Have Heroes

Have HeroesWhen I was very young, my brother and I used to clamor for our dad to take us to this long grassy strip beside the railway tracks in Smithers so “we” could run. What we actually wanted was for him to run, while we chased after him. We were awed by his speed and would exhaust ourselves trying and trying and trying to keep up. We thought he was literally the fastest man on earth, and told him so. He would laugh and laugh . . . and then, sort of embarrassed like, add, “I’m really, really not—and please don’t tell anybody that I am.”

His disclaimer only made us all the more convinced that he was the fastest, that he was just being modest or kind of like Clark Kent, trying to keep his super powers under wraps. And he was our hero in other, bigger, ways too.

This hero worship and pure rose-colored love applied to my mom as well. In addition to being the best cook in the known universe, she could sew anything, patch up the most gruesome injuries without a blink, and fix any toy. Plus, she was a math and science genius!

As I got older my dad’s super hero qualities—and those of my mother’s—diminished. (In fact, for a good chunk of time, they completely lost all ability to do anything remotely right or to know anything. After a few years, miraculously, they got at least some of their admirable qualities, skills and know-how back. Phew.)

But it didn’t matter that I no longer blindly worshipped them, that I realized they didn’t actually have invisible wings or magic capes, that they were, in fact, the same as me, just people trying to muddy through life the best they could. The lesson—that you can and should have people you admire, that you look to as examples of how to live and be—was set.

While I don’t think we should idolize anyone to the point that if they fall off their pedestal it completely shatters our vision of ourselves, our hope for our lives, or our world view, I do believe, regardless of our age, it’s nice—and incredibly beneficial—to have heroes.

Identifying people who are doing what we want to do, living how we desire to live, or who embody morals, character, and personality traits that we would like to have, then watching them and practicing their methods and approaches, is a great way to learn how to maneuver life yourself. Sometimes, or regarding some specific things, those people might be family members, but other times, we may need to focus beyond our immediate roots.

Over the years, I’ve looked to a myriad of people for guidance, affirmation and inspiration—as a mother, a homemaker, a writer, in my career, but also just as a traveller on the road of life. It can be a treacherous, terrifying road with bad slippery spots and tough terrain at times. Looking for clues on how to manage and thrive from those with more experience just makes good sense.

We should all seek heroes—unique to our personal bents and aspirations, hopes and dreams. And we should never worry about whether anyone else is similarly inspired by our notion of what makes someone “heroic.” It’s a uniquely personal thing. And should our heroes need to change their outfit, fly with another cape or be supplanted or joined by someone else because we’ve grown all we can under their influence—well, we should feel no guilt in looking to someone new. Heroes understand.

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“Have Heroes” by me, Ev Bishop, was originally published in the Terrace Standard, June 2016 as my monthly column “Just a Thought.” It’s part of a theme I’m exploring this year–“Things I want my children (and future grandchildren) to know.” Any you’ve missed can be found here: 

1) What do you know? (Jan. 2016)
2) Kindness Matters (Feb. 2016)
3) Beauty in the details (Mar. 2016)
4) Seasons Change (Apr. 2016)
5) Every Day Is Mother’s Day (May 2016)

 

Every Day Is Mother’s Day

Photo by Jinterwas on Flickr. Click the photo to visit the artist's page.

Photo by Jinterwas on Flickr. Click to visit the artist’s page.

I was always fascinated by my mom’s purse, a treasure trove of comfort and necessity. She had a preference for large leather handbags. The size seldom varied, nor the contents, nor the lovely minty scent.

Perusing the bag was a favourite treat. It always contained, at minimum:

 

  • At least one tube of some bright berry-red lipstick, worn to an extremely sharp edge—a fact that still fascinates me as I always grind mine to a smooth, flat surface. My mom’s way seemed much more sophisticated!
  • Rolls of chalk-white, green centered mints. (Hence the calming aroma.)
  • Mini packages of tissue papers
  • Individually wrapped lemony wet wipes
  • Cough candies (hideously strong ones)
  • Assorted pens
  • A spiral notepad
  • Band-Aids (multiple sizes)
  • Aspirin (in a tiny white, yellow and brown tin with a sliding lid)
  • Tampons
  • A Hot Wheels car or two

To me, her purse was the epitome of femininity and motherhood. I considered it glamorous (even though it was usually squat and grey) and practical, and I vowed that if I was ever a mother, I would have just as fascinating and soothing a purse to help me attend to my needs, the needs of my children and those of any other random kids who happened to fall down in my proximity, needed to jot a note, or just had really bad breath.

And then I had kids.

My failure to ever carry a bag remotely as well-stocked as my mom’s, let alone one with an entrancing minty scent, symbolizes the theme of most lessons I learned about motherhood: things rarely go as imagined or planned, and often we’re not the moms we envisioned being—for both better and worse.

And it was the kindest instance of that repeated lesson. We’ve all done it. Vowed we’d never do such and such like our mother. Promised we’d never say X, Y, Z, or do . . . blah, blah, blah. Hopefully, we can also identify tangible ways our mothers showed their love, see characteristics we want to emulate.

It wasn’t until I had my children that I realized how young you are (regardless of your age!) when you have kids and become responsible for someone else, how inept and ill equipped for the task you feel. It’s not just their physical wellbeing and nourishing you need to worry about—in fact, that’s the least of it. You have a tender soul to raise, who will feel each one of your mistakes—and each of life’s random happenings, which you are completely powerless against—so keenly it makes you bleed inside. You will, like it or not, shape the adult another person grows to be. There is so much love and awe and fun—and yet so much absolute terror and mind-paralyzing insecurity.

Kids view the world through their mother’s eyes, her introduction to it. And all the time I was young, I thought there was some magic adult age (that somehow coincided with a child bursting forth from your uterus) where you Know (capital K) all things—thus any mistakes, follies, or perceived injuries had to be intentional.

If you’re a parent, you’re shaking your head because you know full well that the only thing that “bursts forth” with your firstborn is a powerful new awareness: that forever you will love someone more than yourself and never be more powerless, or at least feel more powerless, to be all the things you want to be for them, to protect them how you need to, to give them all they’ll require to endure and thrive—and you have to do it from whatever place you’re at in your life at whatever moment, with all the lack of answers, sketchy finances, unresolved gunk, relationship problems, grief, illness, etc., etc.

Mothering helped me understand my mom better and showed me that forgiving her for any perceived wrongs was critical to my emotional growth and to choosing how I wanted to live and be and parent. Focusing on her strengths and successes, the things she taught me and how she’d inspired me, allowed me to take personal responsibility and grow into someone separate and distinct from her—yet to feel an increasing connection to her—exactly, I believe, as she always wanted for me.

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Every Day Is Mother’s Day” by me, Ev Bishop, was originally published in the Terrace Standard, May 25, 2016 as my monthly column “Just a Thought.” It’s part of a theme I’m exploring this year–“Things I want my children (and future grandchildren) to know.” Missed the first four? Find them here:

1) What do you know? (Jan. 2016)
2) Kindness Matters (Feb. 2016)
3) Beauty in the details (Mar. 2016)
4) Seasons Change (Apr. 2016)

Seasons Change

DSC04398In a memory so clear I can practically taste the dust I kicked up, inhale the sweet scent of cottonwood pollen, and feel the heat of the packed earth—and the occasional sharp bite of gravel—against the winter-tender soles of my feet, a moment from a school day over thirty years ago has always stayed with me.

I was in grade five, the final bell had rung and we’d been dismissed. I’d been held back after class for something, however, and by the time I was outside (feeling hard done by and blue) and ready to walk home, there wasn’t another kid in sight. It had been cold and wet when I left for school that morning, so I was wearing boots and a heavy jacket—but it was late March or early April, meaning the weather could go from snow to beach-ready seemingly overnight, or in this case, over the seven or so hours I’d been inside. As I left the school grounds and started my trek past the then neglected, vacant lots, something pulled me from my sadness: the realization that it was warm.

I peeled off my coat. Stopped to admire dandelions. Noticed buds on a bush that had been tightly closed earlier now revealed tiny green leaves. The birds were noisy. The air was delicious. My feet sweated. I considered the well-worn dirt path snaking through the unkempt bright green grass and made a decision. Tying my coat sleeves around my waist, I bent down, tugged off my boots, ripped off my socks and stuffed them inside said boots. Then gripping my footwear in one hand, feeling weirdly proud, I walked the rest of the way home barefoot, sure that each passing car was envious of me and my unconfined toes.

That evening, when my mom asked how my day was, I answered, “Great.” And I wasn’t lying or forgetting. It had just . . . changed.

Over the years, that memory, so tiny and seemingly insignificant, grew to have . . . significance. It was, in my young brain, vivid evidence that moods and circumstances—and nature/life itself—changes. Of course, in terms of what life would throw at me, what I’d go on to endure, a bad day in elementary school was a walk in the park, but it remained a tangible encouragement, regardless.

For almost as far back as I can remember, I’ve been deeply affected by the seasons. I’m at my height of happiness and peace (I bloom so to speak!) in the hottest heat of summer. I turn to inward things, literally and metaphorically, in autumn as everything around us dies or settles into dormancy. While I’m not unappreciative of the beauty of snow and ice, winter is my hardest season. I feel a bit frozen too, and if I’m going to have gloomy thoughts, they’ll hit hardest in November and then again in January and February.

Spring, however, ahhh—although not my favourite season (because remember summer, guys, summer!)—always feels like a gift because it reminds me of deep truths I intuited all those years ago walking home from school: Hard times (winters) eventually end and easier times come again. Things that appear dead can rejuvenate, come back to life, bigger, stronger, and more resilient than ever. Root systems, the supports for growth and health, are often invisible, yet they exist.

There have been times in my life—and unfortunately, there will be more, I’m sure—when it seems like a particularly difficult season (grief, heartbreak, loneliness, financial hardship, a crisis of faith, you name it . . .) will never end. Yet just like spring always eventually comes, those heavy, hard to deal with things inevitably lighten.

Spending time in nature (throughout the year and every kind of weather) helps me take heart and remember: seasons change and so do we.

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“Seasons Change” by me, Ev Bishop, was originally published in the Terrace Standard, April 27, 2016 as my monthly column “Just a Thought.” It’s part of a theme I’m exploring this year–“Things I want my children (and future grandchildren) to know”–and feels very apropos as I’ve been spending every minute I can outside in my garden, watching things grow.:) Missed the first three? Find them here:

1) What do you know? (Jan. 2016)
2) Kindness Matters (Feb. 2016)
3) Beauty in the details (Mar. 2016)

What do you know?

Beauty in the shadows

“Beauty in the shadows” – Photo by Ev Bishop

I’m trying something new with my [Terrace Standard] column this year, a theme if you will. At this point, it’s set to continue for a full twelve months. I wonder if I’ll stick with it—oh, the mystery, oh, the intrigue! And what is this theme of which I speak? Well, though I’m being kind of silly in this introduction, it’s sort of serious. And it intimidates the heck out of me.  

 
Things I want my children (and future grandchildren) to know.
 
See why it’s terrifying? It’s bad enough when you say things aloud when there are witnesses, especially if it becomes dreadfully apparent that you were totally out to lunch. But with verbalized opinions, at least you can always say you were misquoted or taken out of context (and if it’s my kids or husband quoting me, 99 percent of the time I am being purposely misrepresented!). With written ponderings? They’re always there to haunt you.
 
And I already know that some of the things I think I’ve learned will change. In fact, I look forward to it and even jotted a note in my journal, “Revisit this when I’m 63!” It can’t be helped, nor would I want it to be. Sometimes we fail to speak about deep subjects because we’re so aware of all we still don’t know, all the ways we fail to live as we believe we should, and all the things we have yet to figure out. But that’s a mistake. Hopefully we’re always learning and growing; I’d better know more in twenty years than I do today!  
 
So what brought on this lofty goal of sharing any so-called wisdom I may have gleaned to date? A number of things, but I’ll just share the biggest one.   
 
Many years ago, when I was a very young teenager, I went out to the shop in our yard to get my dad for dinner and I found him talking into a tape recorder and crying. Even now it’s a really hard memory for me. He was horribly embarrassed. I was horribly embarrassed.
 
He apologized and tried to explain. He was just very lonely, and didn’t have anyone to really talk to about certain things. And so he talked into a recorder while he worked. It helped him sort through and make sense of some stuff.
 
While the explanation made the whole thing even harder for me, or I should say, sadder, it was also a very good lesson—on being a grown-up (something that at that point I still equated as being a magical state of everything-wonderful) and on being human.
 
People are meant to ease the loneliness of existence by communicating and sharing the load of all the questions, worries, fears and doubts that come hand-in-hand with living—and the flipside is true too: we’re meant to share the joy and delight and the good, too. But so often, for so many reasons, we don’t, or can’t, or feel we shouldn’t.
 
Sometimes the reasons we hold back are valid. Over-sharing adult problems with children isn’t healthy for them. And some details are private or, at the very least, not ours to tell. Other times, however, it’s the result of flawed thinking—feeling we have to appear strong or infallible before sharing an opinion. Or it’s because we’re deeply insecure. The list could go on and on. . . .
 
Yet there are things you learn as you travel through life, insight gleaned through hard knocks—and good times—that you want to pass on. Sometimes we just have to be brave enough to risk looking dumb and rest easy, knowing that whether our thoughts are received in the spirit we mean them or not, at least we tried to convey them.
 
I won’t be breaking any taboos over the next year, but I will tackle some of the things I care about and have come to believe are important—maybe even critical—to a happy life.
 
I hope you’ll explore with me.
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“What do you know?” by me, Ev Bishop, was originally published in the Terrace Standard, January 27, 2016 as my monthly column “Just a Thought.”
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P.S. 4 more sleeps ’til SPOONS!

 

To Friendship

 

"Coffee Break" Photo by Berit Watkin

“Coffee Break” – Photo by Berit Watkin

Water bottles. Check. Audio book. Yay and check! Overnight bags. Check. My friend’s car—her behind the wheel—gassed up and ready to hit the road. Check and check. First stop: Drive thru for coffee. Last stop? Destination Prince George.

 
It was a lovely mini vacation. Three friends and I decided to meet up for a day of shopping, followed by dinner and a late night gabfest in PG. It was one of those spontaneous breaks you don’t know how much you need until you take it.
 
We each visited our different shopping priorities then met up at a hotel where we shared a suite. We drank wine and munched appys in said suite, then devoured a fantastic meal at North 54. After that we partied up a storm—old-friends-who-don’t-get-to-see-each-other-enough style, meaning we taxied back to the hotel after dinner, chatted for a few more hours, then went to bed, woke up, had coffee in our room and talked some more, then had a lovely breakfast and went our separate ways.  
 
As you know from last month’s column (and from your own life, no doubt), some seasons in life are harder than others, and what kept coming back to me over and over again was the famous Beatles’ refrain, “I get by with a little help from my friends.” (Ohhhhh, ooooooh!)
 
I have been incredibly blessed with enduring friendships: some formed as an adult in the midst of raising children and trying to find myself career and creativity wise, others that predate meeting my husband, having kids, or graduating high school—or, in one case, even having permanent teeth. A couple friends are related by blood. Others are more the kind Anne of Green Gables spoke of: “Kindred spirits are not so scarce as I used to think. It’s splendid to find out there are so many of them in the world.”
 
Over the years and depending on the busyness and cadence of our various lives, we see a little or a lot of each other, but something interesting struck me the other day. I appreciate, need, rely on, and revel in my friends with the same intensity that I did as a teenager—maybe more because we’re not all so rottenly insecure.
 
I wouldn’t have predicted this in my twenties and early thirties when things were so hectic that long deep visits or casual just hanging out times were rare—but I also wonder if it has something to do with the life stage I’m at. In my twenties and thirties, I knew what I was doing, what I was focused on. I still appreciated and enjoyed my friends, but my small children and family took most of my energy and time. Here at 43, I feel like I’m 18 again, in terms of wondering what’s up next, who will I be, how shall I live? And some of the grief and hard things feel similar too. Why do we exist? What’s the meaning of life? Why is our world like this? (I know, I know . . . you’re feeling sorry for my friends having to put up with me. What can I tell you? They really are amazing. And they drink a lot to cope with me. Heh.)
 
My husband and I often joke that I’m a hermit, and that’s partially true. I can enjoy light socializing, but it wears me down. I don’t do small talk well. And I require a lot of alone time—yet I also need my friends, deeply.
 
It’s not the quantity of friends that counts, nor the amount of time you spend together. In both cases, it comes down to quality.
 
I hope you, like me, have found (or find) your people—or person—that keeps you from feeling alone on this small planet. After all, “Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: ‘What! You too? I thought I was the only one.’” ~ C.S. Lewis 
 
Love and feel extremely grateful for my friends. Check.
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“To Friends” by me, Ev Bishop, was originally published in the Terrace Standard, November 25, 2015 as my monthly column “Just a Thought.”

Don’t Look!

Screen Shot 2015-03-11 at 9.19.41 AMAlternate title: A Tetris Battle lesson

If you read my column “Lessons From Bubble Pop,” I know what you’re thinking: What, she’s writing about another computer game? She has a problem.

While it’s kind of cruel of you to be so judgmental, I can’t argue with you. I really am a game addict and Tetris has topped the list of my weaknesses since approximately 1988.

At various times in my life I’ve been on the wagon, the longest break being the years I no longer frequented Gus’s Arcade. Online Tetris versions were lame compared to the arcade game—or were until I joined Facebook and discovered—Oh, the joy, oh, the agony, oh, the huge time suckage but wonderful stress reliever—Tetris Battle.

(You said there was a lesson in this blather, I hear you mutter—and right you are. Patience, patience. All the little blocks will fall into place soon and you’ll soon see what I’m putting down. Heh heh. A Tetris joke. Get it?)

ANYWAY, I’ve been playing like a mad woman again because after a six-month hiatus, I logged in and discovered I’d lost my rank and had to restart from scratch. (I know. It’s an outrage.)

It’s been a rough month. February weather is hard on my spirits in general (although the respite provided by the crazy, glorious snowstorm was lovely!), plus some things in my personal life have been tough—and professionally I’ve been fraught with indecision and insecurity about the path I’ve chosen and the direction I’m going. . . . Sounds familiar, right? Yes, I think it’s called life, sometimes. . . .

But I’ve been kicking butt in Tetris at least.

The lesson I want to share comes—as so many lessons do—from a mistake I made. For an instant, while battling a User-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named, I broke with my proven strategy and looked to see how my opponent was doing.

Gah! I recognized my error immediately. He was doing great. Had even dropped more lines than I had. (The horror, the horror!) Flustered, I made a rookie error, landed a Z shape at an awkward angle, leaving a gap exposed—then compounded the problem by dropping a square too close, so I couldn’t snug another piece under the jutting edge.

Even worse, I darted a sideways glance again to see how badly my screw-up had hurt my game. Bleeeep—KO’D. Even as the buzzer sounded, my brain screamed, “What were you doing? Don’t look. Don’t look!”

Wham! Crossover wisdom hit me and fleshed itself out. Don’t look at your neighbor or friend or peer. Keep focused on your plan, your goal, what works for you.

To win in Tetris, you can’t let yourself get distracted by someone else’s progress, concentrate too heavily on the way they play, or compare their results to your own. Doing so will immobilize you, fill you with doubt, and crush your game.

The same is true for other parts of life. I’m usually content with my home, relationships, accomplishments, work——until I fall into the comparison trap. I sometimes need to remind myself: Don’t look! Zeroing in on how someone else is doing doesn’t change my situation, skills, talents, or assets—but it does take my focus off what it should be on: what I do have, what I can do, what I should do.

Flipping that (because there’s always flipping in Tetris), all of life is not like the game. Sometimes contemplating what other people are doing encourages, challenges and spurs you on. . . .

The trick, I guess, is to know which to do and when. Thankfully, the answer’s fairly clear. If looking at others makes you dissatisfied or diminishes your ability to maneuver the pieces of your life with joy and ease, stop looking. If studying someone else fills you with a sense of possibility or lends you a strategy you hadn’t yet considered, gawk away.

And now I’m off to level up.:)

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“Don’t Look! A Tetris Battle lesson” by me, Ev Bishop, was originally published in the Terrace Standard, February 25, 2015 as my monthly column “Just a Thought.”

Uncomplicated Kindness

Photo Credit: Jennifer/Sweet on Veg on Flickr

Photo Credit: Jennifer/Sweet on Veg on Flickr

My thoughts are all over the place today, flitting here, darting there, from dark and muddy places as dreary as my sodden yard to joy-inducing, light-filled bright spots, as beautiful as sunshine through blue and amber glass.

I wanted to write an inspiring January note for you all, some wise words on motivation, an encouragement about how to stick to a plan, or how to set and achieve goals, but instead I find myself dwelling on a little thing that, the older I get, seems not so little after all: the power of a kind word.

I learned this lesson personally when I was fifteen or sixteen or so. Picasso has his blue period; I had my black stage. For a long time I dressed in black from head to toe, and wore heavy kohl eyeliner. “Goth” wasn’t really a thing yet, in Terrace, at least, but my clothing was dramatic enough to single me out sometimes. I’m still amazed at some of the responses I got to such an innocuous thing as wearing all black—but this is not about the rotten stuff people say and do. It’s about the shiny, lovely things.

My mom and dad hated my “ghoulish” attire and makeup, thought it was at best inappropriate for a young girl (who should wear bright “happy” colors) and at worst “sluttish.”

I loved my black wardrobe for many reasons—and still gravitate to the shade—and I don’t think you have to be morbid, obsessed with death or depressed to revel in black . . . but I was depressed. Sad. Lonely. And I will admit that some days, maybe I was sort of saying, This is me. I don’t fit in. See?

(At this point, I have to stress, you cannot and should not assume anything about a person’s mood or morals or anything else by what they wear. Usually clothes are just clothes, fashion—and despite my confession above, the biggest reason behind my clothing choices was esthetic. I just loved black.)

Anyway, I’d had a bad weekend to top off a bad week that topped off a bad month that—okay, I guess I could just say I was feeling low. I was at church with my family, the service had ended, and I was being subjected to after church “fellowship” in the foyer. My mom, for reasons I now think I understand, yet still don’t make sense, decided to publicly nag me about my clothing again. Yes, it felt awesome, as humiliations and conflicts always do.

To this day, I remember my outfit with fondness. It was quintessential 80s Ev: Black spandex leggings. Black pointy-toed ankle boots. A black tank top with an off the shoulder, long black sweatshirt. A boxy black denim jacket. I’m sure my hair was a blow-dried mess, and may or may not have had some purple in it. My eyes were pointed like a cat’s.

I looked rad. But also out of place in the room of equally 80s fashionable—yet polar opposite of “alternative”—ice cream pink, mint and yellow sweaters and polo shirts.

Regardless of how much I liked what I was wearing and felt good in it, I was hurt and angered by my Mom’s vented disapproval and obvious embarrassment about me.

Suddenly, a twinkly-eyed woman with short gray curls piped up, “You don’t like Ev’s look? Really? Whenever I see her I always think, wow, she looks so flamboyant!” She proceeded to add that she’d read the newspaper and noticed I’d made the honor roll, adding a cheery, “Again. Good for you!”

Conversation rolled on and I escaped—and I’m sure she had no idea that her small comment turned on a comforting light that only grew brighter with the years: Someone will like you, whether you’re a bit different or not. You’re okay.

Twenty-five years later I still recall the power of that moment and the gratitude I felt for her kindness. She saw me, not just my exterior.

We all live with varying degrees of insecurity, doubt, worry, fear. . . . No one needs more criticism or condemnation. We all could use a quiet, I see you—the real you. I like you. I accept you.

And who knows? Maybe a casual, encouraging word we give off the cuff will end up being the light that gets someone else through some dark time.

Wishing you a year of kindness—to yourself and to others,
Ev

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“Uncomplicated Kindness” by me, Ev Bishop, was originally published in the Terrace Standard, January 28, 2015 as my monthly column “Just a Thought.”