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My Supercilious Superpower…

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I was born with a superpower…


superman

 

I’ll bet you have one too …

Check out my cape … nice, eh?

Life is about the little things … the small stuff.

Our lives are like tiny grains of sand on a huge expansive beach. Over the years we get swept up in the swells of the tide, running in, slipping out … sometimes we’re blown by a sharp gust of lush tropical wind, sometimes laying stock-still under the burning rays of the sun.

But always, we live a tiny existence in a huge universe where we bump into other grains of sand, spend a few brief seconds rubbing close together – liking, loving, hating, laughing, crying – and then migrate to another area of the beach to where other grains oscillate and do it all over again.

I don’t know if grains of sand, like snowflakes, are each uniquely different, but I suspect that is the case.

My grain of sand is called Larry and I’ve rubbed up against lots of other sand grains over the years.

And each grain I met had a superpower uniquely fashioned by them. I have a friend who can repair any mechanical motor with his eyes closed. I have another friend who can multitask so calmly and effectively in her job that she can solve 3 people’s problems simultaneously. Yet another old chum from high school and college can teach blood banking concepts that are so complicated they make my head spin. I have a sister-in-law who can crochet anything. SUPERPOWERS…

Here’s just a partial list of things I (sometimes) enjoy and try to do, but technically, I pretty much suck at – NOT superpowers:

  1. Windsurfing
  2. Triathlons
  3. Playing violin
  4. Surfing
  5. Writing Novels
  6. Golf
  7. Dancing
  8. Small talk
  9. Holding my Alcohol
  10. Patience
  11. Kissing and Sex
  12. Knitting
  13. Drawing
  14. Board Games
  15. Auto Mechanics

And now, a listing of things I’m pretty good at – only ONE a superpower:

  1. Spelling
  2. Playing Guitar
  3. Running Long Distance
  4. Remembering Numbers (SIN, Credit Cards, Drivers Licence)
  5. Writing Blogs and Short Stories
  6. Listening
  7. Kissing and Sex
  8. Cooking
  9. Hockey/Football
  10. Learning Foreign languages
  11. Gardening
  12. Swimming
  13. Tennis
  14. Trivial Pursuit
  15. Cycling

 

Notice how kissing and sex made it onto both lists? I’ll leave that for you to figure out …

But truly, my SUPERPOWER is Spelling … yup, I don’t try, but I can’t make an error.

Sorry, that’s not true … I can, but it’s infrequent and even if it’s wrong, it’s likely because I’m not paying attention, and not that I don’t know how to spell the word.

primitive spelling bee

It’s a really silly superpower, but it is what it is… I didn’t ask for it. Blame my Mom and Dad.

But, like Superman’s powers… my spelling superpower is one that was bred into me.

I’ve spoken before about Malcolm Gladwell and his 10,000 hour rule of practice for developing mastery in any area that requires skill and knowledge. It’s a great concept and if absorbed fully, you can accomplish just about anything in life.

For me, spelling skills didn’t require 10,000 or even 1,000 hours on my part and so this makes it different. This is a genetic trait that allowed me to spew out the spelling of “supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” (I want you to know that I double-checked the word’s spelling in GOOGLE … hit it dead on first time!) right after I made my first cry in the delivery room … waaa … S-U-P-E-R-C-A-L-I-F-R-A-G-I-L-I-S-T-I-C-E-X-P-I-A-L-I-D-O-C-I-O-U-S waaa … the nurses were shocked as they wiped the cheesy vernix off me. I’m a legend on the maternity ward of St. Joseph’s Hospital in Hamilton, Ontario.

cry baby

But spelling doesn’t give me the buzz, the internal WOW, that I get when I work hard at something that doesn’t flow naturally, and see improvement.

I’ve adapted Gladwell’s guidelines into my approach to life. These work for my own purposes and my ADHD personality. I use the 1,000 hour rule where I pursue and learn skills to a highly satisfactory+ but not mastery level.

I accept that I’ll never be a true master of anything except spelling because I lack the patience. But I get enormous happiness in my days from trying new things and improving even just a little bit in those areas that I really enjoy… playing guitar, writing, running, songwriting, cooking …

Personal Aside: I’ve been arrogant all my life about my superpower and I’ve looked down on others who can’t spell accurately because of it. If I went to therapy the psychologist would likely say it’s a result of my inferiority complex over so many other things I don’t do well.

But put aside the folly of my arrogance. Why?

Because I want to encourage you to find and acknowledge, or better still, develop your own superpower. You might be like me and discover it’s something you were born with … bred in the bone.

Or, maybe you’ve developed a passion for and persisted at something that was important to you and unearthed a potential talent.

What’s the role of talent? Very small. But you have to start with it. Talent is the seed of skill. Passion is what makes the seed grow into a beautiful flower.

Don’t force yourself to learn something if you don’t burn for it or it’s not a natural aptitude. If you’re not fully engaged and passionate about your potential superpower, it won’t happen.

When you find yourself waking up at 5 am wanting to jump from your bed with eager, fiery thoughts to learn and move forward with your budding talent, you know you’ve found a potential superpower that is all yours.

Find your unique voice. And when you speak in that voice, the world hears something it has never heard before. Use the concept of idea sex to mix and blend your diverse, seemingly unrelated thoughts and develop something that belongs to you.

So, pick up your cape… or maybe first, recognize that you have a cape that fits only you.

Then love yourself for owning that cape.

bright bulb

 

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50 Shades of … Shame …

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christian and ana

Tsk tsk Christian Grey!

Are you serious? You’re showing your face in public again with some sort of boastful, manly pride?

Here we are once more, back in the news with a Valentine’s Day release of the tawdry film 50 Shades of Grey.

Our book-inspired imaginations can finally relax now that we can gaze in stunning Technicolor at your little fantasy world of mental, physical, and sexual abuse. Oops … my apologies Christian, you’d prefer that we call it BDSM to dress it up pretty and sound sensuously sexy.

…………………………………….

I don’t know whether to worship at your feet or spank the living shit out of you.”

…………………………………….

And you, Anastasia Steel?

Ana, you will look gorgeously enticing and naive and innocent, occasionally displaying some subtle signs of estrogen-strength that will float the illusion that dominance by and submission to another… any other … is really quite empowering, somehow acceptable, yes, even dreamily romantic.

Oh Ana, get thee to thy shrink!

Anyway 50 Shades … Congratulations.

50-Shades-of-Grey-Movie

It will be a colossal smash box office event. It will.

Millions of women with submissive stars floating in their wide, moony eyes will drag their gal pals, maybe even boyfriends and husbands to the event of the year.

The sequels will be in filming mode before you can snap a whip on a woman’s ass and “playrooms” will fill with nouveau riche moviemakers sporting huge smiles.

And me? Well, I’ll still be scratching my head at the hypocrisy of what women want in this world; and also the men who believe that objectification and dominance over women is just fine, thank you very much.

In a way, 50 Shades transports me through time and history … the story’s insinuation that men can sit back and assume a controlling, dominant role, well, it takes me back 150 years to the plantation porch – back to the good old days of Lincoln and slavery and the quaint notion that having a master/servant relationship is tolerable in any sort of sane world.

…………………………………….

I want you sore, baby,” he murmurs, and he continues his sweet, leisurely torment, backward, forward. “Every time you move tomorrow, I want you to be reminded that I’ve been here. Only me. You are mine.”

…………………………………….

Almost 3 years ago I wrote a post expressing my disappointment in current-day liberated women who flocked in huge numbers to read the BDSM mega-hit 50 Shades of Grey.  Well … have I softened on my stance over that time you ask? Definitely… NO…

https://lwgsummerland.wordpress.com/2012/07/16/50-shades-of-green/

It clearly taps into a large female segment who tingle to an interior women’s world that is beyond my understanding.

Obviously, I can’t claim that 100 million readers are all mistaken in their admiration and might I say –  desire –  for a sexual fantasy like this.

We all have interior domains that thrive inside – worlds of bizarre and untold fantasy that we would never want the rest of society to be aware of. I’ll cop to guilt on many fronts where fantasy of various makes and models thrive. But never a fantasy that places someone in a lowly, denigrated position …

A Toronto Star article this week made this point: “ … it’s not the BDSM that has Joe-Anne Dusel, provincial co-ordinator with the Provincial Association of Transition Houses and Services of Saskatchewan, worried.

“The elements of isolation and humiliation that go on outside of the bedroom are serious red flags,” Dusel said, noting that in the book, Grey tracks Steele’s cellphone, follows her to work, threatens her and isolates her from her family and friends.

“These are the tactics that the women who walk through our doors report on a daily basis they are experiencing in our own lives,” Walker said.”

We read the daily news and take in the dark, disturbing stories of Jian Ghomeshi, and Bill Cosby, and Ray Rice, and Chris Brown, and Charlie Sheen and we shake our heads saying “tsk, tsk”. And then paradoxically, we fill the local theatres to watch it acted it out as a desirable fantasy. Huh????

The book’s author E.L. James has long defended her books against accusations they promote violence.

But you know what? I don’t blame Ms. James for her book or the characterizations that are portrayed.

I don’t “blame” anyone.

It merely tells me that despite ALL of the strides that Western civilization has made in terms of gender equality and respect, there is still a huge number of those – both men AND women – who believe, or at least fantasize about a world where men can exercise total control over women.

 

… leaving me wanting, unzipping his fly, and pushing me down onto the couch so he’s lying on top of me.
“Hands on your head,” he commands through gritted teeth as he kneels up, forcing my legs wider…
“We don’t have long. This will be quick, and it’s for me, not you. Do you understand?
Don’t come, or I will spank you,” he says through clenched teeth.”

And those same women will sensuously sigh and raptly eat it up with delighted visions of denigration. Denigration at the hands of a handsome muscled hunk that treats them like a spent cigar butt on the street… enjoying a puff or two… but believing that it’s really just someone else’s trash.

It just leaves me sad…

oneshadeofgrey

50 Shades Shelters

Choosing My Own Path…

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shame 2

THERAPY TIME!

My Dad was ashamed of me fairly frequently as a kid, teenager and young adult (He died when I was 23, so I never saw his take on my later years.)

I was a good kid, a pretty good son.  I think I was one of the white sheep in the family (I won’t mention any “black sheep” by name!).

I was:

  • a good student,
  • a fair athlete
  • respectful of adults
  • had some musical talents
  • I delivered newspapers every day and paid for most of my own “extras”
  • I didn’t do drugs.

Of course I wasn’t perfect.

I was also:

  • a lazy student (then AND now!).
  • I was a bit arrogant – my Grade 2 teacher did mention my “superiority attitude” in a report card
  • I became moderately chubby in my early teen years
  • I illicitly sampled frighteningly horrible mixtures of my friends’ Dads’ homemade Italian and Hungarian wines on a regular basis from the age of 13 onwards.
  • I snuck into crowded wedding receptions at the local Greek Orthodox church to get free alcohol.

better than you

I realize now the great power that resides in the hands and words of parents as they raise their young, often unknowing the good and bad they impart so innocently to the cherubic sponges in their care.

SHAME is a nasty thing to hang on your kids. I was lucky, really, because so are physical or sexual abuse, or neglect, or a bunch of other mean, nasty things that somehow end up screwing with our heads for months and decades to follow. Those were never a part of my life experience.

But my father tried to put me in jail. The warden was called, “Mr. What Do People Think of You“.

I’ve lived now almost as long as my father – I still don’t agree with everything he did, but in every year that passes, I gain a better understanding of who he was and why he did the things he did.

There is wisdom to be found in the Indian prayer:

Oh, Great Spirit, grant that I may not criticize my neighbor until I have walked a mile in his moccasins.”

Understanding

Understanding.

Yup … Understanding.

I’ve thrown away my ignorance and I “get” it.

Whaddy mean? “Get” what?

Well, I get the things we normally shake our heads at and say, “why did he/she do that? … what could possibly motivate a person to live their life that way?”

And if I don’t truly “get” it, then I can at least remind myself that something in their history has shaped them and pushed them in a certain direction.

I UNDERSTAND, even if I don’t really get it.

Understanding is one of the reasons I enjoy travel so much. In the people I meet and the places I go I develop a growing understanding – a realization that everyone simply wants the best for themselves AND for their families.

No matter how old I become, I still carry in my head my father’s disapproving voice, his disappointed expression, because my hair was too long, or my grades too low, or my decision to live common-law before marriage not acceptable to him. There’s not enough street drugs or Lucy’s 5 cent therapy to rid the voice and facial disappointment.

But I’m OK with that, because …

I’ve Chosen My Own Path.

I’ve decided it wasn’t my Dad’s fault when he wanted me to be a star for all the neighbours and relatives to look at and see the shine reflect back on him.

He was likely raised in a lake of shame himself and it was a part of his genetics … a part of my genetics that I have to push back against cause my Mom swore to me that I was his son. My Ma would have never lied to me, right?

My mother, like so many mothers, was always the counter-balance, the unconditional loving sort that took me as I was. Aren’t (most) mom’s great?

My Dad probably journeyed through life with one or both of his own parent’s voices ringing in his ears, and my kids probably live their days with my voice in theirs’ – poor sots …

Watching the movie WILD this week (a great movie BTW in this reviewer’s opinion!), I was reminded of how we all seek meaning and understanding in our own way.

Reese Witherspoon (as the main character Cheryl Strayed) wanders the difficult Pacific Crest Trail while fighting an internal battle in her mind that wanders uneasily through the difficulties of her life – until at the end of the exhaustive trail she gains a greater understanding and acceptance of herself.

She chooses her own path knowing there are missteps and fumbles, loves, losses, joys – and realizes that her life is all about her own choices – good or foolish – that eventually brings her to a peaceful place and an acceptance of herself.

My Dad wasn’t a bad man. He was a good guy who supported a household and a family of 5 kids. He kept us safe and well fed. He went to church on Sunday and paid his taxes. He laughed at his own bad jokes and drank alcohol infrequently.

He wasn’t a perfect man or father, just like I’m not a perfect man or father to my kids. I resented him for many years. But I’m past that now that I’ve lived and walked some of the roads that he travelled.

I’m choosing my own path and learning understanding along the way.

Thanks for taking the time to be my therapist … Your 5 cents is in the mail …

Lucy Charlie Brown

 

 

Songwriting 101 for Everyone …

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Michelangelo

I took aim with my pellet rifle and squeezed the trigger, killing the first and last sparrow ever in my life.

I stood over it – lifeless, still in the grass – tears welling in my 10 year-old eyes taking in what I had done. 

And years later, I realize that this is the kind of story or song that is universal and needs to be shared; we’ve all pulled the metaphorical trigger before realizing what the end result will mean to us.

cute-sparrows

Have you ever wanted to write your own song?

.

You should. Let me explain…

Yup, it took me a lot of years to get to this stage … but finally I can write a song.

And the secret? It’s pretty easy.

Except when it’s hard.

Life is a long, long lesson. Often a long, hard lesson. Lessons filled with puking and rejection, then elation and wonderment. Lessons of killing and discovering the consequences afterwards.

Our songs … our stories are writing themselves based on the lessons we learn everyday.

Renaissance artist Michelangelo claimed that his job in sculpting was to free the human form hidden inside the block of stone.

Songs and stories are rocks in the same way.

We live in an endless ocean of stories waiting to be told in verse – spoken or sung. We humans crave stories that help us to understand ourselves better.

The tough part often is to find a tiny corner of the rock and zeroing in on it to make it our own special story.

We all know how to write. We’ve all read nursery rhymes. You learned how to rhyme words as a pre-schooler.

And when we’ve been drinking, we all know a limerick or two:

There once was a man from Nantucket
Whose *&^% was so long he could suck it.    
He said with a grin    
As he wiped off his chin,
If my ear was a hole I could *&*%  it.””
churchsign-nantucket

OH MY….

 

And so, I believe we all have a song or two or twenty inside us, and the ability to share that song.

OK, maybe not an actual song, but a message so personal, so individual, that it can only be told by us.

I was frustrated for years.

I desperately wanted to write songs that would have a universal message, a meaning so great that it couldn’t be denied. I wanted Shakespeare and Bach and Van Gogh to come flowing out of me so I would know that I had found something important, something visceral.

Agonizingly, I searched for the important message, the big story I needed to discover before I could finally begin to write meaningful songs.

Then one day I made the big discovery.

What I needed wasn’t binoculars or a telescope; for most of us, our life’s meaning – down deep – isn’t in the major political stories, or the stunning atrocities in Africa, or the OMG! collapse in oil prices. We feel these stories, but the impact lessens with us over time. The anguish I feel inside over killing a small sparrow stays with me for life.

Our lives – our personal meanings – are lived in the miniature.

The big discovery? What I needed was a magnifying glass, a microscope.

Years back I laughed at the audacity of Paul McCartney to write and sing nonsense songs. An example? :

You’d think that people would have had enough of silly love songs
I look around me and I see it isn’t so, oh no
Some people want to fill the world with silly love songs
What’s wrong with that?

Silly? Yup … Simple? Yup …

I hate to say it, but it’s profound in its silly simpleness.

John and Paul

Our lives are defined by the tiny details; our loves, our simple joys, our jobs, our heartbreaks in loss, the stunning sunsets, monstrous snowfalls, the small stuff we sweat about. We feel less alone in the world when we know others see and feel the small things the same as we do.

Now when I sit down to write blogs or songs, I’m not looking at the world as one big globe… a huge amorphous forest. My world is made of 7 billion individuals, each carving a daily existence in the best way they can with what they were handed at birth… a labyrinth of trees trying to survive against the ill winds and enjoy the warm tropical breezes.

My life …. your life … has wonder and sorrow and delight and tragedy and these are what we should carve into stories and songs – Michelangelo’s block of rock is waiting for our inner saga and wisdom, simple or complex, to be uncovered.

This week I’m writing a song about a descendant that migrated to Canada from Ireland leaving his family behind reluctantly (and forever, as it turned out) … next week I plan to begin another song using volcanoes as a metaphor for one person’s buried anger and resentment.

These are small personal vignettes that I hope you might see a bit of yourself reflected in.

Think about it, OK? Writing your story or your song will help you see yourself in a new way. Uncovering something unknown within yourself might come as a surprise. It happens to me almost every week. Often, this is what keeps me writing a weekly blog post; I’m learning lessons about myself.

A little trick to help you? Think of a tiny occurrence in your life that affected you deeply. A beloved pet that disappeared in the dark night. A music recital where you found your confidence. A first kiss in 7th Grade.

Pick a favourite song you love and write a few lines about that small occurrence to match the song’s melody.

Everything you do begins with a small first step. Don’t stop. Write another line, another verse.

Start carving your stone today. It – whatever IT is – is inside you waiting to escape .

words escape