Tag Archives: bucket list

Misery Loves Miserable Company – Or Does It?

This might not be a shallow blog. I’ll let you decide. 

Those of you who have stuck with me over the many, many years of this blog will know that I don’t indulge in what has become a yearly tradition of making promises that are, unfortunately, most often destined to be broken. Even so, I have always resolved to be as honest as possible (although it’s not always possible) with my readers so here’s something you might not have imagined about me. Hard as it might be to believe, I wasn’t always at the top of my alma mater class which, I confess, is putting it mildly. It’s not that I didn’t like university. It’s just that I liked other things better. Like sleeping. Or spending ridiculous amounts of time in the cafeteria drinking coffee. Both of which may have been the result of having an extra draft or two (afterall, they were only two bits) the night before. Admittedly, things picked up in my later years, but those first year courses. Well let’s just say I’m a little short on the details. Except for one. 

If I had to guess, and the odds are not that great given I’m about 48 more years down this road of mine, I would say that the reason I found myself sitting in a lecture theatre surrounded by 400 budding psychologists was that it was the only available course that fit my schedule, meaning I didn’t have to be “up and at ‘em” before noon. Also I had heard the professor had a wicked, dry sense of humour and a guy who thinks brain stuff is funny can’t be all bad. Beyond that, I must refrain from making any judgements about the course because I can’t honestly say I remember much. Not much, but I do remember one thing which has stuck with me through the years. What our professor explained to us, and what I remember like it was just yesterday, was that while it is common knowledge that “misery loves company” what we might be surprised to find out is that misery actually loves miserable company. At the time it was quite a revelation. One which I have come to think about more than I perhaps would like over the past few months.

Let me backtrack just a tad. If you’ve been reading lately, (and granted I haven’t been writing much lately) you’ll know that 2019 has not been a stellar year for me and my family. There was the passing of my Mother in August, the Cat in September and my Aunt in October. And just when we thought we were out of the woods, because we all know that good/bad things happen in threes, we discovered, much to our chagrin, they actually don’t. Nope. Without getting into too much detail, that husband of mine decided to bring a little more excitement into our lives, and suffice to say, I spent much of the first week in December travelling to and fro from my home to the hospital. While things are now looking up I learned almost as much from this experience as I did from that old prof of mine. About people. And their miseries.

So we’re sitting in the rather sterile basement of the “other” hospital in this little city of ours, waiting for what I think is the third CT scan of the week. Knowing how these things can go I’m ready for a longish wait, having plugged a couple of extra hours into the meter and packed my Mother’s very well stocked Kobo which, I might add, I have made quite a dent in over the past few months. I’m pretty much minding my own business when in walks another couple who, I surmise, are there for the very same reason we are. Now I’m not really one to make idle conversation with complete strangers, especially in a rather uninviting environment, but I’m not so callous as to ignore their presence altogether. With that in mind I raise my eyes from my book (which btw, I’m quite enjoying) long enough to flash a welcoming smile and toss out a polite hello. One hour later I have been apprised of not only her husband’s current unfortunate health situation, but also of her own, those of her daughter, her grandson, her son-in-law and I’m pretty sure the neighbour who lived beside her before the neighbour who lives beside her now. 

But here’s the thing. Call me shallow but the truth of the matter is I really don’t want to hear about other people’s problems simply because I have some of my own. Honestly, I would rather talk about something wonderful going on in your life. A lovely trip you have taken. Perhaps a good meal you shared with someone you love. I’ll even listen to stories about your grand kids and their rather dubious accomplishments. I promise when things get back to normal in my life I will be glad to talk about your mother-in-law’s persistent bladder infection or your sister’s upcoming knee operation. You can tell me all about the adverse reaction you had to some plant-based supplement you decided to take on the recommendation of your herbalist. I’ll be happy to listen to any and all of the problems you have. Just not right now. Because now is not a good time for that.

Later in her life my Mother who I know loved me very much, would say this, in the nicest way, whenever I called to complain to her about an ache in my shoulder or a pain in my back. She’d say: “I have enough of my own aches and pains, I don’t really need to hear about yours”.  I didn’t always get it then but I get it now. She was right. Misery actually doesn’t love miserable company. And if you ask me, that professor of mine could have learned quite a lot from my Mom.

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Let me count the ways

bread listI’ve written about them before and apparently I’m going to write about them again. It seems to me that people like lists. I haven’t actually done the research so can’t say it’s an empirical fact or anything like that, but I do have some evidence to support my hypothesis. Take my last post. My last post had a list and people liked it. And, let’s face it. For all intents and purposes, Mr. Letterman’s entire career has been built around a list. Each and every night for the past 30 odd years he’s shared with us a “top 10” and it seems to me that nothing could last that long if people didn’t like it. As a matter of fact, it’s entirely possible that he could single handedly be responsible for the ever increasing popularity of the list. Although you won’t want to quote me on that.

The fact is, people make a lot of lists. They make lists when they go shopping to make sure they buy all the right stuff when they get to the store. Even if that store happens to be right around the corner from where they live. And yet, my best guess is, that when they leave the store there are as many things in their basket that weren’t on the list, than were. And some that were on the list but not in the basket. Most people make lists at work of all the things they need to do. I’ve been told this is a good thing, not so much because it reminds you of what you need do, but more so because you get such a good feeling when you cross each one of those things off until eventually you don’t have a list. Which begs the question “do people really like making lists or is it the getting rid of them that tickles their fancy?

You may however, be wondering why a shallow person like myself would be spending so much time thinking and writing about lists all the while eschewing the temptation to make them. Certainly I have made public my disdain for those pesky resolution lists so often made at the first of each year and there is still nothing in that bucket of mine. It’s just that everywhere I look these days there’s someone, I’m sure with the best of intentions, trying to tell me what 10 things I should or shouldn’t buy at my local big box store or what foods I should or shouldn’t eat if I want to live to be 100. Which I suppose in my family isn’t out of the question and, now that I’m thinking about it, I should probably ask my Mother to make a list.. Bottom line? While I don’t like making lists I have no problem reading and sharing them with you. So here are some of my favourites:

1) The 10 best and 10 worst places to live. Not that I am but it’s always nice to know where one should move should one be thinking of moving. You can also find out the 10 most expensive and the 10 least expensive places to live. Although perhaps unintentional, there is a strong correlation between these lists.

2) The 10 best colleges and universities in the country.  As a matter of fact, you’re going to find lots of lists that rank institutions of higher education. Unfortunately they’re all going to be different so you’ll just end up confused. Might I suggest you just use that “best place to live” list for this decision.

3) The 10 most influential people who never really lived. I can completely understand the inclusion of Santa Claus, Barbie and even Robin Hood, but I had to question the list’s reliability when it came to “The little engine that could”. In what universe can a train engine, even one that talks, be classified as a person?

4) 10 reasons why old people are awesome. Ten? At my age I would have been happy with one.

5) 7 new robots designed to do human jobs. I’d be ok with this as long as it didn’t dress better than me.

6) 13 scientific terms you might be using wrong. Fortunately I’m not using any of these wrong. Actually, I’m not using any of them at all.

7) Forbes 500 List. This is a long one so not sure anyone is really going to take the time to read it. Even so, one thing I can tell you for sure. I’m not on it.

8) 30 under 30 and 40 under 40 lists. These are always interesting because you get to see the rising stars in your community. One day I’m hoping to make the top 70 under 70.

9) 10 cool ways to reuse a pizza box. I eat a lot of pizza. Normally I throw out the box. I could have made chairs. Who knew this list would come in so handy.

10) Almost everyone does 10. I’m not doing 10.

Well what do you know! Looks like I just made a list of lists. Hope you liked it.

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This is my Everest

mountainThe other day I found myself thinking about stuff in general. It’s something I do on occasion, sometimes without even realizing it. Not sure why. I’ll be sitting watching the latest episode of whatever reality show happens to be on the tube (yes I still call it that) and it just happens. Thoughts come tumbling into my head whether I want them to or not. And they are not thoughts about the show. They’re other kinds of thoughts. Sometimes random. Other times quite focused. Like when I think about cleaning up the house for my garage sale this June. I think a lot about that. But so far that’s about all I’ve done because honestly, the idea of getting rid of all of the things I should get rid of is a bit overwhelming. Though I take some solace in knowing that my junk will become someone else’s treasure for whatever reason that may be.

I don’t know. Maybe it’s because of all the inspirational commercials on the television (see values.com) or maybe it’s just the time of year (new season, new life etc. etc.) but whatever the reason, the other day I got thinking about how most people, and when I say “most people” I really mean “other people” love a good challenge. People, it would seem, enjoy stretching to their limits by taking on tasks that push them out of their comfort zones, striving to meet lofty goals they set for themselves. Of course as an impartial and nonjudgmental observer of this phenomenon, I have come to realize that not all of these challenges are equal. On the contrary, there appears to be a rather broad range to choose from on the “challenge spectrum” ranging from the somewhat sublime “I’d really like to drop 5 pounds” to the absolutely ridiculous “better start training for that Death Valley Ultra” and everything in between.

Now don’t get me wrong. Not all challenges are physical. The things people choose to take on are many and varied, and from what I can see, limited only by their imaginations. Some are inspired to do good, helping those who are not as fortunate as they are. I know this to be true because, as we speak (I’m not exaggerating) there’s a spot on the telly with a guy rowing solo across the ocean to raise money for cancer. Turns out it’s also an ad for Advil. I think he’s going to need some. Others have more instrumental quests often involving jobs or school or some kind of heretofore hidden talent. Still others have goals that are vaguely esoteric and, in my mind at least, a little nebulous because who can really say whether or not you have “become a better person” even if that’s what you intended to do. And yet, with all of the choices out there, it seems that for a lot of people the ultimate challenge is to climb Mount Everest. Not sure why, it just is.

That’s when it hit me. When it all became clear. As much as I have never gone looking for a challenge, never even suggested that I have a bucket, here I am, plopped smack dab in the middle of it. This my friends, is my Everest. Writing the blog is my mountain to climb. My river to forge. My row to hoe. That’s right…”row”.  It’s like it found me when I wasn’t looking. And no matter how hard I try I simply can’t seem to claw my way out. So here I am. Week after week, month after month, year after year. Seems I’ve taken lots of steps but there’s no sign yet of the top.

My son tells me that climbing Everest is no big deal anymore. What with all the wealthy adventurers looking for a challenge, hiring the locals to do the heavy lifting, there’s practically a clear, paved path to the top.  Which makes me wonder. Maybe I too could find a couple Sherpas to help me along the way.

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Happy Anniversary to Me

cupcake_lightYou’ve probably been wondering what happened to me over these past few days since I’m a bit tardy getting to this post. Well, I’ve been celebrating a little of late and, if I must admit, feeling just a bit smug. I know it’s hard to believe but this week marks one year since I started the shallow blog, and I’m still here. As I recall, it was early on in this endeavor that I mentioned that, as a shallow person, I don’t have a stellar record when it comes to sticking things out. So it is somewhat remarkable, even to me, that I have been diligent enough to write this blog each and every week for a whole year. Ok, if I have to be totally honest, this is post number 51 (really, is anyone perfect?) which nonetheless is pretty indicative of my commitment to the cause. As you can only imagine, it’s a rather important milestone for me and I have struggled to find the right words for the occasion. At the six month mark I shared with you the progress that the blog had made and promised to update you on that at the end of the year. You know I’m a woman of my word but a cursory look at the current stats made me reconsider my earlier pledge as really, at 32 followers, 2,653 views and 150 comments there’s not that much to write about. Not to mention that there have been no t-shirts or mugs sold.

So I have to admit that it has taken an extraordinary amount of thinking on my part to come up with just the right topic for this auspicious event but I think I have finally figured out the “right thing to do”. Now here’s a little secret I haven’t shared with you to date. Most of my revelations about what to write for the blog come to me while I am in the shower (TMI?). I can’t really be sure, and this is not a proven scientific fact, but I’m guessing it has something to do with the water pounding on my head stimulating my brain. But that’s not what happened this time. No, this time I was sitting on a bench, waiting for the train that would get me to work and since I had just missed one I had a whole 9 minutes to kill. At first I was kicking myself for forgetting to bring a book but as I sat down on the cold, steel bench (which may also have had an effect albeit on a different part of my body) it occurred to me that I could use this time to think about the blog. And that’s when it hit me.

Something else you may not know about me is that I have spent a good deal of my life to date studying how adults learn and, as an educator of adults I know that reflection is a really important part of the learning process. So my first inclination was to help you to reflect by looking back at the blog for the whole year and sharing with you what you have learned about me and about being shallow. And then I thought “why not take this chance to do a little reflecting myself?” because the other thing I remembered about what I learned in school was the importance of self-reflection and what better time to do that than on an anniversary such as this one. Unlike New Year’s Eve, there’s no expectations around making resolutions or promises for a better year or anything like that. Rather reflection is an introspective process through which I may or may not decide to change and, in any case, whether I do or not will only be known to me as I’m not about to share that information with anyone else. So without further ado, and with deference and apologies to my hero, Mr. D. Letterman, (yes, shallow people have heroes too) I present to you the “top ten thingswe have learned about me over the past year.

  1. I’m ok with constantly being told I look like Babs and it doesn’t bother me much that I can’t sing like her. What really irks me is not having her money.
  2. I like small foreign cars. I sometimes drive them too fast. I always get caught. Maybe next time I should just settle for the Impala.
  3. When it comes to being shallow I have no problem making the grade. Not sure I’m going to be able to say the same about my course at Harvard.
  4. I’m an avid Folk Fest “goer” even though I don’t own any zip-offs or tie-dye; consider my flat iron to be my most valuable possession; and devoted three days of the blog to mocking (in my own way) this kumbaya event. Now that I’m thinking about it, perhaps I should give it a pass this year and save the 179 bucks.
  5. I don’t like lists so I have no resolutions and my bucket is empty. No matter, I still really want to to win the lottery.
  6. Shallow people get sad too although it would appear, never for more than a week at a time. Apparently we bleed just like everyone else but our skin may be a little thicker.
  7. I travel a lot for business and pleasure and I am pleased to have been able to substitute chit chat” for that “little white pill. I’m guessing there are a lot of people who probably wish I hadn’t.
  8. I refer to my Mother a lot. Come on people! She’s 97 years old! Just how shallow do you think I am?
  9. As much as I like Mr. Letterman I’m not as hooked on the number 10 as he is.

Well that’s it in a nutshell. I’ve paid my 18 bucks so I’m in for another round. Makes me think I just might have to change my mantra to “one year at a time.”

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Enough already with the Lists

2013Yep, it’s that time of the year again.  It’s taken 366 days, some longer others shorter than we would have liked, but it’s finally here. In less than 24 hours we will be entering a new year, one that will bring with it new hope and new beginnings and, dimes to dollars, a whole whack of people making lists of resolutions that they are pretty sure they will keep even though I read on the internet that 47% won’t make it past the 2 month mark.

I suppose that instead of writing this blog that’s what I should be doing right now, figuring out what things I need to resolve over the next 12 months. But to a shallow person New Year’s resolutions are a lot like bucket lists which, as you well know, we have little inclination to create. But like my bucket list experience I had a hunch that a quick trip around the world wide web would provide me with some understanding of what other people are thinking about changing in their lives which is good for me to know because I’m always open to new possibilities.

And I was right. What I discovered on my little WWW whirlwind vaca was that not only are there a multitude of sites where you can publicly profess your commitment to changing your life but there are also many authorities on the subject who are apparently more than willing to share with you their tips and tricks for success because, as previously noted, success in this arena is somewhat elusive. Although I suspect that depends very much on the degree of challenge one sets for oneself. I mean, it’s one thing to pledge to “become proficient in the Japanese language” which I imagine could easily take more than one year, and quite another to find success when your goal is to “get my laundry done” which I am guessing most people will accomplish at some point over the next 365 days.

There are, of course, the “top ten” New Year’s resolutions which, as one may expect, include concrete, measurable goals like “lose weight” and “quit smoking” where a pass/fail is pretty apparent, along with things like “be a better person” and “enjoy life more” where success can be somewhat more open to interpretation. Seems to me that going with the latter gives you a leg up on the odds. As can be expected there are the unreasonable resolves like “fly to the moon” and the even more unattainable “marry Brad Pitt” which as of this writing seems to have eluded even the Mother of his many children. Perhaps my favourite of all was the person whose only list item was “better husband” which I thought was laugh out loud funny before realizing it was likely posted by someone who wanted to be one rather than someone who wanted to get one.

For those people who have “been there, done that” and are seeking new ideas for the coming year there’s a handy resolution generator that you can use to come up with some new, heretofore unthought of ideas. There you will have access to a wide range of suggestions from the ever so practical “bring a reusable bag to the grocery store” to something a little more lofty like “change the world”. If I were you I would employ some caution as you click through the options and give a pass to ideas like “start a pencil collection” which just seems silly and would certainly conflict with the ever popular “declutter”, not to mention “say hi to a stranger” which in many cities could get you into some trouble. If you’re lucky like I was you may even come across something you have already accomplished like “finding all of the people with your name on Facebook”. I’ll be the first to admit though that it wasn’t terribly difficult and probably shouldn’t be factored in to those completion stats.

But here’s the real problem I have with New Year’s resolutions. It seems to me that for the most part people are going to do whatever it is they are going to do, resolution or no resolution. I mean, think about it. That year that you gained 30 pounds did you actually set out to do it? On January 1 did you write down that you were going to “up my sugar intake, eat as many donuts as possible in one sitting, and avoid the gym at all costs?” Or when you picked up that nasty smoking habit was your number one resolution to “start slow but work up to a pack a day by mid-year?”  No, you just did it. List or no list you’re going to do what you’re going to do. So I”m just going to say it. Enough already with the lists!

This year like all others I will refrain from the ritual of making resolutions that I am unlikely to keep and just live in this world the best way that I can. And with any luck I’ll be here next year to do the same thing over again.

Happy New Year to all of my friends and family and thanks again for sticking with me on this thing I call my blog.

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