Bits and Bites of Everyday Life


The sharing of the guard

True North Perspective

Alberte Villeneuve-Sinclair is the author of The Neglected Garden and two French novels. Visit her website to learn more

Dear readers,

I would like to introduce a very special friend: Geneviève Hone.

Geneviève was a professor and a family therapist at St. Paul's University in Ottawa. She is also a writer.

Geneviève and I have many things in common. A year ago, I asked her if she would agree to share my column. Timing is everything and a week ago when I asked her again, she finally agreed.

We will alternate our articles and offer our reflections on life, living and loving. So please enjoy Geneviève's unique style and first article for Bits and Bites of Everyday Life. And please, share your comments with us.

Got no talent? Then prepare!

By Geneviève Hone
True North Perspective

It’s 4:00 A.M., the darkest time of the night.  I’ve been pacing the floor for two hours, thinking, worrying, imagining the worst. I walk ever so softly in order not to awaken my beloved man who finally has found sleep, though not a peaceful sleep. The pain killers are killing the pain, but I fear the collateral damage to his aging body. “What if this turns into a serious medical emergency?” I ask myself over and over again. “What would I do? Am I sufficiently prepared for whatever may come next?”

My thoughts turn to my dear friend Alberte Villeneuve who has asked me to share the writing of this column from time to time.  Alberte is a very active and therefore very busy woman. I like to tease her and call her the “greatest talent recruiter on earth.”  

She goes about her life spotting people who have some kind of talent in order to encourage them to use this talent more and better. Alberte can’t stand unused talent.  She considers unused talent a colossal waste of brain matter.  She doesn’t believe that playing small helps make a better world.  So she basically ends up spotting just about everybody because she firmly believes that everybody has some kind of talent, even those who don’t believe they do. It’s that simple.

In her latest contribution to Bits and Bites of Everyday Life, Alberte encouraged readers to recognize and use their talents, whatever they may be. And she rather boldly added “Is our talent an expression of divine essence?” The question isn’t simple but Alberte has never been afraid of complex questions. I suspect she quite enjoys them, probably eats a couple for breakfast.  So I play along and ask myself: “Do I have some kind of special talent that I could put to use in the present situation? And would this talent, whatever it may turn out to be, be an expression of divine essence?”  

The answers don’t come easily. I’ve been up most of the night, I am tired, too worried to be sleepy, and if all truth be told, I am 70 years old.  Being up most of the night is not good for respectable old ladies.  My bones, muscles and brain don’t approve of my nocturnal life at all, and I know I will pay later today, somehow. I decide to tackle the latter question later. For the time being, searching for that so far evasive special talent is work enough for my brain.  

Throughout my life, I have been blessed with many “little” talents: nothing outstanding, nothing that would get me to the Nobel Prize prelims, nothing that would earn me a gold medal, but still enough to write home about, and when I did, my mother was there to encourage me to continue making the most of these talents.  Looking back at my life, studies, career, relationships, I can happily report that I did use whatever talents I had and enjoyed doing so. However, my little talents, as developed they may be, are really not directly useful right now, dealing with a sick husband.  

What am I good at? Let me count the ways. I’m a good seamstress, I can carry a tune and I’m a creative educator, a successful gardener and a decent enough writer.  There are probably a couple of other things too, but you can’t expect me to pull them all out of my memory in the present circumstances. What would be really useful at this point is a well-developed talent for nursing and that is one I don’t have. I have left it too late and I must confess that I never had a glimmer of an interest for that activity. 

What I have always been good at is worrying, though I would hesitate to describe this as a talent! As a child, I was quite timid, always small for my age, always the youngest in the class. I worried about the state of the world, about ways to combat evil, about how to keep my big brother from teasing me relentlessly, sometimes cruelly. However, I was lucky enough to discover quite early in life that one good way to deal with worries is to prepare. Worried about exams? Study! Worried about the state of the world? Learn to help those in need. Worried about my big brother behaving even worse? Learn the martial arts. I’m kidding here. Karate lessons weren’t offered in my day, especially not to girls

I joined the Girl Guides when I was 12. Be Prepared! I loved their motto and their obsession for trying to teach us all they could to help us lead a good, calm, disciplined life. I loved learning to Be Pepared: it gave me such a sense of security. I enjoyed every moment of Girl Guides, including knot making, and that eventually did come in handy in the sixties when every artisan in the neighbourhood including myself took up macramé with a vengeance! Being prepared became my special talent.

Today, my friends describe me as calm, able to keep my head in an emergency; some have even said unflappable. I recognize myself in their description, most of the time. If I have been able so far to face most emergencies that have come my way, it’s because I prepared, at least to a point. I have gathered information, consulted people in the know, imagined possible scenarios, and invented solutions to problems I haven’t even yet met. I read instructions if they are available. My husband teases me about this, saying that I would probably read the instructions for the wooden spoon I have just bought to replace the old one that was exactly the same. I used to dream that Life would provide me with an instruction booklet, one better written than the typical appliance booklets printed in six languages including horrible French. But I have long understood that Life’s instructions to me would not be transmitted in a booklet. People and events would provide Life’s instructions. I would sort them out and keep what I need to compose my own instruction booklet. 

I check on my husband now sleeping peacefully. I watch him for a few minutes, reflecting that I am prepared for this moment as much as I can be. I can act fast if needed. I have learned to administer first aid, I know where to find my husband’s up-to-date medical file, how to hit 911, how to reach friends and family. I can deal with this kind of emergency, I tell myself. I have prepared myself to be there, for better and for worse, in sickness and in health. I have put my special talent to good use. And that’s all I can do.

I go into the living room, open the blinds and discover morning has broken as Cat Stevens used to sing. Morning may have broken, I reflect, but I have not. I am prepared to face this new day. And as to Alberte’s philosophical/theological question: “Is our talent an expression of divine essence?” I like to think so, but who could say for sure?  Maybe some talents are, others not. Who knows? I must say though that I believe that God is fully supportive of those who live by the Girl Guides motto.   After all, was it not She/He who called in Noah to give him firm instructions on emergency preparedness?


What you define in your article as be prepared, is what I attribute to good luck

Friends or relatives often say "you were lucky"  And I say no, I worked at it and I was

prepared.  Thanks for your article and best of health to your husband he could not possibly have a better person looking after him. 

I've enjoyed your article. Welcome aboard.It has become a habit for me to read Bits and Bites of every day life as Alberte is my dear friend.

I also joined the girl guide movement. And to this day I try to be as prepared as I can to face anything thrown at me.

Keep writing since it keeps me reflecting on everyday life.It also inspires me to use my talent as a painting artist to make people realize what a wonderful world we live in. ( If only we take time to see the beauty)


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