I recently learned that more work was needed on something I did years ago. Although it wasn’t wrong at the time, the circumstances turned out to be different from what I had expected.

It wasn’t really much of a problem; there was a simple standard-form fix. Still, I felt like I had made an ignorant blunder when I was told about it, even though the person who told me was not at all critical and, in fact, helpfully offered to send me the form.

When it arrived in my email, it turned out to be the wrong form. The sender had been rushing to catch up on a large backlog of work after having computer problems, and she attached a similar form instead. It was a mistake that anyone in a hurry could easily have made, and I didn’t judge her harshly for it.

Then I started to wonder—why had I been judging myself as anything less than capable?

Word-art that says "Never forget how wildly capable you are."

Nurturing Thursday was started by Becca Givens and seeks to “give this planet a much needed shot of fun, support and positive energy.” Visit her site to find more Nurturing Thursday posts and a list of frequent contributors.

“I’ve been feeling somewhat frustrated the past few years,” I said to my imaginary future self Fannie, as I helped her unpack a picnic basket on a cloudy and windy afternoon in July 2083. The corners of our disposable red and white tablecloth fluttered briskly in the breeze. Although the sky had gotten dark enough that a storm surely had to be close by, we didn’t have to worry about losing the tablecloth to a sudden gust because a thin strip of some futuristic temporary adhesive kept it firmly secured to the park table.

Picnic table with red and white tablecloth on a cloudy day, with dark trees behind it.

(Creative Commons image via flickr)

Sipping her iced tea, Fannie gave a nod of encouragement, waiting for me to go on. I was distracted, however, by a pair of unusually large bluish-green flies that hovered above our tuna sandwiches for a moment before they both flew away.

“They’re harmless,” Fannie informed me in a cheerful tone. “Genetically engineered to eat mosquitoes and other pests, while leaving picnic food alone. Also, they glow in the dark—that gene was inserted to help the biologists track them. They’re really quite pretty on summer evenings. Look, there are more of them glowing under the trees where it’s dark.”

In all honesty, I thought the genetically engineered flies looked a bit creepy; but in the interest of being polite to my future self, I didn’t say so. Instead, I went back to my earlier topic, which had to do with the frustration of trying to imagine my future work in a rapidly changing world.

“My job is comfortable enough,” I said, “and maybe that’s part of the problem. Maybe I’ve been doing the same work for too long. I feel like I ought to have a better sense of what comes next, but I can’t seem to get it clear in my head.”

“Let’s talk about what happened when you first took the job,” Fannie replied, putting down her salad fork. “Did you have any clear future plans then?”

This obviously was a rhetorical question because Fannie, as a future version of me, already knew what had happened. Still, I gave it serious consideration and got my thoughts in order before I answered.

“No, I didn’t really—and that seems strange now, given the fact that I started in a temporary position and had no assurances that it would become permanent. I was mainly focused on the skills that I was learning, and I felt confident that I would be able to use them in a future job, whatever it might be. At the time, I didn’t worry about not having long-term career plans.”

Fannie took a bite of her tuna sandwich and chewed thoughtfully, as the sky grew darker and I heard a faint rumble in the distance. It sounded like thunder; but considering the sci-fi surroundings, I guessed that it might be traffic noise from flying vehicles instead.

“Well, then,” she finally asked, “what changed?”

Several potential answers came to mind before I was able to settle on one. “Mainly my perspective. By now, I’ve seen what can happen to people who wander through life without plans or who get overconfident in their assumptions. A lot of comfortable jobs disappeared during the recession, and the economy still feels shaky—but it’s not just that. With the world changing so fast, I now feel like I could easily miss out on something good because I didn’t know where to look.”

Although a faint pattering of rain had by now started in the nearby trees, our picnic table was still dry. Fannie poured herself a little more iced tea before starting to put away the remnants of our picnic in the basket, which looked like old-fashioned wicker (but a closer inspection showed it was a synthetic material instead).

“To sum up,” Fannie stated in a matter-of-fact tone, “you’ve gained more awareness of possible different outcomes, and you understand that present-day choices have great power to shape your life going forward. But rather than feeling empowered by these insights, you worry about making bad decisions—or failing to make decisions when they’re needed, which amounts to the same thing.”

I nodded, feeling somewhat embarrassed. “Yeah, that’s about right. I guess I’m being kind of silly, when you put it like that.”

“Not at all,” Fannie declared firmly, as she took from her handbag a small item that looked like a key fob and pressed a button on it. “More choices always mean more uncertainty; that’s just the natural way of things. But what usually happens is that although we may feel unsure of our decisions, they end up all right anyway. Even when we think we’ve gotten ourselves into a bad situation, we find that a solution appears.”

The rain was coming down in earnest now, splattering on the now-cleared table. A moment later, I heard a mechanical whirring, and then Fannie’s flying car came into view. Evidently it had been parked somewhere close by. It landed on a concrete pad not far from the picnic table, and Fannie walked briskly toward it while carrying the basket. She winked at me as she got into the car.

“See, things work out—rain or shine. It’s not that hard.”

I started to walk around to the passenger side, thinking that it would be great fun to go for a ride, even in the stormy weather. But alas, that would have to wait for another blog post. Fannie and her surroundings vanished into the mist, and I found myself back in my own time.

Early this morning, my husband went down to the boathouse for some friendly competition with another rower who also enjoys traveling to the regattas. After sprinting down the river a few times, he came home and still wanted to do something more outdoors.

We got our bicycles and went out for a long ride, about two hours, in the midday sun. That was enough of a workout for me! After getting lunch and cooling off for a while in the air conditioning, I decided this cartoon would be just right for today’s Nurturing Thursday post. Enjoy!

Word-art with a mouse exercising on a mousetrap that says "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger."

Nurturing Thursday was started by Becca Givens and seeks to “give this planet a much needed shot of fun, support and positive energy.” Visit her site to find more Nurturing Thursday posts and a list of frequent contributors.

We’ve had a week or so of sunny and hot summer weather in my area, after an unusually cool and rainy spring. I have been getting outdoors more often with my husband—rowing, biking, and walking. That sometimes leaves me with a passing thought that my blog is being neglected; but even when I am in the house, not much comes to mind to write.

On Tuesday, I sat down at the computer for a while. Instead of composing blog posts, though, I spent some time looking for photos of summer wildflowers and other natural scenes to upload to the online library for my art display. This was the one I chose for yesterday:

Wildflowers on a plateau in summer.

I’ll take that as a message from my subconscious mind—the natural world is full of beautiful places to explore, and it’s okay to get out and enjoy them while the sun is shining. There will always be plenty of time for blogging and other creative pursuits later, without need to cram them into an arbitrary schedule. Modern life has too much time pressure anyway, so there’s no reason to add more.

Since my husband started wearing a Fitbit regularly this year, he has been more interested in going out for walks in the evening. We usually walk all through the neighborhood, and often we take the same path along the sidewalks, but it doesn’t really matter which way we go. It’s just nice to get outdoors and enjoy a little fresh air and exercise.

Word-art that says "There is no path to happiness. Happiness is the path itself."

Nurturing Thursday was started by Becca Givens and seeks to “give this planet a much needed shot of fun, support and positive energy.” Visit her site to find more Nurturing Thursday posts and a list of frequent contributors.

Yesterday morning, I was sitting at my desk with a cup of coffee when, somewhere far away in a dimly lit corner of my mind, I heard a familiar voice lamenting her woes. She was immediately recognizable as the unhappy past self that I had nicknamed Drama-Queenie a few years ago, before I decided to be nicer to her in an imaginary conversation on this blog.

“I am always in pain. I am always in pain,” she wailed. “I’m so very tired. Everything is so hard. I am always in pain!”

Where her outburst might have come from wasn’t as obvious as her identity. As far as I knew, I’d gotten things reasonably well sorted with Queenie (as I had renamed her, somewhat more kindly) when I told her that she was free to begin a new life in the make-believe village of Channelwood in the 1890s.

Evidently, things hadn’t gone as planned. Although Queenie had said she was happy in the village with her new friends, now she was back inside my head again, sounding worse than ever. She reminded me of a zombie with her mindless wailing, or a sleepwalker in the throes of a very bad nightmare.

Hmmm…

After giving more thought to the nightmare scenario, I pictured myself appearing in Queenie’s tiny house in Channelwood very late at night. Yes, there she was, definitely asleep in a long, old-fashioned nightgown. I couldn’t see much because the curtains were drawn and she had blown out the candle on the nightstand before going to sleep, but there was enough moonlight seeping in through the curtains to show a heap of covers on the floor. She had thrown them completely off with all her thrashing.

“Wake up, Queenie, honey,” I said. “You’re having a nightmare. It’s not real. You’re safe here now, remember?”

Her eyes snapped open, and she recoiled toward the wall as if expecting to be attacked at any moment. “I wasn’t ever safe anywhere. They called me nasty names, and acted like they hated me, and laughed at me whenever I made even the smallest mistake, and, and…”

Queenie burst into sobs and covered her face with her hands. Not wanting to say the wrong thing, I quietly picked up the covers from the floor and put them back on the bed.

“And don’t try to tell me it wasn’t really that bad,” she shouted, letting her hands fall to her sides and clenching them into fists. “Because it was bad, it was, and nobody has any right to say it wasn’t really!”

Taking a step toward the window, which had no glass, I pulled back the curtains. Moonlight streamed into the room. The night breeze was filled with the peaceful scents of pine trees and the nearby ocean.

Full moon over a rocky cove with pines.

(Image by Millie Walker)

“I didn’t say that it wasn’t really bad,” I clarified, after taking a deep breath of the lovely fresh air. “What I said was that it’s not real in the here and now. Maybe we can’t undo things that happened in the past, but we do have choices going forward. Listen to the waves breaking over the rocks, Queenie, and to the wind moving through the trees. Life is calling to you.”

Queenie paced back and forth several times, her bare feet padding relentlessly over the thick rug. Finally she stopped at the far end of the room and looked back at me.

“I’ve tried, you know,” she said. “Ever since I came here to Channelwood. Telling myself it was a safe place, everything was all right, I didn’t have to worry, and all that bad stuff was in the past and very far away. But it wasn’t—it wasn’t gone at all. No matter what I do, or how I try, nothing ever goes away. It’s not fair to say I haven’t done enough.”

“The mind has its own cadence, its own natural flow—rather like the wind and the waves,” I told her, as a gust set the curtains fluttering. “Often we can’t control what shows up in our thoughts. In fact, the reason I’m here right now having this conversation with you is because when you get upset, that disturbs my thoughts, and I can’t just switch you off. So, it would be ridiculous for me to say that you haven’t done enough, wouldn’t it?”

“Okay, I guess that’s fair,” Queenie said, giving me a tentative smile. “I’ll try harder not to mess up your thoughts, but I can’t make any promises.”

“No worries.” I smiled back. “If you have any more trouble sleeping, just let me know, and I’ll bring you a nice hot cup of cocoa.”

With this year’s unusually wet spring in most of the United States, there hasn’t been much sun in what seems like ages. Looking out the window at yet another chilly, dark afternoon with a steady drizzle, I decided that a sunny word-art would be just the thing to brighten up my blog. Enjoy!

Word-art that says "I thought I'd send some sunshine your way."

Nurturing Thursday was started by Becca Givens and seeks to “give this planet a much needed shot of fun, support and positive energy.” Visit her site to find more Nurturing Thursday posts and a list of frequent contributors.

June 20, 2019 · Write a comment · Categories: Musings · Tags:

One of the things I enjoy about the rowing club is that we always have plenty of wildlife to see along the river. This spring there was a nesting killdeer (a small bird in the plover family) near the boathouse. She laid eggs in the grass, but they got run over by the park district’s lawn tractor. Then she tried again, carefully building a nest with tiny pebbles at the edge of the gravel path between the boathouse and the dock. One of our club members noticed the nest and put traffic cones around it. My husband took a photo.

Nesting killdeer on a gravel path between two traffic cones.

Because of the cones, the eggs (there were two) survived a large weekend Learn-to-Row class when several boats were carried to and from the dock multiple times. The story does not have a happy ending, though, because on the Tuesday after the class, early morning rowers found that both the eggs and the bird had disappeared. A predator evidently got to the eggs overnight, and possibly ate the bird too, although I think it’s more likely she just flew away because there were no bones or feathers anywhere nearby.

The ways of nature can be hard. Small birds that lay eggs on the ground generally have a high failure rate for the nesting season. Perhaps the killdeer will have better luck next year; but I was left feeling glad to be a human in a safe, comfortable house.

It’s actually Friday rather than Thursday, but oh well, stuff happens. This week, the stuff included computer problems both at work and at home, along with other assorted disruptions to my usual schedule.

I’m not going to complain, though. After seeing all the damage caused by recent tornadoes in this area, my little annoyances look totally trivial. And of course, just about everything has useful learning experiences in it somewhere, even if they are not obvious right away.

Word-art that says "Sometimes you win, sometimes you (lose, crossed out) learn."

Nurturing Thursday was started by Becca Givens and seeks to “give this planet a much needed shot of fun, support and positive energy.” Visit her site to find more Nurturing Thursday posts and a list of frequent contributors.

This morning I mentioned to my husband that it was about time to sign up for a rowing sprint race in Indianapolis, which we attend every summer. The course is always windy, and we’re not the best at rowing in windy and choppy conditions; but every time we try it, we do better than before. Last year we got third place in our mixed double race.

We regularly finish ahead of another couple who are less experienced, but also improving each year. Their goal, for now, is to catch up to us. It’s kind of nice being someone’s inspiration!

Word-art that says "Try and fail, don't fail to try."

Nurturing Thursday was started by Becca Givens and seeks to “give this planet a much needed shot of fun, support and positive energy.” Visit her site to find more Nurturing Thursday posts and a list of frequent contributors.