At What Cost?

This may be a deep, thoughtful subject. It’s definitely going to be a controversial one. It’s also definitely a conversation worth having. It’s a conversation about choice and the right to make your own decisions. It’s about the end of life.

I read a blog a few days ago about a husband and wife, scientists from Australia, who had decided when and what their end of life would be. They made no secret that this is what they had planned. I read it, then watched the video, then did a lot of thinking.

The Big Sleep

I thought about my pets, and how I loved them too much to let them suffer. I respected when it “was time” and let them go, though it broke my heart. Sometimes it seems we have more compassion for our pets than we do our loved ones.

And I thought about some animals in the wild, who wander off when it’s time to die, so that they can be alone and not weaken the herd or pack.

Then I thought about some people I have met in nursing homes, incapable of seeing, hearing, communicating; being kept alive on machines, mind and body long deserted.

And I thought, “At what cost?” We can make people live much longer than ever before, but at what cost? Are we keeping people alive against their will? Quality of life must factor into the equation at some point.

Taking into consideration that there is a great cost to society dealing with an aging population in nursing homes, if they do not want to continue living, why are we doing it? For the families? Because we’re afraid to lose them? Isn’t that like letting your beloved pet suffer because you’re not ready to let go? Isn’t that kind of selfish?

Please don’t misunderstand me – I’m definitely not saying “Kill all the old people”. I’m saying if someone whats to end on their own pre-defined terms, whether because of chronic illness or progressive dementia, do we have the right to force them to continue? At all costs?

I don’t know the answer. I’m not saying this is right for me and you may say it’s not right for you. I’m saying we need to think about this. While we have developed the means to keep people alive, maybe we also should be respecting people’s wishes to die – within reason.

You may notice that I’m leaving God and religion out of this discussion. MY God never wants us to suffer. Having been brought up Roman Catholic, the explanation always given when someone dies is that God called them “home” and that it was God’s “will”. Well, if someone is dying (God calling them home) and we force them to stay alive through artificial means, are we not circumventing God’s will?

We all need to think about this – it’s a huge moral and ethical question and it needs to be discussed more as a human right.

2016 – The Year of Living

new-year-resolution-c-carouselHappy New Year 2016!

I’m not a fan of resolutions, as I think they set us up for disappointment and self-loathing. Setting a resolution tends to make us over-critical of ourselves, as if somehow we aren’t good enough just as we are. Sure, we can all get healthier, lose weight, quit smoking, etc., but those are things we should be doing all the time anyway without needed to start self-hating. At the end of the year we can look back on everything we didn’t accomplish and feel even worse about ourselves. Resolutions are not necessary or healthy. For example, I quit smoking a few years ago and I didn’t make a resolution to do it. I just did it.hobbes

What I’d like to do is set loftier goals. What are loftier goals you ask? Good question. I am going to aspire to be a nicer person, and a happier person. I’m going to set some realistic goals for myself that are based more on personality development, and then on the first of every month, I’ll revisit my goals. I can pat myself on the back for the ones that I am actually doing, I can re-commit to some others by re-thinking how to achieve the goal, or I can completely discard the goal if I don’t think it’s realistic, or if my interests have changed. No long-term commitment – this is like a month-to-month lease.

I want to be more conscious of what I’m buying and eating, and I’m not talking diet. My purpose is to buy Canadian products whenever and wherever possible and share my Canadian finds with as many people as I can. I think this is a good way to raise awareness of where our products are grown, produced, manufactured, etc. and might have a positive influence on Canadian jobs. If I can’t find a Canadian product (for example, pineapples don’t grow in Canada), I’ll look for products from the USA.

foot in mouthI also want to be a more positive and less critical person. My purpose is to try to elevate my moods by spreading kindness around. Some people do this by paying it forward at a coffee shop drive through. I don’t use drive throughs though (I actually think they’re the best example of laziness and disregard for our air quality), so I’ll do it by trying to say something nice about most people I meet. I’ll try for three a day. It might be to compliment someone on their appearance, or thank them sincerely for good service, etc. I’ll smile more too – smiling is infectious. Before I make a comment, I will try to ask myself, “Is it helpful?” “Is it supportive?” “Is it necessary?” I’m going to try to be more patient and remember the golden rule – if I can’t say something nice, say nothing at all. Not terribly hopeful on that last part, but I’ll re-evaluate how realistic it is after a month.

I want to disconnect from a lot of social media as well. The town I live in has several Facebook pages, and so many of the comments on them can be very negative. I have a tendency to try and correct misinformation, but I now realize that ignorance truly is bliss for most people. A friend recently pointed out to me that most successful people aren’t on Facebook very much and I realize that’s true. It’s also true that the people who are on Facebook most of the time, don’t have much else going on in their lives. Please don’t let that be me!

I’m going to put a limit on my Facebook activities and even leave some of the groups that I’m a part of because of the negativity. All town information will be on a need to know basis and I don’t need to know about other people’s negativity and close-mindedness. It just makes me lose faith in society. Along those same lines, I’m going to learn to walk away or set boundaries with negative people or people who consistently upset me. I don’t know if they do it deliberately or if it’s just how I’m perceiving it, but whatever the reason, I will no longer accept that negativity in my life. It’s bad for my chakra*.

Since I’ll be disconnecting from Facebook more, I’d like to devote some time each week to writing. I find writing elevates my mood, and allows me to connect with my inner spirit. I’ve already started writing more with this blog and by joining a writing group, so I’m well on my way! I’m also going to spend some time each week reading. I find I’ve been spending more time reading news lately and not recreational reading. I have a list of books I’d like to check out – some e-books and some physical books, but reading a novel for even for 15 minutes a day will be relaxing for me.

And here’s a weird one – I’d like to watch more television shows/movies. This is something I’ve stopped doing over the past year and like reading and writing, it’s a way for me to relax. I’m not going to expect to watch television every evening or go to the movies every week, but I’d like to go to the movies at least every two months if there’s something worth seeing, and watch recreational television for at least an hour or so a week.

I’d like to try something new at least once a month. It might be colouring, a drum circle, wine-tasting, bus trips, whatever – just something to get me out of my stale routine and keep life interesting. If I hear that friends are going to be doing something different, I’m going to speak up and ask if I can join them. I’ve met some really nice, positive people over the past few months by doing this, and it’s definitely a positive thing. I’d like to try yoga and meditation for example. Maybe I can find a friend who would be interested in these things as well. I’d also like to go to Toronto on a Friday evening for storytelling. I used to go years ago and really enjoyed it, so I’d like to do it again and maybe introduce some friends to it.

When I get stuck in a rut, I start to become afraid of change. I need to get out of my comfort zone and stretch my wings a bit. Life’s too short just to go through the motions and soon I’ll be another year older. I’m now at the age where I never know how much time I have left. Time to learn to live.

So here’s a summary of my list of goals:Growing

  • Buy and promote Canadian products (because this is important to me)
  • Say something nice to 3 people a day
  • Be less critical and impatient
  • Avoid negative people
  • Limit interactions on Facebook
  • Make time to write
  • Make time to read (aim for 15 mins a day)
  • Make time to watch TV (aim for an hour a week)
  • Go to the movies at least once every 2 months
  • Try to do something new or different at least once a month
  • Try yoga and meditation
  • Re-visit the goals on the first of every month

Welcome to 2016 – I’m looking forward to the journey!

*This is the first time I’ve used the word “chakra”. It just felt right. I looked it up after I used it and it definitely is the word I wanted to use.

Tears

tearsI cry a lot. I have always cried a lot. I’ve cried for many reasons. When I was a little girl, my teachers made fun of me in school for crying so much. One teacher, at William G. Miller Public School in Scarborough refused to let me go on a school trip to Niagara Falls because I cried so much.

I didn’t have an easy childhood. There was a stigma to being in the Children’s Aid Society (CAS). Neighbour’s children were not allowed to play with me, a teacher at Norman Cook Public School refused to talk to me. I was tainted with the sins of my biological parents. I had been abused and had nightmares. Life scared me and I had trouble fitting in. The loneliness hurt very badly.

So I cried.

My foster-father made me buy my own tissues – as if somehow that would make me reluctant to cry. Finally he tried to understand.

“Why do you cry so much?” he asked me quizzically.

“Because it makes me feel better” I explained. “When I feel sad and alone, or if my feelings are hurt, I cry about it and then I feel better.”

He shook his head in confusion. I knew he couldn’t understand; he couldn’t relate to me. I loved him for trying though.

My crying continued.

In my twenties, I was often told at work that I needed to grow a thicker skin. The only way that would happen was if I stopped feeling though, or stopped caring. I kept crying.

I cried around family too. If my daughter came home from school and told me someone had called her a name or hurt her, I cried. I could almost feel her pain. I took her pain and disappointment on myself; how I wished I could remove her pain in doing so.

Seeing homeless people or abandoned or mistreated animals breaks my heart. I have only to close my eyes and imagine the suffering in the world to feel the pain; warm tears will follow.

In my thirties, a woman named Jacqui told me it didn’t look good to cry at work. She suggested the stairwells. They quickly became my “go to” places. If I thought I was going to start crying, I would suddenly remember something I had “left” somewhere else, and would dash to the stairs to go and get it.

Once, in a meeting during a difference of opinion, someone said to me “Are you going to start crying now?” I realized it takes more than that to make me cry now; first I have to care.

I’m glad I cry. Besides the release, it reminds me that I am alive, that I have a heart, and that I care. I worry about people who never cry. Have they hardened their hearts? Does nothing touch them? Or do they only cry for themselves when they’re alone and nobody can see them?

We cannot fully appreciate the happy times in life until we know what sadness is, so thank God I cry. I love the times when I’m filled with happiness and joy, but when someone makes me cry, they’ve touched my soul. I still have a heart and I can still be hurt. I can still feel the pain when those I love are hurt.

I still cry. Not for myself as often, but for those who are close to me.I cry for the insensitivity of some people. I cry for the future of our world and I cry for  the injustices I see all around me. I cry for you and I cry for me. I cry for all of us.

I’m glad I can still cry.

Memories of Christmas Past

For the first time in many years, I’m home on Christmas with nothing to do, except clean up from the night before since we had our Christmas dinner on Christmas Eve. I tried to plan something for today. I tried to find a place where I could volunteer to help serve Christmas dinner – at a shelter or church. Getting the vulnerable sector screen done at the police station was not the problem. Most places had a policy in place where volunteers had to be trained and training was scheduled for January. Some places were surprised I was offering and didn’t know how to answer me. Some never answered at all. Emails and voice mails left unanswered.

I don’t remember any Christmases before I went in the CAS at 5 years old. I remember the Christmases afterwards though. My foster mother, Alice, would bake the week before – mincemeat tarts, lemon tarts, butter tarts, and shortbread cookies. Then there would be tortière. On Christmas eve, my father, Art, would drive us around to see all the glorious Christmas lights. We’d joke about the most extravagant ones, how they must work for the hydro company! When we got home, we’d hang our stockings, drink our eggnog, watch a Christmas movie on TV, sing some carols, and then go to bed and try to sleep; excited for the arrival of Santa.

On Christmas morning we’d find our stockings on our beds, to keep us amused until the grownups awoke. Inside were colouring books and crayons, clementine oranges (a real treat back then), jigsaw puzzles and small books to read. When the grownups awoke, we’d have breakfast at the kitchen table; usually pancakes or french toast. Then we’d gather around the Christmas tree to open our gifts. We learned patience and delayed gratification in the process! The gifts were never anything large, usually clothing, books, a jigsaw puzzle, and a toy or two. A handmade cradle for a favourite doll, a stuffed animal (mine was a poodle) that we could cuddle with at night; just little things that showed us we were loved and thought of.

After we got dressed, we’d help my mother in the kitchen with the turkey. We’d chop onions and celery for the stuffing, and prepare the turkey for the oven. Even the phrase “sweet and savory” reminds me of my childhood Christmases. In the afternoon the relatives would start to arrive. They’d bring bottles of wine and boxes of candy, such as chocolate covered cherries and Allsorts licorice. We’d all talk at once, in French and in English and eat until we’d almost burst. I’d pass my lima beans to our dog Rex discretely, and he’d be grateful because someone snuck him food from the table!

Dishes were done in shift work. When the tea towel from drying got too wet to dry anymore, another person with another towel would take over. Clean up went by quickly.

So while I spend an uneventful day today, I’m reflecting on my parents, and how grateful I am for all that they gave me and taught me. I’m grateful for the “normal” childhood, for the values demonstrated, and for the lessons of charity that were their most important gifts to me. I tried for many years to recreate that feeling of Christmas and family in my home. I hope I did. Because it isn’t about the expensive gifts, it’s about family, friends, and above all else, love.

This Christmas, I wish everyone much love in their lives.

Finding Hope

When I hear Donald Trump talk about closing the borders to Muslims, and I see how many Americans agree with him, I tell myself it’s because they’re American. Canadians have always cared more, we are a caring society after all. Many Canadians feel the same way though, and that disappoints me because I know we’re better than that.

The news depresses me. “Toronto the Good” has stabbings, murders, robberies, and more, happening on an increasing basis. A spoiled rich boy drives drunk and kills three small children with their grandfather, and now they’re talking plea deal. A random woman who worked in the financial district walks into a drugstore downtown and stabs an apparent stranger, who later dies. As a society, we’re going mad it seems. I read about a man who died alone in his apartment, undiscovered for weeks. No family or friends. Completely alone. I feel so sad for this man I didn’t even know. Nobody should be alone.

I put Christmas music on in my car and headed out for dinner, for a brief reprieve from the tragedies of the world. For an hour, I seek quiet music, good food, and relaxation.

We ended up at a restaurant called Jacx on Woodbine Avenue, just north of Newmarket, Ontario. I haven’t been there in years, since it was called the Ladle. I was happy to see it quite busy – the business is doing well and that’s good. We sat at a small table beside a couple with their child, and ordered. When our neighbour’s meal came, it was huge – she had ordered the lamb shank. She saw us looking at her plate, and started telling us how good the lamb was there. Then she asked us to give her our bread plate, and she’d give us a piece to try. A complete stranger, offering to share her food – amazing! We declined though as neither of us really likes lamb.

20215 Woodbine, Queensville, ON L0G 1R0
Jacx Restaurant – Bar and Grill

A solitary keyboard player sang songs that nobody under the age of forty or maybe even fifty would remember. He played well, although some songs were a bit fast. His singing was unfortunate – I’ll just leave it at that. The lady at the table beside me got up and walked over to an elderly gentleman sitting in a booth, pulled him to his feet and started to dance. It was incredible to watch the friendliness and warmth of this complete stranger.

It doesn’t matter what I ate that night. I met a woman from Newmarket named Fran, her husband Dave and son Christopher, and I realized that not everyone has closed their hearts. I learned a lesson from Fran last night – to always talk to strangers, always be willing to share good things, and don’t hesitate to dance!

Maybe there’s hope for us after all.

The Season for Giving

 

Syrians

Christmas is just around the corner. This is the time of year that embodies the spirit of giving. And yet, for so many people it’s only about receiving, and their giving is limited to their immediate circle.

There is a refugee crisis happening and as we accept some displaced people into our country, the ugliness of some people is starting to show. A familiar refrain I continue to hear is “we need to help our own first”. Such concern for the woes of our society is admirable, or is it? What do these people actually do to help others in OUR society? Most of the time, absolutely nothing. They donate neither time nor money to any charitable cause.

Some of the people making these remarks have very comfortable lives, sometimes owning several houses. There they sit in their comfortable, heated homes, complaining that the people we’re helping don’t look as destitute as they expected. As if somehow they need to suffer more before “deserving” our help. Or they’ll complain that the coats that were donated (we live in a cold climate) were too expensive. Companies should only give them cheap things. They don’t deserve any better than that. How dare someone be given a $400 coat for free. Ikea is giving away furniture – what the heck! I’d like a free couch too!

It’s the “me” generation. Screw everyone else, let’s just worry about ourselves. I’d like to say I’d refuse to help these people if they ever needed it, but that’s not who I am.

It reminds me of a US state governor who voted against providing aid to another state during a disaster. When his state was hit with a similar disaster, he demanded the federal government step in and provide aid to them.  There’s a word for people like that – actually several words. Hypocrite, selfish, greedy, uncaring, cold hearted, unChristian.

It’s also ugly and disgusting.

Oh, and the comments about “helping our own first”? Some of my ancestors were aboriginals (Cree and Metis). It’s a good thing they didn’t think that way, isn’t it?

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