Tag Archives: relaxation

Savouring the Calm Country Life

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.

I could certainly overlook the occasional loud party, family function or epic-scale musical event once in a while, when “quiet enjoyment of premises” was the norm. But when I have been jolted out of bed regularly by late night war movies on surround sound, or my glassware was clinking in the cupboards from the pounding dance club beats next door (even on “school nights”), I strained to find my accommodating spirit.

Whenever it was brought to the occupants’ attention, gently suggesting that this was perhaps too loud for the walls that we shared, only to be met with self-entitled “my home is my castle” arguments, there was a cumulative effect of exasperation with neighbours over the years.

To the neighbours who gasped and said they weren’t aware that it was too loud and instantly turned down the volume, I extend my heartfelt thanks.

In most of the places I have lived, the roar may not have been constant but in the grand scheme of things, the moments where decibel readings were at their lowest were rather fleeting. I yearned to make them last, savouring early Saturday and Sunday mornings to read or to write, to sip my coffee, and always wishing those moments of serenity would last well into the afternoon. But they rarely did.

I would be lying if I said I never blared music. I definitely did in my late teens and early 20’s and I completely appreciate the sensory experience of feeling the music. I sometimes wonder if the noisy neighbours I encountered were karmic payback for those I might have inadvertently offended so long ago.

Now, in the new place, the tables have turned. Calm is the norm and the moments of loud noises are the exception… and I love it… every last second of it.

Whether I am taking a stroll around our property or just walking to the mailbox, the absence of ambient noise still has me stopping to take notice.

I sometimes find myself tuning my ears like the Bionic Woman’s Jamie Sommers listening more closely to the surrounding quiet, and realizing that all I hear is more layers of deep quiet.

I have caught myself unexpectedly sighing deeply, not out of boredom or exasperation, but rather as deep relaxation set in as I let go of my suburban apprehension of never really knowing when the next loud neighbour noise will start. I would like to think that this is my new reality, and I remind myself to appreciate every moment (just in case).

With farmers’ fields surrounding us, of course we have heard agricultural equipment from time to time, but those moments are greatly outnumbered by the days where all we can hear is the breeze rustling through the trees and the birds singing their joyful songs of summer.

We do have neighbours, but not to the extent like I have lived with before, and after one month, I think it would be fair to say that we are all of a similar mindset when it comes to maintaining the “quiet enjoyment of premises”… at least I hope so, and I pray I didn’t just jinx it.

We have already noted some of the trade-offs we have made, being farther away from shopping, from our cultural events as well as living with occasionally irregular Internet connectivity. That is the package deal for this dwelling.

My appreciation for the calmer quieter moments could also be due the fact that I am close to the middle line between extrovert and introvert. Although I have no problem expending extrovert energy in my daily work life, I need time of introversion to balance things out, to be able to do it all over again the next day.

However, with my countdown clock to retirement officially ticking away with an approximate date in mind, it makes me grin from ear to ear to think that this degree of silence may indeed be the background music to which my retirement ambitions as a writer will play out. That would truly be the best retirement gift after a busy work life of noisy bus commutes, open concept offices, ringing phones and screeching dot matrix printers.

I don’t know if it is the sounds of life in general that have worn me out, or is it that city noise has progressively gotten louder. Either way, I have come to treasure how the absence of noise is the soothing antidote to a life that seems filled with it. For this reason alone, country life seems to agree with me.

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Sincere thanks for reading!
Have a great day,
André

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Filed under 50+, home, Humour

50 Things to NOT Do Immediately Before Bedtime

You’d think that after 54 years, I’d know better than to start something right before bed and think, “It’ll take just five minutes.”

That’s usually when I lose track of time and the next time I look up, it is well past midnight, having overshot the estimated “five minutes” by about twenty times.

We all know that when we get ready for bed, we should be aiming to wind down to a relaxed state, to lead to a more restful sleep.

But sometimes it doesn’t take much to fall down the rabbit hole, stirring up one’s enthusiasm (or emotions) and messing up those plans.

Here they are, my 50 things that I suggest should not be done immediately before bedtime:

1. Calling a cellular/TV/Internet carrier
2. Tinkering with electronics
3. Downloading or updating apps… that’s usually when there will be technical problems like a device freezing up or a time-consuming reboot is required.
4. Learning to play a new electronic game
5. Checking out TV channels you don’t usually watch
6. Previewing the binge-worthy show everyone recommends highly
7. Watching cute pet videos
8. Watching funny baby videos
9. Watching music videos
10. Watching videos of people doing embarrassing things Continue reading

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When the Cat Asks for a Massage

I think I’ve created a monster!

When I adopted Ivy the Wonder Cat, naturally, she was guarded when it came to where she would allow herself to be petted by this new stranger. But as we got to spend more time together and she realized that she had nothing to fear with me, she started trusting me more and letting her guard down.

At first, I could pet her back and perhaps the top of her head, but that was it. If I pet her anywhere else, I risked getting bitten.

As she warmed up to me, her head became welcome territory as she loved getting massaged behind the ears. Then she started presenting her chin as she liked a little scratch there from time to time.

When she realized that I was a willing participant in indulging her requests for attention, the “rub my belly” days began. Whether I was just coming out of the bedroom in the morning, or coming home from work, she would collapse to the floor like her joints all gave out at the same time, roll over on her back, front paws up in the air and present her belly for a gentle tummy rub.

What surprised me was the slow evolution with her allowing me to go near her paws. As I discussed in my post about challenges in trimming my cat’s nails, she has never been fond with me touching her paws, even if I didn’t have the nail clippers in my hand. She took a long time to warm up. Continue reading

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Which Book to Read Next?

Over the last couple of years, I have been making time to enjoy one of life’s sweet yet simple pleasures: I have reconnected with my love for books.

Where I used to reserve books for bedtime reading, I have since rejigged my schedule to allow time in the morning to slowly sip my coffee, to listen to some relaxing music, to read for a bit and to gently ease into my day.

After decades of going from 0 to 60, hitting the ground running as soon as my feet swung out of bed and hit the floor, this new routine has become a welcome and preferred approach to start the day off right.

It offers me the time to slowly wake up, to breathe and to reconnect with my positive energy. It seems to gently nudge the brainwaves into action rather than a speedy immersion into worrying about what the day ahead holds.

In making reading part of my morning routine, rather than taking six months to finish a book, I have been averaging one book per month, although I have impressed myself by finishing some in a matter of days when I just couldn’t put them down.

In the last couple of years, I have filled my mind, my heart and my soul with fascinating biographies, I have read some classics that I missed, I have explored some books on personal growth and new ways of thinking, and I have devoured books that will help me grow as a writer and as an artist. Continue reading

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The Extreme Joy from a New Chair

As much as I love my living room set, the reality is that if my back is not feeling well, lying on my couch is not a good place for me due to a disc issue. If I am there vertically, it’s fine, but horizontally, it doesn’t support me in exactly the right spots. And if Ivy the Wonder Cat decides to join me and sit on my stomach while I am horizontal, it seems to throw my spinal alignment off.

I certainly don’t blame the sofa, I tested it thoroughly before buying it and it is quite comfortable, but when my back is aching, I end up on the floor, preferring the flat surface for prolonged periods of TV binge watching or movie watching. But on cold winters’ days, which seem to be 183 days of the year here, that floor can get chilly.

One day I was running errands when I saw a lady at a busy intersection waving a sign indicating that the nearest furniture store was having a moonlight madness sale. I thought to myself that it might not hurt to take a few minutes and see if there were any good deals.

I toured the store, checking out the seemingly endless selection of lounge chairs and it didn’t take long for me to narrow the search to a few favourite models of reasonably-priced recliners that felt like they supported me in all the right places.

One model in particular seemed to be stealing my heart. Not only was it supportive, but it also felt like I was lounging in a cloud. Five minutes later, after almost falling asleep, I knew that this was the one. If my back was not happy, it would have screamed at me by now. Continue reading

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Filed under 50+, Humour, TV

50 Reasons to Love Music

1- Music can pick up a listener’s mood when they’re feeling down.
2- Music can help a listener to relax when they’re feeling wound up.
3- Music can help set the mood for any activity.
4- In the morning, the right song can help set the pace for the whole day.
5- The right music can make traffic jams more bearable.
6- The right background music can make a movie a masterpiece.
7- A game show would not be as much fun if it didn’t have the right background music.
8- A horror movie would not be as enjoyable without the appropriate background music.
9- Music is a great conversation starter.
10- Music makes people want to move.
11- Music makes exercise more fun. Continue reading

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Planning the Best Stay-At-Home Vacation

Regular readers will remember my frustration with myself over my last stay-at-home vacation which seemed jam-packed with projects around the house. As much as I tried to fill my heart with the gratitude of having a nice home and the opportunity to do home improvement projects, I was left very tired and still needed a vacation after my vacation.

The reality is that after a few unusually tough years when mind, body and spirit didn’t have the energy to spare to turn a screwdriver or to declutter a drawer, the to-do list got pretty long. Fortunately, the energy and desire are back and ready to tackle the list, but there are only so many hours in a day to get to everything.

Just the same, when I think ahead to next year’s stay-at-home vacation, I have already committed to myself that every waking moment should not be filled with house projects. I want my vacation to be just that… a vacation!

To get to that point, I have made a commitment to myself that between now and then, I needed to find the time to knock one or two projects off the list each week. They just need to get done in small consistent increments.

When the prize is genuine unstructured play time, not spent with a paint roller in one hand and a drill in the other, I think this should be an easy resolution to keep rather than the old habit of deferring the projects to my vacation time.

So far, the plan seems to be working.

Which leads to the next question… So what do I want to do during the next stay-at-home vacation? Continue reading

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50 Reasons Why I Love Writing

1. It allows me to express myself in ways that I can’t in my day-to-day life.
2. It allows me to use my imagination and to be as whimsical, as dramatic, as light or as dark as I want, when the world would typically frown upon it in my day-to-day dealings.
3. I can make characters say what I wouldn’t dare say in my own conversations.
4. I can infuse my characters with feelings that I wouldn’t necessarily reveal in my day-to-day life, a process which can be very cathartic.
5. It feeds my appetite for creation.
6. I like writing because in the journey of preparing a first draft, it is just me and my thoughts. The creative process of a first draft is not a collaborative effort, which allows the artist in me to bring my vision to fruition on my own.
7. In a manner of speaking, each writing project is “my baby”. It is a joy to see what happens to each one as time goes by.
8. It allows me to put my own particular fingerprint of style and perspective on something that may have been said 1000 times before, but in my voice, it can sound completely different.
9. It enables me to be open and receptive to sources of inspiration around me.
10. Because of writing, I find myself more open to serendipitous moments. Continue reading

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Why Am I Walking So Fast?

I was walking down the street one evening after work, when I caught myself. I was walking at a brisk pace.

What’s wrong with walking at a brisk pace? Nothing if you are running late or have a long list of things to do and only a little time to accomplish them.

But I wasn’t late nor did I have a long list of things to do. But I was still on autopilot, at a pace more typical of “The Busy People’s Walk”. The brisk pace seems to be the norm these days, even when there’s no reason for it.

While it might be great for my cardio, it’s not exactly conducive to stopping and smelling the roses along the way.

I laughed to myself and thought, “Slow down! Enjoy the moment!” At the same time, it evoked childhood memories from when my Dad used to tell me (in French) “T’es pas au feu”, meaning “You’re not on fire”, whenever I was unnecessarily rushing through something.

Funny enough, even after consciously slowing myself down, somehow my walking speed started creeping up again and I had to remind myself that I am, in fact, not on fire and could enjoy a more leisurely pace. I slowed myself down again.

The question is… why? Has my auto-pilot always been stuck in rush mode? Continue reading

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Filed under 50+, Health and Wellness, Inspiring, mental health

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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