Category Archives: Terrace Standard Column “Just a Thought” by Ev Bishop

Fluff and Jumble

Photo by betterpharm on Flickr

Photo by betterpharm on Flickr

Early winter was remarkably calm and mild this year, but February? It’s been anything but mellow—bouts of bitter cold, severe wind, surprise flurries and big snowfalls simultaneously awed and daunted me. (The snow is spectacularly pretty, but sometimes I just want my days to be easy, no jacket or boots required!). And my brain this month is similarly filled with heaps of stuff to wade through, shovel, and scrape. Some of it is work intensive and slightly tiresome, but other bits are beautiful.

I’m on the cusp of another big life change. (Wow, new phases just keep coming, don’t they? I’m starting to think that from our toddler years on, life is nothing but a constant flux of developmental stages!) And the trigger of this one? My daughter is getting married.

If you remember some of my earliest columns, like the one about a road trip to Vancouver with her and baby brother, or the one about her obsession with salsa cones (Yes, ice-cream cones filled with salsa. Yum, hey?), you know she was very, very young when I published my first column and now she is getting married. Bizarre!

Her fiancé, my son-in-law to be (How weird is that?) is wonderful and I already love him, but I’m still shocked and kind of terrified. Is she, is he, ready for marriage? But the worry—the question itself—makes me roll my eyes. Are any of us ever ready for it? No matter how fortunate you are in who you commit to for life, or how much you love him or her, marriage is constant adjustment, isn’t it?

I cannot not worry, of course, because I’m her mom and because I’m me, a worrier extraordinaire, but I’m also really excited about all the happy potential for her, for them, to experience so much joy, laughter, comfort, and companionship.

Another thing on my mind these days is the move of an old, close friend back to town. After graduation we were supposed to head for the city together, but I ended up falling in love and staying here instead. She adventured off alone. And now, after twenty-three years, she’s back. It’s as surreal as my daughter getting married, albeit it in an opposite way. The impending nuptials make me feel like two decades have zipped by, while my friend’s return makes me feel no years have passed at all. In my head we’re still eighteen, with all our lives before us. In reality we’ve said hello to forty-one, but something great’s still true: the rest of our lives lay before us!

I’m also very busy right now, as I’m sure you can relate. There’s a lot going on at work. I have some exciting, but also scary, writing plans that require strenuous effort and time. I’m trying to make healthy lifestyle changes. I also want to spend more time with some specific friends and family members.

Feeling a bit overwhelmed, the following quote shared on Facebook was a huge encouragement: You are going to want to give up. Don’t. I don’t know if the line resonates with you, but it was encouragement I really needed. I’m going to scribble the words somewhere to keep as a reminder for myself, or to share if anyone else needs them.

I realize this wasn’t my most organized “Just a Thought,” but sometimes that’s how thoughts are, cluttered and jumbled, or, like the February snow—plentiful, piling up, just waiting to be trekked through.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

“Fluff and Jumble” by me, Ev Bishop, was originally published in the Terrace Standard, February 26, 2014 as my monthly column “Just a Thought.”


What You Need

But the sun's been quite kind while I wrote this  . . . ~ Elton John. Photo by Ev Bishop, copyright 2014


“But the sun’s been quite kind . . .” ~ Elton John. Photo by Ev Bishop, copyright 2014

January can be pretty low for me—low energy, low funds, low light, low . . . And this year, a series of tough situations conspired to bring me lower—the rotten kind of events, where people I care about are being kicked in the face by life in ways I’m powerfulness to help in any practical, lasting way. You relate, perhaps?
 
Waging war with the gloom, however, I also experienced some intensely lovely moments this month—things that reminded me of all the good in life, and in people, that coexists with the . . . not so good.  
 
The incident with the most impact came totally out of the blue, and occurred, of all places, in the post office.
 
I had just received hard news and treated myself to a London Fog, while I wrote a note to my sister as a pick me up. Afterwards, I went to the post office to mail it, then checked out the lobby’s bulletin board. A unique poster grabbed my eye right away.
 
It was photocopied in black and white, but no less beautiful for the lack of colour. Funky block letters on a collaged-background made a strange but nice request: “Take what you need.”
 
Beneath the words and the artwork were tear-away tabs, but they didn’t hold contact numbers. They carried things the creator thought you might need:
 
Hope. Courage. Forgiveness. Love. Laughter. Peace of mind. Faith. Tenderness. Beauty. Strength. Rest. Passion.
 
Half the tabs were already missing. (In fact, I only know what each one said because tiny font on the poster’s edge gave copyright to Kelly Rae Roberts and I googled her name along with “Take what you need” until I found a copy of the same poster, intact.) I don’t know what I found more encouraging: that someone randomly posted it for no obvious reason other than to put some kindness and inspiration into the world—or that people were moved, like I was, to take something away with them.
 
I chose faith—something I’m in want of in multiple areas of my life right now. Which would you have taken? What do you particularly need?
 
I left the post office feeling a little lighter, a little stronger, a little more resilient.
 
And as so often happens, one positive moment opened my eyes to an abundance of other encouraging, buoying things.
 
I had wonderful coffee visits with friends who simultaneously challenged me and affirmed some of the ideas percolating in my head.  
 
An old acquaintance from the past reconnected via e-mail, triggering good memories and excitement about new inspirations.
 
A complete stranger offered, uninitiated by me, to advertise the launch of the first novel in a series I’m going to publish and to help with any questions I have along the way.
 
Someone gave us a beautiful new chicken—her “nicest, kindest” one—because she’d heard our solitary hen was lonely. Funny, but it really moved me.  
 
In a coffee shop, a young woman out for coffee by herself, slipped out to the washroom, leaving her bag and laptop on the counter where she’d been sitting. Some people might say it was stupid or asking for trouble, but I thought it was a good lesson. Sometimes we have to stop thinking of—almost expecting—worst case scenarios. We need to remember that a lot of people are decent. Are trustworthy. Are kind.
 
If you’re a little—or a lot—low these days, or going through things you have no idea how to resolve, I pray you experience some high notes this week—that you, like me, get what you need and find encouragement in some small, unexpected way.  

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

“What You Need” by me, Ev Bishop, was originally published in the Terrace Standard, January 29, 2014 as my monthly column “Just a Thought.”


Home again, home again, jiggety jig

This post was originally published in the Terrace Standard, November 27, 2013 as my monthly column “Just a Thought.” At the time of writing, I’d been home from my London trip a mere two weeks . . . now it’s been close to a month. The sentiments remain true, however. Enjoy!
————————-

Me in London town, the Shard, and the Thames!

Me in London town, the Shard, and the Thames!

I can’t believe it’s only been sixteen days since I returned from London. Already my memories feel more like dreams. Crazy! I didn’t think I was going to regale you with tales from across the pond, but enough kind people asked me to write a follow up, that what can I do but spill some of the fun, fading-too-quickly, details?
 
The first surprise came before I left Canadian airspace. I used to think I didn’t like flying. It turns out I only dislike flying in small, cramped, bumpy, cold, loud planes. I adore lounging in huge, lush planes, with movies and blankets and flight attendants who bring wine. I’ve since been informed that it’s not usual, at all, to get three seats to yourself on an overseas flight, and I admit close seatmates wouldn’t have been cool, but hey, I didn’t have seatmates, so there!
 
Heathrow is a huge airport—and I was a little shocked by how serious the customs guy took my entry into the country. Maybe I was a little too wide-eyed and smiley, thus suspicious.
 
In no particular order, some of my first impressions: the train station, all those platforms, like something directly out of Harry Potter, and the tube! And people! So many, many, many people. Everywhere! The incredible age of buildings and homes. All the beautiful brick (house after house after house is brick): so lovely. A touch of disappointment at the accents—softer, less pronounced than I expected. (Later, when I travelled to Lancashire, I got my fix—some wonderful voices and words there! And speaking of accents, I apparently have a strong one and was frequently asked to repeat myself. Ha, who knew?) 
 
My friend and I (so much thanks to her for all the fun we had) visited every place on my itinerary, except for Stratford-upon-Avon, due to car issues (who knew cars in the UK can be just as temperamental as their Canadian cousins?), and I can’t pick favourites.
 
I was incredibly moved by Westminster Abbey (People have been worshipping and seeking God there for nearly 1000 years!), and equally as much by St Paul’s Cathedral.
 
The Tower of London was every bit as fascinating as I thought it would be, though much, much bigger, with many more towers and crooks and crannies than I was expecting. The graffiti etched into the stone, some of it dating back to the 1500s was, is . . . mind-blowing. Very sad some of it, and thought-provoking—and amazing that all those images and messages, pleas and testaments of beliefs and conviction, carved by hand, still survive today.
 
The dominant emotion of my trip? A sort of surreal joy, akin to surprise. I was constantly awed by the generations of stories attached to places, by the age and the ornate detail of the historic buildings, and by the juxtaposition of the ancient with the ultra modern. It’s one thing to know intellectually that something exists—and quite another to visit it yourself . . . to walk over the vaults of interred kings and queens and other folk . . . to see segments of roman walls . . . to view actual, original paintings by Monet . . . Mind blowing. 
 
As much fun as I had in London, it felt like a place to visit. I had no daydreams about living there—which was why a touch of wistfulness when I visited Oxford after touring Stonehenge (Stonehenge! Such a crazy, mysterious place!) startled me. I love the life my husband and kids and I have built and wouldn’t change it, but we all have those roads not taken in our past that sometimes, when thinking back, give us pause and make us wonder what if . . . I would have loved to read English at Oxford.
 
Another slightly strange moment of familiarity or kinship hit when I arrived in Adlington in Lancashire to meet extended family. I swear my grandpa chose to settle in Smithers, on Kidd Rd, because the landscape was so like that of his childhood’s—though with Cottonwood trees, not Beech. I had a bizarre sense of coming home. The Chorley/Rivington/Adlington area fit my imagination’s vision of “English countryside” perfectly—lovely, green and rolling, and covered with sheep!
 
It may sound cheesy, but it was a dream trip—though when I left, I was definitely ready to be home with my honey in our wildly beautiful, sparsely populated corner of the woods.
 
And do I already have future gallivants planned? Yes, I just might . . . 


Today is my day … I’m off and away!

It feels a bit weird to post this copy of my October 2013 column because I’ve been on my marvelous trip and am back already, but as this blog is the best way for me to archive my Terrace Standard column, and because some of you may be curious about what I got up to in London, sharing this still seems the thing to do. Enjoy!

I suspect my November column may share reflections on my trip. Oh, wait, no! Now I’ve gone and spoiled the surprise. I guess I should’ve said: Spoiler alert: in November’s column I’ll share reflections on my trip. ;)

And now, without further ado, I present “Today is my day … I’m off and away!” by me, Ev Bishop, originally published in the Terrace Standard, October 30, 2013 as my monthly column “Just a Thought.”

—————————-

Photo by Erik Daniel Drost, Flickr

Photo by Erik Daniel Drost, Flickr

I’ve long-loved Dr Seuss’s book Oh, the places you’ll go! For being silly and hilarious, it’s oddly inspiring, and whenever I read it, I’d want to travel and wonder when, when, when?

I love almost everything about Terrace, but I’ve always been fascinated by other places and hoped to travel physically, not just through the words of a story or pictures in books (though I wouldn’t trade those journeys and adventures!).

And I’ve gone on some very fun gallivants—lots of road trips and camping excursions, annual conferences, and beach seeking. But I’ve always, always, always—since I was barely able to read—wanted to go to England, particularly London.

And guess what? The day has arrived. Literally. I leave tomorrow (or, rather, since you’re reading this in the paper—I left last week!).

London is definitely romanticized in my mind, and I don’t know if my trip can possibly live up to my expectations (except even as I write that a little voice is yelling, “Of course it will. It totally will. You are going to love, love, LOVE it!).

I can hardly read over my itinerary without squealing—oh, who am I kidding? I don’t even try not to squeal. I’m staying with one of my best friends and a favourite fellow writer, so it’s really a holiday dream trip.

Here’s our rough plan (please forgive the copious exclamation marks. I can’t help myself):

Day 1 – I arrive, YAY! Most likely very jet-lagged—or so everybody warns. I suspect I’ll be too freakishly excited to be tired! A drive about tour, then dinner in London. Then, supposedly, wine and chatting at my friend’s flat, but I suspect the first sip will put me to sleep.

Day 2 – Weather permitting we will tour Highgate Cemetery, and visit Trafalgar Square, Leicester Square, China Town, and the Covent Garden area. My friend also wants us to “pop into” the Natural Portrait Gallery just to see Van Gogh’s Sunflowers (Her words, “Just for a minute because it’s free and near the door, so it won’t take long.”—mind boggling!)

Day 3 – Church of some kind, somewhere. Visiting and walkabout. Harrods for tea!

Day 4 – The Natural History Museum and Westminster Abbey. Also Big Ben, dinner in Soho (at my friend’s favourite fish restaurant, Randall and Aubin), then sightseeing and exploring the area.

Day 5 – Off to Lancashire on the train to visit family I’ve never yet met, and seeing cool rural things full of my roots (am hoping for a cemetery, along with the old family halls and farms).

Day 6 – Day in Lancashire, evening train back to London. I’m so freakishly excited about the train! I’m first class on the way down, and last class (ha ha) on the way back. If only I had Harry Potter-esque robes for the journey.

Day 7 – The Tower of London and St. Paul’s Cathedral.

Day 8 – Hyde Park and explore Notting Hill area.

Day 9 – Our chauffeur (a.k.a. my friend’s hubby) will deliver us to Stonehenge, and then we’ll head to Oxford for exploring and dinner/drinks in the Eagle and Child—the pub, established in 1644, that J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis and the Inklings had their weekly writers’ meetings!

Day 10 – Stratford Upon Avon!!!!! I will see Shakespeare’s grave!!!! Eeieieieieieieieeieieeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!!

Day 11 – Up in the air . . . again, literally. I don’t fly out until afternoon, so I may sneak in a little something else.

I have a brand new sketchbook journal in honour of my trip, along with a package of gorgeous drawing pens as I have delusions of doodling things I see and trying to jot down interesting bits I spy and hear and experience. I suspect, however, the journal will be neglected as I ogle my surroundings eyes wide, mouth agape. I can’t wait!

And on that note . . . I should pack. Hold the fort until I’m back.


Lessons From Bubble Pop

I have an embarrassing confession. I have an addiction. To Facebook games—specifically Tetris Battle and silly, bright-coloured, manically cheerful Bubble Pop Battle. I live in two states: on the wagon and off the wagon.
 
When I’m on the wagon, I accomplish things, meet deadlines, get work done in the yard, and even, occasionally, clean my house. When I’m off the wagon (have broken its wheels and driven it over a cliff!), I stay up way too late to play just one more round, lament how I never have time to write, explain to my family that we might move permanently to fend-for-yourself meals for dinner—and that will probably only work if Dad goes grocery shopping.
 
When I’m in this hand-cramped, escalating-theme-music-wormed state (the later, in case you don’t know, is when a song lodges in your head and won’t go away), I justify my lack of self-control with soothing rationalizations: “It’s good stress release,” or “These types of games help improve spatial skills,” or . . . “I don’t have a lot of other vices.”
 
Then something amazing happened. I actually learned a legitimately important lesson, or rather, had something I know but sometimes forget, reinforced in a silly, bright-coloured, manically cheerful way!
 
Like so many lessons, the Bubble Pop epiphany was triggered by crisis.
 
I logged into Facebook to play, I promise, just five rounds of Bubble Pop (and at a minute a round, that’s not too, too bad an indulgence, right?). Before I could hit “play,” however, a little box popped up announcing that after September 30, Bubble Pop was done. Would no longer be available. THE TRAUMA!!!!!!
 
The creators then, remembering their commitment to manic cheeriness and good will, added, “As a token of our appreciation, we have credited your account with tons of coins.”
 
Whoaaaa . . . Sounds like a dream, right? I certainly thought so. The coins are actually limitless, which means every bubble-bursting weapon (and life protection aid) was at my disposal. I could play forever. I could never die. Muauahahahhahahahahahahaha! A monster was almost born, except—
 
Except it turns out that in Bubble Pop, as in life, things that come too easily, without work or effort or some sort of cost (time, resources, etc.), lose their value and interest for me. Become boring. Unsatisfying. Blah.
 
I do, on occasion, like most of us I suppose, think things like:
 
If only I’d win the lottery, so I wouldn’t have to work anymore—life would be perfect!
 
If only all my relationships were completely effortless, nothing but an unending stream of Hallmark movie worthy moments forever—
 
If only I didn’t have to do chores, and the house and yard and laundry and dishes took care of themselves . . . I’d have limitless free time to explore things I really care about.
 
If only I didn’t have to struggle to learn new techniques, programs, or material . . . my work and creative life would be ideal.

 
No. Wrong. False. Thoughts like that are based on the erroneous notion that ease brings contentment. I find the reverse is true. Periods of rest, relaxation and “having a good time” are lovely (and necessary), but too much holidaying makes me restless. Irritable.  
 
Pushing myself. Digging deeper. Not knowing if I have the resources or ability to tackle a new task or pull off a new endeavour . . . exhilarating! Challenge keeps life interesting, makes work meaningful, and helps relationships continue to grow and deepen and be satisfying.
 
Bubble Pop can’t truly get full credit for reminding me of all this, but (sadly, embarrassingly!) it did trigger thought . . . and for now, until some other captivating Internet game snags me, I’m back on the wagon, working on things much more interesting and time-worthy than popping yellow, purple, red and blue bubbles with my oh-so-cute cannon . . . trying to ignore the part of me that misses the pop-pop-pop.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

“Lessons From Bubble Pop” by me, Ev Bishop, was originally published in the Terrace Standard, September 25, 2013 as my monthly column “Just a Thought.”
 


A Note From Mark Twain

In my head . . . er, office!

In my head . . . er, office!

The other day, in a bit of a funk, I turned to my journal, figuring some random ranting might soothe my itchy impatience, unrest, and sluggishness. This annoying, conflicting state hits me every so often: I want something to happen, to be accomplished, to be different—but I feel too lazy to work or do much of anything.    

Do you relate? Have goals and dreams that you don’t always work toward, that you beat yourself up for not accomplishing, even while you fritter time away time on stupid stuff? (Facebook games, perhaps? Argh, the time suckage!)

Anyway, I opened my spiral bound notebook, a tattered, sadly neglected thing this summer, and what had I scrawled as the last entry?

Not a flowing stream-of-consciousness ramble. Not a to-do list (one of my favourite past-times—creating, not necessarily fulfilling, to-do lists!). Not an idea for a story or an informal essay about something I was thinking on . . .

A quote. And what a quote! So weirdly timely, as if back on June 20th, I knew the glorious sun would leave in mid-August, fall would descend early and heavy with rain . . . and I would be in need of something inspiring, encouraging, motivating.

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones that you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the wind in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover. ~ Mark Twain  

I rewrote the words to myself (Ev, twenty years from now . . . ), signed the letter (From, Mark Twain), then stuck it on my wall above my monitor. I smelled salt water, felt the breeze—and thought, Ah, he nailed the cause of my malaise—exactly.

I’m a bit of a psycho about things I’m passionate about, as you may or may not have deduced over the years, but passions go awry if you don’t put your time and heart into them. They don’t leave you altogether; they just nag at your subconscious, causing angst, making you restless until you get back to them.

Busy the past year (with things that, to be fair to myself, legitimately demanded time, burned physical and mental energy, and took an emotional toll), I let myself fall into the trap of putting off things that I know I need to do, desperately want to do, and derive a huge sense of satisfaction and well-being from.   

And for a while that’s fine. Is understandable. Is life. But after a time . . . Well, the conviction I should be working on something but instead I’m playing Bubble Pop Battle ‘til my hand cramp up kind of drives me around the bend.  

So what am I doing about Twain’s friendly warning? I’m remembering that twenty years will fly by—and that at sixty (and at seventy and at eighty—and today!) I want to be able to say that I gave my goals my best shot, that maybe my progress occurred in fits and spurts, but I was steady. I took risks. I tried.   

Years ago, when my children were small, Thomas Moore’s famous line, “The best of all ways to lengthen our days is to steal a few hours from the night,” was my mantra. Later, when I was teaching, I wrote early mornings. And after that, for a few luxurious years, I wrote during regular workday hours.   

And now? In light of my letter from Mark?  I’m back to early mornings. It’s not natural for me. At all. But I’m finding the quiet hours very lovely. And very productive. As with late nights, the world is different when everyone else is asleep. Dreams are closer to consciousness. More seems possible.   

Perhaps pretending Mark Twain penned you a personal note isn’t something you’d find especially motivating, but his message is pertinent for us all.

Time moves quickly. What is it you should be doing now? What trips are you planning? What tasks need tackling, or classes should you register for? Or do you need to steer into something entirely new? So go on, do it. Sail away from safe harbour  . . . Explore. Dream. Discover. 

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

“A Note From Mark Twain” by me, Ev Bishop, was originally published in the Terrace Standard, August 28, 2013 as my monthly column “Just a Thought.”


Circles

So, after fourteen years or so where we are now, we’re moving. The house we bought used to be my dad’s—well, actually, my whole family’s. And they say you can’t go home again!

My new office is my old bedroom. Bizarre. And as I pulled out its carpet and built-in closet, then proceeded to paint the room a deep golden yellow called Bengalese Cream, I thought about circles—ones I want to continue and bring back to full strength (the gardens and flowerbeds, the yard!), and ones I want to break entirely, once and for all (for example, a genetic propensity for . . . collecting).

Memories crouch in every corner and sit on every shelf in my new-old house, and as in any life, some are wonderful . . . others not so much.

My little nephew visited one day while I was emptying out the kitchen, and found a smiley-faced toy carrot on a coffee table in the living room. “Hey, I remember this!” he exclaimed with delight—then his tone grew suspicious. “Wait, you’re not throwing it away are you?”

I assured him that no, I wasn’t throwing it away. It was a keeper. And it is. I think, literally, every child and grandchild of Simon and Susanne Higginson has chewed on that rubbery, squeaking toy. It’s practically an institution.

But I am recycling, gifting, selling, or scrap-yarding almost everything else. I have my own stuff, literally and metaphorically, to put into the house now.

At first I felt bad clearing things out, but time moves on and life constantly changes, regardless of the physical items we cling on to, trying to pretend nothing’s different. The task then is to carefully choose a few things that have special significance and pass on everything else to people who can use it better than you. Or that’s my aim anyway.

An antique doughboy in the entrance way will take its place in the living room once more. How can it not? Every time I see it, my sister’s a laughing toddler again, magazines strewn about her, waving, wildly proud, from the compartment she’s standing in.

A wardrobe from the 1800s reminds me of times spent in antique shops and second-hand stores with my mom.

A child-sized workbench, handmade by my dad, will remain in the garage. I can’t wait to outfit it with new tools (The labels for what should hang where are still there!) and restock it with miscellaneous lengths of wood for visiting kids to create with.

I’ve found a number of things we’d all thought lost forever, most notably a whole collection of pictures of one of my brothers. They’d been carefully pilfered out of the collection and mounted on poster board for his wedding. We all just forgot. It was profoundly sweet to look at this lifetime of childhood photos, chosen and arranged by my mom’s hand. You can feel the love—and the fun—she had in putting it together.

Other discoveries are as surprising and painful as a slip of a knife. A card from my husband’s mom (now deceased) to my mom when she was dying. Old letters from my parents to each other when they were fighting. Syringes, long outdated prescriptions, and other paraphernalia related to disease.

I wonder sometimes if I’m up to the task of taking on my family home, with all that concept entails—and while the verdict’s not in (It’s sort of a multi-year project), so far I’m pleasantly surprised and get a little more excited, a little more confident, about our decision every day.

The work is cathartic. I feel my parents smile at me occasionally. My mom shakes her head. “You’re not really going to keep that old thing are you, Ev?” My dad’s voice booms as I heft junk down the stairs: “Yep, you’ve always been a big strong girl.” (You can just imagine how I loved hearing that as a teen!) And in the kitchen, memories of my stepmom’s meals and baked treats inspire daydreams about future family events at the home I’ve circled back to . . .

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

“Circles” by me, Ev Bishop, was originally published in the Terrace Standard, June 26, 2013 as my monthly column “Just a Thought.”


Driving Thoughts

"Driving Thoughts" Photo by Ev Bishop

“Driving Thoughts” Photo by Ev Bishop

I was driving along today, thinking on this and that, but mostly just enjoying the familiar jaunt from the airport into town, soaking in the sunshine, admiring the gorgeous light and the crazy, brilliant—numerous!— varying shades of green that epitomize spring time in Terrace.

A vehicle behind me approached too fast, started tailgating me on the hill. I hate that feeling—of being pressured on the road (and I was doing the speed limit, maybe even riding a km or two over). A specific thought jumped into my head: Just keep your eyes on where you want to go.

I can sometimes be a bit of a nervous driver. I’m a good driver, and I love to drive—but I never feel invincible anymore. My sense of mortality kicked in about the same time I had children. I became aware (God forbid, please) that they could die young—and so could I. But I digress. As I said, I love to drive. I just, sometimes, am too aware of how many pounds my car weighs as it hurtles itself along the highway. And I’m too conscious of other drivers who are not as conscious of their responsibility and the fact that they too are propelling thousands of pounds of steel in other people’s direction.

I’m also, at times, overly cognisant of the surface of the road—worn ridges that shouldn’t be there. Pits and grooves—sink holes. Worse: angles that aren’t conducive to hugging you to the curve.

Someone once told me that the airport hill is such a road—that its angle is wrong and you’re slightly more prone to going off the road there because of it. I’m occasionally plagued by that fact—or fiction—especially when there’s an idiot behind me.

When my nerves shift into overdrive, however, I recall the sage line I mentioned above—I think it was given by my husband, but don’t tell him I credited him with it. Keep your eyes on where you want to go. Don’t panic.

It’s good advice for nervous drivers, novice drivers, and for people learning to ride bikes. You will over correct and zig and zag on the road until you learn to focus ahead of you, not on the nose of your car. And you’ll wibble and wobble, won’t be able to balance, will fall off your bike if you don’t learn to look ahead at where you want to go instead of staring down at where you are. (How I wish I’d had my husband around when I was eight or so and learning to ride a bike!)

Keep your eyes on where you want to go. Calming, practical advice for drivers and wannabe bicyclists, yes—but also good advice for life.

I’m a bit of a nervous liver (as in one who lives, not the organ responsible for aiding digestion, making proteins, and getting rid of toxins!). Not always, but sometimes, I get hung up in the details of where I am in the moment, the crisis of the instance, the busyness of the immediate.

Whether it’s writing or other work related goals, relationship desires, financial plans, or personal improvement endeavours, I can get mired up in where I’ve been or where I seem to be stuck. It’s good to remember that by looking forward, we move forward—and often just by embracing that truth, anxiety eases.

It was a beautiful drive—vibrantly green, with air so fresh and sweet as it rushed in through the open window that I grinned like mad just because life is good. I drove, and I thought, and I kept my eyes on where I wanted to go.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

“Driving Thoughts” by me, Ev Bishop, was originally published in the Terrace Standard, May 29, 2013 as my monthly column “Just a Thought.”


On Journaling

Photo by Puuikibeach

Photo by Puuikibeach

My daughter got me a snazzy new journal recently. Its designers cleverly titled it “My Dysfunctions,” and its funky yellow cover carries further explanation (less we be unable to figure out what it’s for!): “A journal for chronicling my immeasurably fascinating dysfunctions, neuroses, emotions, inner children, moments of shame and doubt, projection, self-loathing, misanthropy, and completely normal insanity, because the only difference between me and the rest of the population is that I acknowledge how crazy I am and they’re all in mind-numbing denial.” Hilarious and so apt!

While I’ve always wanted to create the kind of journals or diaries you can pass on to loved ones after you die (You know the kind I mean—leather bound beauties, filled with perfectly formed lines, a.k.a. legible ones, that share deep thoughts and entertaining tidbits that somehow manage to speak of the “human experience.”), one only has to flip one or two pages into my scrawls to realize my actual journals are the furthest thing from those daydream ones.

They’re completely random, messy, meandering things—half rant, half . . . boring.

Entries are inconsistent blurts of this and that. I do record small stories about my days, but more often I just vent—journaling to get things out of my system and process (deal with!) things that are going on around me-and/or in my head. And all that’s very valuable—just not something you want your family to stumble upon when you’re gone.

Or maybe it is.

I have a couple of my mom’s old notebooks. I was thrilled when my dad gifted them to me. But then I read them. And was . . . disappointed.

Only the beginning few pages in each were filled out. And there wasn’t a personal vignette to be found.

They were sermon notes. Now don’t get me wrong. I respect (and share) my mother’s faith. And I know the value of note taking—how it aids comprehension and retention. But there was nothing of her in the notes.

I poured over each page, hoping for a tiny visit—a whisper of her voice, her opinion, her humour, her angst, her . . . anything. I’d thought there might be snippets about my little toddler brother, tales about her and my dad, thoughts on parenting . . .

But these were not that type of journal.

What her journals aren’t, however, makes me think mine are okay. Maybe more than okay.

What if I’d read some never-before-guessed secret in my mom’s notebooks? I’d have been delighted, intrigued, curious, not incensed. What if I read her no holds barred inner response to a fight she and my dad—or she and I—had had? Would I be devastated? No. I’d grow from it, learn from it . . . And what if I read about unfulfilled dreams or came across scribblings about things she’d like to do in the future? The words might bring some pain, yes, but mostly they’d bring joy.

We often waste time hiding ourselves—or trying to, anyway. We try to disguise the darker sides of our nature, and strive to avoid what we perceive as “burdening” to others—the sharing of any sorrows, or questions, or doubts. Journaling should be an attempt to bust through that self-censor. A fight against the lonely notion that we can’t—or shouldn’t—say what we honestly feel and think, lest we offend, lest we unintentionally wound, lest people, really knowing us, cease to like us.

I’ve read extremely personal things taken from miscellaneous journals, and I’ve never thought less of the author—just the opposite usually. Uncensored details or observations about love, hate, confusion, beauty, ugliness, relationships—heck, about tea and simple pleasures, make me think, Ah, so that’s what it’s like to be him. To be her. And, perhaps ironically, help me understand myself better.

Someone famous once said something like, “I never worry about what someone might think of my diaries after I’m gone. I’ll be dead.”

Wise words. I wish I could fully embrace them—but the idea of someone reading all my journals makes me cringe. After all, I burnt all my childhood diaries when I was 13. I couldn’t bear the idea of someone perusing me. Sometimes I assure myself that’s what I can do with my spiral bound notebooks, too. But I don’t think I will.

While I can’t imagine anyone ever wanting to wade through my impossibly messy, navel-gazing cycle of snooze-inducing blah-blah-blah, my journals are part of me and I’ve made tenuous peace with them. And if someone does page through them when I’m long gone . . . Well, perhaps I should decorate each one with warning labels, similar to the one on my new yellow journal. . . .

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – -

“On Journaling” by me, Ev Bishop, was originally published in the Terrace Standard, April 24, 2013 as my monthly column “Just a Thought.”


Ms. Bishop. In the Library. With the Coffee Mug.

Photo by Ev Bishop

Photo by Ev Bishop

I started to spring clean. I got as far as my library shelves and office cabinet.

I’m prone to flights of daydreaming and distraction at the best of times, but when I’m supposed to be tidying books? Heaven help me! All those ideas, all those adventures, all those life-changing worlds and words . . .

I’ve been known to box up books, only to go back and rescue select titles. I keep doubles of some novels—because they’re that good and because it is a truth universally acknowledged that if you loan books, you rarely get them back. (Of course that fact means I rarely lend in the first place, but I like doubles in case, you know, I start.)

Anyway, armed with fresh coffee, a multitude of multi-sized cardboard boxes, and a belly full of steely resolve, I headed to my miniature library.

I’d just gotten through my writing-related books (mostly keepers), when the biggest killer of productivity, house-cleaning wishes, and de-junking desires hit me: an interesting thought. My brother had been sorting my Dad’s books and commented that you can learn a lot about people from their bookcases.

I found his theory interesting. So interesting that I lost several hours to perusing titles with an eye to what secrets my books might tell about my psyche, obsessions, and beliefs, instead of focussing on whether or not I would ever actually read or refer to them again.

A deer skull (complete with lower jaw and teeth) sits atop one row of books (Christianity and other faith and religion texts). I’m not sure what that says.

A bottle of wine lounges on its side, coming of age in the lofty company of modern literary fiction greats like Joy Kogawa, Barbara Gowdy, Wally Lamb, and Eden Robinson. Why am I storing a bottle of wine there? To make the classic authors a shelf above and a shelf below jealous? Perhaps. Also, it looks kind of pretty.

I have a lot of science fiction—Orwell, Bradbury, H.G.Wells, Asimov and Silverman, Heinlein, Robert J Sawyer. . . .

A full shelf homes titles by authors who are also personal friends. And another carries autographed works. And I have a small (but growing!) section with books that carry stories by me.

I have gads of Stephen King, almost the full Merrily Watkins series by Phil Rickman (highly recommended, by the way), Diana Gabaldon’s wonderful genre-bending Outlander series, and a myriad of other scary or scintillating tales. They hulk in the shadows, balancing the sweetness and light of my Jan Karon and Maeve Binchy books.

As my children grew, I parted with any kids’ books that were lame—but as children and YA writers are top storytellers in my books (Ha ha, pun intended!), I still have one full five-shelf case of “must keeps.”

My collection is roughly 1/5 non-fiction (but within that, a full shelf is devoted to poetry), with a higher concentration of writing craft and religious texts—but lots of history, social sciences, and philosophy, too

What fascinated me most circles back to my original goal of pruning my collection. Weirdly, it’s not the best books I have the hardest time parting with. The story between the covers isn’t my only consideration—nor the information relayed, nor the style, humour, or power with which the author writes. Not even my firm “Will you ever read this again?” question actually determines whether I cull or not. No, what really hampers my ability to part with a book is the story within the story.

I bought this for Marriah and Christopher at that little bookstore when we were on holidays on the Island.

My aunt and I spotted this book at the same time. She let me have it, but I “owed” her.

This was the first book I read after my mom died.

Aw, this is the one Chris read to Christopher all the time!

Breaking Smith’s Quarter Horse! My dad was obsessed with this forever.

And that—the notion that the story within a book is only part of the reason it keeps its spot when another, arguably far superior, might be pulled—was eye opening. I’ve long fought junk collecting because I know what a trap it can become. I had no idea that the psychology behind why I hold onto some books is similar to why some people can’t get rid of broken toys, old clothes, or boxes of knick-knacks they haven’t looked at in years.

I’m happy to say I did complete my library/office weed through. I now have space to justify new books.

The shoe closet and the kitchen cupboards are next. I’m a little scared. If you think I build sentimental, unrelated attachments to books easily, you should see what I can associate with old mixing bowls or a pair of satin slippers!

– - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – -

“Ms. Bishop. In the Library. With the Coffee Mug” by me, Ev Bishop, was originally published in the Terrace Standard, March 27, 2013 as my monthly column “Just a Thought.”


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 3,231 other followers

%d bloggers like this: