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Writer-s-Bloc

Practising the pause

By Matthew Rigby

You need to take a moment.

I know, I know. You don’t have a moment. You’re multitasking. You’re stressed. All of life’s usual chaos hasn’t magically disappeared with the passing of a new year, and now you have a handful of resolutions that you may or may not have already broken. (Hey, you made it a week… that’s something).

You’re pushing a boulder uphill at work, and taking your hand off for even a second costs something. You’re overwhelmed at home. The house and its residents resist any and all attempts at cleaning or organizing. You finish one meal only to be asked when the next snack or meal will be. You read the news on your phone and you’re anxious and angry. You feel more isolated than ever before, despite being surrounded by people and online connections. You feel like the wheels are coming off, and you’re exhausted from keeping up appearances. 

How did I do? I don’t know you at all, but I’m willing to bet that I hit at least a few nails on the head. I would bet this because I feel the exact same way regularly, and so do many of my friends and colleagues (once we finally feel safe enough around each other to be even a little honest and vulnerable). 

It’s my sincere belief that the vast majority of us are more anxious and stressed than ever before. Practices such as yoga, meditation, mindfulness, or even just breathing deeply have skyrocketed in popularity and interest because we are desperate to take a moment. Re-acquaint ourselves with our body, our breath, and our thoughts.

And I can’t write to you as a practitioner or expert in any of these disciplines. I’m a novice at even simple breathing meditation. I feel too old and out of shape to subject myself to a local yoga studio, or even slip in the back row of a local YMCA class. And being aware of my thoughts is dizzying, like eavesdropping on a drunk who has suddenly lost all filter. 

But what I have found (and attempt to practice) is the pause. The space between input and reaction. A willingness to sit with that which we are unsure of, uncomfortable with, or afraid of. And of course, ‘sitting with’ may not involve sitting at all! Sometimes we can manage no more of a pause than a deep, slow breath. Sometimes that’s enough. Sometimes ‘sitting with’ is actually standing at a sink full of dishes without music, podcast or Netflix. Sometimes ‘sitting with’ is folding clothes in silence. Sometimes ‘sitting with’ is going for a walk with your dog.

I like the pause. It comes a little too naturally, and I can extend it a little too long. When I’m overwhelmed or stressed, I like to freeze everything. No new input. Everybody stop moving.

Of course, that doesn’t usually work. I work in an emergency department. I don’t get to ask the emergencies to hold off until I feel ready for them. Neither can I expect even my closest friends or family to wait indefinitely until I am ready to respond to the next choice/plan/requirement. The world doesn’t care about your pause. The world remains just as demanding as it was a second ago.

A pause is not a stop. It is implied that you will continue moving, continue engaging, continue to react to what your world presents to you. A pause is simply space and time to defer your judgment. To gain a little perspective. To think about your response and actions.

When you read about the increasing escalation in Iran. Pause.

When you are frustrated with corruption in government. Pause. 

When you feel like your job is all consuming. Pause.

When you read something grossly offensive in the comment section. Pause.

(And seriously: never, ever, read the comment section.)

The pause doesn’t negate what you are feeling. It only gives it space. It tells you that you don’t need to react in this moment. Breathe. 

A while ago I thought that someone should invent a new form of social media. You could call it “Slow Facebook” or “Slow Twitter” (catchy names I know). You could comment on someone’s post, but only a day later. Imagine how many fewer Twitter feuds would exist if someone had to sit with their idea for 24 hours. Imagine how many responses would simply be shrugged off, as people’s anger had a chance to dissipate. 

When we don’t have the pause, this is what I believe we are left with: fear and anger. Read any divisive online post or comment section and see how true this is. One of the best status updates I ever read on Twitter belongs to the author Robin Hobbs: “Good morning Twitter, what are we outraged about today?

Outrage is understandable. Fear and anger is an appropriate response to the potential start of a new war. Appropriate when you see a government official dismantling political safeguards meant to ensure a healthy democracy. Appropriate when you feel that your life’s work is reinforcing the wealth of the top 1%, while you struggle with inflation and bills. Appropriate when you see ignorant and hurtful notions being slung and celebrated online.

But the practice of the pause reminds us that we are not at our smartest, deepest, most grounded selves in the moment of insecurity. A pause reminds us that situations are more complex than they initially appear. The pause reminds us that while news stories break in the first 15 minutes, their full context may not be revealed in the next 15 years. The pause reminds us that complex problems will require intelligent solutions. The pause reminds us that there is joy, vitality and beauty to life that we will not see or experience if we continue to run around frantically. The pause reminds that we have more emotions than simply fear and anger. 

So at the start of this upcoming year and decade, consider practicing the pause. Consider this the easiest of your resolutions. There’s no weight to lose, no gym to join, no budget to stick to. Just the consideration that maybe, just maybe, we need to take a moment when we’re unsure, stressed, angry or overwhelmed.

We will pause. We will breathe. We will reflect. And then we will engage.

And if you completelydisagree, feel free to tell me so in the comments section (but maybe wait 24 hours).

Matt is a grateful husband to one, father to three. He works as a registered nurse in emergency and acute care. He writes, records, schemes and dreams at somethingfromeverything.com.





Back in the saddle

By Doreen Zyderveld-Hagel

It was like getting back in the saddle again, but safer where from I sat, in a sleigh directly behind three draft horses. They pulled our human herd, of over 20 people, effortlessly through the snow in the dark.  

A giant spotlight lit the path in front of the horses to help them see, as they wore blinders to prevent them from spooking, and thus limited their vision. I could smell the sweet aroma of their sweat as they trotted along, and the sounds of sleigh bells softly rang out, as our pack sang acapella and mostly off key, the lyrics to some Christmas carols.  

It was particularly heartwarming to hear my adult son join in, as he is on the autism spectrum, but high functioning. His strong, melodic, baritone voice rang out, which was unusual, as he is normally quite withdrawn and introverted, uncomfortable in crowds and group settings.  

There is something about horses that are therapeutic for those on the spectrum and those who are not. For me, it was a bit of a breakthrough being that close to the back of a horse once again. The last time, the experience was horrific – to put it mildly.  

Forty months ago, I swung my leg over the saddle, which I had done thousands of times before, but this time the horse lit into bucking. After I repeatedly hit the saddle horn, I was slammed to the ground. 

I suffered from extreme blunt force trauma, and was critically injured. After over two months in the hospital, and several surgeries and complications later, I went home to learn to walk again, using snow shoes.  

My 50-plus years of being around horses had come to an abrupt and bitter end.  However, I was very grateful to survive and walk again, as many people are not that fortunate.

Hence, I was understandably nervous around horses afterwards, and so it was a real blessing to go on a sleigh ride, and feel that connection again, not once, but twice during this past festive season.  

I must admit that when the work horses stopped to catch their breath after a long pull uphill, I got nervous; along with when a couple of snowmobilers went by, on that day-ride, a week later. My body stiffened, then relaxed when the giant equines carried on. They took it all in stride, reassured by their driver’s cues. 

Draft horses are known for their level heads, because they are of the cold blood strain, being slower and heavier; that’s a good thing, as you wouldn’t want a horse that size to be hot blooded and wild in its reactions. A sleigh ride would become a ride from hell, of which I had had enough.  

Notwithstanding, my great grandfather, of Scottish heritage, was said to have stopped a runaway wagon team back in the early 1900s in Ontario, so rides from hell do happen on occasion, and probably even more so back when horse and buggies were the main mode of transportation.  

It would be like the modern day car wrecks, which happen on a daily, and minute-by-minute basis worldwide; albeit it is a greener, safer, but slower way to travel than the modern day vehicles.  

I came from a long line of jockeys, saddle makers and wagon drivers, which explained my obsession with horses, regardless of being piled, stepped on, fallen on, falling off of, kicked and bitten. On the other hand, I was gently carried home by my horse when I had a concussion after being hit in the head by a widow maker tree, and teetered side to side in the saddle, as my mare would throw herself underneath me, so I would not fall off. We zig-zagged our way back to the vehicle, far out in the bush.  

Then there were times when riding back to camp in the dark, stalked by predators, or sunk in the muskeg, and the horse came through with flying colours, keeping us both safe, and risking her life to save me.  

On some occasions the whole world felt like a terrible place, but while on the back of a horse I felt at peace.

You take the good with the bad, and by just crossing the street, one can get hit by a bus, so there are no guarantees of tomorrow, and a person’s life can change in an instant; as did mine, when my young gelding decided that it was not a good day for a ride and so he unloaded his rider.  Nothing personal, just being a horse, reacting to whatever ailed him that fateful day, over three years ago.  

In quiet introspection, I sat on the sleigh bench next to my son, covered in a warm blanket and sipping hot chocolate. Life is good I have concluded.  

Doreen Zyderveld-Hagel is a Kelowna writer.



Fight for the homeless

“Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored.”

— Aldous Huxley

By Christina Rose

I am overwhelmed with the ongoing topic of homelessness in the Okanagan.

I am even more overwhelmed by our city’s seemingly lack of humanity. 

As a single mother of one, I am not immune to the struggles of daily life, and I am not writing this article as a pat on the back, or congratulations for being a decent human being.

I do believe though that somewhere along the way mankind has lost its way when it comes to the treatment of other human beings. I just went downtown with coffee, soup, donuts and muffins to give to those camping in the Recreation Avenue area.

I met a few people, not just from the Okanagan, and chatted about all kinds of different things, as I would with any of my friends. I met a young man named Sam, who joked as I helped him carry food to his tent about how I should keep a certain distance so his GF doesn’t get jealous.

I made the quip about how our situation doesn’t seem to have an effect on our emotions.

Those of us who have been fortunate enough to have a roof over our heads, food on the table and the ability to enjoy certain pleasures I think have forgotten the struggles that face many in not just our community, but all over the world.

On the way home, my significant other raised his concerns about the safety aspect of my social engagement this evening, and in hindsight I suppose he is not wrong.

The drug-and-violence situation in Kelowna is significant. However, I cannot help but believe that while there are many who choose this way of life, that is not true of all individuals, and does not make them bad people.

In fact, homeless and drugs seem to go hand in hand.

Most recently, my annoyance with the people of Kelowna, and desire to provide so form of relief, has come from the complaints of those about the homeless setting up camps in the Recreation and Knox Mountain areas.

Have we forgotten that these people are human beings? Are we that concerned about the value of our property, that we are willing to go out and protest these peoples very existence there?

If as much time was spent helping and trying to find a solution as it was protesting, perhaps we might begin to see a difference.

I know what people will think. I don’t live in the area; it doesn’t affect me. Well, I live in Rutland, where most of the city’s wet houses are.

My daughter goes to school here and encounters these things on a daily basis, so I am not immune to the concerns that are raised by people. But along with being cautious, I teach my daughter to be caring, respectful and kind to those less fortunate.

Whether people are on the street by choice, or unforeseen circumstance, it doesn’t make them less entitled to be treated with kindness.

We cannot ignore the fact that homelessness is an issue here. We also cannot ignore the fact that they are people deserving of our kindness, of our help, of basic human decency.

Instead of fighting for them to be away from our property, we could fight to make a difference.

We could fight for their right for food and shelter.

We could fight for their right to be treated like people who matter.

In a season of overspending and overindulgence, it would be nice to remember that being kind and thoughtful to others costs $0.

Instead of spending our efforts fighting for them not to be somewhere, we could fight for them to have a place to be.





Demon-looking sock angel

A Crazy, Winged, Ding-Batty Thing’s Christmas

By Doreen Zyderveld-Hagel

I didn’t start out trying to make another bizarre looking sock puppet, I’m just good at it, I guess. 

It was supposed to be a sweet-looking Christmas angel as seen on Pinterest, but with a twist, and ended up twisted alright, Doreen’ style.

What nightmares are made of?

The finishing freaky touch — the eye balls made from Styrofoam and Googly Eyes.  I glued them on, and due to my poor vision, put them on lop-sided and it gave the puppet a whole new insane dimension.

If you thought that Jim Henson’s Muppets were strange looking, well Jimmy had nothing on me and my cockeyed angel.   

Being a Muppets fan from way back, Henson’s creations must have been my subconscious source of inspiration, much to my consternation and subsequent deviation, from the norm. 

The angel puppet was supposed to be for a Children’s Bible Story at church, where I occasionally grace the puppet stage with mostly Biblical characters and critters. 

However, the report is usually narrated by a sock puppet sea creature by the name of Sushi. 

Somehow in the darker recesses of my mind, I managed to conjure up this crazy-winged-ding-batty thing that didn’t resemble an angel at all. 

It also could have come to fruition as a result of spending way too much time as a teenager watching The Twilight Zone, hosted by Rod Sterling.

In any event, this middle aged teenager had a good laugh at my cracked out looking angel bug, and finally after some selfies were taken of my puppet I dubbed Flaky, I removed her eyes with surgical precision and gave her some nice soft symmetrical ones.

In spite of all this, I still had a senior ask me if I was trying to scare the children. Flaky’s face lift apparently was of no avail, as she was still hideous.

I guess I am just really good at bringing the bizarre to life. 

It doesn’t help that this whole Christmas thing has always been confusing, a mixed bag folklore, of Santa and his Elves, then throwing the birth of Jesus into it.

Regarding the sketchy Santa dude and his elvish accomplices, rumour has it there is some kind of slave labour camp in the North Pole. It is an ideal remote location where escape efforts are pointless, as the freezing temperatures outside keep the elves indoors and in check, along with being routinely brainwashed.

It is in Mr. Claus’s shop where the gnomes toil away, basically 24/7 making toys, and when they are finally finished, on Dec.24, they then reportedly over load a sleigh with the loot, then harness some hapless flying reindeer to it. 

The gentle little ungulates are then whipped into a frenzy, and forced to deliver the parcels around the world in 24 hours and under the tree on Dec. 25. The said sled is filled to the brim with toys for good girls and boys and lumps of coal for the naughty ones. 

However, it is the coal that is the culprit, which really bogs down the sleigh. 

Where are the Weigh Scales and the Commercial Vehicle Safety Enforcement Officers when you need them?  Sadly, there are none at the International Space Stations. 

Otherwise, Santa would face some hefty fines, have his vehicle impounded, and potentially face some criminal charges, and would have a whole lot of explaining to do. 

Along with these vehicular and labour infractions there is the issue of the B&Es. Santa is a master at squeezing through tight spaces and lock picking, whereby once illegally entering the premises, he theoretically only leaves gifts behind, and doesn’t pillage. 

Ho- Ho-Hogwash!

The whole yarn about Santa Claus would leave even the most innocent of minds suspicious. 

Concerning the birth of Jesus, he was not born on Dec. 25, but was likely born in the fall while the sheep were still out in the field guarded by shepherds, as December's weather is wet and cold in Bethlehem, much like here. 

There would be no green grass for the sheep to graze upon in December; hence the livestock would be safely tucked away in a barn, protected from the elements, with hay to eat. 

It would appear that somewhere along the line, someone came up with a great marketing plan and decided to amalgamate the ideas of Santa and his elves bringing gifts to children, meshing it with the account of the Three Kings bringing the baby Messiah presents, and a multi-trillion dollar industry was born. 

As mind boggling as it is, I, nonetheless, wish you all a Merry Christmas and to all, a Twilight!    

Doreen Zyderveld-Hagel is a Kelowna writer.



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Welcome to Writer’s Bloc, an opinion column for guest writers to share their experiences and viewpoints with our readers.

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