Saturday, May 23, 2015

Extra Ordinary Days

Yesterday, I found myself at a table, surrounded by a group of pretty incredible women. My buddy Deb, her amazing mom Mary, my friend from book club, Judy, and then my friend, Jan and her wife, Debbie. If that alone had been the agenda, I would have signed up just to spend the day with these women. Firefighters, paramedics, an incredible woman who pulls together home lotteries to fundraise for hospitals, a store owner, a business owner...but those are just their roles, as we discovered together through a seminar called "How to Lead An Extraordinary Life".

Throughout the day, we were asked to really examine our own lives, our priorities, our fears, our hopes and our passions. If you had asked me to sign up for that agenda, I probably would not have signed up. At one point, early in the morning, when we were told we needed to get up and hug as many women in the room as possible, I totally admit that I mouthed, "I hate you" to my beautiful friend, Deb, who had invited me. I started to shake and twitch and heaven help me, sweat a little and even blush. Ridiculous, right? But, that's me in that setting. Thankfully, Jan's wife, Debbie looked as uncomfortable as me as maybe did ONE other woman in the room. What is it with women? Suddenly, though I clung as close to my chair, wedged between two tables, as awkward to get to as I felt, I was being hugged by complete strangers. What really choked me is that I saw Debbie escape to the bathroom and I reminded myself to follow that wise woman next time we were in any uncomfortable setting. But, this time, I was at the mercy of a hundred (it felt like) happy huggers. I lived. That in itself was extraordinary.

Though I feel like I'm pretty self aware, I know that I am also my own worst critic, often irrationally so. Many women are. I tell you though, we were asked to write 10 things we like about ourselves and it took me the full amount of time. Not because I was honestly short of things to write, I mean, I do have some decent qualities, it was more that it was awkward to write them down about myself. One of the women at our table though, seriously, just rattled off a list of 10 and then looked at the rest of us like she couldn't believe we were still trying to figure it out! I loved that. It actually was a huge moment for me in the seminar and it came from our table, not from the front.

I think that part of what I took away yesterday is that if I can surround myself with an amazing group of friends and family such as the people I was with yesterday, I can't help but be inspired to live a better life.  I was still thinking about it this morning as I texted Deb saying, "I just had caramel popcorn for breakfast and now I'm cleaning up dog barf. I'm living the extraordinary life!!"  Of course, the truth is that not every moment can be extraordinary or that would become the mundane.
The reality is though, that if we fill up our lives with the dutiful and the mundane, we may miss out on the extraordinary. Not always, for sometimes extraordinary comes in the midst of the mundane, but as a rule, we often push off our passions and our dreams for the duty and the day to day.

Deb mentioned to me last night that we had been talking about getting out on the paddle boards a lot this week. The weather was supposed to be incredible today, though we were a little afraid of how cold the river would still be, given that we just got rid of frost warnings last week, but, we made a plan to go out and paddle today.  Saturdays are busy and the kids are home and the husbands are working and I had other things to take care I thought, if Deb doesn't mention it, I'll let it go.
Then my neighbour, Bobby, who really does live quite an extraordinary life, though he's young and choosing to now live it in a much nicer place, came by to pick up the last of the things from the house he just sold across the street from us. We chatted for a few minutes and then he said to me, "I talked to Deb last night. She said you guys were going out on the river! Do NOT let her off the hook. You guys need to get out there."  It made me kind of glad the smartypants was leaving the neighbourhood. (Just kidding, you man.) So, responded to a text from Deb, we set a time, I got the basic work stuff I had to get done, done and by 1:30 pm we were on the river, giddy as schoolgirls, paddling for the first time this year after a long winter of longing for it. It took us a while even to settle into it because we were just so pumped to be doing it.

Somewhere along the way, we paddled into a side arm of the river, carried mostly by the current and the two of us sat on our boards and let the current take us. We were completely quiet. Deb told me after she was working on a breathing exercise we had learned yesterday. I was listening in a way that I learned yesterday - starting from the farthest off noises to those that come from your own breathing and heartbeat. I honestly could have listened to the sound of the nose of my board meeting the water for the entire day.  It was so restful.  Crazily though, in the midst of the peaceful float, we heard the hugest splash right behind our boards, and looked to see the ripples. I instantly thought we were under attack, because that happens a lot in rural Saskatchewan, paddle boarders are attacked while floating down the middle of the river far from anywhere. Deb realized pretty quickly that it was a beaver. Clearly, imagination wasn't on her list of good qualities like it was on mine. The Beav, as I have now named him,  had probably come up on us thinking we were logs, just floating along. Or he was warning other beavers of our imminent arrival, either way, he was loud and disruptive but it was just funny. Who gets jerked out of their reverie by a belligerent beaver? He surfaced a distance behind us and then disappeared as we floated farther away.  Talk about an extraordinary day.

And that's probably the nitty gritty truth of it all. That extraordinary comes in the midst of the mundane, it can be your quiet, meditative moments or it can be the thing that jerks you out of it. It can be the balance of a morning of dog vomit and caramel corn, weeding and sweeping and then finding yourself in the middle of a river, floating along with only the water and your board beneath you.

I think that many of us live extraordinary lives. I know I when I am mindful, I can see it. But, we need to be reminded at times to look for it, and if it takes to long to search out, perhaps we need to make it a little more readily visible, if only to our own eyes.

It was an extraordinary day. Though we may replicate many of the elements of it, dog vomit exempted, there will never be another just like it. So, I'm storing this one up for when I need to be reminded.

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