Red Jellybeans…

We’ve often heard that the only thing one can be certain of in life, is uncertainty. Call it change, call it growth, call it whatever you will, I call it – stress, discombobulation, and absolute chaos.

While knowing that the sun will always rise in the east, and fall in the west – I cannot count on seeing the sun every, single day. For some, this is not a big a deal. They roll with the punches and most of all, they don’t put as much stock into certainty. But for someone like me, someone who needs predictability and order to help me get through the day, it’s amazing just how much a little bit more to the left or a sudden change to the right can affect my world.

The end of the school year is always a hectic one – and it has been for as long as I can remember.

When we were kids, growing up on the other side of the world in Saudi Arabia, the end of the school year meant that we were packing our suitcases for weeks long vacations through Europe and to come and visit my dad’s family here in Canada. It meant that I could go from my daily routine of school, to being able to ride bikes down the hill at my cousin’s house (and try not to crash in the parked cars!) in idyllic Hamilton, or swing from the tire swing at the park near my grandma’s house in St. Catharines and best of all, walk down the street and buy a Freezie from the convenient store.

My mom would pack those suitcases for days, my dad would make sure all the papers, hotel reservations and tickets were in order. All I had to do was show up, little sister in tow.  Now it’s my turn. And there are days when I truly feel like I’m drowning in all the chaos; drowning in all of the choices and responsibilities; unable to see the calm.

They say it’s personality.

Some people have this innate ability to navigate their way through life without ever letting on that the pressure is getting to them.

I, on the other hand, am the epitome of a pressure cooker…with a release valve that seemingly appears to be sealed shut…until it’s not.

And it very loudly alerts all those around that I’m about to go off!!

I repeat to myself, over and over again, “I must try and take my steps more lightly. I must try and take my steps more lightly.” I mean, they will not define my every being. Yet the pressure in the cooker increases and it gets louder and I can barely hear myself above the FFFFFSSSSSHHHHHHHH!!!!!!

Part of the problem is me, of course. Like most modern women, we want it all. Like most modern women, we don’t want to let any of the balls we’re juggling come tumbling to the ground because they’re important to us: partners, kids, family, jobs, friends, commitments and so on. Like most modern women, we even find it difficult to just put any one of those balls on the shelf or in our pocket even for a moment for fear that we may be missing out on something or worse yet, make the wrong choice.

Oh to have the strength of clarity…even in the face of uncertainty!

My seven year old is exceptional at limits and at being direct. He does what he does in such a way as to not even show any doubt in his decision making abilities and eventual choices. That is, unless of course it’s free dress day and he has to wear what his best friend is going to wear and I have to miraculously guess what that’s going to be!

In any case, every week when the boys would go to their swim class, as a reward for a job well done, they’d each get a quarter to use on the dispensing machines on our way out. These machines are a child’s dream: an assortment of candies and bouncy balls. My older son now has a healthy collection of bouncy balls – a testament to his many weeks of hard work and perseverance. My younger son, on the other hand does not. Not because he doesn’t also earn his quarters, but because he prefers to use his quarter to buy jellybeans, a consumable that’s gone within minutes.

I cannot understand the seven year old’s choice. The almost eleven year old and I are the same: we like stuff that lasts. Neither of us are good at delayed gratification (i.e. saving those quarters for something bigger in the end) but we sure do like our stuff. And those bouncy balls are a metaphor for things…material things…trophies! The seven year old is more like Mr. Niceguy: all about the experience.

One week, unable to let go, and accept buying jellybeans as a wise way to use his quarter, I asked the seven year old,

“Why do you keep buying jellybeans? Don’t you know we can easily get these at the store and you can have them whenever you want? Don’t you CARE about bouncy balls?”

To which he replied most matter-of-factly, “I CARE about red jellybeans.”

Point made. I was completely surprised and delighted all at once. This little boy had the freedom to choose but most importantly he had given himself the freedom to be at peace with his choice. There’s a lesson here…

Nothing is perfect – so it follows that uncertainty is a normal state. However, in it, there are elements of certainty: love, fun, laughter and our amazing ability to come through whatever it is we face – even if we’re not exactly who we were when we started. And while there will be days when the loud FSSSSHHHH of the pressure cooker seems to completely block my ears and keep me from remembering to take my steps more lightheartedly, I know I’ll get through them, one red jellybean at a time.

Epilogue: Modern day life is complicated. While many advances have contributed to increasing the length and quality of our lives, they have also presented us with more choices and options than ever before which can sometimes be daunting. Taking a step back, a deep breath and listening to what we really want despite what we think we want, as difficult as it can be, is a good way to move ahead. Try it…and have a safe and happy summer!

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Green eggs and ham!

One of my favourite people is moving on and another is hitting a major milestone – you could say they’re both on the cusp of change which I’m resisting…

Seems like the start of summer has always been full of change:  the end of the school year, the start of a new summer job, a trip somewhere exotic and of course, the promise of a summer fling!   These changes were always easy to accept, but as we age, it seems we move farther and farther away from these “fun” changes and approach different kinds of change – riskier change:  do I risk a steady paycheck and quit my job to pursue my dream?  Do I leave the man that’ll make a perfect husband and son-in-law and follow my heart?  Do I pick up and move across the world to chase my destiny? 

Another birthday comes, another candle is added onto the cake.  Why is change so hard to accept?  Is it the fear of the unknown?  Does the law of physics have anything to do with it?  (You know, an object in motion, stays in motion, and an object at rest stays at rest.  However in this case, the status quo or the “known” is akin to the “rest.”)  Is it sheer laziness?

Whatever their reasons, most people tend to resist change – and some with utter and abject vehemence.  Like the other day, when I was rushing to get the kids to school – ok, truth is that with just several days to go to the end of school (at time of writing), I was late…waaaaay behind and I couldn’t be as I’d been chosen to be a parent chaperone on the 5 year old’s field trip!  The bus would surely leave without us and then I’d have to find a way to make it up to him like having to bribe him with (again!!!) this gift or that and I’m seriously turning into the worst – parent – ever!!!

A furious man driving, as seen from behind the wheel. Shot using a very wide fisheye lens.

A furious man driving, as seen from behind the wheel. Shot using a very wide fisheye lens.

Anyway, we raced out the door, toaster waffles hanging out of our mouths, into the car, en route to school…only the intersection was blocked!  So irritating!  Didn’t we all learn in driver training that you are NOT supposed to block intersections?!!!  While a couple of cars made way, one remained steadfastly put, despite having ample room to move.  Suppressing my inner, road-rage-prone monster, I lowered my window and asked kindly, “Pardon me, sir?  Would you mind moving a little forward and letting me through, please?”  He snapped, “I’ve gone as far as I can!  I can’t move any further!”  Fortunately, he got dirty looks from all those around and moved up all the same, letting us through.

Why was he so opposed?  Why are we all so resistant when faced with the impetus for change?  Is it because we’ve just become comfortable with the status quo…even if that status quo became the status quo only a moment ago?  Confused?  Think of it this way.  Imagine having to get across a stream.  To do so, you have to jump from one rock to the next until you make it across.  Each rock represents change from one to the next.  When you’re preparing to jump you are most uncomfortable – most fearful of change – and as soon as you land, you are at once relieved and comfortable again.  Change can be risky…you could land in the water and most situations in life aren’t so bad that you would actually fall in the water and drown.  Most of us draw on ourselves to figure things out – to swim to the next rock, if you will.

A-Family-Crossing-Stepping-Stones-On-A-River

So now, my one friend is reaching a major milestone and while I’m happy that she’ll now be in the same decade as me, she is also the last of our “Fantastic Four” to reach it.  In a way, we have now all moved on to adulthood.  If I think about it enough though, I no longer have to feel like she could still claim to be in her thirties when I couldn’t so that’s not such a bad thing, right?  Pfft.  But that’s really not what’s bothering me at all.  I pretended like hitting that milestone was no big deal…but now that I’m in the decade – and becoming ever more entrenched – I’m not only facing change but fearing it!

My other friend is doing what I only dare to…in my dreams.  She is moving her family halfway around the world to realize a goal that she set for herself – to rediscover and make a go of it in our homeland. To some, this seems crazy – I admit it did to me at first too – leaving the creature comforts of home, the routines, the stability and security for something completely different, new, and unknown.  For me, all I can think of is the loss I’d feel of leaving behind my friends, my family, MY LIFE!!!

I do not like them, Sam I am.  I do not like green eggs and ham.  I do not like them here or there, I do not like them anywhere.

2739-3-green-eggs-ham-dr.-seuss-liteLike the stodgy, unhappy character in the famous Dr. Seuss children’s book who does not want to try something new like green eggs and ham, I admit it, I fear the unknown…I fear change.  In particular, I fear the kind of change that is thrust upon me like, “You’d be perfect for this new job – c’mon you’d be a fool to turn it down!” (despite the fact that you weren’t looking and are enjoying being master of your own domain…) or “I know you like roller coasters…who cares if this one is higher than any you’ve ridden before, you’ve just gotta try it!” (despite the fact that while you love adventure, perhaps you prefer the kind with both feet on the ground…waaaaaaay on the ground.)

But just like the Dr. Seuss character…you’ve got to try it, because you just might find that you like green eggs and ham!  Interestingly enough, one of the key traits that all happy people exhibit, aside from living in the present and trusting that everything happens for a reason, is that they all embrace change.  So join me, let’s embrace change this summer!

Life’s too short to make up all sorts of rules for ourselves that keep us from realizing its full potential.  Take a look around.  What change have you been resisting?  Why are you resisting it?  What is the chance that you’ll slip and not land on that next rock?  Will it be the end of the world as you know it?  I mean, really?  Then DO IT!  If I can ride the Behemoth roller coaster at a peak height of 230 feet (despite my hypochondriac woes about dislodging some blood clot, popping a spinal disc, or having an instant heart attack), who knows, then perhaps being fully immersed in this decade isn’t so bad…and my other friend?  Well, she’s just a plane ride and an email away…

Behemoth