The Memory Hoarder

“We are not defined or limited by the things which we own but we do cherish certain belongings and the pleasure they bring to our lives.”  – Julia Cameron

Nana never liked to part ways with her things. So when a purge of Tremont began, old remnants and rusty casualties naturally became meaningful to me. Little interest was shown in the random things my heart had grown attached to. I think the purge was cathartic for my Mum who had for years wanted to let go of many of the things that lay around Tremont while Nana still had a say.

My salvages? A rusting Salter scale that was really not quite as old as it looked (due to the relentless salt air), an aluminum food cover we used to wear like a helmet, Papa’s old Smith Corona typewriter keys, an old Band-aid tin (that I now keep plasters in), an old copper bell that resembles The Queen (although I am not sure which one), and Nana’s old thread that you also see at the top of my blog. All these items had become aged by good use, weather and time.

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What hold did these things have over me anyways? I mean, they were not magic, unless you read my story about the helmet. I do think one woman’s trash is another woman’s treasure. Hence my attraction to thrift stores. Seriously, who really likes to take pictures of curated junk as I have in the photo at the top of this post? I know it is a little loopy. I will admit that much.

To make sense of my memory hoarding condition, I mean, disposition, I read a book, Time Warped about our relationship with time by Claudia Hammond. In it she looks at why sometimes it feels like time is frozen, while at other times it feels like it is going at lightning speed. Our brains are so intricate and precious. They can store events, or hide them from us. Why is it that some of us can remember more than others? When I chat with my older sister about some of the experiences we collectively shared together, sometimes she remembers, other times she has no recollection even though I can see every detail crystal clear. This famous quote shared in Hammond’s book put my memory hoarding at ease:

“The longer you can look back, the farther you can look forward” – Winston Churchill

I believe the future, although unknown, can be just as beautiful as where I have been. So I am trying to be forward thinking. In a way, I am using these childhood memories to remember the future. And if these tangible treasures find another home or end up amongst the shelves of a thrift store, I know it will not be tragic. They are just things and gratefully, I am not a hoarder. It is the memories that I feel attached to.

To balance my tendency to look back, I keep a peaceful Buddha and an old rusty typewriter in my garden to remind me to be present. If Buddha could whisper to me I have a feeling he might say something like: Stop thinking so much, Rachel, we only ever have today.

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[Photo: Rachel Bursey]

I get it. But I also believe daydreaming is important to help bridge the way. That’s what the typewriter is for. There is nothing wrong with thinking the best is not only now but is also yet to come. It gives us hope. Me at least. Enlightenment stories are abound if we are willing to look for them.

The Memory Hoarder by loopylocks

[Drawing: Hannah Bursey]

This line drawing is a portrait of me, created by my eldest over the Christmas holidays. According to her, it was “not very good” but I could see that she had captured my essence in an honest way… my unruly hair, sitting perched slightly forward, with my leg tucked under for comfort. Thinking about everything, as usual. © 2017 by Hannah Bursey. All rights reserved.

Common Sense Resolutions for A New Year

Social media has a much greater audience than a verandah after a few rum and cokes. That’s how my Dad shared his stories when I was little. I remember being captivated by the stories he would share about growing up with pretty humble roots. As one of seven in St. Philip, Barbados, I could listen to the same story over and over. With or without a rum in hand. Still can. Recently I have started sharing some random stories too. Some of my own life experiences and lessons learned. For my children’s sake. To help them find some answers when they are looking for meaning. Here’s a question for you. Do you think it is possible to remember the future before it happens? I’m not referring to fortune telling. I am talking about future telling. With 2017 literally around the corner, I have tried to make some notes for myself. Call it my guide to future sense. My rules.

common sense resolutions by loopylocks

Throwback. 1977.  Age 5. Dressed as a “Sophisticated Lady” for Kiddies Carnival, Barbados. I suspect I did not know the meaning of a “Sophisticated Lady”. My Mum knew better. And so did Ella Fitzgerald when she sung this famous song. Image filter by Prisma.

Perhaps one of the biggest differences between then and now, is that we no longer live in the age of privacy. In this post Internet world, I share this post because I reckon I can refer to this whenever I feel the need to fact check my intuition. Call it my own “Sophisticated Lady” common sense. Cause let’s face it, if you believe at all in karma, you will understand where I am going with this.

Talking of social media and life lessons, I have a fridge magnet that acts as a daily reminder to…

believe nothing quote by Buddha

believe nothing,
no matter where you read it
or who has said it,
not even if i have said it,
unless it agrees with you own reason

and your own common sense.

-buddha

There is a lot of questionable news and content out there. This is the 21st Century. The Information Age. So before I share a story, I have to be pretty darn sure that I am OK with what I am sharing. This statement I know for sure to be true: one day I will not be here. My blog here might be. Unless Interpol seizes my wisdom because somehow it is viewed as a threat to national security. I doubt that. This basically means that anything I say on my blog may very well remain. A legacy in the making, of sorts. A bunch of stories I want my kids to know about. Not just about me, but their family history too. Not sure how that differs to life before blogs or the Internet existed. Oh right, that was called a diary. And a storytelling Dad. For the moment, blogging somehow gives me accountability. Makes me think before I write and before I “publish” or “share”.

What happens when my kids grow up? What happens when they have kids? And they have kids? What meaning will they get from this? Will they come to this little loopy blog and say to themselves: so that is who my great grandmother was. What was she thinking? Gee thanks a lot, ‘Nana’. No wonder I have strong opinions and let my inside voices out more than I probably should.

My Common Sense Rules for a New Year:

  1. Is what I am about to share going to hurt anyone in my family or any of my friends? If the answer is yes then don’t do it. Find that little trash can icon or discard button.
  2. Is it true? To the best of my knowledge? Do I believe it? Like what my magnet says? If yes, then go for it.
  3. Is it funny? Sad? Both? Slightly irreverent? Fair game.
  4. Is it judgemental? Critical? Listen, we all judge. Mostly ourselves but sometimes we do let our inside voices slip out. Especially Mums. Do I want a slew of comments and feedback that I may not expect? Or like? If so, do as the infamous Walter White tells Hank in one of my favourite scenes of Breaking Bad, “Maybe your best course would be to tread lightly”.
  5. If I share a story failing to abide by any of the above rules and realize after that I regret it, then be prepared and get ready to apologize. Shit happens. We must do our best to be accountable for our actions. If not, take a chance but be prepared for the consequences like what happens in the Monopoly game…

Take a Chance[Image credit: Monopoly Wiki]

I believe storytelling is worth taking a chance on. Opinions too. And maybe even the odd recipe that is good enough. Stories truly have the power to stir up happy feelings, laughter and smiles. Stories can also bring on tears and feelings of nostalgia and sadness. Either way, you learn something. Not only about the people from the stories but also about yourself.

While I may not be famous, I am making memories every day. And the more memories I can make out of my everyday, the more I will be able to cherish the time I do have. Memories are a testament to life.  When I am no longer making memories, my kids will have stories to remember not only me, but also their grandparents and their great grandparents. As my magnet aptly says, whether you read them, believe them or not is for your own reason and your own common sense.

throw forward

[Photo credit: Taken from a card my daughter gave me on my 40th birthday. I am not one for keeping cards but somehow I think this one is a keeper. I like to think of it as my way of remembering the future].

How to find your inner food and fitness goddess

Let me set this up. If you love grocery shopping and going to the gym then this post is most definitely not for you. It only took me 18 years and a tailbone injury (one that I am still working on). So please, be patient. Life is a pilgrimage, not a race. If you can address your own bad habits in less time, or if my life lesson can help in any way, then I will genuinely be happy for you.

Present day life. Simple and beautiful? Sometimes but definitely not always. I am always trying my best. For example, this exchange just recently occurred in our kitchen between my 14 year old daughter and I. True story. My third has a habit that is, well, how can I put it diplomatically, less than desirable. Chalk it up to hormones. Or is it horrormones? One day she will read this and understand when her own children become teenagers. I think we all know the word for this: Retribution.

Hangry teens are simply impossible. You know when urban slang enters your everyday lexicon? Selfie, hashtag, yolo, onesie are all pretty awesome in my humble opinion. My personal favourite? Hangry. Apply it to a teen and it’s like they have been possessed by an evil hormonal food monster with dangerously low blood glucose levels. Doesn’t matter if you have spent a small fortune at Costco or how much food you have in your house, they will always utter these four words:

Hangry Teen:     There’s nothing to eat!

Me:     Sorry. I didn’t go to the gym today.

To which end, I promptly left the kitchen, like Thelma & Louise‘s exit off the cliff. That’s how this homemaker now rolls. I believe that is also called a #truthbomb. Also a pretty creative word. Truth: I really dislike grocery shopping. Bomb: Always have. As a child, I remember sitting in the car after school with my siblings while my Mum would run into Big B, the local supermarket in Barbados, each time saying: “I just have to get a few things. I won’t be long”. Then, after what seemed like an eternity, my Mum would emerge with usually no less than four bags. Lucky for us, we had each other and would yack or fight or listen to the radio in the car, usually in the shade if our Mum could find a spot. While this frequent ritual continued, something quietly started to develop within. Little did I know that I was secretly building a disdain for grocery shopping.

Then I became a Mum and a homemaker. Instead of accepting the reality that all humans need food for survival, my attitude towards grocery shopping got worse with each addition. As the dedicated home economist, I created a bad habit of delaying going for groceries until the point of no return. By avoiding shopping frequently, I would invariably make things more difficult than they really needed to be. When our provisions would sink to dangerously low levels and I could hear my inner voice repeatedly singing, “Old Mother Hubbard“, I would admit defeat, face the dread and go off to the store. My husband would help out when he could but I was pretty much the one behind the wheel on this one.

Delaying the inevitable of needing groceries for the family invariably leads to a much greater problem. And I am not referring to the aforementioned hangry teen.  I would be forced to buy so much food to feed our four kids that I would be “that” person you do not ever want to line up behind. That person who would have so much on the belt to pack away into bags that not even the best Tetris champion could save you. Then getting it to the car…  into the house… putting it all away. The issue would only compound in the winter months.  Just writing this makes me shiver.

I know what you are thinking. First World Problem. I know. Listen, whenever I am back home in Barbados and see the prices of groceries, I count my blessings as soon as I get back to Toronto. My first grocery trip on any return feels like one of those moments when you witness the Pope kiss the ground. I feel so blessed and really need to smarten up! All the pictures of produce I snapped to remind me that good food is truly something to be grateful for.

So I decided to solve the problem and get back in the driver’s seat, like Thelma & Louise did. OK, maybe the analogy is a bit dramatic but I like to think like that sometimes. They just kept going and I am sure as hell trying my best.

I changed my poor grocery shopping habits by joining a local gym that sits on top of a supermarket. Haha. Sounds simple enough. Honestly, the only other thing I dislike as much as grocery shopping is going to the gym. But I felt like I was spiralling out of control and needed to haul it back in and get back in the game. In using the principle of a “To Not-Do List“, I put these two things on the top of the list. By taking on the two things I do not enjoy, I free up time to do the things I like. Like being healthy for myself and my family AND having food to eat. Far more productive. Hey, if you can’t beat ’em, why not join them?

The food photos I carefully selected as they match the ten 4′ x 4′ posters that I see every day at my gym. Geeky. I know. But the signs are pretty (*insert profanity) awesome. Words can be great motivators.

I have not actively gone to a gym in years. I was 26 when I started our family and it has taken me well over a decade to get with the programme. Call me a slow learner. When our third was born, yes, the hangry one, I spent a year going to a women’s gym in the burbs. Did me a world of good back then too.  It gave me the physical and mental strength I was lacking with three kids under the age of four. Strong enough also to realize that Toronto was where our family needed to be. The price of living in Toronto as a homemaker meant that I had to put on hold the idea of an annual gym membership… kids gotta eat!

Kids. Yes we would die for them but they sure have a way of getting in the way of putting our own health higher on the pole. It was a no-brainer that I wanted to be better than before. Author Gretchen Rubin, has a name to describe this Mum tendency: Obliger. In her book, aptly named, Better Than Before, she brings up the suggestion that what is helpful for obligers (who put external expectations before internal needs) is to pair habits together and make yourself accountable. Then you have a greater chance of sticking to it. I have found this to be the case for me. I always feel accountable to my children and know that making myself healthy, even for their sake, is a good motive. Sure, I should be making myself healthy for Me. But it is not always easy to accept that, “self-regard isn’t selfish”. So true.

In making the connection that fitness and food holds great value, this gives me clarity and validation. That is why I feel that my approach is working.

It has now been well over a year of my new routine and I am happy to report that I am back in the driver’s seat. Definitely stronger than before. I have never felt better about taking care of my health and my family since I made the pairing. Since I only need to pick up a few things with each gym visit, I now enjoy going to the supermarket. In fact, I also really enjoy going the gym. Crazy. But true. I am also really happy with the gym I go to. Sorry guys, it’s a Women’s Only gym and that means there are no awkward moments or glances to make the ladies feel uncomfortable. All the women who go are real women. 100%. All shapes and sizes. All ages. All different fitness levels. It makes me feel so proud to walk through the doors each day to see the faces of other women, who like me, need to take care of themselves. All the signage is just an added bonus.

On a side note, the gym guide who gave me my first orientation on the machines said that since she retired she made a promise to herself that she sticks to: thou shalt leave the house at least once a day. To a professed hermit crab, this was like a bolt of lightning. Now, instead of shopping once or twice a month, I shop Monday through Friday. I aim for five days a week. The weekends are free. Free of gym time or groceries (unless something is vital). Getting out of the house (other than to drop and collect kids) is an added mental health bonus.

I am not big on publicly endorsing places so I have not mentioned the name of my gym in this post. Let’s just say that I am living a pretty good life. My two favourite signs happen to be printed above the windows that run the length of the gym:

Do something today that your future self with thank you for.

The Foundation of all happiness is HEALTH.

YOLO. Damn right. Here’s the other truth. Any gym can do the trick! You also do not need to be a homemaker to make this work. If the grocery store is not in the same building, find one that is around the corner, or close by, so you know you can take care of both needs with one outing. If I can break my bad habits by pairing them together, trust me, there is hope. Like the saying goes: If Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy. My new mantra just so happens to be: If Mama ain’t going to the gym, ain’t no food entering the house. No matter how hangry you are.

food and fitness rules by loopylocks

[Image credits: All the gym poster images I took to file for inspiration. Whenever I am not feeling in the mood to go, I tell myself I only have to exercise for 10 minutes, I read one of the signs and then I get my mojo back. Words are powerful. Every time, without fail, I end up staying for more than 10 minutes and I feel so much better.]