Life's Cadence

I had planned to begin introducing some thoughts relevant to the concept of creating a life to love. In fact, that essay is almost finished. But the message just wasn’t speaking to my heart this week. Not that it’s not (sorry for the double negative) a worthy message – it is and I will be sharing it with you in an upcoming entry. But this week I was reminded over and over how important it is to take time to celebrate, nurture the relationships in our lives, and the importance of understanding our life’s cadence.

Some people really mean "rhythm" when they use the word "cadence". The military uses cadence in their various marching drills. A dragon boat team consists of 20 paddlers, with a Cox at the rear who steers and a drummer who beats time from the front. Equestrienne events such as dressage, jumping, and reining require masterful cadence from both the rider and horse. All of these examples use "cadence" to describe the intricate timing required in these activities. When well done the results are beautiful to watch.

But the cadence I am actually referring to in relation to our lives is something more. Cadence is also the intonation, accent, and inflection within a rhythm. As a beginner violinist some years ago, one of the first pieces I learned to play was a simple arrangement of Pachelbel’s Canon in D. With considerable practice, my notes became recognizable over time. However, simply playing notes in the correct order does not result in beauty. I needed to learn and understand the importance of cadence in order to play the same notes with the intonation envisioned by the composer Johann Pachelbel three centuries ago.

So is the importance of cadence of our lives. It isn’t just that we must have rhythm, it is what we do within that movement. We must learn to find balance between the forte (loud) and the dolce (sweetly) moments in our lives. Some people seem to live their entire lives playing only in fortissimo (very loud), staccato (sharp, spaced), fastoso (pompous), with frequent notes of forzando (extra emphasis) for good measure.

Smile if you think you recognize someone whose life song comes across this way. But what about your own life song? Do you find your cadence to be a little too fortissimo, a little too prestissimo (very, very fast)? Has life become so hectic that you can't see the flowers, let alone pause to smell them?

You're definitely not alone. I think most of us with even a little life experience can handle changing rhythms that life brings. But life often doesn’t change gears smoothly. We learn, sometimes early and sometimes later, that life changes in a heartbeat. In the little things and on most days, we can handle misplaced keys, an empty milk carton, a slow-moving train, even a misfiled report with humour, grace, and patience. Running out of coffee might be a stretch for a few of us! Of course, how we react to those irritants is in direct proportion to the importance we are placing in that very moment to having perfection in our life. When several relatively minor obstacles hit us at once, it can send even the most laid-back, taking-life-as-it-comes gal to a place where the life song chords are definitely striking hard in fortissimo.

For over five years Chris and I lived through a very difficult personal and painful legal battle. During that time, we discovered that almost everyone knows someone who has experienced parental alienation. My mother-in-law experienced this. My co-worker's brother was struggling with it and another co-worker and dear friend was also being directly impacted by it. One of my brothers went through it at the same time I did. Far too many divorced parents find themselves being intentionally marginalized from their children's lives by the other parent and that parent's legal team for no justifiable reason. By far the most long lasting damage occurs to the children caught helplessly in the middle and very often co-opted by the alienating parent to actively reject the other parent. The rejected parent and very often that entire side of the child's family also suffer tremendously as they are maligned and shut out from the child's life because of spite, vindictiveness and fear. We were very fortunate to receive valuable and effective advice from an experienced professional about mid way through our journey who taught us coping skills and enabled us to assist our child when she emerged from the parental brainwashing. I have been very grateful for some aspects of the experience; it introduced me to other struggling parents that I would not otherwise have met and helped me develop skills and find inner strength I didn't know I possessed. But for a time it also made me far more cynical, far less trusting, and far less able to easily deal with the little misfires of daily life. For a time I felt that I had lost my bounce, my resiliency. I had little self-confidence. I hated that the smallest frustrations could send me to a very dark place of self-loathing and self-recriminations.

If I was hard on myself, how I was reacting was harder on my husband, who hated how the situation was beating me up and who wanted so much for me to feel better. I finally realized that I had lost my sense of cadence one day while I was vehemently berating myself for something that had occurred over which I had neither any control or responsibility, and looked up to see the pain in his eyes. I realized that the self-punishment had to stop. If I was capable of giving grace to others, I had to take the time to find grace and peace for myself. And that's why understanding cadence has been so important for me. I hope that if you haven't thought before about your own cadence, that my experience might help you to explore further the intonation and accent of your own cadence to the rhythm of your life. I look forward to hearing your thoughts!

When we encounter the kind of cadence that jars our spirit and our senses, we need to step back, take stock of the situation, and use care in our response. What I have learned for myself is that I want to strive for a balance, combining forte and staccato with brio (spirit, vigor), gusto (with zest) and also with bars played with placido (calm), simplice (simple), and especially with grazioso (gracefully). That's what I wish for you as well.

Personally, I have learned that when I'm having a bad day, focusing on my cadence will very often help move me past the setbacks that are creating the downward spiral. Impossible? Not at all. I am definitely a work in progress! I have also learned that composing our life song requires living with intention. And my husband appreciates it when I am striving for placido instead of staccato!

Living with intention is often about focusing on the small things. It’s the little joys that speak to your heart and breathe fresh air into your spirit. It is living in the moment with grazioso and gusto. Fermata – pause and hold the moment. Pay attention. I saw a beautiful example of this in a Facebook’s friend’s video earlier this week that she titled, “The. Best. Day. Everrrrrrrrr.” It was her and her little son caught up in the joy and discovery of a beautiful pebbly beach of a west coastal eddy. On the opposite Canadian coast, one of my dear friends, an author, posted pictures of her nature hikes -- breathtakingly beautiful images of the places that were helping her find her writer's muse and reconnect with her spirit as she hiked. Yet another friend celebrated her daughter's graduation this week with a mom-daughter beach vacation. Little joys create our lives.

The first of my own intentional moments this week were found at our oldest daughter’s home last Sunday as we celebrated her birthday. This daughter is beautiful, talented, accomplished, and sometimes just a wee bit hard on herself. Just like the rest of us. I wish you only joyful cadence in this coming year, honey.

My schedule took me to Calgary this week. For those of you who are not familiar with this beautiful city, I hope that you are able to visit someday. While the vibe is currently subdued by economic and political forces, Calgary is an exciting, entrepreneurial, freedom-loving example of what it means to be western. While there, I also had the opportunity to have dinner with my cousin, Laura. It was a wonderful three hours of catching up on family news, laughter, and fond memories of our childhoods. If you’re ever wondering about your ability to discern good relationships from bad, Laura is the kind of woman that you want to spend time with. She’s the real deal, loving and fun, devoted to her family, and she makes sure no one gets left behind. If you don't have someone like Laura in your life, find her. Or be her.

Later, as I walked along the beautiful Bow river paths back to my hotel, a little family of geese with their goslings crossed in front of me, presumably back to the water and their nesting area, the adults carefully ensuring that no one was left behind. Another reminder of a good lesson to keep in mind.

One of the best parts of my travel from Calgary was the ability to take the rural secondary highway known as “The Cowboy Trail” back to my home. On this trip the rain fell in sheets as I approached the town of Cochrane. I stopped to buy a sandwich for lunch and in doing so, discovered a lovely small-town bakery. A still-warm fresh-from-the-oven loaf of raisin bread, a favorite of my husband's, and one of their signature River cakes were duly packed into the back of my vehicle for the journey north through the foothills. As I continued my drive, the rain subsided to a fine mist. I noticed the intense green of the crops now coming up fast and thought about how thankful those farmers are feeling, given the drought we have experienced for much of the past year. The hills to the west receded in a blue-purplish haze and the usually sharp outline of the Alberta Rockies were obliterated by heavy gray rain-filled clouds hanging low. A hot, dry sunny day would probably have felt more invigorating. But this day was perfect in its soft light and promise of life. As I reached the small village closest to our farm, Chris met me at the little local chinese food restaurant for a pre-planned Friday dinner date. Almost every western Canadian small town has, or used to have, a little chinese food restaurant. If you're lucky enough to still have one near you, go. If you've never been, find one and go.

Life is good. All is well. Fermata.

Hugs,

Shelley

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