How to quit worrying about whether you’re a good vs bad person

Elephant chasing water buffalo, Kenya - photo by E. Jurus

I’ve been preparing a workshop on living your bucket list for an upcoming group, and during my research I’ve run across a surprising amount of angst about being happy with yourself. Here are my thoughts based on personal experience:

1. Always take the high road – behave with grace under pressure, don’t sink to someone else’s level no matter what the provocation, do the right thing even though it might be difficult.

2. Accept responsibility for your own actions – you made the choices, regardless of whether your parents loved you or not as a child, whether you had a tough life…

3.Think about what you’re doing. If something upsets you, don’t have a knee-jerk reaction – walk away and simmer down first. If you react immediately, invariably you’ll regret your actions later.

4. Give everything your best shot. Putting your highest effort out is the way to avoid having regrets or doubts later.

5. Be considerate – whether you’re at work, driving, in a grocery store, even just living in your neighbourhood. More issues could be solved with simple consideration than just about anything else.

6. Allow people the benefit of the doubt. Everyone struggles with something in their lives, so Jack who’s miserable today may have an ill child, may have had an argument with his spouse, may be having financial difficulties, may be worrying about a mistake he made at work…

7. Live the Golden Rule: treat people as you would like to be treated yourself, i.e. with respect.

8. Smile – a genuine smile can overcome some of the toughest circumstances.

9. Treat people as if they are the best versions of themselves, and they will almost always live up to that.

10. Treat animals and nature as if they’re wonderful gifts, which is what they are.

11. Allow yourself to be human, i.e. to have the personality traits and quirks that we all have, but avoid both extremes: wallowing or arrogance.

12. Finally, understand that you won’t succeed all the time with the above tasks, and go back to number 11: realize that we’re all humans trying our best in an increasingly stressful world.

Filling your dreams to the brim with fright…

Entrance to Disneyland on Halloween night - photo by E. Jurus
Entrance to Disneyland on Halloween night – photo by E. Jurus
Entrance to Disneyland Hotel - photo by E Jurus
Entrance to Disneyland Hotel – photo by E Jurus

If you’re thinking of spending a Halloween with Disney, now’s the time to start planning! Tickets will go on sale next month, and they go quickly.
My husband and I went to Disneyland for October 30 & 31 two years ago, and we had a blast. We stayed at the Disneyland Hotel, which overlooks Downtown Disney. In California everything’s accessible by foot – we walked out from our hotel into the thick of the shops, restaurants and entertainment ‘downtown’, and a further 10 minute walk brought us to the gates of both Disneyland and California Adventure.

Shop window on Main Street USA - photo by E Jurus
Shop window on Main Street USA – photo by E Jurus

Signs of Halloween were everywhere – hay bales, pumpkins both real and faux (including a giant pumpkin-head Mickey at the entrance to Main Street USA, Halloween treats for sale in shops and restaurants, and lots of creepy/cute merchandise in the shops.

On Halloween, Disneyland closes to the general public around 3pm, and re-opens at 6pm for people with tickets to Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party. These tickets must be reserved in advance and are an additional cost over and above your park-hopper passes, but they’re well worth the extra cost! During the late afternoon on October 31st there’s an air of excitement – people dressed up in costume ( both children and adults) begin heading for the park, street entertainers come out, and the lights at the entrance to Disneyland start to glow. The atmosphere is like a big street party.

Food is available in the parks in the evening, but we chose to fortify ourselves at one of the restaurants in Downtown Disney first, then went back to the hotel to change. If you’re going, please note that the temperature can drop considerably at night even in the sunny states, and our night was no exception. I had on a long-sleeved costume and was still chilled by the end of the party.

Once inside the park, there are loads of things to do. All the day’s rides are open, but there are also dance

Main St USA on Halloween Night - photo by E Jurus
Main St USA on Halloween Night – photo by E Jurus

parties in different locations, the opportunity to have your  photo taken in front of the giant pumpkin Mickey (the professional photographer will use either his own camera or yours, or both – you pick) trick-or-treat stations that were patronized just as much by adults as kids when we were there, the opportunity to meet and pose with your favourite Disney villain (very popular and they rotate shifts, so if this is a must-do for you line up early before your character leaves for a break), shops galore, fireworks and a Halloween parade as the finale.

Adults lined up at the trick-or-treat station along the lagoon - photo by E Jurus
Adults lined up at the trick-or-treat station along the lagoon – photo by E Jurus

Glowing ghostly Mickey heads light your way around the park, an eerie blue fog billows across the lagoon and haunting music makes your feet itch to dance. It’s a night to celebrate all that’s dark and creepy, Disney style. Lest you think this party is just for children, let me tell you that at least half the people there that night were adults, and most of them were in costume. Although I’m not a fan of the commercialism that has crept into the Disney parks, nobody does parties like they do! This was an item on my bucket list, and it didn’t disappoint.

I haven’t been to Disney World for Halloween, so I can’t compare between the two, but there is

The gates to the Haunted Mansion, Jack Skellington-style - photo by E Jurus
The gates to the Haunted Mansion, Jack Skellington-style – photo by E Jurus

one significant difference: in Disneyland, for the Halloween season the Haunted Mansion is converted into The Nightmare Before Christmas both indoors and out – the plantation-style mansion drips with Spanish moss, special black & white-ribboned Halloween flower arrangements, pumpkins and Jack Skellington’s Christmas list, and of course Jack himself presides over the entire thing.

Inside, the ride has been transformed as well, into a spectacular multi-coloured journey tweaked with Jack’s special style – it’s so cool, even my hubby was impressed. Disneyland also sells a lot of Jack Skellington merchandise, so if you’re a fan, that might be an added incentive. My hubby bought a ‘Tall, Dark & Gruesome’ t-shirt that he wore under his lab coat as a mad scientist; I was his freaky-looking re-stitched and partially-revived creation.

photo by E Jurus
photo by E Jurus

Planning tips:

  • When I booked, tickets went on sale at the beginning of July for Disney club members, and later in the month for non-members. The online order system had gone down, so I spent a dedicated 45 minutes on the phone calling back repeatedly until I got a live person.
  • There are rules for dressing in costume at Disney: 1) you can dress as a Disney character but you’re not allowed to pose for photos with people you don’t know; 2) costumes can’t drag on the ground (tripping/ride machinery hazard); 3) your eyes must be visible (coloured contacts are allowed – mine were dead white); 4) your costume can’t scare small children. Most people do dress as Disney characters, but you don’t have to, although doing that will likely increase your chance of being selected to ride in the parade.
  • Daytime temps are quite nice but, as I mentioned previously, the temperature can drop quite a bit after dark, so be prepared – I saw quite a few women shivering in sleeveless outfits.
  • Buying an ‘all-inclusive’ package can save you some money. You get vouchers for meals that are supposed to be specific to certain restaurants and meals, but when we were there the serving staff encouraged us to use them for just about any meal.
  • Wear comfy shoes; even in Disneyland, which is more compact, you’ll still do lots of walking.
  • If you’re interested in doing the Disneyland version, there’s transportation between the airport (LAX) and Disneyland. In Los Angeles, there are tons of things to see, including the original Universal Studios park, Grauman’s Chinese Theater, Hollywood, other movie studios, the fabulous Getty Museum…the list is practically endless. If you rent a car, you can drive up the coast to Malibu, visit beautiful Santa Barbara, and generally enjoy the wonderful California weather, scented with the ocean and eucalyptus trees.
  • Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party runs on selected nights throughout the Halloween season, so if you can’t make it for Halloween night itself, there are still plenty of other dates to enjoy it. The one on Halloween itself wasn’t nearly as crowded as I was afraid it might be, just a nice amount of people wandering around and enjoying the ambience. Please check this year’s dates and times on the Disney websites (Disneyland and Disney Worldfor the most up-to-date information.

A little pampering is good for everyone

Spa at the Legends resort in Mauritius - photo by E. Jurus
Spa at the Legends resort in Mauritius – photo by E. Jurus

If you’re not familiar with the term ‘self-care’, you can expect to start hearing a lot more about it. Self-care is a concept that’s crucial in our fast-paced, stressful modern environment, and it’s long overdue to enter the public conscious. Basically the name says it all: to take care of yourself. While that might seem self-evident, how many people do you know who take good care of themselves? Do you?

Do you get enough sleep every night or are you always trying to shoehorn something else into an already busy and long day? Do you take any ‘me-time’ to decompress? When was the last time you had a massage, or have you ever had one at all?

Many of the chronic illnesses in today’s society are either a direct result of stress or are exacerbated by it. I’m currently taking a short course in mental illness first aid — i.e. how to help someone experiencing a mental crisis — and the statistics are enlightening. For example, 1 in 3 Canadians has experienced or will experience a mental illness in their lifetime. Twenty-three percent of all workers have had time off work from stress-related conditions. There are a growing number of resources to help people in crisis, but just as important are the initiatives to prevent as many crises and illnesses as possible with some self-care.

Nutrition is a great place to start. I’m always appalled to see so many people in supermarket check-out lines bringing home such unbelievably unhealthy food. In university I had a chemistry course that devoted an entire lecture to food additives, so I’ve made a point of eating healthy food ever since. The adage that if you can’t pronounce an ingredient listed on a label then it’s likely not good for you is true. I encourage everyone to read food labels — it will be an eye-opener!

Once you start eating better, if you do consume a processed food you’ll immediately notice the chemical taste; I stopped eating anything by Sara Lee decades ago for that very reason.

You’ll also notice that eating something full of additives will keep you awake. Years ago we visited some friends who made a fruit tart with a pre-made sponge base, strawberries on top covered with a packaged glaze, and Cool Whip topping. We were up half the night afterwards, too wired and fidgety to be able to get to sleep, and neither of us generally has a problem with insomnia.

When it comes to de-stressing, I have a few favourite techniques that I’ll be discussing in subsequent blogs, but one of my favourites is to spend some time at a spa, both at home and abroad — every country has its own spin on spa treatments. Massages are fantastic for unknotting tense muscles, and I also love facials. If you’ve never had a facial, run right out and have one done — they feel that good!

Confident Image Chez France at Pamperfest - from L to R, Jennifer Petherick of SharpLight Technology, certified aesthetician Katie Martin, owner France DiPaola - photo by E. Jurus
Confident Image Chez France at Pamperfest – from L to R, Jennifer Petherick of SharpLight Technology, certified aesthetician Katie Martin, owner France DiPaola – photo by E. Jurus

Recently I was sent an invitation by a friend to attend a local event called Pamperfest, “showcasing high-end exclusive merchandise & products from its receptive community of successful women entrepreneurs”. I’m compiling a resource list of local wellness purveyors, so I thought I’d drop in and see what was available. I had a great time — had a lovely hand and neck massage by the Alouette rep, for example — and was very pleased to visit the display by my friend, France DiPaola, the owner of Confident Image Chez France rejuvenating clinic. For any budding female entrepreneurs, it would be hard to find a better role model; France turned a passion for helping women take better care of themselves into a terrific small business.

You can find out more about Pamperfest on its Facebook page — there’s another one coming up in Hamilton shortly.

Watch for more self-care information in future posts.