“Uncle” Days

Today, I cried ‘Uncle.’

Well, I texted Uncle, actually. (It is the modern age after all.)

I’ve always gotten a kick out of that expression, which, according to the language authority that is Wikipedia, is defined as follows:

In the United States and Canada, the idiomatic expression “Say ‘uncle’!” may be used as an imperative command to demand submission of one’s opponent, such as during an informal wrestling match. Similarly, the exclamation “Uncle!” is an indication of submission – analogous to “I give up” – or it may be a cry for mercy, in such a game or match.

Although it is often regarded as an Americanism, there are at least two differing theories as to the true origin of the phrase: ancient Rome and 19th century England.

The Roman Empire theory says, Roman children, when beset by a bully, would be forced to say the Latin phrase, “Patrue, mi Patruissimo,” or, “Uncle, my best Uncle,” in order to surrender and be freed.  […] The 19th century England theory says it comes from an English joke about a bullied parrot being coaxed to address his owner’s uncle.

Yes, my friends, snow days can provide ample opportunities for language lessons too!

And yes, I did say “snow day.”

Our fair city has been hit with a giant batch of the white stuff, far too early than any of us would care to have to deal with. Within a 24 hour period, we went from tank tops and flip flops to down-filled parkas, mitts… the whole kit’n’caboodle. Social media has been plastered with images of fallen trees, kids building snowmen, vegetables salvaged in the nick of time, flower beds draped with towels and tarps, and hands clasping coffee mugs perfectly positioned in front of a roaring fire…on a Wednesday…in Summer.

Upon rising (late) this morning, we found our power was out (the absence of the alarm tipped us off), the tree in front of our house torn out of the earth and cozied up to the hood of our van, and snow softly piling onto the solid base that had been falling for the last couple of days.

I had plans, items/to do’s to knock off the list, places to be at certain times… But there’s nothing like a power outage to remind us how much we rely on our technology (none of which was working; texting/calling from our cell phones was all we had), and boy, does a city filled with fallen trees, backed up and blocked off roadways, and out-of-commission traffic lights show us how, instead of pushing against every obstacle you face,  it’s not a bad idea to say “Uncle!” and throw in the towel.

I wish I could pinpoint the exact moment when I realized that to micromanage, or to over-plan, or to over-expect, or to continuously push uphill, was fighting a futile fight. My life has proven, with each coming year, that letting go of the plan, and acknowledging the truth of a situation, leaves much more room for the Universe (for lack of a better term at the moment) to just do what it needs to. If we’re talking about this current meteorological dilemma, here’s a truth:

Complaining about the weather is not going to change it. Period.

A delightful side effect of relinquishing some control of your ‘plan’ is shedding unnecessary stress — stress that we create both internally (our brains are good at that!), and externally through trying to navigate circumstances we have zero control over. We’ve all enjoyed telling a story about how stressful/challenging/frustrating it was to get from Point A to Point B. But what if we simply removed the need to tell it? We are no longer trying to make something work that, on a normal day (whatever that is!?), would flow just fine, but on this one day in time is just not worth the headache.

Whether letting go (or crying Uncle!) is to provide space for beautiful surprises or just necessary changes, releasing my grasp on what is no longer working or no longer serving me, or whatever is starting to feel like a constant uphill battle, has been both challenging and freeing. Whether it was calling in sick to work when I needed a day to hole up in bed, nap and not talk to anyone, or canceling a commitment I had excitedly made in earlier times, or even in January of this year, when I came down with the flu the VERY week I was to do a Yoga teacher training to work with Cancer patients/survivors (yup, I definitely had to cry Uncle on that one, and it was heartbreaking)… there is always that part of me that feels like I am doing something wrong, or letting someone down, for having to choose what I need.

(Isn’t that crazy!? It feels wild to actually see that written down — that choosing what I need for my own well-being, whether physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, etc. was/is considered a guilt-point. Seriously!? Where do we GET this stuff!?)

For years and years, I feel as though I tried to fit into the mould or expectation of what would create the most harmonious result for all involved, oftentimes sacrificing what I truly yearned for to keep myself feeling whole. I remember one New Year’s in particular when my recently wounded heart, along with my “compensating-introvert” tank, unexpectedly ran dry, and all I could think of doing was getting out in the woods (we were in the mountains), being alone, having a quiet word with the stars in the night sky, and going to bed. In the end, I stuck around 30 minutes longer than I wanted to, and the feeling of inner struggle in those extra 30 minutes was SO not worth it.  I have swallowed my reluctance, I have ignored my intuition, or let my boundaries be broken down, all for the sake of what might make someone else happy (or at the very least, content); that no one will perceive me to be a party pooper, or a letdown.

Some days (well, most days, but some days more so than others), you have to let go of the plan (and I mean ANY plan — big or small), and surrender. You may even have to let go of some guilt attached. (Seriously, let it go.) I can’t guarantee that the day you have after the fact will be better or worse for having made the decision (that’s all up to you!) but you will have followed your gut, your heart, your inner compass. You will have made a commitment to yourself to quit being the salmon swimming up stream, and to ride the current, wherever it flows.

Calgarians are impeccably talented at both praising and trashing the weather. When the devastating floods hit our city last year, I can’t think of a single person who wasn’t reminded of how powerful Mother Nature really is, and how no matter how hard we may resist her actions, we are still at her mercy. These are the forces that are more vast, that have far bigger intentions than any of the myriad of expectations or parameters we may try to impose upon them.

Patrue, mi Patruissimo.” (“Uncle, my best Uncle.“)

I surrender, and I am freed.

Harness the clouds

Will this make you squirm? Or will you accept the challenge?

Today, I’m bringing you into what very well may be a realm of discomfort for you.

What I’m asking may mean you have to shift your perspective. Part of this is just as uncomfortable and as much of a stretch for me to accept as it may be for you, so before you even hear what I’m asking, I want you to know that I feel you. I acknowledge you having to swallow harder, your thoughts to race a little faster as you narrow your eyes, half-grimacing at me with skepticism and a touch of fear of the unknown. I know the feeling of having to choose the ‘harder’ path, to give your deeply engrained beliefs and your fist-bearing ego a run for its money. But life is pretty short to stay stuck in our patterns, so…

Are you with me? 

First, Weather (again, the local fave topic!). Today is beautiful, right? Spring-like, sunny, blue skies, birds chirping, above 0 degrees (hallelujah!)… It’s hard to be grumpy when the sun’s shining, isn’t it? It’s easy to feel all is well on a day like this one…

On the same token, it’s a day edging ever-so-closely to the end of a month where we are all poring over receipts, spreadsheets and slips of paper that sum up the last year in our financial lives.

Yup, Tax Time.

Last night, we did our due diligence of trading time frolicking in the evening sunshine for sticking our butts in a chair and gettin’r done.

It feels good to be finished, with all the I’s dotted and T’s crossed. What doesn’t feel pleasant, however, is having that bomb dropped:

“Looks like you’re going to owe this year.”

It’s cause for celebration if we get a refund, but if we owe? It’s astounding how fast this can kill your mojo, overpower you with panic and fear, or make your heart feel as though it will stop altogether..

It was seconds into that sinking feeling of ‘Crap…well, there go some of my hard-earned dollars!’ where I caught myself.

How is my feeling defeated, ‘victimized,’ and seeing this from the standpoint of ‘lack’ going to change anything, make me feel ANY better, or furthermore, make my financial reality ANY brighter?

As I gave my not-so-mathematically inclined brain a break from numbers and receipts, I saw that the Weather page on my phone was showing ‘snowflakes’ for later on this week. Now, I don’t know about you, but I have long accepted that the weather is something I have ZERO control over. Despite my attempts to be as glass-half-full as possible on this subject, it doesn’t seem to stop anyone in our fair city from cursing Mother Nature like she was doing this to us on purpose.

I hate to break it to you, but it’s tax time, AND it may snow/[insert any other unpleasant weather phenomenon geographically appropriate to where you live] this week. Just FYI.

And therein lies my challenge.

It would be EASY to turn to your collective Facebooks, Twitters, friends, loved ones, pets, houseplants, the gods, or whatever you choose to vent or curse to, and say “F*** taxes. F*** snow in April. F*** my life.”

(For added emphasis, you could also add a single “F***” at the end of the previous rant. Some people really like that.)

Sure, F-bombs feel awesome to say sometimes, but here’s something HARDER:

Can you be grateful (yes, I said grateful) for taxes? Can you be grateful for blizzards (and I don’t mean the Dairy Queen kind) in April? I mean, ACTUALLY grateful. Not just glossing it over in an attempt to be Suzie Sunshine about it, but REALLY TRULY grateful? As in gratitude that comes from ALL of your HEART, even if it feels a bit outside of your norm?

So, who’s with me? If you’re still reading, yahoo, because that might just mean you’ll join me in doing the unthinkable: I am unabashedly choosing GRATITUDE.

I choose to feel grateful that I have had ONE WHOLE YEAR of being gainfully employed, and of learning and growing in the process. Even more to the point, the portion of income I owe tax on is one where I have spent time doing work that not only fills my cup but is, I feel, the highest form of service I have to offer.

 I have the luxury of paying taxes because I am working towards my own wild and crazy dream, no matter what that may look like. And after I pay those taxes, what do I do? I live in a house, where I woke up in a bed, with someone I love that I married out of my own free will (and who is currently eating toast that I can smell wafting up from our kitchen. Yes, even when I have to pay taxes, I will still eat, and so will he). And even if things got really sticky, I would still have people in my life who would catch me if I fell. That, in itself, is its own form of wealth.

And if/when those snowflakes start to fall as this week ends, I promise not to wish they were green grass and lilacs and see them for what they are. They’re snowflakes they are both beautiful and the epitome of impermanence, and they WILL make the grass greener in their own time. We live in the Northern Hemisphere. Snow and cold WILL happen here.

Even in a freak Spring snow storm, I will see, above all things, that we live in a country with more space than we can handle, with human rights and freedoms, where I can walk outside and share a smile and a simple hello with our neighbours. I say these things not to brag or boast, but because this is most of our realities. If you are reading these words, it means you own a piece of technology, and no matter how essential our smart phones, computers and tablets have become, your smart phone is no substitute for a winter coat. For many of us, we see those snowflakes on the bright screens of our weather pages from the comfort of our homes, with either food in our bellies or a knowledge of where our next meal will come from. Others will only know a cold front is settling in when they see the snowflakes start to swirl around their shivering bodies as they huddle under an overpass.

So… can you do it? Can you thank your lucky stars that you have taxes to do/pay, and that there may soon be Spring snowflakes to catch on the end of your tongue? Can you be deep-down-from-the-centre-of-your-heart grateful that the way you feel and react to these upsets are just another indicator of your humanity? Can you recognize them as a reminder that you are still being treated to the gift of being ALIVE? Can you see that these things are fleeting, and may offer their own form of blessing, even if, at first, they don’t appear to hold one?

When clouds cover the sun, and the wind starts to blow, and even that refund cheque has slowly dissolved into the ether…can you still be grateful?

Can you? Will you?

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