community among runners.
14. I sometimes get my best writing ideas while running.
15. I sometimes solve problems while running. Continue reading

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Bell Let’s Talk: How Therapy Helped Me

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

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Filed under Health and Wellness, mental health

How Doing Nothing Takes Work and Discipline

Not too long ago, I booked off a day in the middle of the week, with my mind racing as to all the things I could get accomplished and how much I could get ahead in my to-do list.

Weekends can get pretty busy between social engagements and with the cooking, the cleaning, the shopping, the laundry and trying to find a few minutes to recharge for the week ahead.

Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t change a thing about my routine. It’s just that after a busy work week with all of its trappings and weekends that are bustling with activity, the prospect of a day off in the middle of the week is an offer with limitless possibilities.

But the question is: do I really NEED to do anything?

As much as I can be an extrovert who likes to be around people, if my environment delivers a steady stream of stimulating activities (even fun ones), I know that I need a break to balance things out to not get overwhelmed.

It is probably no accident that my hobbies have leaned toward quieter, more introspective moments, like writing, reading, nature photography, painting and running. The trick is to ensure I spend enough time on those recharging activities, to build up the energy reserves for the more extroverted side of me to come through in busier times.

But I think part of the problem is that I have been programmed for productivity. Having been brought up in a climate of “make hay while the sun shines”, “the early bird catches the worm” and “idle hands are the devil’s tools”, sitting still does not come naturally. As I hinted in my blog post “Being Bored Was Not an Option”, when I was young, if I ever thought to myself that I was bored, somehow, magically, my dad would show up with a broom or a rake in hand and a list of chores. That being the case, I never allowed myself to get bored. Continue reading

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Am I a Hoarder If I Still Have a Trophy From 1979?

TrophiesAs I mentally prepare for this year’s round of spring cleaning, I already dread opening that same box I open every year: the box of trophies and awards. Every year I am stumped with the same questions: keep them, toss them, donate them or repurpose them?

… And then they go back into the box as I defer the decision to the next year, and the next one, and the next one.

What makes the decision so difficult is that behind every trophy is a great deal of hard work, dedication, discipline, and blood, sweat and tears on my part. Of course the latter are just metaphorically speaking; Grade 8 in suburbia was far from “The Hunger Games”.

At the same time, behind every trophy is a judge or a panel of judges, who took time out of their busy schedules to consider my work and to so generously bestow this symbol of recognition.

To me, the trophy represents an act of extreme kindness and generosity, which still humbles me today, still elicits a great deal of gratitude and frankly, “guilts” me into hanging on to this symbol.

And then I consider the possibility that there may be a colleague who worked harder than I did, yet did not receive recognition for their accomplishment. They could possibly be thinking that I am an ungrateful brat for even considering tossing a trophy I received …37 years ago.

But the big question is this: at the time of the recognition, did the judge or panel of judges truly expect me to hang on to the trophy until I am pushing daisies? Continue reading

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Filed under Humour, Misc blogs, Running

The Guilt Of Not Running

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESShortly after the major milestone of running my first half-marathon last fall, I have to admit I really enjoyed the month that followed. With training on the back burner, I fully enjoyed the free time I reclaimed: more time for writing, more time for staying on top of errands and housekeeping, and of course eating anything and everything as my metabolism was still cranked up high and quickly burning up anything I consumed.

Then the post-run party is over, replaced by holiday parties and more “fun food”!

Then when the holidays are over… Winter! Ugh!

When it comes to winter I am not a sports enthusiast:

– Despite many lessons in my pre-teens, I skate about as gracefully as Bambi on ice. Sorry, Rideau Canal.

– When I was a kid, my dad was in the ski patrol. We were out on the slopes at the crack of dawn every Sunday. You could say that before age 12, I did enough skiing to last me a lifetime and it would be true, especially given that I was not a fan of the cold and snowy part.

– Contrary to popular belief, Canadian kids are not born with hockey sticks in their hands. Besides, I was always picked last for team sports like that, so I sublimate that lifetime of trauma, by attending as many cheery musical theatre performances and uplifting operas as I can afford.

– I tried curling, I understand the game and really enjoy the wardrobe options (Google: “Norwegian curling pants” and click on the “images” tab) but I prefer my exercise in short spurts.

So what about my first love in sports, running?

In theory, if properly dressed for it, running can be performed in almost any kind of weather. I say in theory because I know my limit is around -20 degrees Celsius. Below that, my lungs are not happy in the days that follow, but that’s just me. The fact is that I have enjoyed running on sunny and bright but less “crisp” wintery days. Continue reading

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