"For all that has been, thanks. For all that will be, yes." - Dag Hammarskjold

Sunday, May 5, 2013

celebrating lives greatly full :: stuart hickox

I am so glad there are people like Stuart Hickox in the world. To me, he is partly cynic but mostly a dreamer... a wannabe curmudgeon but deep down, a hopeless romantic. What kind of person takes a 10 acre swath of clearcut in the middle of PEI and channels Henry David Thoreau in creating a woodland oasis? What kind of guy enlists the help of friends to erect a giant sign on Parliament Hill to propose to his girlfriend? (She said yes.) And more recently, who the heck sends an email to Jane Siberry inviting her to sing at his house over the holidays?! (She also said yes, btw.) I mean, who DOES that?!  Stuart does.

Stuart is the President and Founder of One Change, a non-profit grassroots organization that empowers people to believe that simple actions matter and encourages environmentally sustainable choices and better behaviours.  He is also a gifted writer with several stories published nationally and internationally.  His writing never fails to provoke a reaction in me, and his sharing here is no different. Today, I am thrilled to share a piece of classic Stuart Hickox. Thank you, my friend!

Sh*t happens.Thank God!

I was an anxious, risk averse little kid. Life had started out on the wrong foot. Mom bled out and nearly died the day I was born, and I was readmitted to hospital 2 weeks after coming home, thin and pale, for "nervous baby syndrome." My fraternal grandmother (100) still laughs when she talks about how I used to spontaneously projectile vomit -  triggered easily by a barking dog or the ding-dong of the gypsy lady peddling pottery or scents mid-afternoon. Those door-to-door people …

Life was good, but it was only by grade one that I had my first, and to this day, most memorable moment of pure gratitude. Every winter as my birthday rolled around I was absolutely terrified that it would fall on Friday the 13th. So the day I finally and fully realized that this horror would never visit me was pure joy (my birthday is March 12). The sense of release and gratitude I felt knowing that I would never, ever have to face a party in a red caboose with a scary burger clown on Friday the 13th bounced me all the way home that day in the back of my rickety school bus. I had escaped. I was glad. Thank God!

Jo-Anne's request for a blog post has prompted me to think a lot about this. Thanks JAG! My opinion? Frankly, I think gratitude is weak when expressed as a way to recognize the moment that the dreaded worst doesn't happen. Or, by extension, when things gently exceed carefully nurtured low expectations. Gratitude is pathetic when it's a pale partner to fair-weather "hope." It can also be a toothy control freak in fluffy fleece - a way to keep honest aspiration and indignation at arms length. The next time you hear someone tell you to "Support the troops!" consider for a moment how gratitude can be a social and political tool. 

In a word, I think Hallmark gratitude Sucks.

So, amid all this negativity, it may seem perverse to suggest that I am now most grateful in my life for all the bad things that have happened to me. 

The thing is, for a lot of my life I thought I should be grateful for just getting by. I was afraid of failure, of death, of public speaking (still hate that), of loss. I was grateful for every day I avoided these things. Then life happened.

What I'm trying to say is that real gratitude can be empowering and a force for good. Pain and self awareness are its strong legs that kick you in the ass. There are words that describe living life grateful that the worst hasn't yet happened: Fear. Denial. Because, people, The Worst happens to everyone eventually. As sure as you are reading this, The Worst will happen to you. It's just different for everyone. And sometimes the "Worst" is living life right to the last breath risk-averse, and trying to avoid bad things.  

So here's what I'm grateful for: I'm grateful that I had no choice but to experience the death of three family members across three generations -- in one year. I'm grateful for a boss who made me choose between my secure paying job and my "little not-for-profit." I'm grateful that the not-for-profit failed. And, on a more positive note, I'm very grateful for the people who rallied around me to help rebuild when I was ready to quit. 

Most of all, today, I'm grateful that I married the unflappable Suzy Fraser, someone who snorts at the significance of Friday the 13th, and who provides a safe haven of acceptance for that scared little kid on the school bus. Because he's still here. Luckily, he can now speak in public without fainting, and no longer pukes when the doorbell rings. I consider that progress.

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