Tag Archives: health

Early observations of Nova Scotia.

Wäsche an der Wäscheleine

Everyone has gardens.

Everyone has clotheslines.

The grass is so green.  Like crazy, shockingly green.  I don’t know what they do here, but Miracle Gro dreams of making lawns that green.

We’ve been soaking up our new province as we drive around (so far our opinions of the culture are mostly based on the view from the road).  I’m in love with it.  It reminds me very much of my childhood province, Newfoundland, yet contrasts very much with majestic, dynamic British Columbia, where I lived 20+ years.  The trees here are so very small.  But there are lots and lots of them.

Everyone has a box with a hinged lid for garbage at the end of their drive.  About the size of a chest freezer.  Sometimes the box IS a chest freezer.  Some boxes are fancier than others.

Mari-time seems to move a bit slower.  That’s not like Kootenay time, which just means everyone’s invariably late for any appointment and that’s kinda ok.  Mari-time just means people act like there’s enough time.  Always enough time for chatting, and moving without rushing.  I notice that while plenty of people drive the ubiquitous Canadian 10-over, plenty of people also drive 10-under, which is much more unusual to me.  That’s me these days, 10-under, rubbernecking gardens and the farmhouse architecture.  There just seems to be enough time, and that means enough time to not drive like a maniac.

When we were here a month ago and hitchhiked to Halifax I asked our driver for his advice to new residents.  He happened to be a 15-over guy but still he said “Slow down.  This isn’t Ontario.  Relax.”

People pile up a lot of firewood.

I get a general impression of self-reliance and resourcefulness.

There seems to be a higher percentage of older people.  Or maybe they’re just visible, because they’re outside.  Gardening, and raking, and building decks, and digging, and rummaging in sheds.  Looking healthy and moving sure and steady.  It feels good to have all that knowledge around.

H.W. was wondering why everyone has clotheslines (really, everyone has a clothesline, tidily strung with clothes; the first thing our neighbour insisted on giving us was a coil of clothesline); was it the wind?  I said well maybe it’s the economy and money-consciousness.  It makes sense to put clothes out when a dryer costs money.  I mean, of course it always makes sense to use a clothesline, but where people are wealthier the convenience may win over sense?  He burst out “Yeah, people do what makes sense here.  They have clotheslines, they have gardens, and they recycle.  We’re in the land of sense.”  which about sums it up.

My friend in Utah with a masters in civil engineering told me that Nova Scotia’s (and Edmonton’s and Scandinavia’s) waste management system is the envy of the world.  I believe it.  I remember being blown away by the local transfer station in 2010, with its meticulous required sorting.  One of the first things we noticed driving into Nova Scotia was the separated waste bin at Subway – compost, recyclable, trash.  Nothing generated by a Subway meal would go in the trash.  That and the driver who needlessly stopped for us to jaywalk made H.W. say “we live where there’s nice people, who recycle!” And then at Canadian Tire, and the gas station, and every public trash can anywhere – at least three slots.  Sometimes a fourth, for paper (which otherwise goes in the compost).  I really want to know how this province arrived at such a progressive, pervasive, successful operation.  Where did the political will come from?

At any rate, I’m so grateful to be here and love everything I see.

Photo from bartergreen.org

Depression

The thing about depression is that when depressed it’s extremely, mortally, difficult to do things.  Motivation is a notion- a theory of a feeling.  What you are capable of gets smaller, and smaller, and more difficult, until you are barely, with great suffering, managing to do the minimum to survive.

Your focus, and attention, contracts like an aperture into tunnel vision, and when all your energy is devoted to methodically plodding one foot in front of the other, then you tend to just keep staring out your narrow tunnel like a hopeless blinkered horse.

Looking from side to side takes energy.  Big picture? Gone.

When you can just force yourself to do the one thing in front of you you have to do, then everything optional is hopeless.  And more and more becomes optional.  Writing is out of the question.  Reading is a chore.  Ditto eating, hygiene, walking to the next room.  Hmm, I think this is not necessary to my continued miserable existence.  Staying put.

The irony is that you can’t blog about being miserably, horribly depressed.  Not at the time (see above). You can only announce it in retrospect.

If you’re unlucky, like me, you do retain awareness of having been different, awareness of the decline, so that a small piece at the back of your mind screams on about how dangerously mentally ill you are becoming, but without the helpful memory of what to do to recover, or the energy to do anything about it.  For a while I got a blip of comfort out of thinking “at least I remember; at least I’m aware”.  But really, it just added sadness and inadequacy, and made me more aware of the divide between present misery and past health.

Read the rest

Rules, Adages, or Guidelines for Happiness

Ok, maybe there is a place for “Rules, Adages, or Guidelines” (Read my last post first).

Some from the book that I like:
Buy anything you want at the grocery store; cooking is always cheaper than eating out.
Start where you are (an essential part of the Law of Attraction).
Talk to strangers.
Be polite and fair.
By doing a little bit each day, you can get a lot accomplished, and What you do every day matters more than what you do once in awhile.
First things first.  Definitely.  It’s all about getting priorities straight.  Drinking enough water is critical to having enough energy to finish the project you blaze into, and eating before you blood sugar dives is crucial to having a mood that permits politeness and forgiveness.  Similarly, like “the cook eats first”, one has to take care of oneself before being capable of going out in the world and giving.  You must be replete to be generous (therefore taking care to “fill the tank” is essentially unselfish).
If it takes less than a minute to put away, or do it right, do it now.  My corollary:  If it’s almost as fast to do it as it is to write it on a list, just do it.
Things that make you happy don’t always feel happy.  Damn skippy.  Challenging and threatening things that make you feel nauseous in the doing can the most rewarding to have done.  To wit:  marathons.

Here’s a few all my own:
If a system doesn’t function, change the system.  My husband gives me fantastic feedback on whether a system works (like, where things belong).  If it works, he puts things back where they “go”, because that’s the easiest, obvious place to put them.  If the system doesn’t work, he finds someplace else to drop them that displeases me, and I know my so-clever system isn’t functional and needs to be adapted.  You can’t force people to fit a system; only the system can be changed.  Whole design industries have grown out of this.

Continue reading Rules, Adages, or Guidelines for Happiness

My Happiness Project

Bluebird image from Gretchen Rubin's Happiness ProjectI’ve started a Happiness Project.  This has nothing to do with the new year, by the way, although it might have something to do with winter.   I’ve had a stretch of a scary bad time, so I figured it was time to recruit my natural list-making and determination selves for some change.

I pulled out Gretchen Rubin’s popular The Happiness Project for reference, and ended up reading it again.  It seemed more enlightening this time, and I found useful things that I didn’t remember seeing the first time.  For one thing, I’m married now, which makes a lot of her tips and experience in her marriage more relevant.

My husband has this amazing facility for change.  It seems that all it takes for him to make lasting behavioural changes is to notice and decide he wants to change it.  Much later I’ll notice that he doesn’t do that thing anymore.  He doesn’t write down intentions, make daily review sheets or success charts.  This amazes me, because I can’t imagine doing such a thing without paperwork.  This is where The Happiness Project really sings to me.  The whole plan is detailed and ultra-specific, she values the organization of physical environment to support goals, and everything revolves around a list.

That’s no exaggeration.   The book is really a riot of lists upon lists nested in lists, a perfect comfort for a certain type of person who’s into that, like me.  For example:  Resolutions (for example Sing in the Morning, Pursue a Passion), 12 Commandments (like Identify the Problem and Enjoy the Process), Secrets of Adulthood (like People actually prefer that you buy wedding gifts off their registry,  and If you can’t find something, clean up), True Rules (such as Whenever possible, choose vegetables), and Four Splendid Truths (The days are long, but the years are short).  Since they’re all sort of rules, intentions, or resolutions, they get confusing, barring the Splendid Truths, which are more philosophic Principles of happiness.  In fact, now there are 8 Splendid Truths.

Also, as she discovers over her year, the most important key to success was her Daily Resolution Chart.  I’ve known that for a while.  Reminding oneself of the goal, and some act of acknowledging when you succeed (like checking off a list, or writing down “celebrations”) tells a deeper part of your mind that that is what you want; that is the direction you want to change.  Then your sub-mind can easily create more of it.

I found that during the project design phase, I found that the things I wanted to do sifted into two categories:  vague intentions, such as to be nicer, say no less, and be healthy; and completable goals, like write a book.   In the second category, you know when you’ve done it.  Continue reading My Happiness Project

Women who stare at trees

I plan to lie in the sun in the woods until I feel like getting up.   Sleep, stare, read, lie like a starfish looking up at the branches.  This is the view that’s fixed me before.  Though maybe it’s not the view that heals, but the act of lying with your head at the roots of a tree.  I’ve spent some time doing that, every minute well spent.

Today I was holding a book over my face against a blazing sun when I noticed teensy pearls of light spiralling lazily down on me, less than half a dozen landing and evaporating instantly on my skin with a soft pinch.  They were bright like diamonds, only weightless, drifting slowly down like snowflakes out of a clear bright sky with barely a hint of white cotton candy in it.  It was the most amazing thing, and made no sense.  I’m not even sure it wasn’t snow, although the sun was so hot.  Ice crystals?  How could they possibly survive to the surface?  It lasted less than a minute, and was over.  And I thought, what else can you miss when you’re not lying in the woods?

Happiness II: happiness under duress

I’m trying to restrain myself from doing a Miltonesque Happiness Lost, Happiness Regained stunt, but I knew this was coming- the failure of the dam of habit, structure, and support; the inundation of stress.  I know that Happiness Recovered is coming too, thankfully, on the other side of Lost.

Due to reduced hours, awareness, and deliberate care, I’m hitting the wall in the last week of April instead of the first, but still, the wall is here.

It feels like I got a hoof in the chest, or I’m under water, with my rib cage squeezed so I can’t draw a full breath, which gets tedious day after day.   At work I fight vomiting half the day, and my inability to do simple math or focus on words on a page spawns horror at the mistakes I might be making and puts my last energy into concentration.  My woodpile scratches are not healing, and sometimes my throat gets sore and feels like it’s shutting, in a matter of seconds.  Kinda weird, how something that’s all emotional can play out so physical.

I swear, my stress-coping machinery has been savaged, god knows how or when, exactly, so I’m just not equipped to manage stress, real or imagined.  Knowing it’s imagined doesn’t help. Continue reading Happiness II: happiness under duress

Another year

My birthday is next week, and I think birthdays are more suited to the reflection, self-assessment, and resolutions normally saddled on the “New Year”. As I’ve said before, I’m pretty damn happy with myself and my life exactly where I am today. Maybe I wish I was a little bit younger with tougher joints and more money?….well really, no. I am where I am, and that’s an amazingly awesome, successful place. Since it’s not about the arrival, anyways, but enjoying the work towards something you care about. So what is there to work towards that I care about? What fronts of life?

Relationship? Dante Shepherd’s opinion notwithstanding, most of my experience with relationship can be succinctly summed up with the two words, “epic fail”. On the other hand, I love being alone; I revel in it. I care less than I ever have about having a man at my side. I think that means I’m stronger emotionally or something; that I stand alone more peacefully every day. I’ve certainly never been happier.

Money? Well, money flows through my life like a wide, fast river, but it doesn’t pool anywhere. I just don’t think I’m suited for RRSPs or savings accounts. I always seem to have enough, and I can always earn more when it runs out, but there’s never any in the bank. I fantasize about the feeling of “security” of savings, of plans, of always earning the money before I spend it, but in my imagination, that feeling is just not appealing enough to put off the things I want to do. When they become available to do, I seize the day, every time, and the dollar be damned. I know when I want to change this philosophy badly enough, I will put my shoulder to it like everything else and change it. But for now, I just don’t want to badly enough. So that can be filed (with relationship) under “would be nice; no investment of energy planned”. Continue reading Another year

Happiness

I started this post as an extended review of a book called The Happiness Project, that got my wheels turning over the active and determined pursuit of happiness.  Turned out that it was a much bigger topic and focus of my life than just one little essay.

Reading the book made me realize how happy I am right now, in my life exactly the way it is. I’m well aware that many other people would not at all be happy with this, perhaps would not even be able to endure it.  I’m often perched on the edge of broke, when I work for money it’s at a job I don’t love, I’m living in my very unfinished converted barn without running water, windows or constant heat.  But in downward comparison, I have more than some of the wealthiest Cubans have.  Cuba is much better off than a lot of Africa.  Relative poverty in Canada is still unattainable riches to the  third world, and the great thing (that I’m quite grateful for), is that I rarely forget it.  I feel rich, almost all the time.  I have an abundance of time, good credit, my health, the unflickering love of friends, wood to burn and a stove to start fires in, beautiful wheels, plenty of food, clean air and water. I live in one of the most beautiful chunks of the most beautiful countries, and I really love the things I do for free.

The few aspects of my life that aren’t ideal don’t bother me that they’re not ideal, and I think that that is the real definition of happiness.  The non-ideal elements don’t throw you off the balance.  One is never going to get every aspect of your life into total alignment with your ideal vision, certainly not living as small pieces of a greater whole that is collectively terribly out of ecological harmony.  At the very least, putting off happiness until arriving at some ideal is an unreasonable expectation.

I also realize I’ve done a huge amount of work to become what I think is pretty damn happy.  I am deeply proud of being in this place, now, with a quick backward glance at struggle that at times, I barely survived.  It is not an exaggeration to say I am lucky to be alive, several times over.  But beyond luck and endurance, I am here and happy, and that is my own doing.  It does take work, and deliberate attention, and that is the gold of this book.
Oh, there’s lots more

I’m better.

The continuing pond-to-garden saga.  Trenched the walkway all around, and while so doing realized that it would be very nice to entice more bats to our home.

Mosquito season is on.

The rain continues but my sluggish, indolent, depleted lethargy left me last night quite abruptly, and all the things left undone and ignored lately came rushing back in along with my energy!  So good to be back!

Sick and rainy

My sunflowers in pellets are reaching dome-ward and my pumpkin starts are bursting larger hourly, but I’ve not yet put the seeds in the garden.  Luckily, I’ve had my late-garden guilt assuaged by the fact I’m told by all the old locals, that this area starts late and no one should seed before June.

I’m very glad that this seems true, and if I had planted two weeks ago when I should I should have, it would all be lost.  We’ve had an unseasonable stint of rain that is hammering early lettuce into the ground and rotting hapless seeds.  It has rained every day at least part of every day for over a week, and it seems like two.

This steady overcast drizzle to downpour has coincided with a bout of illness for me.  At first I thought food poisoning, but then as a few days turned into a week I sought Western medicine.  The verdict: a mild case of giardia, stay hydrated and your body will beat it.
Continue reading Sick and rainy

Nothingness and emptiness

I’m falling into a comfortable hole of nothingness and emptiness.  I’ve been increasingly folding myself into a cocoon, craving more sleep, and choosing to do less and less.   I’ve been pushing all choices away from me as contemplating choice gives me heaves of anxiety, and I don’t trust myself to make them wisely, either.  I’m grateful for the luxury to take this break, to ignore time for the moment.  Also to recede and let myself do only what I feel capable of.  I’ve been spending lots of time with the kids, on kid routine. Continue reading Nothingness and emptiness

I learned something about rag rugs.

I learned something about rag rugs.  They take a long time to do.
And smaller is not better.

I cut all of the first strips about a half inch wide.  I was surprised at how long the strip-cutting took, too, as I patiently worked beside the fire pit cutting long continuous strips out of my rag bag.  The braiding was the fastest step of all, and very satisfying- somehow even the ugliest fabric looks really cool braided against complementary colours.  However, all the work I did to make the strips long and continuous was pointless, because long strips just tangle and fray the more they’re handled.  Short workable strips worked in are the way to go.  And then, the sewing.  That’s where I really learned to start wide at the very beginning.   The tinier the little braids are, the more sewing there is.  I hand-whipped the braid all together in a back and forth rectangle.  The end result is beautiful, but small and not very thick.  It would actually make a really pretty placemat.  My second rug was more respectable, but it could be thicker again.

Tips for rag rugs- start large.  A good two or three inches wide for the rag strips at the beginning would make a respectable gauge of braid.  Always keep one of the strands under two feet long during braiding.  And whip tight.  The braids have lots of flex in them and stretch out to shape nicely.

Knee surgery

CIMG9917
This blackberry climbs the house with determination EVERY year. Even though it’s beautiful, I think it might damage the roof. Each spring and fall, we rip it all down, redirect it over its approved trellis, but no. The roof is the place to be.

Personally I’m sick to death of the saga of my knee, three major surgeries and a couple minors later, but anyways, an update.

Recovery from this, most major invasion, in which surgeon addressed about 5 different malfunctioning aspects of my damaged joint, is very, very slow.

Upsides: previously unimagined hours spent online, sleep requirements upwards of 12 hours/day, getting waited on and told to stay still.  Downsides: dizziness rising from prolonged inactivity, loss of muscle tone, and limited activity, to say the least.

I feel like I’m melting away, getting so small, but fitting my tiniest clothes is a small consolation for no longer being able to protect myself from a hummingbird.

I can do almost no strengthening yet bc of trauma and swelling, and this last week it’s developed a very alarming new locking-randomly-with-pain-when-attempt-straightening feature.  Not a meniscus thing, but a strange new tissue/muscle thing (I can tell these things by now).  So the hot, heavy foam brace is back on and I stump around like Quasimoto and can be quite effective.  For about four hours.

Unfortunately, this recovery coincides with harvest, summertime, and a moving deadline.  The vacancy date looms, but  it looks like we’ll manage.

Health

The biggest goal of my life right now is health.  Turns out “health” is a very complex concept.  I want physical, financial, spiritual, mental health for myself, but seeing as I’m one organism in a giant ecosystem, that includes all species, and all beings, and all humans on this planet, then my health is inextricably linked to the health of the whole planet.  Racial violence, and war, and starvation, and habitat destruction, and species extinction- these are monumental tragedies and we are aware of that pain in our subtle bodies whether or not we wallow in news, or recycle, or grow organic gardens.  Try as we might, we are not insulated from any of it.

 

CIMG9710(1)
Can't wait for the pears. This is the first crop on a young tree.

 

I think the pervasive toxins and mega-germs and new strains of pests that get new names and chatted up in the media are a physical manifestation, or symbol, of this fact that we’ve collectively ignored for too long- that we share everything.  Can’t be ignored any more.  Can’t run to the hills, it rains acid there too.  Germs circulate the world, we breathe each others’ air, we ingest each others’ garbage.  An individual cannot hide from the whole.  The “everything” we notice we’re sharing tends to be bad, but joy, ecstasy, and prayer also circle the world and affect everyone, positively.

The question I always ask: “What can you get up tomorrow and do differently, knowing that?” Continue reading Health