When clouds explode

“Hey. You. Get out of my –“

That’s what my mom always says, or actually half sings and half chants, whenever we do something annoying like pick out pieces of cucumber she just chopped up and added to a salad. And almost every time she half sings and half chants this I ask, “what is that??” and she tells me it’s a song from her era. She never knows what song, and she never knows what word finishes the line, but she knows it’s some song. From the 1920’s. I’m kidding, she’s not that old.

So it has always been a mystery song.

But because of things like smart phones and Google, there really is no need for mystery songs anymore, which is why when she half sang and half chanted this half line the other week I decided to look it up right there in the kitchen.

As it turns out, this mystery song is a Rolling Stones song and the actual lyric is, “Hey! You! Get off of my cloud.” After the success of Satisfaction, the Rolling Stones wanted to sit back and enjoy it all, but the increased popularity had brought with it increased expectations and increased pressure for a great next single. As that follow-up song, Get Off of My Cloud was written about their frustration with those expectations.

I feel like it’s important to clarify that I’m not any sort of Rolling Stones expert and I’m barely familiar with their music. In fact, when I googled this information I definitely said out loud, “I didn’t know Satisfaction was their song,” as well as, “Hey! Mick Jagger was a Rolling Stone.” The funny thing is that considering I know next to nothing about them, this is not the first post in which I’ve mentioned the Rolling Stones.

Anyway. Get off of my cloud. What a relevant sentiment!

 

when-clouds-explode

To make your own cloud, gather up 10 pillows, pile them on top of a bed, and cover pile in white fuzzy blanket. 

Think about it… So what’s next for you?… So where to next?… Congratulations! So now what’s the plan?… Wow, how are you going to top this?

You’ve probably been asked one of these questions. You’ve probably felt a sense of ‘whoa, one step at a time, let me just enjoy this’ in response to one of these questions. And yet you’ve probably still asked someone else one of these questions. At least I have, to all three. Check, check and check.

Sometimes it feels like everything is about what’s next and about making what’s next bigger and better, and I think we sometimes lose sight of what’s now. We are always so focused on the future and we are so achievement oriented, where one achievement almost instantly becomes just a stepping stone to the next, more esteemed achievement. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think this is inherently a bad thing. I’m all for having goals and working hard to reach them, and I think it’s so important to constantly be trying to become better versions of ourselves. The problem is when this fixation on what’s next interferes with living in and appreciating the now. The problem is when a question about what you’re going to do next starts to sound like you aren’t good enough the way you are right now.

The problem is when all these expectations, all this pressure, and all this preoccupation with the future messes with our clouds. And the problem is not just that we let other people ruin our clouds, but that we sometimes ruin them ourselves.

And do you know what happens when a cloud is under too much pressure and too much stress?

It explodes.

No, it doesn’t. Well, actually, I have no idea. I’ve never heard of an exploding cloud before but I am not a cloud expert. I’m sure my favourite meteorologist Michael Kuss could explain the ins and outs of how clouds work, but for the sake of this post, let’s pretend that clouds are those fluffy pillows in the sky that we can jump around on and that they also have the ability to explode.

And when clouds explode they rain. And we fall to the ground umbrella-less. And we have to walk home with wet socks which is just the worst.

img_8218

Hey!

But there’s an alternative. The alternative is that we don’t give people the power to make our clouds explode. We choose to enjoy where our hard work has taken us instead of just focusing on where we hope we will end up. We still set goals and make plans for the future, but we take the time to be proud of where we are at and recognize our strengths and talents that have helped us get there.

img_8231

You!

So back to that stressful question: what’s next?

Here’s what’s next…I know it’s not easy, but next time someone is threatening to make your cloud explode I want you to look at them and say, “Hey! You! Get off of my cloud.”

You don’t need to actually say it, but try and live it. Try not to let thoughts or stress about what’s next take away from what’s now. It’s hard not to give someone the power to make you feel like you’re not good enough, and it’s even harder when that someone is yourself, but try to protect your cloud anyway.

 

img_8134

Get off of my cloud.

And if you really don’t know where to start, you and your wet socks should march over to my house where, if you mess with her salad, my mom will half-sing-half-chant-show you how it’s done.

If my life were an Olympics hurdles race

I would like to welcome you to installment #376 of random situations that I reflect on, extract a deeper meaning from and then write about. Today’s topic: The Olympics!

Yes, that’s right. This post is seriously inspired by sports and will discuss the unprecedented interest I currently have in sports. If you had told me when I started this blog that I would one day be so excited about sports I would want to write about it, I would have raised one eyebrow at you and said whatever. Okay, I wouldn’t have raised one eyebrow because I’ve never been skilled enough to do so, but I would have said whatever. And then I would have, in spirit, had to pay 25 cents to the bad word jar we had growing up (these bad words, by the way, were whatever, so and but…I didn’t even know that worse words existed).

Anyway.

The point is, I’m not a sports person. I was never super interested in playing them and I was even less interested in watching them. This year, though, I have quite the case of Olympic fever! And when I get involved and interested in something I tend to go all out, which means I’ve watched more sports in the last week than I have in probably the last 10 years of my life.

While this sudden interest in all things Olympics is quite uncharacteristic, my approach is classic me. Every evening I go through the whole schedule for the following day (CBC website and I are besties right now), check all the lineups to find out if any Canadians are competing, and then make a schedule with all of the times of each event. The next morning when I wake up I check the results for the events that have already happened because Brazil is four hours ahead and I’m committed but I’m not THAT committed. Throughout the rest of the day I watch the events I’m interested in, sometimes with multiple screens going at once, and check on results for the events that I didn’t watch.

I can’t believe how fun this all is! I also can’t believe how many fun facts I’ve learned because every time I’m confused about what’s going on or I straight up don’t know what an event is I look it up. For example, now I know what an omnium is, and now I’m not sure how I survived this long without that knowledge.

Side note: I still have unanswered questions! What happens if a judge sneezes and misses a dive? If there is a tie for gold, what determines which country’s anthem is played first? And why don’t the male divers wear slightly larger speedos so that their butt cracks don’t start creeping out the top? As you can see, these are very pressing questions, so if you happen to know the answer to any of them please do leave me a comment.

Back on track (and field), now.

IMG_7239.JPG

I’ve never hurdled in my life, but my brother is quite the accomplished hurdler. Well, he was when he was 12. Well, he at least completed one race according to this photo.

Speaking of track and field, let’s talk about the hurdles. I always thought that if you knocked over a hurdle then you were out of the race, but as it turns out, this is not the case. You can be disqualified if you deliberately knock down a hurdle or if you knock one into another lane and interfere with another runner’s race, but if you just don’t fully clear a hurdle and it falls over, there is no penalty. You just keep going. Doing so might mess with your speed and your rhythm, but you get to keep going.

Upon learning this after watching a race and being shocked by the number of downed hurdles, I jokingly said that it’s just like in life where a lot of the time we don’t smoothly sail over the hurdles in our way, either. At first I was just being silly, but then I thought wait, no, this really is just like life.

If my life were an Olympics hurdles race then I’m pretty sure I would not be doing so well. I’m pretty sure I would be getting tripped up by every single hurdle lately, knocking over all of them. A lot of things are slowing me down right now. I’m dragging my feet. I’m sighing every time I come up to a new hurdle because I feel like I’m still trying to get my rhythm back after catching my foot and knocking down the last one.

Anyone else feeling like that, too? Anyone with me, finding yourself in the middle of a race that you aren’t prepared for?

Maybe it’s because the hurdles are too high. Or maybe it’s because we’re too short. Too tired. Too uncoordinated. Too scared. Maybe it’s because we’re too distracted, looking around and wondering why it seems like all the other lanes have lower hurdles, fewer hurdles, and friendlier hurdles.

Whatever the reason, it’s okay. We’re not going to be disqualified. It doesn’t matter if we don’t seamlessly sail over every hurdle. It doesn’t even matter if we don’t sail over any of them. And it doesn’t matter what any of the other lanes look like. All that matters is that we face forward and keep going. Oh, and not deliberately try to slow anyone else down, of course, because we’re all doing the best we can with the hurdles in front of us.

We get to keep going. Let’s do just that.

So here’s to knocking down every single hurdle in our way. Here’s to feeling slow and out of sync. Here’s to finishing the race anyway.

Still learning

There are two things you should know about me. One, I always did well in school. And two, I love getting rid of stuff.

Seriously, there are few things more satisfying than cleaning out a closet or a drawer (or an entire room!) and coming across things you don’t wear, don’t use, don’t need, don’t want etc. and just getting rid of them. It’s fun! Despite this, I’ve never been able to get rid of several binders packed with coursework from a few important university classes. You know, the information that I will need as a reference one day when I go back to school.

More about that school thing.

School photos

When I say I always did well in school that’s kind of an understatement. I was smart from the start. You should see my grade one spelling tests. I graduated high school top of my class and went to university on a full ride scholarship. Even though I got sick one month into my first semester, I became that annoying person who ruined the curve for everyone else. I had a 4.23 GPA, a resume overflowing with work and volunteer experiences, and I was on track to reach every goal I had set. School was not just a means to an end for me, but rather a core part of my being, and my education was not a privilege I took lightly.

FullSizeRender

What six year old even knows what precipitation is, let alone how to spell it??

I’m not telling you this to brag; I’m telling you this to help you understand what I lost when I got sick. Well, when I got sicker. When I got sick enough that I could no longer keep up the life I had been living, no matter how hard I tried.

And believe me, I tried. Over and over again, I tried.

I’ve lost count now of how many times I registered for classes, or even just one class, and ended up withdrawing part way through because of my health, usually because I wound up in the hospital for weeks at a time. I did this enough times that the university told me not to start a class unless I was sure I could finish it. Still, not getting a degree didn’t seem like an option. Despite how sick I was, I could not fathom an existence in which I was too sick to go to school. I could not fathom an existence in which chronic illness wasn’t just a footnote in my life, but rather a central theme.

Part of that came from the outside world. Social media is flooded with stories of people overcoming all odds to achieve the seemingly impossible. Messages of “if I can do it you can do it” and #noexcuses are everywhere. It happens in person, too. Instead of listening to my point of view, people are quick to tell me not to give up, that I’m too smart not to go to school, that I’m still young so I have lots of time left.

And part of it originated from my own self-image. I was the one who was going somewhere. I was the one with all that potential. I was the one everyone assumed was guaranteed to succeed.

I didn’t know how to let go of that.

Which is why I signed up for a class again this past semester. A class I had already started and withdrawn from. Twice. A class I thought might go better now that I’m healthier than the last time I tried. A class that would put me three credits closer to being that success story I so wanted to be. A class that I withdrew from for the third time in June. And a class that I was so thankful I had withdrawn from later that month when I found myself in the hospital yet again.

Everything is different now. I used to love school. I loved learning. Retaining information came easy and I functioned well under pressure. School had a purpose because I had goals, goals that didn’t factor in the limits that chronic illness places on a mind and body.

But everything is different now.

The truth is that I don’t like school anymore. Instead of energizing me, it exhausts me. It takes up all of my reserves and all of my resources, negatively affecting my quality of life and my overall health. My body now buckles under pressure. And the goals I had, the driving purpose behind all of my hard work, those goals are no longer realistic.

I don’t like school anymore, and because I don’t like the fact that I don’t like it I’ve wasted a lot of time, energy and money trying to like it again. Trying to do something because I felt like I was supposed to, because if other people could overcome the odds then I had to, too. Trying not to let my potential go to waste. Trying not to let my illness ‘win.’ Trying to be the person that would one day make use of all that coursework I couldn’t bring myself to get rid of.

There are lots of young people out there living with chronic illnesses and disabilities who are overcoming all odds for the sake of their education and because I know how hard it is to do what they are doing, they impress me to no end. I, however, am not one of them. The highlight reel of my success story is not going to include that coveted cap and gown photo.

And I think I’m okay with that. Or at least I’m trying to be. I’m learning to be, which is the whole point anyway. The point is that learning is not limited to lecture halls and labs. The point is that my education doesn’t have to end just because I’ve decided to stop paying money in pursuit of a BSc next to my name.

I am learning that there is so much more to learning than I ever realized.

Let’s go back, now, to all that old coursework I could never get rid of, where my love of learning faces off with my love of getting rid of stuff. All that paper waiting around for the day I go back to school, let’s go back to that.

IMG_6557

Oh, actually, we can’t. Because I got rid of it. All of it! All 17 pounds of paper (not before I weighed it, of course) and all of the stress and uncertainty it held. All those binders and all of the expectations and disappointments that were buried within them.

I was finally able to let it all go because I’m learning to let that version of my life go. I’m learning to broaden my view of success. I’m learning to respect and value the education I’ve been receiving this entire time.

Everything is different now, and I’m learning to let that be okay.

The most important part is that I’m still learning.

And that I never have to stop.