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.

Is Being Positive the Real Answer to Being Happy?

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I’m trying to be more positive these days, I really am. Not Polyanna-ish sickly-sweet nice but just the same me but with a slightly brighter outlook on my life. I started small since I thought that way I could test the waters before plunging in completely. So, as step one, when someone would ask the usual, Ann, how are you?”, I would not immediately go into a negative diatribe about creaky bones, impending destruction of my neighbourhood by greedy developers, my endless complaints on the injustice of aging and post nasal drip (my latest). Instead, I have started to try a different approach by saying something like, “I’m really good,” or even a “Great!” The first few times I tried it on friends, there was a look of suspicion in their faces, as if they were saying, “Oh sure. Now how are you really?” I am known for having a somewhat sarcastic bent to my conversation so I understand how they could have misunderstood my genuine attempt at positivity. But, and this is the important thing, I did feel better and even believed what I said.

Gradually, I added other minor additions to my Be Positive Trial. I started to try to dress a little better. If there was a stain on the front of my shirt — I always wear my food — I wouldn’t wear it anyway pretending I just did it if anyone mentioned it. Then I’d try to remember to put a little lipstick on before leaving the house and practice all the “good” posture exercises that Christina has been trying to drum into my head over the past too many years. I knew I was becoming a cliche but if it helped keep me out of the negative pit I can so easily slip into, I thought, why not, eh?

I decided to do this now as a test to see if an upbeat approach to life would calm down the screaming Chicken-Little Catastropher in me (see my blog from a couple of weeks ago). If a little touch of lipstick when I left the house and smiling at clerks as they snarled their way through my groceries make me feel better, then I’d do it. It would certainly be a step to letting me enjoy myself now and not ruin now by fretting about the future.

Even though it was in its trial stages, it got tested out last night. Some neighbours came over for a meeting which eventually turned into a gossip session. They have lived in the building for many many years so knew a lot more juicy tidbits than I did. At one point, the talk turned to The Future in our neighbourhood. I felt twitches of the Catastropher coming alive inside me. At every mention of The Developer and who owned what and where it was all going to end up, Ann the Catastropher was ready to start wailing her “Oh woe is me, Oh woe is me.” But, instead, the fledgling positive me, smiled and stopped listening to the gossip and sipped my wine in the now.