Thinking About Death – It’s normal.

This week I had coffee with a young man. He is celebrating his 28th birthday this week. He asked me, “At what age did you start to become aware of your own mortality? When did you start thinking more about your own death?”  I’ve been thinking about it a lot in the last few years. I told him I think it happens when you hit your 50’s.  Your 30’s & 40’s are a blur of career building and parenting. Then suddenly your kids move out and you start to look at your life differently.

As I’ve reflected on his question, I’ve decided there are a few major life events that provide the conditions to start thinking about death.

1. Health: Your own health influences how much you think about dying.  And apparently the reverse is true as well. The more you think about dying the more you focus on healthy habits. Last year, when I was diagnosed with cancer, I couldn’t help but think about death. My own death. Melanoma is scary and deadly. So, I thought a lot about dying. Anyone I know who has had a serious illness has thought about death. No matter what their current age.

2. Grandchildren: Now that I am a nana (to the most beautiful little girl – in case, I haven’t mentioned it) I think a lot about the fact that I am ageing and that there is another generation coming along. It is a natural progression butretro couple in moon when it becomes parts of your reality, you come face to face with your legacy in a different way.

3. Your Parents: My dad was just diagnosed with dementia. It has been a sad few weeks for me. As I watch my parents age and their health decline my own mortality is once again brought to my attention.  My mother is only 20 years older than me. I often look at her and think ‘that’s me in 20 years’.   Many of my friends have lost a parent by this stage. When I ask them about it, they all tell me it feels like the passing of the torch. Your parents no longer are the family matriarch and patriarch – you become that person in your family.

So, it happens. Time marches on and one day, you find yourself thinking about how much time you have left. Although we never really know, in your 50’s you know that even if you live until 80 you only have x amount of years left (you can do the math). So, what do we do with that awareness? I’ve been thinking a lot about ageing well.  I’ll blog about it soon.

August

I always find August to be such a transitional month. If any month could be called ‘liminal’ it is this eighth month of the year. The nights are cooler, the mornings darker and the foliage seems to be losing some of the lushness of July. This morning when I went for my early morning walk the street lights were still on.

Frog-City-Cafe-Outdoor-PatioAnd then there is the calendar. September is always so busy. We hold off on making plans until ‘the fall’. I find my clients aren’t really interested in booking too much until after Labour Day. I have had several conversations with friends about ‘getting back to work’ or ‘getting focused’ or ‘getting thing in order’. I know we have aligned our lives to the school year and as a society we tend to orient our lives around September as the beginning of a new year. I often hear people comment that September feels more like the beginning of a new year than January does.

So, when I think of transition and this time before we settle into things once again and get back to work, I think we need to be present in this month. We know September is coming. But for a few more precious weeks we can relax and enjoy the warm weather, the slower pace, the opportunity to sit outside on a patio and the incredible bounty of the early harvest fruit and vegetables that fills the markets.

September isn’t here yet.

What I Hope My Daughter Does Better Than I Did #1

As a new nana (the moniker I’ve adopted as grandma) I have been thinking a lot about my own parenting journey. There are plenty of things I did well and then there are some things I would do differently. I had a conversation this week with a friend about things we wish we had done differently with our kids. We both raised our kids with some crazy fundamentalist influences as active members of evangelical churches in Canada. I add the ‘in Canada’ because I think we often think that the crazy evangelicals live south of the border. I want to assert they are alive and well in Canada as well.

Tonight I read a guest blogger on Rachel Held Evans blog about her experiences as a young woman in a conservative church. If you haven’t been part of a conservative church culture you might find it bizarre. If you have, you know you have your own version of her story. The post brought back my parenting conversation I just had with a friend.

Both of us were part of church movements that viewed a lot of kids programming as ‘anti-Christian’. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (TMNT) , Pokemon, Power Rangers and The Simpsons were evil. I believed that allowing my kids to watch these programs would lead them down the garden path to hell. These programs, I was taught to believe, held anti-Christian message, insidious cult references and if I was serious about my relationship with God, I would not allow my kids to watch them.

I remember, being in a department store with my son, he had to be about six years old. We were looking a toys and he saw another boy in the aisle. My son loudly announced, “Look mommy, that boy doesn’t love Jesus!” Horrified, I asked him what he meant and he pointed out that the boy was wearing a TMNT t-shirt. Proof that the six year old boy didn’t love Jesus and was already living a life of sin and debauchery. I was embarrased and made it out of the store very quickly. I was also concerned that my son had made such a strong link between God’s love and a TV program. However, I was also convinced that I was doing a good job instilling good values in my kids.

My kids were not allowed to go out for Halloween – clearly linked to the occult and demonic. Read Harry Potter? Are you kidding?? They were however allowed to watch programs that were somehow deemed to be OK by the church culture. These programs included: Dr.Quinn, Medicine Woman; Seventh Heaven; and of course, Touched By An Angel. No one seemed concerned about the messages in those programs although I did wonder why the pastor’s salary we lived on didn’t provide a home like the one the family on Seventh Heaven lived in!

As my friend and I talked this week, we both can’t believe we were so stupid! What were we thinking? How is it possible that we were that indoctrinated by the evangelical church culture? I remember when my husband was interviewed by the church he pastored for 15 years, the only question the search committee had for me was, “Do you allow your kids to watch Disney movies? We all know how many kids have been destroyed watching the Lion King!

So, what do I hope my daughter does better than I did? I already feel optimistic about her not raising her kids in the fundamentalist Christian church culture. She has seen the craziness of it and left long ago. But she will have her own challenges with whatever sub-culture she identifies with. I hope she is able to hold her own in that context. I hope her values, the ones that will drive the decisions she makes as a mom, will be rooted in love not fear.

And Then There Was One

It happened quite suddenly. We knew it was going to happen eventually. We had talked about it and did what we could to prolong things. But this week it happened. Our old car died.  We had put $600 in it last week (unfortunately).  We thought new brakes might buy us a little more time.  Then it started overheating this week and then it wouldn’t start. The mechanic gave us a lengthy list of things to replace with an estimate of close to $2000. The decision was clear.  We are now a one car couple.

For most of our married life we have had one car.  We lived in Toronto initially and transit was good. When we moved to St. Catharines and eventually Regina we could walk to work and/or one of us was in school or at home with the kids so one car was a viable option.  A couple of years ago, with both of us commuting across the GTA we bought a second car.  That was before I really started getting more interested in environmental issues.  This Spring when we moved to Hamilton, I started biking and or walking more often. I became friends with a family with two children who have taken their car off the road. They bike everywhere. I’ve dubbed them my ‘city biking mentors’.  

Today for the first time in several years, I am home without a car. I have a meeting tonight. I’ll have to find a ride or take transit.  We will get better at planning our schedules so we both don’t have meetings or work onsite the same days.  Oddly, I am actually happy to try this one car experiment. I want to simplify my life and reduce my carbon footprint. For me, the car is linked with overconsumption. How often I use it to go shopping!  It will be a challenge not to jump in the car and go to the store. I’ll have to walk to the grocery store today. I do it often anyway but I won’t buy as much as I do when I have the car.  I will have to plan things a little better when it comes to doing errands. 

It feels liberating to have to rely on my two feet to get around. It feels like a step in the right direction. 

How Far Would You Go?

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Living simply is a topic that interests me. I am constantly exploring areas in my own life where I can make changes that will impact the environment. I have a lot to learn and I am inspired daily by many of the people in this wonderful new community I now call home.

My daughter is way ahead of me in this journey. She doesn’t have a electric clothes dryer and hangs everything to dry. Recently her washing machine hasn’t been working well. Instead of replacing it, they have decided to purchase a hand powered washer. She’ll be doing laundry for a family including cloth diapers in it.

I’ve just moved into a house with a clothes line and I am starting to hang my laundry out to dry more often. I have a nice high efficiency dryer though and so some days I am just too lazy.

So, how about you? What sacrifices are you prepared to make? Would you consider hand powered over electric machines in your house?