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Saturday, 6 January 2018

Of Life, Hope and Calendars

blueline botanica weekly planner
My 2018 "daytimer"...
When the clock rolled over into 2018, I was fast asleep. Had I been awake, I might have said "good riddance". The end of 2017 was a rough ride.

But let me start by going back about forty years...

In high school, we had to read Tolkien's Fellowship of the Ring, which as you may know, is the first volume of the Lord of the Rings trilogy. I'm not a fan of the fantasy genre, but in reading FotR, I found someone to admire in Aragorn. When the full story was made into movies, my main reason for going was to see this character come to life.

In the second movie, The Two Towers, Aragorn says something inspiring to a young warrior worried about their chances. When the boy despairs of having no hope, Aragorn replies, "There is always hope."

The line is not from the books, but it was a worthy moment. Hope is one of my favourite words. Because there is always hope. The foundation of it may be weak, but hope is something that we all cling to during life's turmoils. It's part of what keeps us going.

Count me among those who had several reasons to hope over the past few weeks.

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In mid-December, I received one of "those" phone calls. The caller ID indicated that it was my cousin (the one I made the wallet for). The thing is, while we are close, we rarely speak on the phone unless it's an occasion or something is up. Also, by the hour on the clock, it was later than she would normally call if it was just to chat. In short order, I learned that an uncle had suffered a massive stroke.

A Sunday night that had been winding up rather lazily and ordinarily, suddenly changed on a dime. And my immediate thought was that once again, life was demonstrating that it doesn't care about the calendar when doling out bad stuff.

This uncle was my mother's younger brother. December is already a hard month for Mom because some years ago, my dad died between Christmas and New Year's. It's all I can do to make sure she gets through the holidays without getting too depressed. This phone call delivered a wallop, and just like that, the holiday season had the potential to be an even bigger challenge this year.

In due course, we drove down to visit my uncle in the hospital. The prognosis wasn't good. Six days later, he was put into palliative care with a DNR notice. Within twenty four hours of that, he was gone.

When I initially received the news about his stroke, my immediate hope was that he would get better. After I saw him and heard the prognosis, my hope was that he would not linger and suffer needlessly. When his condition worsened within days of our visit, my expectation was that he would die soon, but my hope then was that nothing related to his eventual death would wind up sharing the anniversary date of my dad's passing.

My inspiring floating charms locket...
In the end, the only hope that came to fruition was for him not to linger. Life's circumstances once again, however, ignored the calendar. The funeral wound up being scheduled on my dad's anniversary date.

For those who don't know, I live in Canada's — and by extension, North America's — most northerly located metropolitan area. It's not normally warm during the last week of December, but the weather this year was especially frigid. (Actually, it wasn't a localized thing; the vast majority of Canada and most of the north and northeastern US has been, and in some cases still is right this minute, under a horrendous deep freeze.)

When we headed south, it was -30 C (-22 F) and colder with wind chill. Coming back home, it was colder still, with wind-chill assisted temps approaching -40 (which is that lovely magical mark where both Celsius and Fahrenheit meet in simple agreement that it's FREAKIN' FREEZING). Perversely, despite the bitter cold, it also managed to snow for the first quarter of the trip.

If you've never done it, you don't know how much of an onerous feat it is to travel by car in that sort of weather. You have to worry about keeping your vehicle's engine warm, plan for emergencies by packing way more than you need, and drive extra carefully for the fact that ice on the road may look exactly like no ice on the road.

In the two to three days before Christmas, three people died in accidents on nearby highways. I thought about their families' plans for the holidays being changed in an instant.

Around the world, life continued to deliver random sucker punches, in total defiance of what the calendar was preaching.

Down in California, a large wildfire didn't get substantially contained until Christmas day, taking out almost 800 homes during the weeks that it raged. Meanwhile, what started as "just" a major typhoon in the Philippines developed into a string of tragedies that you wouldn't want to see happen at any time of the year, much less the holidays.

My hope in 2018 is for all of us to have fewer ill-timed events. Coping with many of life's realities is tough enough without them landing around calendar dates that encourage us to make merry.

I'm doing fine, being rather pragmatic in nature. (And this post is certainly not meant as a "poor me" complaint; I know that things can always be worse.) My mother, on the other hand, has a tendency to connect the dots around bad events, essentially snaring herself in the process.

With the aid of a calendar change, she too is finding good reasons to turn the page emotionally.

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Speaking of calendars, that topic was touched upon last week — rather coincidentally, given that the post itself was written some time ago. (I typically have two months of blog posts stacked up in readiness; occasionally, the schedule is interrupted by a "real time" post like today's.) I wondered if anyone still uses calendars.

I use three: a desk calendar, a wall calendar, and a day planner. The first two are free — from our bank and from charities that we give to — but every November, I hunt down a specific type of day planner (two page per week format). It may seem odd for someone who has used computers for as long as I have, but I don't trust my deadlines and "to do"s to electronic devices.

This year, I opted for the one that you see at the top, from Blueline's Doodleplan collection. It has colouring pages/elements built into it (unfortunately, the paper stock is more suited for use with pencils than pens). Because of all things, colouring is the therapeutic activity that I keep returning to.

In this early 2016 post, I described some crafty things that I intended to do that year.

blueline botanica weekly planner
A calendar that lets me deal creatively with life and hope...

While I ended up making some more paracord bracelets over the past couple of years, the paper quilling and string art never became more than a lingering thought. For awhile, I was also into zen doodling.

Meanwhile, whenever I was faced with not being in the proper frame of mind to write, sew or design, I would open up a colouring page. Whether I do it manually with actual pens and pencils or electronically (as shown above and below), it truly is an activity that leaves me with no other thought than picking a colour and a spot to put it in.

blueline botanica weekly planner
"Electronic colouring" using Paint Shop Pro...

I did quite a bit of it over the past few weeks.

What activity has the most therapeutic value for you?

1 comment:

  1. Sorry to hear the sad news of your uncle. My mom passed away the day after my daughter's birthday in 2016. My dad passed away in 1985 the day after our wedding anniversary. Life and death happen and there is nothing we can do of the when and where.
    As for calendars, yes I use paper ones! Never use the computer because I don't think of looking at it. I suppose if I made it come up on my desktop as large as life I might look at it, but I like writing on a paper version. I pick up a free wall calendar every year at the library that the city prints for free each year. Then people always get a free calendar from assorted groups that they belong to like the Sierra Club, Audubon Society , etc. and they have so many they give them for free to friends or leave them at my quilt group to take. Some business sent me a pocket one for free which I put in my purse and it's a nice one. Now to remember it is in there to use! Happy New Year and I hope it is a good year for you Rochelle!


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