Tag Archives: kindness

Should My Blog Be More Serious?

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:

I enjoy the fact that I can talk about subjects to which many can relate, whether the post is about cats, getting older, running, writing, travel, TV, movies, music, solving life’s little problems or discovering life’s serendipitous moments.

I enjoy the fact that I can write about things that resonate with people on a human level without getting too heavy.

I enjoy the fact that I can share my unique perspective on topics, only to find out that it is not that unique after all when people tell me that they can relate to what I wrote.

I enjoy the fact that people can turn to my blog for something light, something funny, something quirky or something informative. To me, that is a valuable mission, when life is quite serious as it is.

Writing a more upbeat and positive blog has even lifted my own spirits at times when I had a hard time finding positivity.

I enjoy the fact that I can use my blog as a safe environment to try out different writing ideas and even to test the waters with some creative pieces, given my aspirations to make the transition from corporate writer to novelist or screen writer.

Writing the blog has allowed me to share my enthusiasm for life and its many funny and fascinating moments, without making points at anyone’s expense.

Has it been hard to stay within this mandate? At times, it has.

But on a few occasions I did get a little deeper in writing about personal challenges, but always from a positive perspective, and with the aim to help spread the word that we all sail through choppy waters at one time or another and that’s OK. Things do get better with time.

I have never thought of myself as a hard-news journalist, nor do I feel a need to take up the charge. There are more than enough news outlets to deliver the different perspectives on world events, my blog does not need to be one of them.

Could I use my blog to be more topical and more serious? Sure, I could. But it’s great to know that I don’t have to and that I can just be myself and offer a pleasant diversion, to get a break from life’s seriousness and to promote the many joys of living.

I’d like to think that blogging from the heart rather than from the mind is the most authentic way to go.

I think Erma would have approved.

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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Filed under Inspiring, Writing

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. Continue reading

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Filed under 50+, Health and Wellness, mental health

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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Filed under 50+, Humour

New Year’s Resolution 2018: Inner Peace (Again!)

When I look back on last year’s blog post “Resolution: Inner Peace”, I remember how tired I was with the status quo at that time. For someone who is usually seen as positive, upbeat and generally calm, cool and collected, something just wasn’t right. Even in life’s quietest moments, I found my core jumping into “fight or flight” mode and didn’t know why. Little stressors were sparking up stronger reactions within me and anxiety was starting to take over.

I also found myself having a hard time letting go of chapters that were seemingly concluded. This wasn’t me! As this prolonged over time, I found my energy was heading downhill.

Despite having a huge tool kit of stress management techniques that I had accumulated over the years, I just couldn’t keep these stressors in check and to get past them. Negative emotions were festering and growing. I couldn’t get the upper hand on the situation and I didn’t know why.

I felt like I was headed the wrong way down a one-way street and getting farther away from the more serene self that I aspire to be. My 2017 resolution for seeking out inner peace was probably the best declaration I ever made. I was prepared for change.

Three anxiety attacks into 2017, I had hit my limit. It was time to seek help. My referral to a psychotherapist was the catalyst that helped me begin to break the cycle of anxiety.

But it wasn’t easy. I would say this was one of the toughest projects I had ever undertaken, having to recall and relive many of the stressors throughout my lifetime to find out what they had in common. Continue reading

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Filed under 50+, How to, Inspiring, mental health, Misc blogs

The Coin Conundrum

With every passing day, the use of debit cards, credit cards and online banking seem to become the norm as we inch closer to a cashless society. Given that certain vending machines and self-checkouts are only accepting cards now, are coins falling out of favour?

When we also consider that Canada phased out the penny four years ago and inflation has greatly diminished the purchasing power of low denomination coins, how is it that I became a magnet for people who need to unload some precious “doubloons” because their purse or pocket is getting heavy?

Don’t get me wrong, I completely sympathize and have been on the opposite side of the coin on a few occasions myself.

Given some underlying disc issues in my back that flare up from time to time, I am very much aware of the need to keep the contents of my messenger bag to a manageable weight for my travels to and from the office. If I don’t, and my spine compensates for a few extra contents by shifting a little more to the left, it could lead to neck, back or shoulder issues, which leads to an added visit or two to the chiropractor. Continue reading

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Filed under 50+, Christmas, Humour, Misc blogs

Resolution: Inner Peace

relaxingA few years ago, I published a blog post about New Year’s resolutions and my admission that I generally don’t make them. Even though traditionally the 1st of January is believed to be a great time for a fresh start, I would like to think that improvements to one’s life can be made anytime that it makes sense.

However I might be inclined to make an exception in 2017. My resolution seems to be more of an overarching goal than a single activity. It is a collective of several activities that need to be orchestrated to work together to be effective. My resolution for 2017 is the protection of my inner peace.

On the journey of life, we face adversity stemming from things over which we have little to no control. But for those things that are within our control, why shouldn’t we protect ourselves from factors that undermine our happiness? Why should we take on more adversity than we really need to when the choice is offered to us? In other words, why shouldn’t we pick our battles?

Through life’s natural ebb and flow, we go through busy times, we go through quieter times and we have the times in-between. I don’t know if it is because I am getting older or just the fact that challenging times have followed me around like my shadow in the last couple of years, but I now seem to find myself uncharacteristically overprotective of my free time and my free thought.

I would like to think it is just a normal reflex, in trying to heal from the turbulence and to restore balance to my energy flow. Continue reading

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Filed under 50+, Inspiring

Christmas Traditions, Past and Present

What is it about the holiday season that has us so deeply entrenched in tradition?

Is it the reminder of the eager anticipation we felt on Christmas morning, waking up to see what Santa brought? Is it the feast for the senses throughout the month of December? Is it the reminder of a simpler, gentler time?

Or is the totality of the experience, combining the recreation of old familiar traditions with the new experiences that get woven in as the fabric of our lives changes?

Here are ten such traditions that have formed an important part of the holidays for me over the years:

10. Shopping
I recently blogged about how shopping in December is so much fun, I now shop in November. But in all seriousness, I do have very fond memories of being a store clerk in my high school and university years and how much I enjoyed helping last minute shoppers find the perfect holiday gifts. In those last days leading up to the big day, there was magic and electricity in the air that made time fly, helping customer after customer ring through with their purchases and hurry out the door to their family, friends and festivities. I enjoyed that role of a sort of Christmas Elf so much, things may come full circle as something I might reconsider in my retirement years.

9. Christmas cards
Ever since I was a child, I enjoyed sending and receiving Christmas cards through the mail. As I got older I realized that it was impossible to see everyone over the holidays unless I had my own magic sleigh, 8 reindeer and unlimited time. Sending cards is that opportunity to tell someone that I am thinking of them, even if we don’t see each other that often, as well as the chance to convey my best wishes for the new year. True enough, electronic cards, email and texts can still convey the message so much more efficiently, but I still like the ritual of the mailbox and the “Aww!” moment of opening a card, reading a nice greeting and the joy of the ongoing connection with the sender. Plus, when I find a perfect card that captures an inside joke, makes someone laugh, or strikes the right chord in one way or another, it can be a beautiful thing.

8. Baking
Is there anything that helps to stir up the memories of Christmas past than the sweet smell of baking favourite holiday treats? In the weeks leading up to Christmas, I do find myself puttering in the kitchen more than usual, reviving old favourites to bring to potlucks, parties or to give as gifts. When that sweet smell gently fills the house, it really does whisper “Christmas is coming”. Date squares, pecan squares, butter cookies and rum balls, are just some of the traditional indulgences that I revive annually. Continue reading

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Filed under Cats, Christmas, Humour, Top 10