Eyes Wide Open (K.Blais)

I turned 39 over the Christmas break. It wasn’t a huge monumental occasion or anything like that, but it did give me a reason to pause for a moment and think about life so far. I’ve learned a lot in my 39 years.  Probably though, I believe that I have learned more in the last 12 than in the previous 27. 

As a child, teenager, and even young adult I believe that I, in some ways, coasted through life a bit oblivious, unaware, and sometimes with my eyes closed. I had a loving and innocent childhood. I led a somewhat sheltered life, but I don’t see anything wrong with being sheltered as a child. As a teen and young adult I attended a great university, obtained three degrees with honours, and got a job in a fulfilling career field. I got married and began a comfortable life with my husband and friend. 

I grew up believing that people are generally good and want to help others. The times in my life where this was proven completely inaccurate (at least by some) were shocking and devastating to me. Betrayals, lies, injustices, and the like shook me to my core in those early days of my ‘awakening’. I quickly came to realize that not all people are good and not all people want to help others. For some this may have been common knowledge, but for me it was as if my eyes were opened wider than they had ever been. 

Twelve years ago, just about the time when I had my son and started a family, I began to realize that not everyone wants what’s best for others. Many want what’s best for them. This was a foreign concept to me in certain ways. I still struggle with understanding it to some degree as I grew up believing that if we want what’s best for everyone then what’s best for us will naturally fall into place. 

Sometimes your childhood beliefs are the hardest ones to adjust. 

In all actuality I haven’t changed that thinking entirely. I still believe that when everyone benefits we all win. I still believe that most people are good and that most people want what’s best for us, at least in my world (I hope) they do. 

But, when we encounter those individuals who are out for number one only, who take and take and take and seldom give back, who chastise and criticize us for their own shortcomings, and who look to hurt rather than to help then maybe it’s time to clean house, to take out the trash, and to burn the bridge. 

I believe in giving everyone a fair chance, but I also believe that there are times when we need to rely on our own common sense and intuition. There are times when we need to use our God-given intelligence and realize when enough is enough. There are times when we need to see those who really love us and those who only love what we do for them.

Unfortunately, it is often in our time of need, when we are at our lowest points, when we look to those individuals that we thought were our closest allies and friends, that we are brought back to reality. Sometimes we are disappointed, perhaps even shocked, by their inability to be there for us. These are the times when we need to have our eyes wide open to the individuals whom we choose to allow (and who we choose to allow to remain) in our lives. We need to ask ourselves whether the people who take the most time, energy, and love from us will actually give the same in return. 

The rest of our lives lie stretched out in front of us like an open road, whether we are 39, 59, or 79. At any age, at any stage, and in any situation maybe it’s time to pause and reflect on what we see in our lives at this point and if who we have in our lives is a positive reflection of who we are and what we hope to achieve. If we have uncertainties about those things and people maybe it’s time to ask questions and to see what the responses are. We may not always like the answers, but the questions will always be worth asking. 

Maybe it’s better to have our eyes wide open sooner, rather than later. 

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Enjoying Halloween (K.Blais)

It’s calmed down a bit in my house now. At one point earlier pumpkin guts were flying, scoops were being tossed back and forth, and the excitement and constant chattering of my six year old was making me a bit edgy to say the least. I love Halloween, but it also instills a bit of craziness into the air around here.

My table is still full of sopping wet newspaper, the pumpkin seeds are still begging to be roasted in the oven with seasoning salt, and the floor needs a small scrubbing, but it’s Halloween so these things are all expected and so it’s all good.

It’s technically the night before Halloween, Devil’s Night I believe it is called, and my kids are super excited for tomorrow night’s events of trick-or-treating and hanging out with friends.

There is something deliciously and delightfully eerie about Halloween. There hangs in the air the feeling that things are dark, suspenseful, and a bit spooky in an anticipatory sort of way.

Perhaps it’s because of this excitement that Halloween is one of life’s little pleasures that I still make time to enjoy. Each year we take the time to decorate the house and yard for fall and Halloween, we carve pumpkins and roast the seeds the night before, and we head out trick-or-treating to family and friends’ houses, which also ends up being an excellent opportunity to catch up with people we don’t get to see very often.

Life passes by way too quickly and we seldom get to enjoy the things that we once did as kids. And sometimes, when we do enjoy those things, we are told to “grow up” or to “act our age”. Halloween is one of those times when we can get away with acting young and silly, we can dress up and take on different personas, and we can allow ourselves to be spooked by the things that go bump in the night.

Even if you don’t ‘celebrate’ Halloween, take some time in the near future to be a child again and to do something you once really enjoyed when you were young. Let loose and step out of the adult comfort zone that we’ve become accustomed to and allow yourself to act much younger than your age.

Happy Halloween!

Why Not Me? (K.Blais)

When I was a little girl one of my biggest fears was being ‘left out’.

I was the chubby girl with glasses who most people generally liked, but not many paid a whole lot of attention to. I was smart, but not quite smart enough to be in the gifted ‘Astrolab’ class that a couple of other kids got to be in. (FYI, I really wanted to be in that class). My grade six teacher said I would never be good in Math like some of my other friends in the ‘high’ math group and that echoed in my head for years to come. (Only recently have I had the courage to overcome this by actually realizing that ‘teaching’ Math in a ‘different’ way makes both me and my students “good” in Math. But that is a story for another time.) Later in high school, an English teacher told me I would never be a creative writer like one of my classmates, only a technical and critical one, and I was/am determined to prove him wrong as well.

Growing up I was kind to others, which often resulted in me being a doormat (another hurdle I would strive to overcome in the years ahead) because I would forgive easily and quickly ‘get over’ whatever it was that had been done to me. I wanted to be liked by others so badly that when I wasn’t invited to sleepovers or birthdays, or included in secrets whispered in ears on the playground or shared behind hands at the lockers, it was devastating.

Maybe I tried too hard to fit in, I don’t know. Maybe I was my own worst enemy by worrying so much about being liked and ‘included’ that I wasn’t myself around others. I don’t know this for a fact either.

Here’s what I do know: being left out really stinks. Here’s what else I know: it doesn’t stink any less as an adult either.

A close friend recently told me that her daughter was struggling with issues with friends such as not being included in hang out plans, birthday parties, and movie nights. My heart broke for her because I knew how her daughter felt: how crushing, especially as a young preteen girl, that can be and how, as a parent, there isn’t much you can do about it except tell your child she is ‘better off’ without these people if they are going to treat her this way. (All of this being completely true but not overly comforting to the girl sitting at home while her friends are out together).

Social exclusion can be considered a type of bullying when it is done repeatedly, directly, and with the intention of causing someone discomfort or unease. Children and adults alike often use their own understanding of the desire to be accepted as the driving force in using the “exclusion tool” to have power over others. For some, the control they exert in leaving others out and excluding them leads to their feelings of superiority over others. It is seldom a good thing.

As we get older we tend to try to edge ourselves away from this type of pre-teen and high school drama. We try not to involve ourselves in the “high school” type of games of who will hang out with who and who will be better friends with who, but sometimes, even as much as we try to remove ourselves from them, those games end up involving us anyway. Sometimes, as much as we try to avoid these situations, we find ourselves caught in the middle of them anyway, even with the best of intentions.

Adults can be as mean as high school kids. Friends and acquaintances have shared with me stories of exclusion that they themselves experienced in adulthood, being left out of activities by people they thought were close friends, at times only finding out about their exclusion by reading about it on social media or in some other indirect way. Sometimes the ‘exclusion’ is unintentional and sometimes it is deliberate; however, I find it is more often the latter which occurs.

Now don’t get me wrong, we can choose who we spend time with and who we don’t; however, I think we have to be very aware of the fact that including some people and not others can be hurtful unless it is done in a tactful and respectful way. Openly speaking about an event that people have deliberately not been included in does not often bode well for our relationships with others. We can do what we want and with whom we want, but considering the feelings of others is important as well. Respecting others is a crucial part of being a considerate human being. Of course, again, this is just my opinion.

As adults we can attempt to slough off our feelings of hurt from exclusion, we can try to ignore the “inside” jokes or stories that we are not privy to, and we can choose to walk away or turn the other cheek when others discuss things we were not invited to be part of. As children and teens this is not so easy. Social exclusion is the new bullying and we need to help our children with strategies to cope and deal with these kinds of situations, as well as to teach them that these actions are not kind for them to bestow unto others either now or later in their lives.

As “grown-ups” we can tell ourselves that if people don’t want to include us then it’s ok because we don’t want to be around others if they don’t want to be around us. That’s what the adult in us says, but the child / teenager part of us still, at times, whispers ever-so-softly, no matter how hard we try to silence the voice, (just like the voice of so many others wanting to fit in and to be included), ‘Why not me?’