Friday, March 30, 2012

Life's Secrets, according to you...

Recently, Jack and I were driving in the van and I had some Johnny Cash music cranked up. Jack informed me that this song is his new favourite. Mine too. (Incidentally, I didn't have the heart to tell him we were actually listening to Joaquin Phoenix. Quite frankly, I'm not even entirely certain how one goes about pronouncing his name. At any rate, I don't think Johnny would is it again that Joaquin didn't win an Oscar for his portrayal of Johnny Cash? Still irks my craw. Moving on...)

The conversation went as follows:

Jack: Is Johnny Cash a real person?
Me: He is, honey. Except sadly he died so he's not alive anymore.
Jack: Is he in heaven?
Me: Yes, he is.
Jack: Will he see his family again?
Me: Absolutely.
Jack: Does he still sing in heaven?
Me: I suspect he does, yes.
Jack: I think that Johnny Cash is Jesus's favourite singer.
Me: I think you're right.
Jack: Are you going to die?
Me: We all will, Jack. But don't worry. It's not going to happen for a long time.
Jack: I don't want you to die, Mommy. Who will take care of me?
Me: Jack, I don't want you worrying about me dying. It's not going to happen for a long time. And when Daddy and I die, Auntie and Uncle will take care of you.

A few minutes passed...I could see him in the rear-view mirror.
Clearly he was contemplating a very deep thought.

Jack: Mommy?
Me: Yes, honey? (And yes, I was totally waiting for him to say something profound and endearing, like he simply couldn't imagine his life without me.)
Jack: When I go to live with Auntie when you die, can you give her the password for buying games on the iPad?

If that's not heartfelt grief right there, then I don't know what is.
This discussion about Johnny and Jesus and singing and life got me to thinking about all the things I want to share with my children before I die...
the knowledge I want to pass on to them one day.
There are so many things I want to tell them one day.
Like that I think you do what you were born to do when you go back to heaven. 
Whether or not you get around to doing it on earth is inconsequential.
This makes me sad, though...
because so many of us never get around to doing what we're meant to do. 
Fear stops us.
We're paralyzed by it.
Fear of what other people might think,
fear of failure, humiliation, scorn, adversity, loss, giving up what we know...
Completely letting go and trusting God that it'll work out as it should. 
We sometimes don't even bother trying.
We protect our hearts from hurt, which seems easier to do than risking failure.
It feels easier to breathe when you're comfortable.
Until that day arrives when it feels as though your soul has been sucked out of you.
You stare at yourself in the mirror and ask...
What happened to your dreams?
Why do you believe in others and not in yourself?
 I want to tell my children this...
You can do anything.
Be what you want to be.
But please, do what makes your soul sing.

Do I lead by example? Not always....

Writing makes my soul sing.
Holding (happy) babies makes my soul sing.
Playing with children (who aren't evil little monsters...) makes my soul sing.
Travelling the world makes my soul sing.
Helping people makes my soul sing.
Spending time with my parents (and most of) my siblings makes my soul sing.
Have I created a life that allows me to focus my energy on these things?
Sort of.
There's no question that my heart knows what I want to do.
My brain, however, tells me a different story.
It tells me to keep my job in the corporate world...
earn money, pay off the mortgage, stay connected, cool, driven.
Is that wrong?
I struggle with it all the time.
I don't hate what I do. That's too strong a word.
It's alright. I don't mind it. It doesn't put me in a bad mood. Hell, I sort of like it.
And the people? Oh, how I love those people.
It feels like a second family. Strike that. It is my second family.

But does it make my soul sing?
Be still my beating heart.
My brain hasn't caught up to you just yet.

I'll get there.
My brain and my heart will reach a peace agreement, an armistice of sorts, one day.
It's dawning on me that yes, we are the architects of our own life.
We can do just about anything.
But we can't do everything.
We can't do everything.
You can't do everything.
I can't do everything.
It's a hard pill for me to swallow.
Time is finite.
You have to decide who, or what, gets yours.
For now, I will make it work.
I will find a way to fit all the pieces of the puzzle together,
without going completely bat-shit.
Pursuing your dreams takes blood, sweat and tears.
But a soul that sings is worth the effort.
For now, real job will be during the day, doing what makes my soul sing will come after.
I know that it's a blessing to have a stable income to provide for my family.
I totally get that and feel blessed beyond measure.
My parents taught me to earn my keep, have fun doing it and play a good game;
learning the importance of a solid work ethic has served me well.
And yet it completely baffles me how many of us aren't answering our calling.
What gets in our way?
It sounds harsh, but perhaps it's greed.
My husband and I could likely live off one salary.
That would mean completely altering our spending habits.
I would have to become Scottish.
Not like dead-sexy-kilt-wearing-Scottish....even worse.
My husband informs me the appropriate descriptors are thrifty, prudent and frugal.
Such awful words.
I don't think I have to tell you this would not end well.
And yet maybe it's another sort of greed...that insatiable desire to be everything.

I've been sitting on this post for a while.
Not quite sure if I wanted to share it or not.
I don't know - parts of it feel too personal.
It doesn't portray me in the best of lights.
But then I remembered why I blog in the first place...
to have an honest account of my life.
To put stuff down that I don't want to ever forget.
To have something I can share with my kids one day...
stuff that isn't all made-up bullshit to make me look good.
Rather life, as I remember it.
I live by the code to always tell the truth.
My sister informs me that when it comes to being honest, there are varying degrees.
She compares it to a cough lozenge.
You can give someone the Vicks version, or a Fisherman's Friend.
Vicks, being slightly less invasive, tastes alright and is somewhat soothing.
Fisherman's Friend? It tastes like shit.
But it works much faster.
And it's likely better for you in the end.
I fear I'm shoving a Fisherman's Friend down your throat.

So the truth?
It goes like this...
My desire to earn a solid income to help pay off our mortgage drives my behaviour.
My desire to put away money for our children drives my behaviour.
My desire to buy really nice shoes, whenever I damn well feel like it, drives my behaviour.
My desire to have money to travel the world with my family drives my behaviour.
My desire to feel important, feel wanted, drives my behaviour.
And my fear, yes it's fear, of letting go of a big part of my life drives my behaviour.
I could also just call it fiscal sanity...the logical thing to do. That'd be the Vicks version.
I guess we call it what we have to call it, in the hopes of making it palatable.
After all, it takes a clever line to fool a yearning heart.
Maybe the real culprits are vanity and pride...
Is my ego attached to my title at work?
I don't think so.
But if I really scraped away at it, perhaps there is a tie that binds.
I'm going to make some changes.
One day.

As I blaze through my thirties, I'm attempting to line up my head with my heart.
I suspect therein lies the key to eternal happiness.
And it'll happen for me.
One day.
And yet, after thinking all of this through, it hit me, like a wooden bat upside the head.
What if I don't make it to that one day?
Why do I take for granted that I'll always have that one day?
We all hope for it.
That's a given.
We all hope that we make it through our thirties, forties, fifties and sixties in one piece.
Retire...punt our children from the nest.
Make it through to the other side with the same convictions, drive and determination.
Have the chance to pursue what we've always longed to do.
What if that day never comes?
And if you do arrive, what if your energy levels don't permit it?
Even worse, what if we don't get that one day to share everything we've always wanted to share with our children?
We know we won't be around forever; each day is a blessing, not a guarantee.
But I do hope I'm around long enough to share what I know.
What I think I know.
That is, when they're of an age that they care to hear about it.

If I don't make it to that one day, what would I want my children to know?
What about real life would interest them?
They're growing up in a world that has stripped away the need for any imagination.
It's all laid out for them.
Every conceivable story from vampires to wizards to werewolves and back.
Throw in technology and social networking, and everything is just one click away.
We had The Littlest Hobo, The Beachcombers and CBC Sports.
No offense to any of these fine programs.
However, even if you were allowed to watch all three, back-to-back,
yes, there used to be rules about how much TV you could watch,
you were left with some serious gaps to fill.
Filling these gaps required extremely vivid, fantastical imaginations.
Simply put, we had to use our own brains to figure shit out.
Pull out an encyclopedia and do some research.
How fun were those?
Ah, the smell of them.
I will never forget the smell of them.
And heaven forbid, we had to talk to people...
have deep conversations to learn from others.
Are we on the verge of losing that?
Will our children know what it's like to sit and chat with someone for hours?
To lay their souls bare in front of another human being?
Kids nowadays are laying other things bare.
On facebook.
I digress...I really just wanted to say kids nowadays.
F*ck. I'm getting old.
And may I just take a moment to thank the merciful Lord in heaven that facebook wasn't around when we were growing up.
A significant majority of us would still be in jail.

Considering we're up against wizards, werewolves, vampires and Happy Meals Hunger Games, how can we compete?
Save for growing a beard and biting my children, quite fiercely, on the neck,
I'm not entirely certain how to get their attention.
My best guess?
We must find a way to prove to them that real life is just as magical as make-believe.
Even more so.
We need to share the secrets of life, as we know it...the wisdom, the humour, the regrets, the longings, the moments that make it all worthwhile.

So when the werewolves lay sleeping and the spells have been cast,
what is it that I want my children to know about real life?

Here's where I need your help: I've come up with a list of questions down below. Things I think about a lot and topics that interest me to no end. My plan is to interview hundreds of people over the coming months - through my blog, email, face-to-face, in dark shadowy recesses of back alleys throughout the country - and compile everyone's answers to the following questions. By sharing your responses with me, you hereby to and furthermore with fore-here-to-with-and-in grant me permission to use them as part of my essays. (Incidentally no, I'm not a lawyer. However, I should likely get one.) I will never use your name; all responses will be kept anonymous. Your thoughts will be compiled as part of the overall response to each question. You can share your responses in the comment field at the end of this post, or send an email to Create an anonymous email account if you want; I don't need to know who it's from, I just want to hear from you. I will share the results this coming fall in my column for Grainews, and then share it on this blog. I likely won't have the opportunity to post for the next couple of weeks, so I'm going to leave this up for a bit to give you time to respond. Think about the questions, answer as honestly as you can and only answer the ones you feel like talking about. (Please number your responses, so I don't erroneously drop answers in beside the wrong questions...although that may provide some cheap entertainment.) Also, please let me know if there are any other questions you think should be added to this list, as I'll be refining it throughout the coming months.

Your responses are what I want to share with my children one day.
Your responses are what I want them to know about real life.


Because learning from each other is the magic of life.
Finding humour in our collective ridiculousness is the magic of life.
The ability to laugh at yourself is the magic of life.
Recognizing regrets, and doing something about them, is the magic of life.
Finding beauty in the unexpected is the magic of life.
Finding beauty in others is the magic of life.
Finding beauty in yourself, and sharing your gifts with the world, is the magic of life.

And who knows? It may even become part of a book one day. Now that'd be a book I'd want to leave for my children...seeing as I'll be spending a significant portion of my time explaining my first book to them. I imagine that conversation will go something like this: "No, I was not a raging alcoholic. We just used to drink a lot. Of course it's fiction! Who told you that? As if. Don't believe everything you hear. I suppose you'd jump off a cliff with that person, too? What do you think I am, a monster? Repeat after me, fiction. What? Me, smoke? Never you mind. If I ever catch you smoking, I'll make you chain-smoke Export A Green Death until you spew. If that doesn't kill you, I will. That's all you need to know. What's that? Go to your room."

So without further ado, here are my questions to you:
  1. Who (or what) is your greatest love?
  2. What (or who) is your worst fear?
  3. What is your biggest regret? Have you done something about it?
  4. Which of your nipples hurts more, the right or the left?
  5. What's the one topic we should talk about more openly? (Translation: something you wish you could bring up more often but just don't, for whatever reason...)
  6. What's the most useful lesson you've ever learned in school? (from Kindergarten to PhD...pick the most useful lesson.)
  7. What's the most embarrassing thing you've ever done? (For inspiration, click here to read one of my most embarrassing stories. It was tough choice. I only had 3,624 embarrassing incidents to choose from.)
  8. What's the best financial advice you've ever received?
  9. If you could go back and tell a younger version of yourself just one thing, what would it be?
  10. What's the one thing you wish you'd spend less time worrying about?
  11. What's one simple, magical thing that makes you smile every time you experience it? (Example: the sound of a child giggling, the smell of freshly-mowed grass...)
  12. What's the one thing you wish someone would have told you?
  13. If you could ask God one question, what would it be?
  14. What's the greatest lesson you've learned in life thus far?
  15. If given the opportunity to have a one-minute glance at your life 10 years from now, would you take it? Why or why not?
  16. Thinking back to your ideals and dreams for the future when you were younger, has your life turned out as you thought it would? Why or why not?
  17. At the end of each day, when you pause for a second to contemplate your life, what do you  say to yourself?
  18. What's your secret to leading a fulfilling life? Put another way, what's the motto you live by?
  19. If you could make just one wish for your children, what would it be?
And promise me something? Do what makes your soul sing. Even if you can only carve out a few hours a's up to you to make it happen. Learn how to play the piano, paint, volunteer, write, help out a family in your community, go back to school, watch a movie with your spouse, pack a picnic and take your kids to the park, donate to charity, pet cats at the Humane Society...whatever it is, just do it.

It doesn't matter what other people think. They're not the ones you have to answer to.

In the end, I don't know where your road will take you. But I do know that giving of yourself and following your dreams - even if at the moment they feel tiny and inconsequential - will make you feel better. That's a promise. A soul that sings is magical that way.


Anonymous said...

I came across this week
"First, decide what you want to do - then figure out how to pay for it. In life & biz. Many bad decisions made from mindset of scarcity"
Haven't always done this but when I have it has lead to soul singing.

Janita said...

Dear Anon: I LOVE this. Oh it. Thanks for sharing!

Chelsea said...

I scrapbook! I don't care who makes fun of me, or who thinks it's a waste of time and money. I have my childrens lives documented in a cool and fun way, PLUS it just makes me happy. It's my outlet, both creative, and emotional. It's cheaper than therapy, anyways. ;p

Janita said...

Chelsea! I totally go overboard with the scrapbooking (albeit digital) and memory journals as well. Hubby thinks me crazy. I agree with you - it feels goooood. And how much fun will that be for us to look at when we're old and grey? Never mind the kids. It'll be a fight as to who gets them. I kind of think it's my responsibility to capture all these memories for them. That, or I'm anal. I prefer to think of it as a mix of the two. ;)

Anne @ Zen and Genki said...

Really enjoyed this post! I can relate to the conversation you had with your little one (his final question wasn't about passwords for the was whether or not Auntie and Uncle know lots about Star Wars so they can play with him like I do...yeah, touching, I know :))
Lovely to have found your blog!

Cheryl M said...

Holy Moly that is a lot of homework. I will get on it....the short answer is teaching....I love teaching (most kids, most subjects, most of the time).

kebloo said...

I know I wrote on another blog of yours that it was the best so far, but this one hit home. What is my purpose? How can I create not just the "best" life for my kids through "things" but through life experiences, hard work and proper relationships. I have three kids under 4 and wish for nothing more than their souls to sing in EVERYTHING they do.

Love your blog.

p.s. I laugh and cry everytime I check in here.

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