Do You Have 8 Minutes?

 

Hi there,

With travels over (for now) and writing daily for hours, this blog takes a different tack too.

For openers, I want to share an absolutely marvelous film (7-minutes short) called On Knowing Happiness.  It comes from Nic Askew’s Soul Biography series.

My response from posting it on Facebook was one of deep appreciation, so I felt it imperative to share with those who have opted to pass on the Social Media site.

Should you choose not to watch, let me share with you Kathryn Temple’s two big questions. Questions, supposedly, asked by Ancient Egyptians at the Gateway to Heaven:

* Have you found the joy in your life?

* Has your life brought joy to others?

That’s just in the first couple of minutes. Please check it out, and let me know what you think.

P.S. I have a bit of a ‘thing’ about the word happiness. I prefer joy. The way I see it, happiness is fleeting, transient, more easily lost, but joy resides deep in the bones. It is our way of being in the world.

Kathryn Temple

Kathryn Temple

Fun Facts and Figures For 798 Days – CHECK IT OUT

I wish I knew how to create graphs and charts to make things eye-catching, but I don’t.

Formulas on a whiteboard

With the arrival of a New Year and writing about my travels, I figured compiling some facts and figures about my recent mobile lifestyle might be fun.

HERE’S WHAT I FOUND

Days with no fixed address – 798

Keyboard with search button

Homes Slept In  – 29 (see below)

(17 as house sitter, 12 visiting family or friends, 3 a combo of)

HOUSE SITS

7 house sits were found through my profile at House Carers and Mind My House

4 house sits were for teaching friends

2 were for friends of friends

1 house sit was for a couple I met in Ireland

1 came from a chance meeting while cross-country skiing

1 was a family member

1 was a business acquaintance

VISITS WITH FRIENDS

My friends in Melbourne and New York City I met in Ireland on a walking tour with David Whyte in 2010.

I met my friend from Perth while she was on teaching exchange at Hollyburn Elementary in 1997.

My friend in Switzerland was a homestay student with my sister. She helped paint my house in exchange for dinners.

My friends in Whistler I’ve known since I first came to Canada in 1982.

THANK YOU

 

LONG STAYS AND SHORT

I visited my daughter in Castlegar 14 times (65 nights in total)…and she still loves me. My sister in North Vancouver put me up 14 times (34 nights in total). Bless her.

Longest stay in one place 64 nights (Llucalcari, Mallorca). I rented the home from a lady in my Zumba class

Number of one-night sleepovers 48 (9 in India), two-nighters, 23 (4 in India)

That’s a lot of packing and unpacking.

OTHER SLEEPING SPOTSOur welcome at Fort Madhogarh Fort Madhogarh

Hotels (24, includes 15 in India)

Planes (8)

Retreat Centres (2)

Luxury Tent (1)

B & B (2)

Homestay (1)

Train (1) – top bunk of three, Pushkar to Delhi, never say never, but never againIndian train

AIR TRAVEL

Airlines flown with – 15

Singapore AirlinesThai Airways check-inQuantas flight Launceston to Melbourne

Best service – Singapore Airlines

Best food – Etihad Airways

Longest flight – Melbourne to Manchester, 27 hours (via Abu Dhabi)

Funniest safety briefing – Frontier Airlines (Spokane to Denver). Guy should be a stand-up comic.

Most entertaining – easyJet (Zurich to Luton). Check out this blog if you haven’t already. http://blivingrock.com/2011/09/ezt-2046-zurich-to-london-row-11/

Of Note

In the three months at my new apartment (Oct 2 – Dec 31, 2013) I have spent three weeks away, at six different locations. Guess it takes a while to change gears.

***********

Bob’s brain tumour affected his mathematical abilities, tough for a man in carpentry. Today  he would have turned 56. So, this little data fix is a timely one.

Be grateful for all your brain does for you

***********

DATA

Homes(29)                                          # of Visits                    Total nights

Castlegar, BC (daughter)                      14                                65

North Vancouver (sister)                        14                                34

Manchester, UK  (sister)                         8                                 19

Langley, Whidbey Is.*~                          7                                 19

Leicester, UK (mother)                           7                                  16

Seattle*~                                                6                                  31

Leicester (father)                                    5                                  10

Nelson, BC*                                           3                                  49

West Vancouver (JR)*                           3                                  39

Melbourne (friend)                                 3                                    7

Berkeley, CA*~                                      2                                  54

Perth, AUS (friend)                                 2                                  44

London (nephew)                                   2                                    2

Mallorca, Spain (rental)                          1                                  64

New York City (friend)                           1                                  40

Tasmania*                                              1                                  54

Duncan, BC*                                          1                                  27

Bunbury, AUS   *                                    1                                  27

Leicester (aunt)*                                     1                                  22

North Vancouver (SS)*                           1                                  19

Nelson (RE)*                                           1                                  18

Edmonds, WA*                                       1                                  17

West End, Vancouver*                           1                                  13

North Vancouver (AH)*                          1                                  13

West Vancouver (SSh)*                          1                                   9

Langley, Whidbey Is. (SD)*                    1                                    7

Biel, Switzerland (friend)                        1                                    6

North Vancouver (SRK)*                         1                                   5

Whistler, BC      (friends)                        1                                    4

*    = housesitting

*~ = combination of house sitting and visiting

The Stains On The Mattress

“Hey, I’m back,” she cries, spread-eagled. “Did you miss me?”

For two years now I’ve been wedged in a crate wondering if she’d ever return. She, on the other hand, has been gallivanting around the world, seeing other mattresses.

Out With the Old And In With the Newoldnew3

Yes, my mattress has been unemployed for a while. It’s pretty stained. Not with the visible, but the invisible kind – the residual weight of unbidden memories. Question is, can I accept the stains just the way they are, or might a new mattress be a wise idea, essential even?

Who Needs Memory Foam?

Memory_Foam

My mattress knows me intimately, better than I once knew myself. It has watched silently without comment or judgment throughout the heartache, fury, bliss, turmoil, and joy of recent years.

Take a peek under the covers to learn more. Viewer discretion advised.

  • It remembers my daughter at 15, sleeping beside me after her first brain surgery. It remembers the fifty staples holding together that piece of her skull removed to extract the tumour. The staples work, the surgery doesn’t.
  • It remembers Bob, the man who balanced out the bed. And me. No sooner here than gone. It remembers the 5 a.m. call to tell me he is dead. Later that evening it remembers my daughters snuggling with me, holding my hand. It remembers my sister who, with pizza in-hand, joins the gathering of the clan. We share stories about the man I loved. Who we all loved. In the months that follow it remembers how we become inseparable, with more hours spent in bed than out. Shattered by life’s cruel indifference, it becomes the perfect hideout.
  • It remembers the pitch-black room of Christmas Eve 2009, and the tenderness of a man who lies down beside me; fully clothed this time. Pulled tight to his chest, he silently wipes my tears with his thumb, his sleeve, his kisses. There’s a lot of wiping.

Next door my daughter, now 23, lays on a hospital bed mattress, a nurse at her side. With four intravenous drips inserted just hours earlier, she drifts in and out of a drugged fog. The nurse props her up to watch the action in the living room where her younger sister, aunt, father and grannie desperately attempt to celebrate what we know will be her final Christmas.

When the weight of words is too heavy it’s best to say nothing at all. He knows this. I wish others did too. He never lets me go. Not until the house, and I, are quiet again.

  • Mostly it remembers the day, exactly one month later, when I walk home from the hospital, enter the back door, and crawl under the covers. It is a different bed now. Even it wonders if it can bear the weight of this unfathomable loss. This is the bed-after-Rachel-died.

The Music of the Night

Our mattress is our night home. Like all homes it offers a space to love and be loved. A place to make a little music, or a lot. But only a mattress sees the thrashing of souls lying, as we do, so vulnerable in the night hours. secrets

You and I both know mattresses are the keeper of all secrets. They know everything.

Show empathy to everyone you meet. You never know about the stains on their mattress.

It’s A Keeper

Wondering if a new day home requires a new night home, keeps me awake for hours. Two years have passed. I am not the same person, nor is it the same mattress.

Maybe it is the best place to count my blessings, to find the same courage to endure, to dream big dreams.

I’ve been here a week and we’re doing fine, stains ‘n all.

I think it’s a keeper.

It’s good to have you home. I missed you.

DSCN5677

 

 

 

 

 

 

What about the stains on your mattress? What would make you shop for a new one?

Image Credits: Topos Graphics, Wikipedia, Aaron Anderson

Rachel’s Ashes

Today my 23 year-old daughter would have turned 27. She loved to travel. In her final days her dad asked,

“How about mum and I take your ashes with us wherever we travel, so you can keep traveling too?”

She nodded.  Yes.

Rachel’s Ashes is a slideshow of the places she now lives. A legacy of love, a source of deep healing, my faith in new beginnings.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bXGlfiLpdyY

Comfortable With Uncertainty: Doing Pema Proud

I like living with uncertainty.

It’s one of the better choices I’ve made.

It tests my patience and tolerance for potential discomfort.

At each new house sit I never really know what I’ll be getting into.

I don’t know if the dogs will be mellow or manic…or if the cats will sleep on my face.

MickeyDSCN4394

I don’t know if a comfy bed awaits.

I don’t know where to buy stamps, or fruit and veggies, or decent bread.

I don’t know how the transit system works, or which neighbourhoods I’d be wise to avoid, or foolish to miss.

Most of all, I don’t know the people.

Some are welcoming, others aloof.

They don’t quite know what to make of my friendly disposition.

Sometimes I wish people were more open to unfamiliar faces in their familiar world.

Sometimes I wish I could read people better.

DSCN3884

I avoid checking in online prior to flight time.

It’s a commitment I made right from the start. Doing Pema Proud.

I choose to take whichever seat the airline assigns me.

I figure that’s where I’m meant to be.

DSCN4100

As a solo traveler it means I often get wedged between the Window and Aisle passengers. Brilliant. I get to meet two new people.

Recently this included a Hindu monk decked out in his orange-robes and string of wooden beads.

He was surprisingly impatient and quick to complain. I was so disappointed.

Another time I got a Johnny Depp look-alike who marveled at my transient lifestyle.

“That’s the best way to live,” he said. “Home is wherever you are and whoever you’re with.”

(Easy on the eyes and wise too.)

Holding my gaze and leaning closer, he continued, “When I’m with you, you’re at home.”

Yes, I thought, I could give it all up for you.

Hoping to disguise my sudden flush, I looked away giggling like a silly schoolgirl.

I’ve always been a sucker for flattery.

Sometimes I wish I could read people better.

Life Under 23 kg

After nearly two years of living out of a suitcase, it’s the weight of my life.

173458800_b397da86d7

 

Of course, my metaphorical baggage is far greater. I’m certain no plane would clear the runway if we were required to check-in our personal life histories.

What’s Your Baggage?

Baggage: originating from the word luggage, meaning ‘that which needs to be lugged about’ or in Samuel Johnson’s 1755 dictionary, ‘any thing of more bulk than value.’

Baggage suggests burden; the weight of a past life we’d prefer to leave behind. Hardly the same items we’d hand-pick to accompany us on our travels, or worse still, pay to have stored indefinitely.

Case in point, the treasured items I so carefully selected and boxed up before leaving Vancouver now carry little meaning. A small print of a scarlet fishing boat bought in Nova Scotia, and my Emma Bridgewater coffee mugs are the only things that stir up any longing, the rest having been forgotten almost entirely.

So what was important then, isn’t anymore.

Without a home, living light is a necessity. With no place to sort and organize clothing in draws and closets my seasonal clothes get pulled out of, or shoved back into, a large black tote stored in a friend’s basement. It’s often easier (but not easy) to dispose of them along the way.

How about you?

Every now and again it’s good to ask ourselves, “What would my life be like without this…book, picture, knick-knack, drawing, coat, necklace, clock, scarf, table, shell, lamp, candle, gadget, cushion …?”

Unless it brings you alive, it’s very likely time to let it go. The Universe needs space for the new to enter. We know this when we ‘spring clean’. But what would it be like to ‘winter clean’? To ‘fall clean’? Or for every purchase of some thing new, remove another?

As my friend Moley would say, “G’wan”. Give it a try.

As Ram Dass says, “There is as much joy in doing with less as doing with more.”

It takes a long time for many of us to let go of the things we think we need. What we need aren’t so much things (unless they add some huge comfort or joy to our lives), but rather experiences.

But there’s now’t as queer as folk

-The Full Monty-

Travel Tip

If you’re in the market for a new suitcase, I’d highly recommend an IT-0-2 Super Lightweight Two Wheel Trolley Case 72cm suitcase. Weighing less than 2kg it’s helped make my life under 23kg feasible.

DSCN5623

(purchased at Wanderlust, West 4th Avenue, Vancouver)

With Rachel’s blue and white bandana tied around the handle, it welcomes my arrival at every place I call home.

 

Image: Flickr ’23’ by fraumrou

Joyful Mourning! Seriously?

Joyful Mourning Cover   “I feel that Ron’s life and death turned my life around. His daily way of being really alive and the shock of his death woke me up to life, and myself. I often thank him for having given me those gifts, and feel grateful he was in my life. He taught me how to treasure life.” -SR-

Sharing personal stories allows us to learn from others’ experiences. Telling our story to people who listen and care is profoundly healing. As the above excerpt shows, we may even come to see that grief can change us in good ways. To find out about the book Joyful Mourning, please go to http://blivingrock.com/how-to-submit-a-story/ to see the different options available for contributing a story. A big THANKS to the lovely folk who have already shared their stories, either in writing or by interview. Making a contribution is now easier and quicker (especially if you prefer talking over writing). I invite you to take a moment, and ask, “Who might like to know this opportunity exists?” Please send this message on to him or her. At the very least, they know you’re thinking about them (always a lovely thing). At best, you may open a door they’re ready to open. Thanks for your support, Becky Please send questions or comments to becky@blivingrock.com or use the Contact form on the Home page.

joyful mourning imageMy Facebook page, Joyful Mourning, launched in the summer of 2012, is now on hold; writing a memoir is all-consuming :)

 

Walk Me Home: My Article for the BC Cancer Agency

Hi there,

Feeling proud* of the article ‘Walk Me Home’ I wrote for the BC Cancer Agency, so wanted to share it with you all.

(*happy, nervous, sad, grateful)

Afterthought: I realize now that the trepidation came in knowing the audience of this publication…those living with a brain tumour and their families. I recall being given this brochure every time I went to the BCCA and skim reading it; far more pressing matters were at hand. What my article says is the reality nobody wants to hear; that so, so many people die of a brain tumour. Who wants that kick in the pants? All the time while writing it I felt such sadness for the potential readers, remembering what it was like to be on the other side of all this.

Headlines Spring 2013 

Headlines article

God On The Rocks

“Please let there be no one at my rock,” I’d whisper silently, picking up the pace. The deeply wooded trails behind me, I’d step out onto the promontory of rock and take the giant breath I’d been holding inside for too long. It was here at the edge of the world, all sky and ocean, that my body could lift the mask from its daily façade.

Lighthouse Park (2)In the months following my daughter’s diagnosis, a visit to this sacred spot became a weekend ritual; the one place I could find solace in a world falling apart around me. Lighthouse Park, a summation of all that’s beautiful about Vancouver, was my go-to place.

I’d head directly to the pocket of rock carved, it seemed, just for me to hunker down and take refuge from the world. Most times I went there to cry, for a life that was ‘never meant to turn out this way’. Other times I would talk to ‘God’, the Universe, whoever might be listening. “I wish for a long and healthy life for my daughter Rachel,” I’d say out loud, hoping that audible prayers might take precedence over the silent kind.

In later months when the sun had warmed deep in the Earth I’d lay back, arms outstretched on the ancient rock letting it absorb all of me, the weight of worry shifting from me to Her, without question or conversation, judgment or sympathy. Some alchemical healing began to work its magic.

When my daughter’s tumour was thought to be malignant, my rock beckoned more and more. Conversations with ‘God’ came thick and fast. Then came that unforgettable day. Curled up on my side, the hypnotic motion of waves and tide had held me captive for hours. I needed to begin the journey home. As I peeled my body from the rock and opened my eyes I saw it; the most perfect rainbow plastered across the skies of West Vancouver’s shoreline. A new bout of tears clouded my vision. But this time, I was smiling too. Certain that my spoken prayers had been heard, I lay down again and listened. Here’s what ‘God’ had to say:

“There’s always beauty in pain. Go find it.

And don’t worry, I’ve got this one.”

Never before or since did I believe in the power of prayer or feel accompanied by something larger, so much as on that day.

Each time I see a rainbow I smile at the memory of that day’s vision. I know now that great beauty originates in the graceful acceptance of sadness. As Marcel Proust said, “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.”

Unlike grief, nature is predictable. Its ebb and flow, its seasons and cycles offer us hope when little else can. To find our special places in the natural world is a calling we each must discover. My rock at Lighthouse Park, a meeting of land and sea, was the place I found to grapple with profound and painful change. Where’s yours? Where do you go to find peace, to mend your heart, maybe even talk to ‘God’?

Becky On Bucket Lists

I recall watching ‘The Bucket List’ during a 5-hour ferry ride from Nova Scotia to Maine back in 2008. I remember it because I was attempting to knit my first ever pair of socks while on board. It seemed like a pretty entertaining movie, at least what I saw of it, but maneuvering four double-pointed needles is hardly a smart choice – ever.

Since that time, stuff has happened that cast a whole new light on the Bucket List thing. I’ll spare you the details. I’ve been reminded that ‘now’ is the only time we have. No postponing. No contingencies. No Bucket List for me.

question-mark-cover3

“What will you cross off your Bucket List in 2013?” was the question Dana Sitar asked those of us who signed up to ‘A Writer’s Bucket List’ Launch Team. It’s the title of the book she released earlier this week to much deserved fanfare. If you want to get back into writing and feel stuck for ideas, you’d do well to get hold of a copy. Dana could rightfully place a giant tick beside her list, and it’s only February!

If you follow my blog you know I advocate for a ‘One Day At A Time’ approach to life, the kind I figure Eckhart would approve of. So it left me in a strange position. Constructing a thoughtful piece on a Bucket List…an array of things one hopes to do but often neglects until the end is fast approaching…seemed incongruous.

But then I realized Dana epitomizes the ‘One Day At A Time’ lifestyle so I’d start there. Last Spring, with her internet connection down, she got to work on this book, ‘The Writer’s Bucket List’. For the past six months she’s traveled all over the U.S. and now divides her time between four of its cities. Her second great obsession is stand-up comedy. She writes about it, performs it, and even lives with a comic, all of which likely accounts for her upbeat, can-do attitude. She even looks like fun.dana-sitar-head-shot

 

So for Dana, I’m making an exception. Here’s what I shall cross off my Bucket List in 2013. I’m doing it one day at a time.

 

Complete, and launch the book Joyful Mourning. Get it into the hands of EVERYONE who wants to know that grief can change you in good ways; that you can live with joy despite loss; that it’s the best way to honour your own life and the memory of a loved one. 

JoyfulMourning-TeaserCover-blueP.S. If you want to contribute a story, article or poem to the book please visit http://blivingrock.com/joyfulmourning for more information.

P.P.S. I never made another pair of socks

http://writersbucketlist.com/challenge