Home

Looking for Mr. Goodbar-“tender”…

2 Comments

bloodhound.jpg

Set loose the bloodhounds and investigative detectives… WOOF WOOF… ah-oooooOOO!

The search is on.

I “retired” two years ago this week from a job… a medical laboratory career that I lived for 37 years. That’s a bunch of 18-wheelers full of pus and poop and piss I tested folks.

I didn’t hate the job, nope. It was a good profession where I worked with people I liked a lot, but… I needed a new life vista in my front window, so…

I munched my way through a sweetly delicious “Bye Bye Pie Party” with my lab friends on my 57th birthday and walked out the door. Larry has left the building…

When I began in the lab in the 1970’s it was ridiculously considered a sort of girly job, a fairly low paying position that few men entered because they couldn’t meet those societal assumptions about supporting a wife and family on such low wages… kind of a “McJob”.

Of course I’d lived a real McJob life already.

For 4 and half years through high school and then college, I flipped burgers like a McDonalds All-Star… in fact, I did win pins and trophies as a McDonalds All-Star. I was a Big Mac-makin’ Bobby Orr… a Cheeseburger-slingin’ Usain Bolt!

I knew what a McJob looked and felt like. There is nothing wrong (other than bargain basement pay levels) with McJobs if you have the right attitude.

Lab technology didn’t feel like a McJob. It felt important and necessary and when I wasn’t accidentally trying to… OMG… kill unborn babies, it provided a decent but not extravagant livelihood thanks to progress made through numbers’ negotiation, both union-based and my own.

Proctologist

Where was I? Oh yeah… Retirement.

Did I say I recoil from the word retirement? I do.

It lost its meaning, its life, way back in the day my Dad retired as an oil company accountant in 1972.

He had been holding on by his fingernails for the day… the year when he finally turned 65 and walked out his office door so that he could live the “good life”.

He hated going to work each morning. It was like a daily stab in the heart when he walked out the door of our house on Rainbow Drive.

I never saw him smile more than that day he woke up for his morning cup of percolated Chock-Full-O’Nuts coffee and didn’t have to strap on his suit and tie costume and drive away in our pale green 1970 Ford Galaxie.

Retirement used to be the glorious, long-awaited, anxiously-anticipated end of a lifetime of striving and hard work and sacrifice. Enjoyment of the job wasn’t a particular requirement.

All the Don Drapers out there put in their 40 hours weekly for 45 years (minus the relaxed 2 week summer camping trip with screaming, whining kids).

Then magically one day they stopped cold turkey like a lifelong chain smoker who finds salvation and brushes away the smelly ashtray that was their mouth for decades.

Freedom 65.

Rocking chairs on front porches.

Beach sunsets and gluttonous Seniors’ buffets in Florida.

senior buffet.jpg

Work was a nasty word they horked up and spit on the sidewalk like coughed-up phlegm. Yuck!

A month, a year, a couple of years later they silently inhaled one final breath and expired in their La-Z-Boys while watching the late news on TV. The good life.

The Story of a Life. The End.

Today, there are no doubt a scant few who still aspire to this retirement scenario of unrestricted leisure and endless sloth. Maybe you can tell me where to find them.

The retirees I’m seeing, the retirees I’m encountering on the streets and in restaurants and in running races I participate in… the retiree I’m becoming… are more like excited born-again Christians with new purpose and direction.

Sure, some find new part time jobs out of financial necessity, that bill-paying evil.

But so many of these boomers are leaving their careers, wandering out of the dark forest and exposing themselves to the wide open plains where sunshine and positive choices abound like jackrabbits emerging from their underground dens after the storm ends.

Most of the retired folks I come across are seeking out new vistas like me, new jobs and hobbies and interests that bring a profound sense of joy and verve to our lives… new sources of stimulation that set off little fireworks explosions in our heads (hopefully those aren’t strokes!)

I just want to get more competent at something. Almost anything.

I love the feeling of accomplishment. It’s another kind of orgasm. Much much tidier.

When I took a one week bartending course a year ago, I was searching a new side street, an alley that hopefully held some wonder and something unexpected. The occasional evening I spend pouring drinks for pay (and Male Prostitute tips!) now has expanded my life story.

It’s not a vocation. It’s a personal life expander.

In the past few weeks, I’ve begun spending one afternoon each week working on English language and coping skills with a small group of young Syrian refugees, helping them adapt to a dramatically new world order for them and their children.

From the outside, it looks like I’m doing them an altruistic favour.

I hope they benefit. I think they benefit.

I know I benefit. I know 2 or 3 words in Arabic. I share small jokes and smiles that cross a cultural divide in a world that doesn’t need more walls erected.

My world is expanding and improving little-by-little.

And that’s why I’m searching today.

I’m actively searching for new life expanders, new ideas, new directions.

Ideas that will transport me into new areas, dark caves I’ve not explored but where a tiny flashlight will illuminate a new creative direction in my world.

What my ‘purpose’ will be a month from now, a year from now, whenever, is a total mystery that I’m painting one brushed pixel at a time.

There is no real purpose.

It’s about making choices that invigorate and enthuse me.

And – aside from that other kind (nudge nudge wink wink) – what’s more fun than a “head” orgasm?

head orgasm

PS. One final but important point I want to impart? These new choices, ideas and caves where we invest our “retirement” energy should fall neatly into the realm of the notions described in Sarah Knight’s book: The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F*ck: How to Stop Spending Time You Don’t Have with People You Don’t Like Doing Things You Don’t Want to Do

 

Advertisements

A Man and His Dog. I Went Running…

Leave a comment

running track

… at the high school track the other early morning.

I like to drizzle sweat as the day awakes.

Looking over the aluminum spectator bleachers to my right, the sun was just peering above the eastern Okanagan Valley horizon, dripping colour like the cut edge of a juicy ripe peach.

The air was still and cool and fresh. Light strands of cloud made a comb-over in the pale blue sky overhead.

Fat shadows cast themselves on the western hillside where the Indian Reserve lies. I love these early sunrise shadows on the hills; I can see all of the bumps and dents and indentations highlighted like an adolescent with nasty acne, shadows that smooth and melt away later in the day as the hot sun strikes it flat on.

There was some dew on the orange pebbly track and I heard my feet scuffing across the little stones like water softly lapping against the shore of the lake.

I shifted into a slow run, a mere jog as I crossed the “start” line on the 400 m track. A magical mental transformation happens when I cross that line and my pace picked up just a wee bit because now I was on the clock.

Glancing downward at my wrist, I pressed the red START/STOP button on the gps watch and felt an instant need for more oxygen in my legs that felt heavy.

I wonder how many laps of running equals one big scoop of butterscotch ice cream.

It always takes a few orbits around the track to get those bulky muscles awakened. My job in the moment is to mentally reassure myself that the early sense of fatigue will pass as the body adjusts –  as it always does – realizing its job is to feed fuel and oxygen to the workout fire as it builds from light crackles to a roaring feisty flame.

dog-man-running1

The track was silent, undisturbed, except… ahead on the arcing bend of the track I could see a man holding a leash, walking his medium-sized dog, perhaps their daily routine.

It might seem crazy but I felt an instant tinge of anger building inside because the man and his dog were walking, walking right on the inner lane of the track. The inner lane where runners are supposed to… well… run.

MY lane.

The man looked large even at a distance and carried himself with an arrogant swagger. I couldn’t see at a distance but I envisioned a body well painted over with tattoos. The kind of guy you’d feel a surge of adrenaline and run away from in a dark alley, fearing for your life.

The dog wasn’t large but pulled hard at the leash like a mini killer Pit bull or Rottweiler.

In my head I heard the voice – you know that voice – “Why the hell is he walking right where he knows runners would be making their way around the circle quickly…”, it said, “… or at least multiple times faster than his slow walking pace. This is a running track for God’s sake, not a sidewalk. And what if the dog shits his load right on the track? What then if I slip on a slimy chunk of puppy poop?”

It was a silly thought and I spoke back in admonishing lecture-like tones to the voice as I grew slightly closer to the man and dog and he held his ground in the lane. “Oh c’mon Larry,  this is a public track for anyone’s use, is it such a big deal to just run around the outside of him? He has every right to walk where he wants. Who made us boss?” 

The voice grumbled back at me as I scuffled forward, ignoring the beauty of the day and the clean, garden-fresh air, the lush green lawn on the inside field of the track.

The voice had made up its mind that this man was evil and deserved reprimanding or punishment. I couldn’t be sure if the rising swell of my heart rate was due to physical exertion or frustrated exasperation.

devil dog

I grew closer, and finally, just a metre or two back, I swerved slightly outwards into the third lane of the track to give a wider berth for puppy if he decided to waver and trip me up or … heaven forbid… attempt to snap at my heels.

If he chomped at me then I could get rightly angry. The man and dog would deserve a good shouting at then. Right?

As I passed, the man and dog pulled inwards towards the field to give me some space.

Then he turned his head slightly with a bright smile and chirped…”Good morning!“.

I whispered out a breathy good morning absorbing his air of warmth and friendliness. He called out as if we were long time friends. He was pleasant. He was nice.

He had me.

Any residual aggression I might have felt just melted away in the fresh early morning air.

Although now past him, I brought up his image in my head as I continued my jog.

No visible tattoos, no arrogant swagger, wearing a blue Nike swoosh shirt, clean tan shorts and runners. The puppy was a young Golden Retriever with a harmless friendly way.

I ran onwards with a slight smile on my face and a bigger smile inside.

The nugget of wisdom I try to find in one small thing each day had been delivered so early already as the sun arose.

From a distance my Trump’ish ignorance and tendency to pass harsh judgment on others had been taken for a fool.

I was reminded of why I love to travel and visit other cultures and vistas. I was reminded that in many ways, we are all one people.

Of course my solo journey of many revolutions of the track reminded me also that I wasn’t in the impressive shape I thought I was in. That was just one more lesson learned that morning.

Gifts of Unknown Things.

life gifts

Woody Allen Soothed Away My Fear…

2 Comments

Bisexuality immediately doubles your chances for a date on Saturday night.”

Woody Allen

"Irrational Man" Premiere - The 68th Annual Cannes Film Festival

 

I’m going to take this notion of bi-sexuality one step further and tell you that one of the advantages of embarking on a career like Medical Laboratory Technology is that you get to choose from 5 or 6 or 7 different lab areas (dates) in which to work.

This is important. It changed my life.

Medical laboratories are usual divided up into departments like Haematology (study of blood cells), Chemistry (measuring our inner chemical makeup), Microbiology (determining the microbial cause of infectious disease), Histology (preparation and study of body tissues removed during surgery or autopsy), and Blood Banking (preparation and crossmatching of stored donor blood for transfusion).

Often it’s necessary to choose (or have chosen for you) a specific department to focus your career upon.

In my former life as a lab tech I dreaded being called into the hospital in the middle of the night to crossmatch blood needed for urgent transfusion. There was always a mutilated car crash victim, or a woman needing blood during a Caesarian Section delivery. STAT!

On my chilly drive or walk to the hospital I’d look up at the dark night sky and hope the stars aligned for a positive outcome to the danger that lay ahead in the Emergency Room.

It wasn’t because I hated getting out of the warm bed I loved (well, it kinda was!)…

… or detested the sight of pools of still steaming crimson blood on the floor beneath the patient’s bed, bones and organs exposed beneath torn tissue (well, it kinda was!)…

… or the anguish of a distraught family in a time of crisis (well, I really did hate that too)…

I actually liked the jumping-out-of-an-airplane injection of adrenaline that I felt when I strode purposefully into the ER and a bevy of medical personnel were focussed solely on resurrecting a ghastly situation. THAT was a rush…

But the real reason I hated emergency blood crossmatches was fear. I couldn’t sleep once I returned home afterwards.

I’d sweat bullets the rest of the night worrying that I might have made a crossmatching error and there would be an ashen-faced coagulated corpse awaiting my sleep-deprived arrival for the morning lab shift.

Even a tiny error in my technique… and I accidentally provided incompatible blood to a patient… could result in a major reaction from the vital fluid flowing into their arm that might kill the patient.

sticky blood clump

Red blood cells sticking together… do I transfuse this or not?

It was all about fear.

I was afraid… terrified that in my attempt to heal, I might terminate someone because my blurry eyes made a wee mistake looking down a microscope at 2:47 in the morning.

I had memories floating in my head. Fearful memories.

As a student technologist I almost killed an unborn baby.

All because of a simple arithmetic error I made in producing a test result on amniotic fluid that suggested an unborn infant’s lungs were sufficiently well developed to be birthed via C-section.

The astute surgeon called moments before making the first cut into a Mommy-To-Be‘s abdomen and uterus to confirm the test result I had provided.

Oops… sorry.

On second examination of my calculations, I had placed a decimal point in the wrong place… stop the surgery… NOW!!!!

In my honour, there should be a big congratulatory plaque erected in my training hospital in Hamilton, Ontario. I was the one who had made a near tragic error that resulted in a change to lab rules concerning oversight of student technologists by senior staff.

It seemed pretty obvious afterwards that life-and-death test results should be double-checked and not trusted to an 18 year-old student (and part-time McDonalds burger flipper) without an official lab certification yet.

My confidence levels were shaken down several anxious notches which was probably a good thing for a boy who evoked this comment from his Grade 2 teacher: “Larry needs to work on his superiority attitude.

These lab-related nightmares and flashbacks convinced me that I would never make a good Blood Bank technologist. You can all thank me for discovering this early on in my career.

I was far safer to humanity and myself in another less critical lab area like Microbiology where vaginal yeast infections were typically my greatest concern.

As unpleasant as it must be, no one needs an urgent blood transfusion for an itchy cooter, nobody dies from an irritated baby cannon.

Now where was I going with this?

AH, yes… It’s about fear.

I know that most of our fears are unwarranted. We all know this and yet we still worry.

fear

Fear is good and fear is bad.

Or as Glinda the Good Witch says: “And so, what the Munchkins want to know is, are you a Good Witch (Fear) or a Bad Witch (Fear)?”

Our job, if we choose to accept it, is to distinguish between the good fears to heed and back away from, and those that we should march boldly headfirst into the thick of.

Fear is one of the odd reasons I love doing things outside of the normal routine of day-to-day life.

Jumping in and swallowing experiences – any experience, wherever it may come from – is like losing your teenage virginity all over again, damned scary and… scary exciting… hopefully!

The inner fear, those bastard voices that try to make us literally and figuratively impotent are there but the delicious rewards make it all worthwhile.

The really important part about fear is being able to distinguish between true good fear that helps us survive and the bad fear that holds us back from the exciting fireworks of life and living.

More than 20 years ago I would never have been able to write this blog. The “old me” was crippled by the bad fear that I wasn’t interesting enough, or smart enough, or important enough to make my voice heard. It was about fear of what you might think of me.

Ten years ago, the “old me” was too self-conscious to speak or sing in front of even a small group of strangers without a prequel week of diarrhea and sleepless nights.

So, you might ask… am I fearless now?

Hmmmm. Nope. Not at all.

Some fears in life are unavoidable… the impending death or loss of a parent, a partner, a child, a treasured pet. Life’s inevitable trials.

I still wouldn’t want to be a Blood Bank technologist. “Accidentally” killing someone is a good fear for me to respect and one I’m best to avoid.

I still encounter lots of fears.

The only difference now is that I recognize these rogue “fear” weasels and the plastic knives they brandish. I simply accept them as part of my growth process.

Merely knowing that fear is usually unfounded allows me to press forward with more confidence and acceptance of myself and my foibles.

I know that when I face my fear, I end up in a different place than I began, and it’s usually a better place, a lovelier place than I thought before I faced the fear.

If this all sounds Woody Allen neurotic to you, that’s okay because… well, friend?… pining for approval is not the monster or boogie man under my bed anymore.

Adrenaline rush

READY? Ummmmm…. NOT a chance!!!!

 

Live Time or Dead Time?

Leave a comment

Press your fingers to your wrist and check your pulse for me. I know it’s crazy but just do it.

You felt a steady bump thump bump, right?

OK, good. You’re alive.

Now prove it.

art making

I luxuriate in reading books, listening to recorded music, watching TV and movies, visiting art galleries, feasting in exotic restaurants… these are all sweet desserts and wonderful preoccupations.

The richness of our lives is a temple built upon the passive enjoyments and imaginative passions we digest and are captivated by.

To a point.

A heart-swelling, well-lived life needs balance, a balance of Absorbing and Creating.

Mental vs. Physical, Sweet vs. Sour, Questions vs. Answers, Minor Key vs. Major Key. You get my point, right?

A life spent absorbing the output of others is either:

  • Entertainment
  • Learning or…
  • Dead time.

I love entertainment: movies, theatre, dance, television, concerts, cooking demonstrations, football games. I confess I may not eat all the vegetables I should, but I can sure play a vegetative couch potato with the very best.

I love learning: Learning is leaning into the sunshine like a spellbound sunflower growing wings to the sky, expanding our abilities and knowledge.

Preparation and study, learning to play a tough new guitar lick gives me a feeling of pride and accomplishment. Grasping, digesting, mastering skills and knowledge from others is inspiring and… well… killer awesome.

But like the second, third and fourth pieces of banana cream pie, too many absorbing muches makes us flabby of body and mind.

banana_cream_pie_shirts-

Dead time. It’s like living with a corpse in your head.

Walking through a graveyard under the dappled shade of a Honey Locust tree – looking, absorbing, breathing, contemplating –  is calming and peaceful, but ultimately, “life” six feet under really sucks.

Surely living should be more than passing through the graveyard, absorbing others’ products. Reading Shakespeare or JK Rowling is shadow boxing… enjoyable preparation for the real match.

Eventually, consuming what others create is… Dead Time.

When you personally write like Shakespeare or Rowling or even the worst pulp fiction writer, THAT is truly punching the bag. Live Time.

Creating vs. absorbing.

Like saving and investing $$, the best of intentions mean nothing if you don’t actually make yourself put 10% of your paycheque into the investment i.e. the bank or bond or stock or real estate or…

Live time is creating your own output, being active versus passive.

Writing a story, designing a sweater, inventing a new golf swing, writing a song, building a bookshelf, learning the piano, putting a fusion twist on pizza, singing in a choir, planting a guerrilla garden, designing a website. LIVE TIME.

My backyard chickens like to think they are prime examples of active creativity… one of the girls actually told me this the other day. After all, she clucked from behind the wire coop gate, we absorb the chickie chow you give us and create a brand new egg… every day!

I thought about what she said, but I had to remind her that creating the same thing over and over and over is kind of lazy creativity.

We then had a long discussion over the multiple definitions of creativity, the grammatical distinctions between creative and creativity, and whether it was just semantics at the root of our difference of opinion.

Fortunately, she and her feathery sisters didn’t take my criticism to heart, and so I still get to enjoy their boring creative output in a yummy green onion and mushroom omelette as often as I wish.

……………..

Because it’s something I like to do, I’ll use writing as an example of LIVE TIME. You can substitute anything that stirs your creative juices in its place.

Everybody has a story within. The seeds are lying quietly dormant like bacterial spores waiting to be watered and exploding to life.

story to tell

No life is too small to find some meaning in words. Why? Because your own interpretation of the beauty or horror of the world will be unique. Own it proudly.

Writing can be personal (diaries, journaling) or shared (books, letters, blogs).

Writing, like reading, is a powerful force that can develop and take us in surprising and unpredicted directions.

When you work on your creativity, you develop a great inner force and become competent.

Each day try to do one creative thing that makes you feel good. This is one way to make yourself your priority.

Elizabeth Gilbert, author of EAT, PRAY, LOVE and a recent book titled BIG MAGIC- Creative Living Beyond Fear believes there is a creative force that surrounds us.

The creative force is there but it requires an awareness and a desire to allow it to materialize from ethereal nothingness like a fluffy marshmallow cloud in the sky.

Vincent van Gogh, speaking of art and poetry said,

Though I am often in the depths of misery, there is still calmness, pure harmony and music inside me. I see paintings or drawings in the poorest cottages, in the dirtiest corners. And my mind is driven towards these things with an irresistible momentum… Poetry surrounds us everywhere, but putting it on paper is, alas, not so easy as looking at it. I dream my painting, and then I paint my dream. 

Great ideas need to be nurtured and expressed, and they need work, lots of work. Thomas Edison said “Genius is one percent inspiration and 99% perspiration.

Hell, you can probably live a great life without ever dreaming a creative or original thought or idea, bobbing merrily atop the ocean surface.

But I think most of us know that slipping on a mask and snorkel and diving under the waves is where the greater riches lie, the rainbow colours are brighter, the water is immersively warm and that is where you’ll truly Find Dory (sorry, that metaphor just might be the worst I’ve ever floated!)

At some time, think about crossing the bridge from reader to writer (or… HGTV-watching DIY fanatic to project builder) and be patient enough to express your own creativity and emotion.

Creativity and personal expression run through each of us like the tempestuous blood pulsing through the radial artery at the base of our wrist.

Measuring that pulse, appreciating its warmth and cultivating the life force it contains is a heavenly approach to dividing our moments between Dead Time and Live Time.

Omelette anyone?

you and everyone else.jpg