Tuesday, July 18, 2006

on the bright side...

It is sweltering in Ottawa these days. Trying to work in this sticky heat is like trying to push boulders through sludge. So as the current heat wave nears record levels, our energy consumption soars. When I open the windows at night to try and get some cool air, all around I hear the whir of air conditioners. And even though I hate doing it, we've had to turn ours on a few times.

It's not on the coldest days of the year that we burn the most fuel, it's on the hottest. The government optimistically says it hopes to avoid rolling black outs, but if the heat continues, I don't think we should be surprised if we exhaust the energy grid.

Gloom and doom. I'm just finishing Jared Diamond's Collapse - and if I wasn't already depressed about the state of the environment and global warming, I certainly am now. We are not only exhausting our energy sources, we are destroying our forests, our oceans, our air, our water, etc...

But this is why, in the middle of all this pessimism, when we find something to cheer about we should make sure to cheer extra loud.

Stopped at our local Loeb grocery store on the way home Sunday night. A small sign on the door said the store was reducing its energy consumption by using only half the interiour lights. Not only is this great news from the environmental perspective, but it was also much more pleasant to shop under gentle lighting - instead of the usual harsh glare of grocery and department stores.

Wouldn't it be great if more stores adopted a similar policy? Switched to energy saving bulbs and turned off half their lights? Sometimes I feel like my small measures of turning off lights, recycling garbage or washing dishes by hand become worthless compared to the big box stores with 24-hour bright lights and overflowing garbage bins.

So I wrote to the Loeb today. Raised a little hurrah and congratulated them. I hope that they make this a permanent decision. I hope other stores follow suit. And I hope we all cheer them on when they do.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

something nice each day

'Treat others as you would have them treat you.' It's an adage I was raised on.

We were taught early on to be nice to each other. We learned that rude and selfish behaviour is punished, good deeds are praised.

I can recall specific instances when I thought, 'that is how I want to treat other people' - such as a woman I met who loved to bake and always made extra. She would give the extra loaves, buns or cakes to whomever happened to be around - guests, neighbours, her friends or her children's friends. She also had a way of asking questions and listening, really listening to what you said in reply.

I have friends in town who, when I was struggling to make ends meet, would take me out for dinner or a drink and insist they pay. Their generosity was humbling, but appreciated.

I have been inspired by people who give of themselves, and their possessions, selflessly. Also by those who do those few extra little things to make you feel really welcome, really appreciated. Although I know I fail, I could say that I am always trying to live in a way that is more generous and considerate of others.

So it was a bit of a shock when I was told to stop focusing on others and try to do something nice for myself. I am seeing a psychiatrist who has a no nonsense approach and seems to see her job as shattering all my assumptions.

"If you were to write me a cheque for 1 million dollars to feed all the hungry people, that would be very nice," she said. "I'm sure it would make you feel very good.

"But if I tried to cash that cheque, it would bounce. You don't have a million dollars."

"You can't give to others what you don't have."

She said she honours my intentions to help others. But she wants me to learn to help myself. She asked me what I do for myself that is kind. What do I give to myself?

Not an easy question to answer.

She has challenged me to do one nice thing for myself each day. Treat myself as if I were my own friend, a friend who was struggling though some tough times and needed some extra kindness. Is it strange that it's only when I think of treating myself as someone else that I get ideas of what nice thing to do?

She wants to see my list next time I visit her. A list of something nice each day.

So on Tuesday I went to Bridgehead to get a coffee on the way to the office. But instead of taking it to go, I asked for it in a mug then sat in the coffee shop, looking over work notes and planning my day instead of rushing in to it. That was nice.

Yesterday I finished most of my work in time to make popcorn and watch France beat Portugal at the World Cup finals. That was very nice. (-:

Today.... well, it's early. I'm still working on it.

For anyone reading this, I invite you to join me in this challenge.

Let's treat ourselves the way we want others to treat us.