Tag Archives: time

How I Lost a Superpower during the Pandemic

clockI used to pride myself on my punctuality. It wasn’t like I was in some sort of contest or anything, but to me, punctuality meant respect for other people and their valuable time.

That being the case, I always did my very best to leave early enough to arrive on time.

My goal was always to arrive early, but not too early either and rob myself of precious minutes from my time-starved existence.

With years of experience, commuting by car and by bus, I became pretty skillful at predicting how much extra time to allow, when factoring in bad weather, construction and traffic congestion on any given day. As a result, I often enjoyed that sweet spot of arriving about five minutes early for most appointments.

The fact that my early-but-not-too-early arrivals were pretty consistent was a great source of pride. It got to a point that I considered it my superpower.

Needless to say, on those rare occasions when Murphy’s Law (or weather, or construction, or traffic accidents) played against me and I showed up late for something, I was beyond apologetic that my superpower had failed me.

But then three life events happened that have totally messed up my superpower: the pandemic, moving to the country and retirement. Continue reading

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Waiting for the Noodles

After nearly four decades of cooking for myself, I can’t say that there is much that scares me in the kitchen. I have no problem following a recipe, word for word, in the hope of achieving the expected results.

I will even go so far as to say that I am pretty confident when keeping my eye on two dishes at once.

But it’s when a meal has three separate components (or more) than my anxiety can potentially boil over. In those moments, I start wondering how the talented jugglers I have seen on TV could spin multiple plates on the end of tall sticks, and keep them spinning beautifully.

To me, cooking is very much the same thing. It is the variability of variables that can potentially spoil a meal that keeps me on edge.

Let’s start with the essential work tools, the stove and oven:

I’ll never forget the stove that came with the house in my last place. At 15 years old, it wasn’t an antiquity, but by today’s standards for appliances, it was getting old… and increasingly unreliable.

It didn’t take many under-baked goodies for me to figure out that there was a problem with the oven. After a while, I bought an oven thermometer to get a second opinion on the temperature. Sure enough, the oven was almost always 25 degrees under the temperature I requested. Continue reading

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The Backlog of Backlogs

I have to admit that when I first fantasized about what retirement could be, I had visions of truly kicking back and relaxing.

I saw myself camped out in front of the TV, indulging in back-to-back game shows, soaps and talk shows, and occasionally drifting off for an afternoon nap despite the crunch of low-sodium potato chip crumbs that may have fallen here or there.

Idyllic, isn’t it? It wasn’t exactly a big dream, but in some ways, that was what I saw as my little piece of heaven.

Sadly, “Guiding Light” and “As the World Turns” are no longer with us. The full schedule of game shows that used to keep me company when I was home with a bad cold has been reduced to only a few classics. The talk shows are there, but regrettably, I don’t find a strong attachment to any of them.

When I came into the knowledge that writing was my life’s purpose and reading was something I enjoyed as passionately as TV, my retirement dreams changed significantly.

Just the same, in the grand scheme of things, no matter what I enjoyed, it was to be a more quiet existence than I experienced in my fast-paced career which demanded a lot of extrovert energy.

I wish I could say that after my first year of retirement, I feel recharged from my leisure and hobby time. Thanks to Covid-19, it’s been anything but. It’s been like squeezing years’ worth of activity through a funnel.

What I didn’t envision was having a backlog of backlogs to deal with first: Continue reading

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Writing: Morning, Noon or Night?

When looking back over course of my journey as a writer, I find it interesting to note what has been my preferred time of day (or my “peak” time, if you prefer) for writing.

The fact that it has changed over the years as a result of life’s circumstances demonstrates to me that a peak time does not have to be a set time that will never change. The fact that the peak time can differ from one writer to another also proves that there is no right or wrong answer.

I think that the awareness of one’s peak time for writing is a huge asset, which allows one to capitalize upon that best time, to protect it and to schedule around it, whenever possible.

Back in my university years, my classes took place at pretty much any time of day from 8:30 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. When you also add to the equation a part-time job that filled gaps between classes in addition to time for a social life, my sacred time for writing had to be late in the evening.

With my day fully behind me, I could feel a sense of calm and stillness. With the knowledge that my obligations were met and I wasn’t likely going to face any interruptions, I could easily get in the zone, whether for writing reports, essays, or the poetry I wrote on the side. The ideas and the words to convey them would come to me quite easily until about 1:00 a.m. Continue reading

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What Day of the Week Is It?

clocksAt first, I started wondering if it was just me who was losing his marbles.

For someone who has always kept a close eye on the clock and the calendar to ensure the timely completion of tasks, rarely did I ever lose track of the day of the week… except maybe around national holidays which often messed up the natural order of things.

But in retirement, it’s a different story. With fewer deadlines to anchor my sense of time, there have been weeks when I couldn’t tell my Tuesday from my Wednesday.

It didn’t take long for me to see the sharp contrast between my work life and my retirement life to understand why this happens and how logically, it makes perfect sense… at least in my mind.

The routine before the pandemic

Before the pandemic, it would have been unthinkable to go a full work day without checking my calendar at least a few times. Just the process of keeping an eye out for that day’s deliverables and the ones in the coming days provided multiple reminders to reinforce what day of the week it was.

On top of that, each day of the week had its fixed milestones, such as weekly meetings, the delivery of weekly status updates on key files, or the completion of time sheets at the end of the week. Each of these tasks served as additional points of reference in the constant juggling act of time management. Continue reading

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The Joys and Pitfalls of Napping

A cute cat in the middle of a napI truly envy people who can survive on a few hours of sleep and for whom “nap” is a four letter word.

I envy them because I am sure that the items on their to-do lists are crossed out more quickly than folks like me who need their minimum seven hours each night and for whom naps are a precious weekend indulgence (or sometimes necessity, as the case may be).

It’s not a question of laziness, nor do I suffer from depression. I just happen to enjoy that feeling of fading out for a bit and waking up renewed and refreshed with the energy of a four-year-old on a sugar rush. It’s like having two opportunities in the same day to jump out of bed and yell “yippee!!” (yes, I admit that I am a bit of a morning person).

Interestingly enough, I really wasn’t a fan of naps in my pre-school years. But as an adult, I yearn for them and I enjoy them.

When I hear that “older” people don’t need as much sleep, I conclude that at 56, I mustn’t be “older” yet since a cozy nap with the cat (who uses my right arm as a body pillow) is a fairly regular occurrence. When that happens, I savour every moment.

The big questions: when a nap is imminent, do I set the alarm or do I let the nap go as long as I need? And if I do, will it adversely affect my bedtime?
There seems to be an algorithm for that: Continue reading

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My Guilt Trips over Books

The guilt… oh, the overwhelming guilt I feel when I place a book on the back burner and don’t get back to it for weeks or months at a time. It doesn’t happen often, but when it does, I feel awful.

I think it would be safe to say that I have always been an avid reader. In high school, when a novel was assigned to us for a book report, a presentation or a test, I would usually devour the book cover to cover on the Sunday, to ensure the information remained closely in my subconscious for the coming week.

It wasn’t that I was procrastinating, but with my brain processing so much new material from all of my classes, it was the most efficient way for me to ensure I was prepared to answer questions about the story.

The pace at which I learned to read (and to retain) became a wonderful life skill not only for my personal reading pleasure but also for my career, where I often needed to process great amounts of information to generate reports, recommendations, solutions or combinations of all three.

If I had to express a preference, I like to read at a more casual, relaxed pace, where I can truly savour every word, especially when the author’s masterpiece is a tour-de-force in brilliant writing. Savouring a book on a rainy or snowy Sunday, in my favourite chair, sipping a wonderful cup of tea, with the cat snoring next to me is paradise on earth. Still, there are times when regardless of how quickly or how slowly I may start a book, the words just don’t seem to sink in. Why is that?

Over the years, I became aware of the difference between a “light read” and a “heavy read” and how that affects the appropriate timing for introducing a book in one’s life.

During stressful times at work, heavy reads just would not sink in. In most cases, a light read was all that my brain could handle. Still, there were some abundantly stressful times when light reads were a challenge too, as you could likely see glimmers of “no vacancy” signs in my eyes. Continue reading

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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. Continue reading

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“Help Wanted”: Resisting the Urge to Apply

As I headed into retirement, I admit that I felt a bit of fear that with all of the free time in front of me, I would suddenly be handed suggestions on places to volunteer and to help out in the community.

Fortunately, that didn’t happen.

What I didn’t expect was that I might become my own worst enemy in that regard.

With the steady increase of Covid-19 vaccination rates, much like everyone, I welcome the freedom that comes with the reopening of non-essential businesses.

I also look forward to the gradual (safe) reopening of restaurants and theatres to enjoy the date nights that used to be part of our weekly routine.

But for businesses to be able to deliver the services we’ve missed for so long, there is some serious hiring going on.

Help wanted signs are everywhere. I see them hanging in shop windows in town. I see them in Facebook groups. I see them in the community paper. Even the advertisement emails that I receive daily by the dozens are hinting that if you are a fan of the store and would like to discuss career opportunities, to please contact them.

Ironically – and don’t ask me why – but something stirs deep inside of me. It’s hard to describe. It’s a call to action of some kind. It’s like a quick response in my subconscious saying, “I can do that” and a gravitational pull toward the computer to update my CV… Could that be a Pavlovian response of some kind? Continue reading

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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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