The Happiness Connection  

Don't lose faith

Recently, I was reminded yet again of how other people’s reactions to things you say and do, often have absolutely nothing to do with you.

I try to find moments whenever I can, to go into my garden. There’s always tidying to do, dead leaves to gather, and weeds to remove.

My gated community doesn’t use the typical green cart system. Instead, we leave clipping and such out for the landscaping company to remove.

We’re using a different firm this year, so I wasn’t sure if the designated day had changed.

When I was out walking my dog, I spied one of the strata council members. He’s been very active in choosing who got the new contract, so I was confident he’d be able to answer my question.

I called out and innocently inquired which day the landscapers would be coming this year.

I hadn’t expected his reply to be so brusque. I was also surprised by his comments about people’s lack of ability to read the sign that was posted by the mailboxes.

From my point of view, I was asking a simple question. It only required a one-word answer.

It would have been easy for me to walk away muttering under my breath, or for me to respond in an equally annoyed way.

It might even have caused me to decide I didn’t like this person and would do my best to avoid him in the future.

Instead, I chose to explain that I hadn’t picked up my mail in over a week because I was busy trying to cope with everything that was going on in my life.

The last time I’d walked past, there hadn’t been a sign, because I had looked.

It became apparent in our conversation that we had both provided a last-straw moment for the other one.

From this man’s point of view, I was only one in a string of people who had been asking the same question. He was also getting some grief about another landscaping situation.

Together, these things were causing him to feel fed up.

His patience was thin by the time I asked my question.

For me, being expected to figure the answer out for myself instead of simply asking, felt like one more item, on a very long list of things that needed to be figured out.

My dad had only just died and there was and still is a lot to do.

I didn’t appreciate someone suggesting I simply couldn’t be bothered to figure it out for myself.

None of us really knows what’s going on in someone else’s world. When they snap at you, are they really annoyed with you, or is it simply the culmination of a lot of things that have been going on?

I think it’s important to remember this when you get an unexpectedly harsh reaction from someone.

If it’s your partner or best friend, you may think you know what’s happening in their life, but you only know what they choose to share with you.

They might not even know themselves why they’re feeling annoyed or disgruntled.

Instead of believing they’re deliberately trying to hurt you, give them the benefit of the doubt. Accept that you’ve probably been caught up in something that has absolutely nothing to do with you.

I can think of times when a situation has caused me to feel so annoyed that the person I’m speaking with gets lashed with my harsh tones and angry words.

I try to remember to apologize to them. I know it isn’t their fault, but I’m too worked up to speak calmly.

Not everyone has this awareness. When you find yourself on the receiving end, try to accept there are probably other things going on.

As you continue to have your normal life interrupted by COVID-19, you may find your frustrations spilling into seemingly unrelated areas of your world. Remind yourself, that this will be happening to others, too.

Giving people the benefit of the doubt is an act of faith. It’s a chance to demonstrate that you believe the world is full of good people.

This belief makes it easier to be kind. That’s something we could all use more of right now.


Death dues

I love this time of year. I look closely at my garden every morning to see what new buds are forming. I enjoy watching everything spring back to life.

This habit feels even more rewarding this year as I deal with the death of my father. He passed on March 7. Although we started the process for medically assisted death, he didn’t need it.

One day after I submitted the paperwork for MAiD, he died peacefully in his sleep.

I miss him, but it’s hard to mourn his passing. It’s what he wanted. He wasn’t in pain and he was at home. He would have been 93 in May.

I’m blessed to have had both my parents until they were in their 90s. My mom is adjusting amazingly well and has decided to leave her home and move into an assisted living residence.

My dad didn’t want a service or wake. He simply wanted to be cremated and put into the niche he had purchased for him and Mom many decades ago.

As my parents reached their 90s, I knew the years remaining for them were shrinking. I began to think about how I’ll feel if I reach that age.

What comes to mind when you think about death? Maybe it’s a subject you don’t want to ponder.

None of us can escape it and yet we tend not to spend much time thinking about the nitty gritty details of death.

The transition of the soul and whether to bury or scatter may come to mind. But what about all the endless notifications and next steps that have to be navigated by those left behind?

My dad felt he had taken a weight off our shoulders by buying a place for his and Mom’s ashes. It was a lovely gesture, but only a drop in the bucket of things that need to be done.

My father was in charge of all the financial and legal documents. My mom was a typical 1950s housewife. She tries to help as much as she can, but as a bereaved 90-year-old, she struggles to answer my questions.

She told me the name of the funeral home they had made their arrangements with. I contacted them. We made an appointment to speak with them the next day and for them to collect the body.

I picked Mom up at the agreed time, and she directed me to the location of the funeral home. As we sat in the car outside the building, something didn’t add up. The name on the sign was different than the company I had contacted the day before.

I felt somewhat embarrassed as I called them from the car to ask if they had Dad. How do you word something like that?

As I suspected from the moment we pulled into the parking lot, their answer was no.

Yes, you guessed it. We sent Dad to the wrong place.

It took a few phone calls and some extra fees, but we got the body transferred to the correct company.

The next unexpected hurdle resulted from Dad’s lovely gesture of buying the niche such a long time ago. The dimensions of it aren’t common any more.

It took the funeral director some time to find a place that sold urns that would fit.

I bought one for Mom at the same time. Just to be sure she’ll fit in when her turn comes.

I laughingly tell my mom that this is just a trial run for when I have to take care of everything for her. That’s the sort of thing we joke about.

In some ways, dealing with the funeral home has been the easiest part of this process. I expected to be involved. I remember helping with the arrangements many years ago when my mother-in-law died.

What I hadn’t considered was all the other stuff that has to be dealt with when someone dies. I had no idea there was so much paperwork involved.

Honestly, I don’t think I expected to be the one who had to deal with that side of death. I’m not sure who I thought would do it, but it didn’t occur to me that it would be me.

Everyone who has an account with Dad’s name on it needs to be notified of his death. Some places are obvious, others less so.

I can find lists online, but they’re general, not specific to my father. Even if I know what needs to be changed, I often don’t know who to reach out to.

For example, I know his name needs to come off the property taxes. I started by calling the City of Kelowna. They weren’t sure who to put me through to, but eventually I discovered that they get their information from BC Assessment.

BC Assessment told me they got their information from the BC Land Title Office. It often takes me multiple calls before I arrive at the correct destination.

I’ve been lucky that almost everything my parents had was held in joint names. Because everything passes to Mom, that makes things a lot easier.

I’ve had to make these calls with Mom sitting with me in case they need her permission to speak with me.

To make this easier in the future, we’ve added me as an authorized contact to as many places as possible. This means I can contact them on her behalf.

I started this process of notification three weeks ago. The end is in sight, but it’s not as close as I’d like it to be.

Another thing that hasn’t turn out the way I’d imagined is my mother’s decision to move out of her home. I thought she’d take some time before she made any big decisions.

Her choice means downsizing, and then clearing and selling the house.

We found a place she likes, and a moving date has been set. Of course, that means I’m going to have to start contacting many of these places again to cancel services and make changes to contact information.

It’s a good thing I’m in a place of laughing rather than crying.

This experience has given me a lot of opportunities to learn and grow. It’s reenforced my belief that you never know how things will turn out until you get there.

Be cautious of thinking you know how something will transpire and be prepared for the unexpected.

I’m taking notes so when my mother passes, I’ll be more prepared for the resulting tasks. I’m also hoping to make things easier for my kids when their turn comes to follow this process.

If you have aging parents, or you want to help your children, I’ve included a list of things you may want to consider. This isn’t inclusive and will be different for everyone, but hopefully it will be a good start.

  • Make a will and make sure there is a note that says where it is.
  • If you’re married (legally or common law,) put everything applicable into joint names.
  • Gather together and leave instructions as to where important items are. These may include: Birth certificates or residency documents; Marriage certificate if applicable

We spent several hours hunting for the original wedding certificate because my mom had no idea where it was. The funeral home and Service Canada needed to see it and make copies.

  • Social Insurance numbers
  • Passports
  • Safety deposit box keys and where the box is if you have one.
  • Safe keys or combinations
  • Recent tax returns

Make a list of:

  • Bank accounts
  • Pensions, life insurance policies, etc.
  • Current subscriptions that need to be canceled.
  • Auto payments that are being made from your bank account or onto credit cards.
  • Accountant and lawyer names
  • Investments

Don’t rely on your memory. Even if your mind is clear and active, grief takes its toll.

The death of a loved one comes with duties for someone. Instead of ignoring this fact, consider lessen their load by getting your affairs, or the affairs of aging relatives in order.

Dealing with death

The topic that’s top of mind for me this week is death.

My dad has lived for almost 93 years. He’s had adventures, challenges, and amazing experiences. Sadly, for me and my family, the end is approaching.

He recently had a fall that resulted in a compression fracture in his spine. My dad is stoic. He doesn’t complain when he’s sick or hurting. If he admits he’s in pain, you can be sure it’s excruciating.

He’s saying he’s in pain.

If you’re a regular reader of my column, you probably know that I believe everyone is responsible for their own life. You’re only a victim of your circumstances if you choose to be one.

Where you are at this moment is the culmination of the decisions, actions, and beliefs you’ve chosen up to this point. If you don’t like where you are or the life you have, you have the ability to change it.

If each one of us is responsible for our own lives, does that mean we’re also responsible for our own deaths?

This question doesn’t apply to people whose lives are cut short by accidents and disease, but what about suicide, or situations like my dad’s?

It always saddens me to see the level of guilt and responsibility felt when someone you know takes their own life.

When you consider that approximately 4,000 Canadians commit suicide every year, it’s unlikely that you haven’t been touched by someone who made the decision to end their life.

It doesn’t matter whether they were a casual friend, a close one, or a family member, you’re likely to wonder if you could have done something to help them.

  • Did you miss signs of them struggling?
  • Were they calling out for help, but you ignored them?
  • Did you do something wrong as a parent, sibling, or friend?

I’m sure this is one reason why suicide is accompanied by such feelings of shame. Whether you realize it, you wonder if you’re in some way responsible for what happened.

I don’t believe you are. The decisions someone makes about their life is not your responsibility, nor are the choices they make about their death.

That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t care or do our best to be aware of people who are struggling so we can offer them support and love. But ultimately the decisions they make are theirs.

I have first-hand experience of being suicidally depressed. If not for the appearance of my daughter, I’m not sure I’d be here today.

Not many people knew how I was feeling. I was great at pretending everything was just fine and putting on a brave face while I was dying inside.

My dad has never been an advocate of assisted death, until now. He’s ready to leave this life. I don’t believe it matters whether I agree with his decision or not.

I’ve chosen to assist him with his choice to apply for the MAiD (Medical Assistance in Death) program. It’s his life and ultimately, he should get to choose.

If you struggle to let go of your feelings of responsibility when it comes to another person’s life or death, use the power of forgiveness to help you.

Forgive yourself for feeling the way you do. Forgive anyone else who’s involved. Forgive the situation.

When I need to do this, I use the Ho’oponopono Prayer to help me write letters of forgiveness. I start a paragraph with each of the statements and then add whatever feels right.

  • I'm sorry.
  • Please forgive me.
  • I love you.
  • Thank you.

When I’ve written all the letters that seem appropriate, I burn or shred them to symbolically release my feelings.

Over the coming days, weeks, or months, you may need to repeat this process as more feelings arise. Keep forgiving until you feel at peace with what happened.

To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.Lewis B. Smedes


Are you ready for the shot?

The hopes of many have been focused on a COVID-19 vaccine for a year now.

Finally, the reality of receiving an inoculation is getting closer and closer.

How do you feel about waiting?

It’s taken me a lot of years to let go of the impatience that descended every time I found myself waiting for something to happen or for another person’s decision to be delivered.

The sense of powerlessness that accompanies these situations can be torturous.

If you plan on getting vaccinated for COVID-19 and you struggle with waiting, I’ve got good news for you. There are things you can do now to make your eventual inoculation more effective.

Vaccines of all types work in a similar way. They start by initiating an inflammatory response, similar to a mild version of the illness they’re designed to protect you from.

This causes the adaptive immune system to spring into action.

Exposing the body to the viral or bacterial components of the disease, allows it the opportunity to create a plan of attack.

It can use this plan if the actual virus or bacteria appears. Faster response to the invaders means a greater chance of irradicating the germs before they can get established.

There are a lot of variables that contribute to how well your body reacts. Studies show that both physical and mental health have an influence.

It may seem like this pandemic has gone on forever, but in research terms that isn’t true. Because the COVID-19 shots are so new, scientist have turned to data collected about flu vaccines to help them.

This information, along with what they’ve uncovered from the recent COVID-19 drug trials have given scientists a good picture of ways you can prepare yourself to have the best response to and recovery from your vaccination.

In a nutshell, the healthier you are, the better you will react to an inoculation. Even a short-term adjustment to a healthier lifestyle will aid your body’s ability to remember how to attack invaders and minimize side effects.

Let me share some of the ways you can get your body and mind ready for a vaccination.

Get plenty of sleep.

I’m starting with this one, because it’s something many people struggle with.

I was interested to discover that a recent study found flu vaccines to be more effective in people who got a good night’s sleep the two nights before their inoculation. https://sleepdt.com/sleep-and-how-it-helps-the-immune-response-to-covid-19-vaccination/

You should also aim to get sufficient rest for a few days following your shot if you want to minimize side effects and have the best possible recovery.

If this doesn’t seem like simple advice to follow, start working now to establish healthier sleep routines. This will make it easier to follow the sleep recommendations provided by the research.

Release stress through relaxation.

Both long and short-term stress hamper your body’s immune response. Utilize strategies like meditation, journaling, and yoga to relax both your body and your mind.

Increase your connection time.

Feeling connected to others is important for both mental and physical health. The pandemic makes this harder but not impossible.

A study of undergraduate students found that those who felt lonely or who had very small social networks, had lower antibody levels than their connected counterparts. Antibodies help you fight invading germs.

A virtual coffee date, a walk in the fresh air with a neighbour or friend, or a telephone call are all great ways to boost your wellbeing.

Follow healthy living guidelines.

  • Eat fresh, whole foods.
  • Stop cigarette smoking.
  • Increase your physical activity.
  • Restrict your alcohol intake.

This isn’t an exhaustive list of ways to live healthily, but you get the idea.

If you’re planning to take advantage of having a COVID-19 shot, be proactive and put your body in the best possible position to increase your immune response and decrease side effects.

Rather than feeling you’re helpless, empower yourself. You may be surprised at how wonderful it feels.

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About the Author

Reen Rose is an experienced, informative, and engaging speaker, author, and educator. She has worked for over three decades in the world of education, teaching children and adults in Canada and England.

Research shows that happy people are better leaders, more successful, and healthier than their unhappy counterparts, and yet so many people still believe that happiness is a result of their circumstances.

Happiness is a choice. Reen’s presentations and workshops are designed to help you become robustly happy. This is her term for happiness that can withstand challenge and change.

Reen blends research-based expertise, storytelling, humour, and practical strategies to both inform and inspire. She is a Myers Briggs certified practitioner, a Microsoft Office certified trainer and a qualified and experienced teacher.

Email Reen at [email protected]

Check out her websites at www.ReenRose.com, or www.ModellingHappiness.com

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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