Random acts of kindness

Week 4.  Definitely getting back on my feet and getting out and about more, but still nowhere near where I should be at (even a reduced version of my former self).   Had to request a further week off work, so this is it, last week as a lady of leisure (thank goodness).   With this surgery, it definitely is a case of time, time and more time.

I read something lovely this week, something that has been going over in my mind since reading it.   I also experienced an act of kindness, and both got me thinking about the role of positive and negative things (people and thoughts) in our lives and the parts they play in dictating our moods and behaviours and responses to situations.

Here’s what I came across – a pearl is created as a result of an oyster being irritated by a grain of sand.   The oyster responds to the discomfort of the grain of sand by creating a smooth, protective coating that surrounds the sand, thereby providing relief to the oyster.   The outcome – a beautiful pearl.

When I think of some of the people in my life that have irritated, bullied or by-passed me, it can be difficult to think of them as pearls!!  However, thinking about it, it is often our reactions to irritating, annoying situations or people that can dictate how the situation turns out.   It is all about your outlook, your perspective, your thoughts.   I challenge you this week to consider situations you have found yourself in, that had not gone as you had planned or thought, and see if you had changed your original way of thinking about the situation, would the outcome (or interaction) have taken a different path.   It really is the old, glass half empty,  glass half full thinking, turning problems into challenges, negatives into positives.   Through experience I have learnt that life can be too short to spend tied up in knots over worrying about silly things, letting insignificant people get the better of you, and not being good to yourself.

This thinking was supported this week by a trip to the hairdressers (step 1 – be good to yourself!).   This hairdresser is relatively new to me.   I hobbled in (not especially upright that day and shuffling my slow shuffle) and she gave me such a warm greeting (she knew of my surgery).   She asked if I was having a colour and I said that although I was not altogether happy with my colour, being off work for 5 weeks, I was only able to stretch to a cut today and would come back another day.   (I should explain that I had had a not-so-great experience previously where, due to some misinterpretation, I had ended up as a red-head with blonde highlights – I thought I had been clear enough in asking for blonde base, with red highlights – or as my 14yr old son remarked, I like the yellow bits Mum…). She agreed that I did look a bit ‘brassy’ (really?!!) and said she’d look at it.   Without talking any further, this lovely lady put a colour wash through my hair.   When it came to paying, she refused to charge for the colour (and indeed charged less for the cut than normal) – why?  We were hyster-sisters and……she could.   It was her gift to give.

I felt the generosity and warmth of this gesture (aside from feeling much better within myself now that I did not look ‘brassy’ any longer!!) for a few days afterwards.   It reminded me of the summer before last.   We had gone home to Ireland.   I spent the last afternoon of my holidays in the hospice in Harold’s Cross, saying goodbye to my sister-in-law, who at 44yrs of age, had lost the battle with cancer.   I left the hospice distraught.   I do not remember the journey through tea-time Dublin city traffic, to the hire-car company to return the rental.   A young man dealt with my paperwork, with little interaction from me (I was doing all I could keeping it together until I met back up with my husband and kids, knowing I could pour out my grief then).   I left the offices and began walking the roads, aimlessly looking for a taxi.   Within a couple of minutes a car pulled up alongside me and it was the young man from the rental company, asking where I was heading and offering me a spin (ride).   There was something about his genuineness that made me get in the car.   He knew there was something up.   I shared some of my day with him.   He drove me straight to my destination (which was not on his route).

We never know how someone else’s day is going.  We can tend to get wrapped up in what is going on with ourselves.   I believe it is often as easy to be nice, as it is to be nasty.   Be nice to a stranger this week – you never know what it might mean to them or how it might come back to you one day.

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We’re all speaking English…..aren’t we?

Three weeks today I had my operation.   Three weeks now of convalescing, watching the world go by and wondering when I will be able to join in again.  I did try to go out for a coffee yesterday and thought I’d ‘run’ to the Bank to do one task whilst out – ha, what a laugh.   I felt like I was in one of those movies where everything around you goes into slow motion and you become the centre of attention as I crawled, one foot slowly in front of the other, across the crosswalk, at the speed of a sluggish snail.   I frantically looked around to see if I could see a little old lady that I could offer to help across the road…although thinking about it now, she probably would have been going too fast for me!  So I can report that although the recovery is going ok, the little blue and large yellow tabs are gone and I’m standing up straighter in a more homo sapien than ape-like stance, the walking, lifting and carrying are still a bridge too far.

The generosity of new friends has been fantastic – lunch brought to the house, homemade soups, vegetables from their garden, lemon tarts, grocery shopping done for me, taxi services and numerous calls, emails and texts.   It made me reflect that in the three years since we moved here, how lucky I am to have established such good friendships and a support network.   When I left home, I thought I would never have the friendships built up over a 20 year period, of neighbours, school mums, work mates and close buddies.   However, whilst they have not for sure been replaced, I have been fortunate to have met many kind, like-minded, funny people, who now form my new circle of friends and share my experiences – good and bad.

This got me thinking (I mean, what else have I been doing for the last three weeks).   The culture in Canada is so different to Europe.   As a very small example, NOBODY just calls around to the house – by calling Canadians mean phoning, and get togethers are generally pre-arranged, and not spontaneous stop-bys. It was so alien to us all when we first moved here, no longer a tourist, but an immigrant.   Trying hard to fit in, when it was plainly obvious to everyone (strange Irish accents aside), that we were newcomers.   Pretty much every aspect of life was a mini-adventure and we would sit around the dinner table for many, many months, swopping stories about our daily embarrassments, new vocabulary, questions.   To this day we have our favourite stories that give us a giggle when recounted.   So, today I thought I would share with you some new vocabulary which we have learnt over time and in doing so, hope to save all you new Irish (and others perhaps) some embarrassment or confusion. (We all know about the garbage, the sidewalk, arugula (rocket), green onions (spring onions), etc. etc. but do you know the following? (You can do this as a mini-quiz if you like!! answers at the bottom).

Explain the following (English Paper 1, Leaving Certificate 2013)

1. She lives kitty corner to me.

2. Do you have a bobby pin for my bang?  (Asked of my daughter her first week in school – she was left with her mouth open)

3. Please bring in a duo-tang tomorrow.

4. Don’t forget to bring your fanny pack (WHAT, WHAT)

5. Watch your directionals (said by my driving-instructor)!

6. Good eye, good eye (shouted at a batter during a baseball game).

7. Meet you at the bleachers (at a baseball game).  (There is a whole world of vocab around baseball which is a site unto itself!).

8. My bad.

9. (This final one is probably more of ‘teenage-speak’ than Canadian but as it had me flummoxed I thought I’d throw it in). “The rents are down“, said a teenage girl.

Remember, we’ve all come from somewhere else and can only learn from our differences and diversity. So, be kind to new people this week!

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How’d you do………………………….

1. diagonal

2. hair-clip (slide) for my fringe

3. project binder

4.  a bum-bag

5. indicators

6. In baseball, when a batter does not swing at a ball thrown by the pitcher, they are deemed to have judged it out and deliberately not swung – hence they have a good eye (at home they’d be called an eegit or blind or a blind eegit!). It took us a number of weeks (my husband and I sitting in the bleachers (oops) to realise that the crowd were not shouting “Good-day” at the players (say good-eye really quickly three times in an Australian accent and you’ll get what I mean), which of course made no sense at all.

7. stands (to sit on) at a baseball game

8. This is said (instead of sorry) by way of an apology i.e. oh, it was me that did that, it was my fault, and I’m sorry about that (except that the person generally does not look at all sorry!)

9. The parents are ok (with my plans)!

Home is where you make it

Day 13 as a member of the new club – Hyster-sisters.   Day 13 of being ‘incarcerated’ in my own home, shuffling from room to room, measuring my progress against how long it takes me to get up the stairs (have I stopped being judgemental about those chair lift ads), choosing a different place to sit and rest for the hundredth time.   The boredom is not something I bargained for.  I know I should be incredibly grateful – the operation was a success, it’s behind me, I have low levels of pain (although I am not sure how much the little blue opiate pills are contributing to this?), I have great help around the house, a stack of books and DVDs.  But what to do.   It’s all about the action, the next job, making time count by evidence of what you’ve done.  The luxury of having some time to read and rest seems instead criminal.   Unfortunately this way of thinking is a throw back to an upbringing where there was always something that could be found to do – that and the Type A personality.   Do you think I could subscribe to being a Type B for say, the next two weeks?   It definitely has to be about how you look at this – opportunity or loss.
While I’m trying to figure this out I have decided to try blogging so that the time in captivity would not seem like such a ‘waste’ and I would have a goal each week.  The challenge….what to write.   So let’s start with some observations.

My family and I moved to Canada 3 years ago.   It’s been tough but we are getting there and in spite of missing family and friends, we have mustered on and made new friends and a new life.   This time stuck inside, however, has made me reflect on ‘home’ more than ever – what I probably wouldn’t allow myself indulge in (thoughts of home) when I was able to keep myself busy.  I think also, the nature of going into hospital, being ‘sick’, brings you back to other such times and who cared for you and what helped you through the process.   Things are done differently in different countries.   At home, people would not ring (call) in advance of arriving at your door, but would be there with an Irish Stew, or scones hot out of the oven, or an apple tart (a slice to go with your cup of tea), pushy, telling you what to do (get back into bed), bringing you up to date with all the news.   There is a course an element of this missing, being so far away from home (5000kms).   My new friends have been wonderful, with many offers of help, grocery shopping being done and lunches arriving at my door.

The hubbie and kids went to the CNE a few days ago – longing to get out of the house those last few days before going back to school having ‘nursed’ mum so well for the previous few (precious) days.   It was their first time there.   They had a ball (great time!).   When they eventually came home my daughter was all excited to show me the treat they had bought me.   (I imagined all sorts – new nail varnish, a T-shirt with something funny written on it, the infamous cronut burger perhaps?).   Wrong.   She stood in front of me, beaming, with a packet of Rich Tea biscuits in her hand.  Not any packet of Rich Tea.   McVities Rich Tea – the REAL ones.  “Look at what we found” she exclaimed.   I almost cried.   We had been talking about the things that you associate with being sick when younger (fizzy orange lucozade, green grapes) and I had said that I had loved rich tea biscuits with butter when sick – not fattening, not heavy on the stomach, dunkable!, just perfect – comfort food.   That was all it took.   Those biscuits brought some of the comfort I was yearning.   So, together with my family, and the wonderful new friends, and my little bit of comfort, of home I think I can now say that……..Home is …… where the tea and biscuits are, the family and buddies …. home is where you make it.

If you’re finding it hard, be good to yourself.   Surround yourself with good people, positive experiences and some little comforts.

Hyster Sisters

Today, one week ago, I awoke from my surgery.   I was glad to be awake…..and back in the world again.   I had just had a hysterectomy.   I had waited a long time to be here, on the other side of all the plans, talk, disrupted life and weariness from one continuous 8 month period.   Oh the plans…..those white trousers I could now wear worry-free, the pool parties I could begin accepting invitations to once again, the weekends away with hubbie and all that goes with that…..as of today, I cannot begin to imagine what life used to be like and may be like again.  

“Welcome to the hyster-sisters”, one friend wrote. To what?   I had never heard of such a club – nor aspired to be one of it’s members (until a few months ago).   It’s a bit like the club of ‘parethood’ – you do not realise it exists until you are an exclusive member and happy to be there.  

The kids don’t quite know how to talk about it.   My son (14) asked if I would now go through the menopause…..great question but how did he think to ask that…..some internet search I imagine.  My daughter (16) asked what she should tell her friends as to why she was playing Florence Nightingale to her mum?  “Tell them the truth”, I said, “I’m not keeping it private”.   Somehow that was a bridge too far for hyper-sensitive teenager girls so she just texted “Mum can’t have any more babies”.   She then turned to her brother and quipped “No more womb-mates for us”! quoting from one of her favourite Adam Sandler movies.  It made me laugh, which is not a good thing – laughing and coughing are not to be encouraged in these early stages, where any slight movement from the belly-button to the knees causes a pain best to be avoided.  How do women who have had a cescarian section do it – deal with this pain, discomfort, lack of movement, whilst tending to a newborn?  New empathy and respect.     

The narcotics are working great.   The Type-A personality, not adjusting so well.   How does someone who had 3 part-time jobs, two teenagers, a dog, a house to manage, two bookclubs, a social life, come to a dead stop?   All this sitting down – last time I did this I was a year old and had not yet started walking.   All those books bought in anticipation, the Netflicks subscribed to (for mum….yeah!), the DVD boxsets – sitting and doing nothing is not all it’s cracked up to be.   How does one, who never switches off, is the chief organiser and bottle-washer, and always, always has at least two things on the go at any one time, stop and rest?   This is very difficult.   I have been told to take a month off work……..how do I keep occupied, rest, exercise and do NOTHING for even another week.   My body is putting certain limitations on me…..my mind is in over-drive.   So, I have decided to start a blog, a sharing of my experiences while ‘incarcerated’, an insight into how a Type A might sit still for an extended period.   (I have started to watch Orange is the new Black!  no laughing though!).  The lack of ‘control’ over the small domestic stuff like the dishwasher sitting there for 12 hours without being unloaded, the clothes in the dryer being left there for 2 nights, shoes strewn all over the place (it’s the ultimate needling as I cannot bend to pick them up!).   The kids and hubbie are going a fantastic job – I just have my ways of doing things, to my time schedules and my standards (could someone rub the countertop down every few hours please?) – I wonder if this will enable me to become a more relaxed person when this is all behind me?  Will the kids continue their marvelous domestication now that they have been introduced to the washer, dryer, where dishes go?  Will I develop a new ability NOT to see dirty dishes, clothing dropped on floors, dust……? Or will we all revert to traditional roles?  We can only wait and see.