Bits and bobs

Random thoughts about random things by a random person


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How to avoid regrets – Or, “Hey – your last post said they were fine!”

If you looked at my last post, you may think that there is a contradiction between the title of that post and this one. 🙂

It’s just that in writing that one, I had a few other thoughts that take regret in a bit of a different direction. So, I guess this post is kind of a partner post (if that’s a thing) to the last one. 🙂

As you may recall, the previous post talked about regret in the context of things that have happened in the past.

This post talks about avoiding the regret in the first place.

Really, it’s quite simple: Don’t do anything you will wish you didn’t do and do everything you will wish you had.

Ta daaaaaaaaaaa!! That’s solved.

“Then,” you might ask, “why are there still more words on this page, Lucy???”

Well, naturally, nothing is ever really that simple, is it? I mean, in a way it really does come down to that, but there’s a bit more involved.

When I was 18, I was at university and having a lot of fun. There was a party one night (well, lots of nights, actually… 🙂 ) and I had to work. I really wanted to go out with my friends so I called work and quit. Obviously, at that point in my life, I thought I’d regret missing that party more than I’d regret quitting that job.

Now, I can’t even conceive of doing such a thing!

What I would regret now is considerably different than what I would have regretted then.

That said, there are some general suggestions we can follow that can help us avoid some potential down-the-road moments of “I wish I had….”

In fact, if you ask Mr. Google for advice on how to prevent future regret, you’ll get a LOT of advice. There are all kinds of lists, with 5, 10 or even 15 tips in them.

Here are just a few of them, if you’d like to check them out:

There are things common to most of the lists I’ve read, such as spending time with loved ones or not living the life other people expect us to live. But there is some variety in there, too – something for everyone, I would say.

None of it is rocket science (unless, perhaps you might regret one day not having learned rocket science 😉 ), but they are still good reminders.

Sometimes in the hustle and bustle of everyday life, we forget to do the things that are important to us and need those reminders every now and then.

In some time management stuff I read years ago, I learned something that has stuck with me to this day: We put our time into what is important to us.

I didn’t (and don’t) intend this to be a time-management post, but I think it is relevant to touch on it a tiny bit. It can be a useful exercise to sit and look at what we spend our time doing and compare that list to a list of the things that are important to us.

I would suggest that the things we say are important to us and that we don’t spend our time on are probably the things we will regret.

By bringing those lists into alignment with each other we can in that way create our own customized list of ways to prevent our personal regrets down the road.

We probably can’t completely avoid “I wish I had…” statements, but doing that one thing can help us avoid some of the biggest regrets that we might otherwise have had.


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I have regrets – and I’m glad

I used to buy into the whole “regrets are bad” thing. It sounds good and it makes sense: Regret is a bad feeling, so not having regrets would be a good thing, right?

When I sat and really thought about it, though, asking myself if I have regrets, I realized that I do – many, in fact. Most are small – things like wishing I hadn’t said something to someone or said it in a particular way. But there are a few big, life-impacting decisions, too. And I genuinely regret them.

At first I felt badly about that. It seemed like I was doing something wrong, given the pervasiveness of the “no regrets” movement.

For example, when I just Googled “live without regret”, the following three items were the top results:

  • How to Live Your Life Without Regret
  • 40 Ways to Live Life Without Regrets
  • How to Start Living Life Without Regret Right Now

There are also a kajillion memes and quotes about it, in case you are interested.

So, I tried to convince myself that I shouldn’t regret those things. “Regret is bad” seemed to be everywhere and so many people I knew were adherents. Many people, in fact, talked about it as thought it were a badge of honour. “I regret nothing I’ve ever done!”

But I couldn’t quite convince myself to really get on board.

Maybe it’s a matter of semantics. For me, regret is about wishing I hadn’t done something (or in some cases, wishing I had). A couple of definitions I found online says pretty much the same thing:

  • Merriam-Webster: to be very sorry for
  • Cambridge Dictionary : a feeling of sadness about something sad or wrong or about a mistake that you have made, and a wish that it could have been different and better

From what I’ve read and heard, though, regret seems to have been equated with dwelling on things. If that’s where you’re coming from, then I agree: We shouldn’t dwell on things to a negative degree.

For me, though, regret and dwelling on things are totally separate items.

The things I regret, I regret for very specific reasons: they either hurt other people or myself.

As such, I’m glad I regret them because the regret reminds me why I don’t want to repeat those actions (or inactions).

I still wish that in those moments I had made other choices and I’m glad I feel that way. They weren’t OK choices to make. Honestly, to me, I should regret them.

Yes, I learned lessons from them, but me having an opportunity to learn a lesson isn’t a valid reason to excuse those decisions – decisions that caused hurt and pain.

Learning the lesson, rather, is the way to turn a bad thing into a not-so-bad thing. It still doesn’t turn it into a “good” thing (to me), but it kind of makes the best out of a bad situation.

The important thing is that I don’t dwell on those things. I don’t use them to torture* myself or to paralyze myself from moving forward. And I have forgiven myself for them.

I could be wrong, but (going by the “I wish I hadn’t done that” definition) I don’t think it’s truly possible to have absolutely no regrets about anything ever.

Setting an expectation of “no regret” seems, then, to be setting ourselves up for failure. (If you are one to beat yourself up about poor choices, you probably don’t need another “failure” to add to your list. 😉 )

I think it’s just another one of those things where the pendulum seems to swing entirely to one direction or another.

Generally, we land, I think, somewhere in the middle.

We recognize we shouldn’t have done something, we learn from it, we take that learning with us and move on, with the regret in the perspective in which it was perhaps intended:

“Hey – that wasn’t so fun. Let’s not do that again, K?”

Want to learn more?

In finishing up this post, I thought I’d go back to the ol’ Google machine and see just how off-base I am with this whole “embrace your regrets” thing, and found an interesting article in the Huffington Post. It contains some comments from Brené Brown, if you are interested.


*There are times, yes, when my anxiety is on overdrive and my brain decides to replay every poor decision I’ve ever made (from decades ago even) and every unkind thing I’ve ever said. It even throws in several moments that weren’t poor decisions or unkind moments – it twists normal, everyday interactions and interprets them negatively. But that’s not about regret. That’s about brain chemistry. When I’m not in the throes of anxiety, I know the difference. But that can be a whole series of posts in and of itself. 🙂


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Hand lettering and meditation

As you know, I like to dabble in different things. A few months ago, I decided to learn about hand lettering, also commonly referred to as brush lettering, brush calligraphy or modern calligraphy. I make cards and I wanted to learn some different lettering styles so that I’m not always restricted by the stamps I have on hand and so that I can make cards that are 100% made by me, as opposed to just stamped and coloured by me.

As usual, I went off to the Google machine and began my search. I found a lot of resources. I printed off some worksheets, even bought some stuff from Amazon, and started in.

You may remember from a previous post, I’m not the most patient of individuals when it comes to learning new things. I have good handwriting and printing so I thought this would be a snap. Turns out it wasn’t and I was tempted – a lot – to throw in the towel (my standard go-to response when something doesn’t come easily to me).

Thankfully, pretty much all the resources I had read talked about the importance of practice – practice, practice, practice. So I didn’t give up.

One key thing that I learned early on is that hand lettering is completely different than writing. You can’t think of them the same way at all. Hand lettering is actually more like drawing letters than writing or even printing them. Drawing each individual letter and, in fact, each individual stroke of each letter. Where I can write a stream of lovely, flowing cursive, I can’t do the same with hand lettering.

I know I can’t because I tried. It didn’t work. And it didn’t look good. At all. So I forced myself to slow down. I stopped at each stroke. I made each stroke intentional. I learned to breathe in on the upstrokes and out on the downstrokes.

Where I was initially impatient to be able to fluidly write beautiful words, in all the colours of the fancy (and unnecessary) markers I’d bought, I have since come to enjoy the actual process of the drills. Breathe in, light stroke upwards. Breathe out, firm pressure downwards. Lift the pen; turn it so as to not permanently bend the nib in one direction. Light pressure up; firm pressure down. Breathe in; breathe out.

If you’ve ever done any meditation, some of that will sound familiar. I found myself quite surprised about that familiarity, actually.

What I had intended to be a means to an end – learning necessary skills so I could make pretty letters and words – has inadvertently become so much more. I have come to look forward to and really enjoy the calm and focus (which so often elude me) of the drills. I particularly enjoy how they force me to slow down, especially my racing thoughts.

Surprisingly, the meditative aspect has become even more important to me than becoming successful in the artistic side of it. I almost (heavy on “almost” 🙂 ) don’t even care if I become adept at making the words that had initially drawn me to this practice.

Who knew!!

_____________________________________

Want to learn more?

If this is something you think you might be interested in, here are some websites I have learned a lot from. I particularly enjoy the drills from The Happy Every Crafter site.

There are a lot of different tools you can get but you really don’t need anything fancy.

For pens, I recommend getting a smaller brush pen to start. I couldn’t really find any around here (Ottawa), but ordered a couple of packages of Tombow Fudenosuke brush pens and started using them for my drills when I got them a couple of weeks ago. I wish I had gotten them at the start. They’ve made a real difference. You can also start with a soft-leaded pencil and regular paper, if you either can’t get or can’t afford any of the other stuff.

For paper, find something smooth – rough paper is hard on the pens and it’s also hard (for me, anyway) to get the smooth brush strokes.

For both pens and paper, definitely don’t go fancy until you get some of the basics down and decide if it’s something you even want to go any further with.


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Cooking prep times (or What if you DON’T have a sous-chef?)

Have you ever used a recipe to cook or bake something? If you have, you probably know exactly where I’m going with this.

But, for the sake of those who either don’t cook or have never needed to use a recipe, I’ll go there anyway. 🙂

In pretty well every “proper” recipe I’ve seen there are two times given: prep time and cooking (or baking) time. Prep is short for preparation, so prep time is, you guessed it, the time it takes to prepare the ingredients for the recipe: taking them out, cutting, chopping, peeling, measuring, etc. The cooking (or baking) time is – wait for it! – the time it takes to actually cook or bake the thing! Ta daaaaaaaaaaa!! Not rocket science.

For some reason, though, the people who write recipes seem to think that we all have sous-chefs at home who do all of said cutting, chopping, peeling and measuring. Then when we walk into the kitchen to make a recipe, everything is laid out in those cute little bowls (like on the cooking shows), all ready to go.

I’ve noticed this phenomenon often over the years. But it really stood out for me somewhere in the past several months when I was intentionally looking for some quick recipes for weeknight suppers. I have a bunch from years ago where you open cans of things and throw in some meat or veggies to create an easy one-pot meal. (Ahhhhh…the days of the cream of chicken soup casserole!!) But I wanted some healthier options that didn’t use a bunch of prepared foods.

So, as I am wont to do, I hopped on the ol’ Google machine. As you can imagine, there were a lot of results. And they sounded ideal: “Healthy dinner recipes ready in 30 minutes!” YES!!!!! That’s it!

Then I read the recipe: Take out X Y Z vegetables. Peel them. Dice them. Put them in the food processor. Make a sauce. Get out this other stuff and measure it. Slice the meat into thin strips. Hop around the kitchen blindfolded, on one foot. OK…I may be exaggerating on that last bit, but you get the point. 😉

Joking aside, I have actually seen a recipe with most of those steps and a listed prep time of FIVE minutes!!WHAT??

Some recipes kind of cheat, too, and include a pre-cooked ingredient just so they can say it’s a really fast recipe. So always read the recipe! (Especially keep an eye out for when something needs to be marinated. You might actually need to start your prep a couple of hours earlier or possibly the day before.)

Even in baking, which I’m more comfortable with than cooking, I find it impossible to achieve the listed prep time.

It might be possible if I treated it like a race, but if I hurry, I make mistakes and drop things – or even forget things. (Ever made banana bread without the baking powder? Good fun.) Plus, I want to enjoy it, not feel like a clock is ticking. I don’t go intentionally slow, either. And my kitchen isn’t huge. Everything is within easy reach – no more than 4 or 5 steps away. Really, if prep times were going to work for any regular person, it should be me.

Sadly, they don’t, so I don’t trust them at all anymore. I scan the recipe to see what’s involved and, at a minimum, double the prep time to help me decide if it’s something I want to take on in the time I actually have.

If you are fairly new to cooking or baking, or if it’s a completely new type of recipe to you, I would suggest even starting with tripling the prep time. Or maybe even totally disregarding it. Give yourself a comfortable spread of time so you don’t feel that ticking clock or, worse, a sense of failure or incompetence that might deter you from trying again in the future.

Cuz, seriously, it ain’t you. It ain’t me, either. It’s the recipe.

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Where are you from? (And why you might want to rethink asking that question.)

 “Where are you from?” About two years ago I would have thought that was a great question to ask – a great way to make conversation and get to know someone. Over my lifetime, I’ve asked it dozens of times. Probably over a hundred. And even that might be conservative.

It turns out, though, that those four little words can be quite loaded – and I had no idea.

To me where I am originally from (the island of Newfoundland, on the very east end of Canada) is a huge part of the person I am. There are vast linguistic and cultural differences there from even other parts of Canada. Where I live (Ottawa, Ontario) is very different from where I am from. Ottawa is part of my current life; Newfoundland is my cultural heritage.

I’ve always been interested in cultures and love learning about them. It’s not what’s the same about us that makes people interesting to me – it’s what’s different. It’s in the differences that I learn and grow and come to appreciate so many things.

So for me, asking someone where they are from has always come from a place of wanting to respect a person’s heritage enough to ask about it and wanting to increase my own understanding of places around the world.

I have learned, though, that to the person on the receiving end of that question, it might not come across that way.

One of my friends here is of African descent, by way of Barbados. She grew up in Manitoba, one of Canada’s prairie provinces. She’s the one who opened my eyes to the potentially darker side of this question.

For her and, I have learned since, many people who don’t sound or look like they “belong” in Canada, that question can make them really feel like they don’t, in fact, belong. She explained to me that when she answers that she’s from Manitoba, there is frequently a follow-up of, “No…but where are you really from?” Because a person of her colour, obviously, couldn’t possibly be “from” Manitoba.

We had a really good conversation about it that day and it made me uncomfortable. I wanted to resist it. I even thought to myself, “That’s ridiculous. She’s being over-sensitive.”

I realized later that I thought those things simply because of how uncomfortable I felt. I had flashbacks of times I had asked that question over the years. I didn’t like the thought that when I thought I was showing interest in them, I may actually have been insulting them. I didn’t want that to be the case, so I resisted the idea.

We often do that, don’t we? In so many situations it’s easier to put the “fault” of something back onto someone else. And my initial, defensive reaction was to do just that.

Since that conversation about two years ago, I have thought a lot about this idea. In fact, I’ve tried to write this post a bunch of times already and have never really been able to get it to where I’m comfortable with it or to write it in a way that readers would be comfortable with it.

Today I realized that making people (myself or others) comfortable with it shouldn’t be part of the equation.

That’s not to say I’m intentionally dismissing your feelings. What I mean is that it’s normal for this to be an uncomfortable subject, especially when it’s new to you and if you are an asker of that question.

Plus, sometimes it’s good to be made uncomfortable and if you are uncomfortable right now, please read on.

In today’s world, I think we need to be uncomfortable more often. Reading only things that already match our thoughts and ideas – things that we are comfortable with – only serves to more firmly ensconce us on that particular “side” of an issue. We will only learn and progress – as individuals and as communities – when we allow ourselves to learn about and try to see the other side of things. Frequently that means we will be uncomfortable. And, seriously, that’s OK – even more than OK.

Before I go further, let me explain that for me this is not a question of “political correctness”. I don’t even like that term. It might just be a question of semantics, but to me it implies that something should be changed solely to appease one group or another because politicians are afraid of that particular group. I get that laws need to be changed sometimes in order for changes to happen and particularly for rights to be given, but changing individual attitudes and behaviours is more than that.

For me when we change how we act, what we say and what we accept from those around us – it shouldn’t be because it’s the “politically correct” thing to do, but because it’s the right thing to do, out of simple human decency and respect.

This is one of those situations. Just because I’m curious about someone’s background and I don’t have any ill-will or malicious intent in my question doesn’t mean I have carte blanche to ask it whenever the urge strikes me. If I’m genuinely interested in that individual – and not just satisfying my own curiosity – then the first thing I should consider is whether or not my question would be welcome in the first place. (Another one of those reminders from the universe that it’s not, for some reason, all about me. 😉 )

Interestingly, I have even realized that I have not always enjoyed being asked that question myself.

As I said, I grew up in Newfoundland. European settlement of Newfoundland, which began in the 1500s, was primarily by English and Irish settlers, with some pockets of French communities depending on what was happening between Britain and France at any given moment. There are almost as many variations of English spoken in Newfoundland as there are communities. It is, I’m sure, a linquistic academic’s dream. (For more information about that, see the Wikipedia articles Newfoundland (island) and Newfoundland English.) In my “natural state”, I have an accent.

I lived almost 14 years in Calgary, Alberta. More often than not, as soon as someone heard me speak, they invariably asked either the general “Where are you from?” or the specific “Are you from Newfoundland?”

When I confirmed that I was, indeed from Newfoundland, the reactions were generally (in the other person’s mind, no doubt) very positive: “Oh! I love Newfies!” or “Newfies are the hardest workers!” There were also the comments about us being the biggest drinkers, too, which always came up when people found out that I was from Newfoundland and didn’t drink. “How is that possible???” they would ask with sincere incredulity. Happily, I never ran into the stereotype of “stupid Newfies”.

I either had to learn to just laugh it all off and take a 10-minute detour to every conversation when I first met someone or I had to learn to hide my accent and stop using those colourful expressions. Luckily, I have a knack for languages and accents and could hide that pretty easily. I also learned fairly quickly to avoid expressions that non-Newfoundlanders wouldn’t understand. (I should be clear: I never did this because of any sense of shame of being from Newfoundland; it was strictly because of how annoying and bothersome the interactions were.)

Don’t get me wrong: I don’t equate those experiences with the experiences that people of colour or who have immigrated to Canada deal with. Hardly. For one thing, I at least had a choice to be able to hide my linguistic identity. That choice is not available to people of a different colour or who aren’t able to blend in with the language so easily.

But thinking of my own experiences with that question has given me a bit of a different perspective into what it might be like for others on the receiving end of it. It also helped me realize that, even if there isn’t a sense of being made to feel like you don’t belong or perhaps of being “less than”, not everybody even wants to talk about where they are “from”. So I try to be respectful of that now.

“I did then what I knew how to do. Now that I know better, I do better.”

Maya Angelou

If you’d like to learn a bit more about this, please check out this TED talk by Taiye Selasi and this Huffington Post article by Isabelle Khoo.


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Pyjamas at work and I don’t care

I was on the elevator at work yesterday – going up or down, I don’t remember and, really, it doesn’t matter. It was crowded and I was towards the back left. As I frequently do, I was standing there, minding my own business, looking down at the floor. Not an exciting thing to look at, but you have to look somewhere and the floor is the least obtrusive thing to look at.

Of course, when you look at the floor on a crowded elevator you see shoes and lower legs. Sometimes I see footwear that I really like. I might even say to the person, “I really like your shoes!” But generally, I just kind of stand there quietly minding my own business.

Yesterday, though, what I saw confused and surprised me.

There was the regular assortment of spring footwear, of course: dress shoes (either on the optimistic or those staying inside), rain boots for the more realistic folks venturing outside, and comfy shoes of various types.

Amid that, I saw this flash of colour that drew my attention. There, in front and to the right of my feet and lower legs were lower legs clad in what I think were pyjama bottoms. They were a dark blue, almost navy, in what looked like a jersey knit (t-shirty material) with about a 2-inch band of multi-coloured floral satiny fabric. I thought, “That can’t be right…” so I looked again, thinking they must be regular pants. But they looked loose and sloppy like pyjama bottoms.

Unable to resist, I scanned up her person, thinking the top would give me a clue. But she was wearing a long jacket. Bummer!

Now you might ask, “Lucy, why do you even care? It’s really none of your business.” And you would be right.

While I do live by the “pyjamas are for home and not for public” philosophy, I also live by the “you do your thing and I’ll do mine” philosophy. I’ve seen pyjamas in public before – lots. I’m sure you have, too. Perhaps you even wear them in public – who knows! When I see them, I just do my internal, middle-aged woman “tut tut” and that’s the end of it.

But seeing that yesterday – in an office setting – really confused me. It was like the generation gap opened wide with this loud sucking noise and flashing lights to make sure I was aware of the distance between me and the “It” generation. If those really were pyjamas, where was I when it became OK to wear them to work, when work isn’t a pyjama-testing job?

Where was I? I was so far away from the young adult scene as to be completely clueless about this. That’s where I was.

Now, I’ve never been one to be very savvy about fashion. I have no idea what’s really in or what’s really out. But you’d think I’d have an inkling as to whether or not this is now considered fashion, right? Apparently not. Cuz whether or not they really were pyjamas, they did look like them, and I don’t even know if it’s that’s a thing (outside the pages of “The People of Walmart”).

The other side of that realization has been that I discovered that I don’t even care that I don’t know. I mean, yeah, it hit me broadside at first – “Oh no! I’m getting old!” But then came, “Uh huh. So?” Then I realized that I genuinely don’t care that I don’t know if “that’s what the kids are wearing these days.” I really don’t.

And I like it.


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I don’t lose socks

I fully realize that by writing this post I am very likely jinxing myself. But I will write it. It needs to be written. Hope needs to be given to the world that it is indeed possible to do laundry and not lose socks.

I will admit that I used to be a person who lost socks. Regularly. At a certain point in my life, though, that changed. Unfortunately, I can’t tell you what that point was or what happened to change it.

In fact, I hadn’t even realized it had changed until one day a few years ago somebody on some TV show was talking about how they always lose socks in the dryer and everybody else laughed along in agreement.

I started to laugh, too, but when I tried to bring to mind a recent such experience, I couldn’t. I couldn’t even remember the last time it had happened. I realized I was no longer a member of this club that, until that moment, I had thought everyone who did laundry belonged to.

Is it too much to admit that, mingled with a weird happiness in knowing I had fully functional pairs of socks, the realization also brought with it slight disappointment at now being shut out of said club. I mean, stories about not losing socks aren’t interesting or funny at all, are they? There are no water cooler exclamations of shared misery such as “You are so right! I never lose socks all the time, too!” or “I have a drawer full of matched pairs of socks, too! It’s horrible!” Who cares?? Now, stories about losing socks…that gets a sense of camaraderie going all the time! And so I was thence thrust out to no longer participate in such conviviality again.

I have come close to getting back in, though. I’ll fold the laundry, and at the end there’s a lone dark sock with no partner. In the early days after I realized I was no longer in the “sock loser” category, when this lone sock appeared I would think, “Ahhhhh…there we go. My grand run is over! I’ve rejoined the ranks. It had to happen one day. Well, it was good while it lasted.”

Then, invariably, I’d find his partner – tucked in the dryer or washer, dropped on the floor by the dryer, or hidden on the floor behind the hamper.

But now after all this time, there is no twinge of disappointment when I see the leftover, solitary sole atop my folded laundry. I see it and know – beyond a hyperbolic shadow of a doubt – that I will find its partner. It will not remain alone, destined to be tossed in the trash or turned into a rag. Sometimes it sends me on a merry chase – likely to keep me humble, I’m sure – but I always find it!

So, my friends, there is hope. One day you, too, may be able to empty that sad little drawer of misfit socks and match them again with their sole-mates to live happily on in the Drawer of Pairs.