One Word at a Time Will Get Me On My Way

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Now that I’ve made the promise to myself, that this year, this 2019, I would do things differently, think new thoughts, try scary things and break through some of these fears and self-doubts that I’ve been wearing all these 72 years, I’m finding that it ain’t as easy as writing the words. I didn’t think it would be a breeze, but I had convinced myself that I was ready and even eager to take this challenge on. I thought I was ready to propel myself into this adventure but forgot that all of those fears were still sitting inside of me waiting to rear their ugly heads and put the brakes on my otherwise rosy plans.

All this self-recrimination started when my good friend, M, sent me the seat sale for Westjet. She didn’t write anything, just sent me the advertisement. We had talked about it earlier in the week and she had told me that their sales were fantastic. So her intentions were all good and I had told her — and myself — that this year I was going to travel. Go Someplace Where I’ve Never Been Before, I boasted. Get myself back to an ocean somewhere in this world. I was going to pack my bag and head off to one of my great unknowns. But I couldn’t do it that day. I couldn’t be spontaneous and just pick a date out of the blue, pluck my credit card down, and plan the trip afterwards.

I was greatly disappointed in myself. I felt like I had, in the first month of this new year, negated all my promises. I sent M an email and asked her if she thought my reluctance to just go-with-it and get a reservation was a sign of my “old demons” rearing their ugly heads. She wrote back that only I could answer that question.

That made me feel worse.

I had to do something to pull my spirit out of the toilet. So I decided to put the whip back in the closet and stop the shaming voice inside my head — which, as you probably know, is utterly worthless. Instead, I took a smaller, but a very important, step towards my 2019 goals. I started reading one of the books on my Ann’s 2019 Reading List.

Earlier this year — can you even say that when you’re still in January? — I decided, as part of this New-Ann-In-2019, it was time to wean myself off of the steady diet of period mysteries I have been reading for the past ten years or so and challenge my mind with something a little more substantive. I knew I couldn’t be trusted to pick out a new reading list on my own. I’ve had too many disappointments in the past. After reading glowing reviews of books in the New Yorker or in the paper, I would eagerly put them on hold at the library. By the time they came in, I couldn’t figure out why the hell I ordered it as I struggled to get beyond the first fifteen pages. (My friend, L, told me never to trust book reviews, “They’re written only to sell the books, Ann.”)

So, this time, I didn’t put my reading future into the hands of strangers. No, instead, I sent an email to a bunch of my wonderful, eclectic friends, and asked them for the titles of their two, or three favourite books. The results have been amazing. I have a list of 24 books so far that are as varied and interesting as the people who gave them to me. There are classics I’ve never read, a trilogy on witches and vampires, another trilogy described by the friend who recommended it, as an “Indian soap opera,” tell-all memoirs, a heavy Canadian content that I have avoided reading these past 23 years, and lots more. I probably won’t like them all but I’ll read them all. It’s another one of those promises I made myself.

And, there are added bonuses to this method: 1) I have my friends right here to talk with about the books afterwards and, 2) when the time comes when I do make that reservation to go someplace I’ve never been before, I’ll not have to even think about what I’m going to take to read on the trip.

Now I’m off to start Book II on the list.

Have a Seat Please … And Wait and Wait and Wait.

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I have been doing an ¬†informal survey of the quality of seats in doctors’ offices over the past week or so. It seems I have spent an extraordinary amount of time going from one office to another and spending entirely too much time waiting. I’m not complaining. As I sit in those chairs and wait, I calculate how much all of these tests and consultations would have cost just a few miles south of this border.

I’m a big fan of chairs as a design statement. Whether simple or ornate, I admire their shapes and utilitarian purpose. It is hard for me to pass any chair on the street put there by owners who no longer see the value or the beauty of that chair. I have picked up a few here and there and spent money having them refurbished. When I sit on them, I feel their gratitude that I saved them from spending the next 300 years decaying in the dump.

There was not one chair in my various doctors’ offices that I would have picked up from the street. While I admired that they were holding me up while I read yet another mystery as I waited, their years of beauty had been replaced by hundreds of bums that had slid in and out of them. Too bad they can’t write, they’d have a guaranteed best-seller telling the woes and sometimes joys of the folks they held up.

What I noticed during my informal survey, was that the quality of the chairs varied greatly from one department to another. One theory I have is that when a department — this sitting was mostly done in a hospital — is remodelled and gets new chairs the old ones end up in the emergency department. There live the shabbiest of the shabby. When I walked in I followed the instructions that were hanging on the wall: Sign your name, and time-of-arrival. It was the last sentence that had me smiling, “Sit in the Pink Chairs and Wait to be Called!” I looked around the semi-crowded hallway and could not see any chair that was remotely pink. If they had said “cracked institutional green” or “prison grey,” there were plenty. Finally, the security guard said, “Mam, there are no pink chairs. Just sit down anywhere.”

When I moved from the pink-chair waiting room to the next one, the chairs were arranged in little clusters and were marginally in better shape. There were even little two-sitter sofas and side tables. But what was remarkable was what happened in these clusters. The folks sitting in there in those chairs, started to talk to one another. They watched each others’ belongings when they went to the bathroom or outside for a smoke. And they didn’t talk about their ailments and why they were sitting there, they talked about neighbourhoods where they lived and what they were cooking for supper when they got home. There was even laughter in what is a pretty dismal place to spend a few — or a lot — of hours. When my name was finally called out and I gathered my stuff and moved out of my chair, there were good byes and good lucks from the other chairs.

I’m off now for yet another appointment and more chair sitting. I’m thankful that they’re there to hold me and keep me from fretting too much.