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This Too Shall Pass …

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Of all the advice I’ve been offered or read over my life … one short statement has stuck to me like soothing peanut buttah on the roof of my mouth  … the most true …

This too 3

 

Unless you’re Steve Jobs or Amy Winehouse. It passed alright, but not in the way they, or we, might like.

This Too Shall Pass works in both directions: the GOOD… and … the BAD.

Today I’ll zone in on the bad. But, with optimism floaters in my eyes.

Optimist: person who travels on nothing from nowhere to happiness.” Mark Twain

Yes, the bad. We’re much more aware and tuned into the hardships that won’t seem to slough off … the BAD.

We all have shitty days, shitty weeks, shitty months and sadly sometimes, shitty years. SHIT Happens!

THIS TOO SHALL PASS

You may be in the middle of one of those shitty times…

Think of:

  • all the things that have scared you
  • all the times you’ve screwed up
  • the trauma of being dumped in a relationship
  • someone close to you dying
  • being fired or losing a job
  • struggling with health issues when your ears are buzzing because the doctor has just given you bad news …
  • being a Toronto Maple Leafs’ fan

Maple Leafs X Box

SHIT SHAT SHOT!

When the first thoughts are, “I can’t handle this … I can’t go on…

It’s painful and we bleed and we cry. It happens to every single one of us, bar none.

So cry and bleed. Why deny what’s there.

Once the initial shock or trauma wears off …

… Then … we begin to climb out of the septic tank, no matter how deep it is, just like the little kid at the beginning of the movie Slumdog Millionaire. Disgusting!

Holes happen – like shit happens – and then are climbed out of and filled in, a scab that fades and sloughs with time.

THIS TOO SHALL PASS

  • When I struggled before discovering I was hypothyroid and not actually dying, I was in a hole.
  • When my first real girlfriend dumped me, I was in a hole.
  • When my son was gravely ill and I thought he might die, but didn’t, I was in a hole.
  • When I came to the realization that I hated my lab job on Vancouver Island (sometimes we’re not even sure of what we’re feeling at the time) and dreaded going to work, I was in a hole.

I thought these hurts, these pains, these worries were there forever. But I was wrong.

It just feels that way when we’re in the hole and are still looking down into the darkness of the pit … before we turn our head upwards towards the light streaming in from above.

Hemingway said it succinctly, “The Sun Also Rises”.

sun and shadow

THIS TOO SHALL PASS

The bad news: nothing is permanent.  The good news: nothing is permanent.”

Every dark period passes.

But it’s up to us to find the strength, the internal dialogue of optimism, that helps to push us in the right direction.

It’s up to us to turn off the bastard voices that crowd our heads telling us that the world is crashing and nothing will ever be right again.

It’s the time when we have to stare the darkness down and repeat over and over, “This Too Shall Pass”.

Because it will pass.

Maybe not today.

Maybe not tomorrow.

But with patience and time, clouds part and let the sun shine through, traffic dwindles to let you make the left turn onto the highway, forest fires get drenched by rains, my cooking of the garbage eventually produces something worth eating.

I have a later life sense of optimism that has been well earned and learned through difficult times.

I’ve learned it so well because I’ve had so many wonderful, positive experiences following the dark times. I’m betting you have too.

THIS TOO SHALL PASS

… Unless… except… if … IF… if … you’re a Toronto Maple Leafs’ fan.

That’s a cesspool hole you’re never escaping.

im-sorry

 

 

 

 

 

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You’ve Just Crossed Over Into … The Grey Zone …

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Fish in lightbulb

Why is no one paying ME billions of dollars for my ideas?

I wonder if it’s because I’m caught in the twilight of The Grey Zone.

I’m a prisoner in this quagmire and I need to make myself break free.

Well before 50 Shades of Grey came along, I invented the whole genre of the “grey zone”.

I can’t see anything as black or white.

50 Shades of Grey?

Hell, I can see the universe in 1,000 shades of grey.

50-shades-grey-paint

The other day while I was pouring drinks at my bartending job, someone said to me,

“Who are you voting for in the upcoming federal election?

Depends…

… the choices?

Conservative, Liberal, New Democratic Party (NDP) or Green.

Hmmmm… depends on where my sense of priority lies on voting day, I suppose… I think, I’m pretty sure!

  • Conservative if I feel angry at the world and want to fight wars and abortion laws and gun control and market controls.
  • Liberal if I like Justin Trudeau’s hair style that day and I want a bouncy mix of free markets and social justice.
  • NDP if I feel in sync with the friendly folks patiently waiting for me to open the doors to the Penticton Soupateria kitchen who need free daycare and subsidized dental care for their cavity-laden mouths.
  • Green if I’m sick of picking another empty Tim Hortons cup off the street under the ozone-thin rays of sunshine, AND perhaps I feel a subtle loyalty to them because my last name happens to be Green.
  • Is Obama a choice? Doesn’t Barack need a job after November 2016?

OK … you might have insinuated by my choice of words above that it won’t be a CONSERVATIVE check mark!

But other than that, I just don’t know!

And I don’t want to spend a lot of time working my way through the issues. I’m one politically lazy cat.

lazy-cat5

And this political muskeg? This is just one small example of my grey zone or “sitting on the fence” outlook on life.

My “grey zone” often has me seized up by the glut of alternatives in our world… you know… the Walmart selection of choices in everything we do or purchase.

In the halcyon days of The Waltons (nope, not Sam Walton of Walmart, I’m talking John Boy Walton of Walton’s Mountain, Virginia), you would just walk into Godsey’s General Store and say,

“Ike, I need an iron, two spools of blue thread, a package of laundry soap, and a suit for Yancey Tucker’s wedding this weekend.”

Two minutes later, with no further questions, Ike would smile his boyishly toothy grin and have everything tied up in a neat bundle and off you went, a happy camper.

No VISA, no MasterCard, no Air Miles or Loyalty Club cards… just cold, hard-earned cash slapped down on the old oak counter.

Can you imagine?

Now… NOW! … you need 2 days, 2 weeks, 2 months… whatever … to make all of the important decisions involved in these same purchases. Questions and more questions:

  • Self cleaning iron or auto shut-off? GE or Samsung or Toshiba? Corded or cordless? Removable steam tank? Retractable cord? Anti-burn control?
  • Sky Blue, royal blue, indigo thread? Cotton, nylon, polyester, heavy-duty, silk, wool, or metallic thread?
  • Powdered or liquid laundry soap? Detergent with bleach added? Dye and perfume free? Cold water active? Top or front-loading washer?
  • And, it would take an entire blog post to go through the choices when selecting a man’s suit for a wedding.

Choices

I just don’t know! And I don’t want to spend a lot of time working my way through the consumer consumables. I’m consumerly lazy.

I like the idea of options, but the harsh reality of endless choice is endless decision-making and the need to do extensive research on the purchase of my next Bic pen or Gillette razor blade.

I sometimes rue having to use what little brain power I do have, to investigate and research and think and weigh options.

Really, I want to use my “grey’ matter to think about the things that are important to me. Things I’ve prioritized, or have wanted to prioritize.

Really, I want my head filled with story ideas for blog posts that infinitely stretch my thoughts and imagination.

Really, let me work on the concept of Idea Sex where I can take two or more unrelated ideas and tap my J.K. Rowling magic wand to marry them into something new and beautiful.

Really, the same for my music writing and playing. I don’t want to create everyday songs that anyone lacking imagination can pen for a commercial audience. I want unique songs with meaning and substance, stories filled with relevance, and emotion… and heart…

Experts such as psychologist/author Roy Baumeister (Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength) tell us that we have a finite amount of willpower.

The willpower needed in making decisions becomes depleted as we use it, and we use the same stock of willpower for all manner of tasks.

If I spend 10 minutes making a decision over something as seemingly simple as which toilet paper to buy (3 ply or 2 ply, 12 rolls or 8, super soft or Russian sandpaper, and on and on), those 10 minutes have depleted my eagerness for making sweet music.

Regrettably, almost unlimited choices in today’s world saps my energy.

In order to change, it’s a circular conundrum of making decisions about decision-making. Yup, my very own personal 1,000 Shades of Grey.

Meanwhile, I feel like I’ve crossed over into… Nu-nu nu-nu …. THE GREY ZONE.

rod serling

Fear in Leaving The Land of Oskee Wee Wee …

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Hamilton At Night

I was raised in the city … smoggy, gritty, industrial, lunchbucket lugging … Hamilton, Ontario.

And I loved it. It was home.

Steelmaking was its lifeblood – so the price to pay for coke furnaces belching thick billows of smoke into the Southern Ontario skies was a Beijing-lite atmosphere. A city built by tenacious blue-collar immigrants from around the globe.

The white-collar high-finance banking and head office territory of Toronto, just 50 kilometres east, made for clearer skies there so long as smoggy flatulence from Hamilton didn’t waft in on them like the Wicked Witch of the West.

Hamilton isn’t usually described as a classically beautiful city. I get it now.

Hamilton – perched on the shores of the western tip of Lake Ontario.

Hamilton – a burg filled with autumnal panoramic swaths of bright orange and fiery red maple and oak trees cloaking, like soft wispy pillows, the hillsides of the escarpment “Mountain” – the very same escarpment that leads slightly southward to Niagara Falls’ waters tumbling ferociously over the parapet.

Hamilton – central to the history of the War of 1812 where British soldiers and local Indians held their ground against invading American frontiersmen; almost within musket shot distance of where Laura Secord spied on the Yanks and saved the British hides before becoming a fabulously successful corporate chocolate icon.

Laura_Secord

Laura-Secord-chocolate

Hamilton – whose only true professional sport’s team causes its citizens to chant the Oskee Wee Wee battle cry as if it held a sacred Da Vinci Code-like meaning outside of a football field.

Hamilton isn’t a sparkling jewel to look at. But beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

We are products of our childhood. Not knowing any different, we accept the world that is given to us.

We develop rose-coloured glasses that can transform a plain woman into a stunning beauty because of the joyful energy and love she exudes.

Hamilton, through my rose-coloured glasses – not Vancouver stunning – was beautiful to me because I knew it as HOME.

And I thought it would be my home forever.

And then one day it wasn’t.

………………………

In Grade 13 Physics class – yup, Ontario had Grade 13 in those days –  ginger-haired Mr. Miedema taught me about various forms of energy.

I was a really crappy physics student – Strangely? Fortunately? The only two concepts I learned and understood that year were those of “potential energy” and “kinetic energy”.

Stored or “potential” energy signifies the idea that harnessed energy can readily be transferred as work.

When a rollercoaster sits still, having inched to the top of a monster hill, it has harnessed a huge amount of potential energy in those seconds just before it plummets at vomit-inducing speed down the track ahead.

Then, once  the rollercoaster begins its descent, the “potential” energy transforms into “kinetic” energy  energy that is in motion. Moving water and wind – and plummeting rollercoasters – are good examples of kinetic energy.

rollercaoster

Although I didn’t realize it at the time, I was filled with late-teenage “potential” energy. It was bottled up inside me waiting to be unleashed.

One morning before heading off for a Blood Banking job interview at the hospital where I had interned in lab technology, the phone rang in the apartment I shared with my sister.

It was Marg Allen, head of the laboratory at Stanton Yellowknife Hospital, way up in the Canadian Arctic.

“Larry, we’d like you to come work for us here in our lab in Yellowknife.

OMG, had I really sent an application to the land of the Inuit?

The expression, “Go North, Young Man” clattered around in my foggy head.

This one little phone call rocked my world of “potential” energy.

An earthquake, a tsunami, and a tornado all hit my existence simultaneously.

I was full of fears:

  • Fear of change
  • Fear of leaving my hometown, my friends and family behind
  • Fear of the unknown
  • Fear perhaps, even of Polar Bears and Musk Oxen and Northern Lights (I could be frightened of my shadow at this point)

Once the palpitations had settled and I breathed (does breathing include stomach contents?) into a brown paper bag for a while, I gathered up my courage and phoned Marg back.

Thank you for the offer Marg … I’ll be there next Monday morning.“, I nervously mumbled.

Yellowknife_northern_lights

Yellowknife and the Northern Lights …

My “potential” energy had been locked away in a safe I didn’t know existed.

Pulled from its cocoon, it transformed into “kinetic” energy that late-September day in Hamilton, my hometown.

Life changing experiences – forks in the road – come along a few times in our lives.

One transformative phone call can change us forever. One e-mail. One kiss. One accident, good or bad.

I learned as the months passed that I wanted a life filled with kinetic energy experience.

I learned that I could adapt to different climates and people and embrace the huge and exciting diversity that I never understood or realized existed before that day.

I learned that the solution to ignorance is to throw yourself into the messy milieu of life and understanding would follow.

I learned that my best experiences in life would appear like magic out of the ether… Black and White Swans that neither I nor anyone else could have predicted.

I learned that the best way to live with fear of the unknown is to plow forward with positive hope and enthusiasm.

I learned that I would rather regret the things I did, than regret the things I didn’t do out of fear.

I learned that to die by a thousand cuts of rippling fear of the unknown is not the way to live, truly live.

I learned that Home is heartwarming and comfortable. Home is welcoming and loving.

I learned that home is actually inside of us whether it’s in Hamilton or Yellowknife … or for this Man on the Fringe … Summerland.

waltons at home

 

 

Shake It Off … Set The Expectations Free

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horse leaving barn

Spring the horse from the barn.

Let the dog out of the house.

Scoop the shit out of the henhouse.

What are we waiting for…?

I spent a whole lot of my years trying to be something … to be someone and do things that my parents and the neighbours would have approved of.

I was always secretly watching from the corner of my eye to see if they were clapping their hands or frowning. Even after they were long dead.

Expectations weigh on us like concrete boots strapped onto our feet by the Mafia. We just stand still with a silly grin on our faces as they pour the concrete to send us to sleep with the fishes. DUMB.

cement shoes

I’m trying to live my life now like I have feathers instead of concrete attached to me.

I used to blame my father for being cold and uncaring and perhaps making my life more difficult than it really should have been.

I was young. It was useless energy expended on being negative and finding a scapegoat for my sorrows.

We all have sorrows. We all have tribulations. We all have miracles.

Hell, I was born into a rich, peaceful society with limitless possibilities. Billions don’t have that luxury.

My Dad wasn’t perfect and neither am I, nor will I ever be. But that doesn’t give me any reason to dwell on the negative when I can use that energy and forge onwards doing things I enjoy, hopefully helping others who are struggling.

As a parent, I imposed the same sorts of ideas and values on my kids that I grew up with, forcing the sweet little round critters into square holes where they didn’t want to go. It’s a shame that we learn so many lessons about ourselves by inflicting our raw character on our innocent little offspring.

Perhaps we should live our lives backwards and emerge into the world as elderly grandparents filled with knowledge and wisdom of what makes people tick. Maybe there’d be less violence, fewer wars. More love. More kindness. I don’t know.

life lived backwards

I’m working more hours as a bartender this month than I’d like to. I want to work one or two shifts each week for the pleasure of being around people and doing something totally different than what I’ve done before.

Putting in four or five stints a week is like taking mind-blowing sex and making it a chore. Orgasms are always better when there’s some waiting and delicious anticipating space between.

A paycheque and tips at the end of the night are kind of nice, but that’s not the reason I chose to do this.

I have to remind myself that I made this choice.

If others try to slap concrete shoes on me because that’s what they have on their feet, then I have to step away before the concrete sets.

I’m choosing to work where I want to work because I love it, to play at what I love to play. The expectations of others should have no control over me. My expectations shouldn’t control you.

As always, I’m a work in progress.

I have my own expectations.

I want to be creative in all areas of my life, and live large, or at least larger than I have for many years. There should be luscious internal music meandering like a river through the days of our lives.

That’s my expectation for me. Just me, not you or anyone else.

Not my parents’ expectations. Not the neighbours’ expectations.

And when people look at me and my expectations, that’s what I hope people see.

No lectures. No finger wagging. No disappointed looks. No fretful expectations.

Just me shaking it off, letting that horse run free out of the barn.

horse-shaking

 

What If Men Were Extinct?

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worried man

As a man, I’m worried for my species …

I worry that if we guys don’t evolve and act quickly, well, we’ll find ourselves in the dumpster out back jammed to the brim with beta and VHS tapes, 8 tracks, cassette players and buggy whips.

Recently as I’ve told you, I’ve become a bartender.

I make a lot of Shirley Temple cocktails in my new job. Kind of a girly drink, would you agree?

Some things are inherently feminine by their nature. I get it.

But when I attend a spin class or a boot camp exercise class, there is nothing feminine about doing 300 squats … or 70 pushups … or riding a spin bike up “hills” for an hour. And yet, I’m usually the only man, or one of 2 or 3, tops.

So why is it that men avoid these classes but pile in to Cross Fit boxes for intense exercise? I get confused by things that are supposed to be feminine or masculine.

Just like the confusion I feel about the attraction of women to the “50 Shades of Grey” movement, I find myself scratching my head when it comes to attendance at fitness classes.

These are the things that float through my head and lead me to further thoughts about gender roles in our world.

gender roles

Aside from my sperm (and I don’t even have that in my post-vasectomy life), what do I and other guys have to offer to women?

We’re living in a post-masculine world. This is a good thing. Great, actually.

But switching from a male-supreme society to a female-dominated one is not where we want to be either. Merely switching from missionary to cowgirl position is not going to cut it. High heels and neckties should be equal.

woman dominating man

A world commanded by neither gender would be a wonderful thing.

We don’t live in the same place where men returned from war and chased all the competent, hard-toiling women back to the sidelines of the home and aprons and coupon cutting.

Women have evolved and grown and assumed and learned roles that once filled men’s lives.

Woman work and earn money to support themselves and their families.

Woman operate big machines and carry rifles in the Armed Forces.

Women are police officers and astronauts and engineers and doctors and pilots.

I repeat, this is a good thing.

We men are the ones slow to adjust to 21st century realities.

Far too many guys just don’t bother to show up for this new world where men need to be responsible 50:50 partners.

Real men may not eat quiche, but they sure as hell should be equal participants in home life regardless of whether they bring home a paycheque or not.

Just as a woman should know how to make a reasonable living, cut a lawn, change a tire, and replace a lightbulb…

Real 21st century men should know how and be willing to:

  • childmind
  • clean house
  • shop for groceries
  • wash and dry clothes
  • cook a meal

But but but I see and hear of situation after situation where the boys won’t play fair, leaving their female compatriots most or all of the roles that hold families and relationships together.

Pssst … Guys? Here’s a little secret that many of us aren’t catching onto yet.

Most women have figured out that we’re not pulling our weight and that they don’t need us.

They may want us, but if we’re not able to take on a reasonable workload on ALL fronts as well as provide emotional support…. well, then the option becomes clear. Why have a man in her life at all?

Check out the graph below.

percent-married-by-decade

It’s pretty apparent that more and more women are choosing not to marry as they become more independent, more able to provide for themselves.

The need for physical protection and a breadwinner, traditional male roles, are crumbling. Wilma doesn’t need Fred Flintstone any more than Lucy needs Ricky Ricardo.

When these “needs” are no longer needed, and the desire for an emotionally supportive partner who carries an equal burden on the home-front can’t be readily found despite the wonders of MATCH.COM and Plenty-of-Fish… then why bother?

Bottom line guys? If we want to stay relevant and equal in all areas of our world, we’d better get out of the La-Z-Boy a bit – or a lot – more often and cook a meal, change a diaper, or run a load of laundry. It ain’t a big deal … really!

Maybe the dinosaurs didn’t die in a cataclysmic storm from a meteor. Perhaps they just assumed their Tyranno-partner would chase and catch dinner and look after the wee little dinos.

Maybe the dinosaurs would still be with us if they pulled their heads out of their Dino-X-Boxes.

Honey, I’m heading off to Spin Class with the girls to think through my gender confusion issues. I’ll pick up the kids from daycare and should be back in time to make dinner before you get home from work.

Spin guys