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What is Your Dream Job?

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obama-laughing-caricature

Show up. 

Dive in. 

Persevere. 

Sometimes you’ll win.  Sometimes you’ll lose. 

Presuming a reservoir of goodness in others can be a risk, and there will be times when the process disappoints you. 

But for those of us fortunate enough to have been a part of this work, to see it up close, let me tell you, it can energize and inspire.

Barack Obama’s Farewell Speech January 10, 2017.

……………………

To write a speech is to love words.

I hear words. I see words. I love words. Sometimes even swear words.

Laid back, eyes lightly closed, I inhale the seductive, burning orange warmth of the sun passing through the silky curtains that are my eyelids, highlighting the tiny capillaries that snake hither and thither, tracing paths and journeys both backwards and forwards.

Opening my eyes, I absorb the blue bowl of the sky curving over, a wide open ocean that flows tones and scents and beckons me to choose a direction, any direction … life is improvisation.

Life is an artistic improvisation. Why can’t our jobs, our vocations, be a part of that art?

We day dream, we night dream. We envision ourselves as Walter Mitty, taking on bold adventures that stir our blood.

We plan and map a direction, but when a shifting tide sends a new purpose or invigorating question to be answered, why wouldn’t we choose the flexible path?

The Yellow Brick Road sends forks our way constantly when we keep our YES open. New directions and exciting visions appear over the horizon regularly like the perennially dawning day.

I grew up with career dreams, some that became satisfying reality, some that lingered and then… evaporated away like whistling steam rising from a kettle.

words-music.jpg

……………………

I once dreamed of becoming a speechwriter.

Words.

Words can elevate to music. A turn of phrase… a pause… served with a side dish of smile.

Words spoken by Barack Obama, or Winston Churchill, or Meryl Streep or Martin Luther King Jr. have a rhythm and a harmony that seeps inside us, leaving a lingering indentation in our soulful minds of beauty and strength and inspiration. There’s a hit parade of those speechifying moments that play inside our heads….

I have a dream…”

“… ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country. “

“…if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, ‘This was their finest hour.’”

“Disrespect invites disrespect, violence incites violence. And when the powerful use their position to bully others, we all lose.”

meryl

Symphonies of spoken words.

Donald Trump, despite being wonderful and fabulous and terrific, will never be a music man, a crafter of words that encourage and elevate… only humiliate. More weeds than flowers.

He’ll never give an individual other than himself a wondrous sense of personal hope or pride. Trump vomits children’s fairy tales and tart bubblegum phrases, filling the air with smoggy disharmonic tones.

OK. Enough of the Donald.

Listening to the moving oration of Barack Obama the other night simultaneously resurrected and then laid to rest a childlike dream in my head.

I’ve long held this thin dream of becoming a speechwriter, a winsome wordsmith that polishes those gifted with influence and charisma. For me, mixing a recipe of words into a delicious repast is as fun as making sandcastles on a warm beach, Beach Boys’ harmonies and the salty scent of french fries in the air.

I love the music of words where a phrase or metaphor touches us inside, finding a responsive or reactionary soft spot that carries huge meaning and import. Each of us has our own lifetime of experience, a personal filter that makes us susceptible to universal notions.

Dream jobs exist inside all of us.

In addition to my speechwriting dream, I found one in a bartender’s apron these past two years. I’m on the lookout for more.

Actor, winemaker, undertaker, pilot, baker, bed & breakfast owner, chocolatier, doggie daycare owner, photographer, fashion designer, rock star, interior designer, screenwriter, sushi chef.  There are 4 or 5 fantasies in that list for me.

The list goes on and on and fits each of us in a different way.

The world will take an abrupt and profound turnabout this coming week as the Obama family lifts away in a helicopter to pursue their own future dreams. Feathers in the wind.

As the whirlybird rises, my fragile speechwriting dream will haul up stakes and be thrust into a dark closet like an unloved, unused treadmill or bowling ball. That’s OK.

It’s OK because there is no shortage of dreams and dream jobs that can invigorate and enthrall any of us.

Dreams… like pi, money, love, time, and human imagination are infinite … 

Oh, and Zombie movies, I’m pretty sure they’re infinite too.

zombie

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Looking for Mr. Goodbar-“tender”…

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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

 

Reinventing Ourselves by Changing Underwear

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underwear men

PENIS PARAGRAPH!

Yup, that’s all. That’s what a friend said to me in response to “Vagina Monologue” in last week’s blog title.

Penis Paragraph … snicker snicker … funny … Ha Ha

Funny – not Ha Ha – is growing older, developing wrinkles and sagging skin but not being tuned in enough to see it.

It’s funny because inside myself I’m the same kid who jumped out of bed this morning (it is 1967, right?) when I smelled Mom cooking bacon in the kitchen. Thanks Mom, you’re the best!

After I eat the crispy delicious bacon I run to the bathroom before school starts and I look in the mirror.

OMG!

YIKES!

How the hell did my Dad hijack my face while I was sleeping? Back To The Future. Balding … hair sprouting from my ears and nose. Yup, it’s pretty clear that I’ve changed.

After absorbing the shock that I look different … I begin to realize that NO, I’m really NOT the same kid inside that I was back when JFK was shot … or JR was shot … or Reagan was shot … I’ve changed and my label has changed.

I used to deliver newspapers and flip burgers as a youngster, then migrated onwards to growing smelly bacteria in a lab. All different labels.

Now I pour shots in my new job as a bartender. That’s putting on a new label.

old time bartender

When you retire or quit a job, or are fired or downsized, you peel off all the labels …

I’m an architect, I’m a chef, I’m a doctor, I’m a plumber.

Labels get peeled off like dirty old underwear.

You shower and all the remnants of who you once were are washed away, ready to pull on a clean new pair of whatever.

The old way of retiring meant you went commando, no fresh underwear, no changes, just sitting on the front porch waiting for the Grim Reaper to waltz up your driveway in the twilight of your day …

Nowadays, most retirees put on some sort of crisp, fresh underwear. My latest pair says BARTENDER on the front.

I’ve been alive for 21,265 days… at this point, I’m a dim spaceship travelling through the galaxy and one day my light will be extinguished.

One of the great things about modern medicine is that our light can burn dimly much longer than it could 100 years ago… we have better telescopes so we can extend our reach. Most of us want our light to burn a bit longer so we can try on a new pair of underwear.

Re-invention, whether at my age, or much younger, is about extending our reach from inside ourselves.

... Adapt and you might get a fresh pair of underwear

… Adapt and you might get a fresh pair of underwear

A hundred years ago, you were born to a farmer, or a butcher.

And if you were a boy you lived your life as a farmer or a butcher and your obituary was a short one. One pair of underwear.

If you were a girl? Well, you awoke each day as a homemaker/farm wife, looking after your husband farmer or husband butcher, making all the decisions that mattered without him every realizing it. One pair of underwear.

Today is different and exciting and scary because we’re not only choosing to change our underwear but in many cases, we have no choice.

Job security is spinning wildly out of our galaxy and we can’t bring it back. Reinvention is happening, like it or not.

I began my lab technology career sticking needles in peoples’ arms, sucking out tubes of blood and then testing it in an Auto-Analyzer machine that took up half a large room. I finished my career 37 years later sitting in front of a powerful computer, sucking data out of a machine that was smaller than my desk.

CH-CH-Changes! We all adapt in one form or another, like it or not.

And if we want the most from our lives… the most contentment, the most satisfaction, the most happiness … we need to be adaptable enough to accept and embrace (most) change … none of us is so strong as to hold back the surging tsunami of technology.

Wrinkled crows-feet eyes or smooth as a baby’s bottom forehead, change in each of our lives is perennial as the sun rising.

Attitude is the distinction.

A fresh change of underwear always feels good… like crisp, clean sheets. Mmmmmmmmm.

Everything and anything seems possible.

And that my friend is this week’s PENIS PARAGRAPH!

Penis costume

Plan Your Escape Route …

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Barbed wire freedom

I’m Canadian but maybe, just maybe, I should be an American…

It’s because I love freedom.

Isn’t freedom what America’s all about?

All of the magnificent swelling anthems, all of the heartfelt oaths you have to take to be an official U.S. citizen offer up the compelling and appealing idea that you live in the best country in the world and that’s because you have freedom, both personal and collective.

By the way, and this is important … if you really want to hear about the U.S. as the world’s best country, I suggest you listen to Jeff Daniels’ character Will McAvoy skewer the whole idea on the TV series The Newsroom … I’m not sure there’s a more powerful political moment in TV history as this soliloquy 

America Greatest Country

Freedom is so important – we tell ourselves we possess it, but really?

Just saying it doesn’t make it so.

Personal freedom is something that each of us yearns for, but really… really … those of us who are more Downton Abbey downstairs staff Carson and Daisy than upstairs aristocrats Lady Mary and Lord Grantham –  have to earn our freedom little-bit by little-bit.

I feel a little burn inside when someone tells me what I should be doing – little infringements on my personal freedom. There have been countless times in life where I needed to suck it up and just do it. It’s called survival. I accept that and have played along nicely.

But … Is that freedom?

Truly, I prefer to just tune out and pretend they never said anything. I long to be my own boss. I’m not talking solely about workplace stuff here. Friends, relatives, store clerks, stoplights … they all – at times – want to be my boss.

Today, finally, for most intents and purposes – not all – I’m my own boss.

Of course, there are degrees of freedom. Compared to a slave worker in any era of history (including today), I have enormous freedom.

But I’m greedy. I want more.

greedy

 

My freedom, my free choice, my power has been earned over many years. And in looking closely at why this is, it comes down to dollars and cents. Yup, the almighty DOLLAR.

I began my working life as a cute little 5 year-old paperboy. A few years later after being accused by one of my elderly newspaper customers of car theft (I was a modern version of elfin’esque Oliver to nasty Fagin) I graduated to becoming a McDonalds’ burger flipper in a hippie-refuse-to-cut-my-hair-short-wig.

Then began my extended 30+ year lab tech career that has brought the “retired” me to today where I enjoy more freedom than ever before.

But… the freedom I carry with me now like a smug smart-ass is part of a slow-moving plan I hatched way back in my early working years in William’s Lake.

In 1980, I left a lab job in frigid Yellowknife to follow my love south to British Columbia’s interior region called the Cariboo.

The town of William’s Lake is cowboy country. I loved the chill snowy winters, cross-country skiing in the deep snows outside my back door in January, the crystalline blue lakes and camping close by in the wide-open Chilcotin area in the summer.

I won’t mention fishing at Anahim Lake here, because how many folks can claim to fish on a lake where EVERYONE and his 3 year-old sister catches their daily limit of trout in an hour, and get out of the boat empty-handed (or hooked!), like I did?

chilcotin

It was in William’s Lake that I had an epiphany of sorts.

NO, it wasn’t while I visited with my wiry long-haired neighbour Dean who grew and smoked pot while his wife Rita tended their 2 little kids.

An no, it wasn’t while attending the William’s Lake Stampede and watching famed Canadian folk-country singer Ian Tyson competing on his quarter horse in the rodeo ring.

And it wasn’t even while enjoying the azure blue skies and cheek-pinkening air while swish-swooshing between the trees of Boitano Park on my skis.

Nope.

It happened in the lab at Cariboo Memorial Hospital where I worked.

A normal day in the lab began early in the morning when a group of us techs and lab aides circulated through the overnight faeces-and-fetid-pus-scented wards to collect blood samples from in-patients for testing. Routine stuff.

I sucked a few tubes of blood from a young woman labouring with her 3rd child when she first arrived at the hospital. Routine stuff.

My co-workers and I returned to the lab and began processing and testing the blood and urine samples we had collected on our morning rounds. Routine stuff.

About 9 am, all hell broke loose and the rest of the day was a total whirlwind. Not routine stuff.

The young woman in labour whom I had needled earlier, delivered a healthy baby through her vagina. And then …

… the blood began flowing … and flowing … and gushing.

It was determined quickly that this was an undiagnosed case of placenta praevia – a normal placenta attaches to the uterine wall above or to the side of the opening of the cervix so that it does’t interfere with the baby as it passes out of the uterus during birth. In placenta praevia, the opening to the cervix, and hence the exit door, is covered over by the placenta. The placenta can shear off either during or before birth – this is when the bleeding begins.

Placenta-Previa

One of my colleagues received a phone call from upstairs saying they needed blood … NOW!!

Our blood bank fridge had a normal supply of blood on hand so that a typical patient needing transfusion would have timely access to about 4-6 units of blood, maybe 8 if they were lucky.

Without going into a huge amount of lab detail, our blood bag supply of suitable Red Cross-collected blood was exhausted for this woman before the hour was out.

She continued to gush from her vagina as fast as they could squeeze the blood through the needles in both arms.

This is when the lab took on the look of an army MASH unit as we called in local donors to give fresh blood to stem the tide of this woman’s losses.

She clung to life as we set up cots in the middle of the lab and jammed thick-bored needles into our local folk, filling blood bag after blood bag, doing the most remedial cross-type testing and then sending the bags upstairs to the operating room where surgeons and OR nurses worked feverishly to halt the tsunami of blood.

At one point I rushed to the OR to deliver another couple of bags of blood and entering the OR suite, I saw large pools of dark-red brown, sticky blood covering the floor. Surfaces of the bed on which the pale, unconscious woman laid were drenched in crimson, the staff passing wads of blood-soaked dressings back and forth like a fire brigade shuttling buckets of water to put out a fire.

Blood soaked OR

The day was a total panicky blur until finally after about 8 hours the wound was closed – the blood flow slowed to a trickle and the woman was – amazingly – still breathing and pumping blood, none of it her own.

Everyone I worked with throughout the ordeal was exhausted but relieved, most of all the family of the poor lady who had received somewhere in the vicinity of 35 units of blood over the course of the day, or about 3 full human bodies equivalent of blood.

…………

FREEDOM.

Yes, I wanted to talk about freedom.

That day … that event… was traumatic not just for the lady involved but it affected me deeply as I realized that I might not be able to handle the stress and trauma of these life-and-death scenarios for 40+ years (I was about 23 years old at the time). I began thinking and reflecting.

I realized that I had to take some control over my life so that I could walk away if circumstances turned ugly or undesirable. We all have days in our working lives where we can barely stomach the idea of continuing on because of workload, or co-workers, or bosses or any number of stressors.

I decided then that I would refuse to be held captive because I had no other choices. And I figured the larger the sum of dollars backstopping my life, the greater amount of freedom of choice and decision-making would be in my hands. I wanted the power.

And so that day, I became a saver and an investor. 

And that day I began telling people I’d retire by the time I was 35 … which turned into 40 … then 45 and well … here I am at 57 and I’ve just “retired”.

It has become a long running joke with many of my colleagues over time that I should have retired years earlier, given my bold predictions.

Well, my optimistic financial scenarios took a while to mesh with reality, but that’s OK. In my final years and days in lab work, I enjoyed going to work, I embraced the camaraderie of my colleagues.

But now, I can make the choice of whether to arise at 5 am (as I usually do to visit the gym) or 7 or 8 or 9. I can go to a movie or concert on a weeknight without worrying about getting home early to sleep for tomorrow’s workday. I can eat my lunch at 10:30 am or 3:30 pm if the feeling strikes.

Choices. My choices.

FREEDOM.

Let’s be real. I can’t do anything or everything I want, when I want… I’m not a BDSM billionaire like Christian Grey. I’m not powerful in the same way that Oprah Winfrey is powerful. But I have power over the little things, the little things that are important in my little life.

And because I began saving and investing early on, I struck a healthy balance of enjoying the moment while at the same time saving and looking outwards to the day when I could make the important decisions about how I want to live.

I planned an escape route because freedom is knowing that you can make your own choices.

FREEDOM

 

 

Your Castration Awaits!…8 Reasons Women Will Dominate Men in the 21st Century

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I’m taking this week to recharge my writing chops, so for the first time, I thought I’d re-post an earlier blog post. This is my most viewed post ever from February 2013.

The King is dead… long live the Queen!

.

I’m prepared for the inevitable…are you? Patriarchy is dying…the secret is coming out, and you can say you heard it here first!

…and “I am woman, hear me roar” runs through my Helen Reddy-filled mind…

Helen reddy

The start of the Information Age was the beginning of the end for male domination in western society.

I and my male cohorts are tumbling, tumbling in slow motion down the slippery mountainous slope. Men have “ruled” since before the biblical sighting of the Star of Bethlehem over Jerusalem 2,000 years ago…now, women are the new western Tsars and are going to rule the world.

The golden age of might over right that celebrated physical strength and brawn and ability to dominate by force has come to an end for us boys. Society, business, and government are now ruled by intellect, drive, social acuity, and perseverance — all things that women excel at.

Today, I work with a female boss in my lab (in years gone by I might have said “under a female boss” and snickered with my male comrades) who is a better corporate leader than most men I’ve worked for over the past 30 years or so.

Is it because she’s a woman? Yes and No.

I’ve worked for bitchy tyrannical messes of female overlording that were ball busters. But in most instances, women are more supportive and constructive in managing their charges. There are exceptions to every rule, but as a rule of thumb, women make better bosses.

To win in the world up until 25 years ago you only needed your fists and a loud voice, or a sword or a gun and you would win the game, whatever the game. How did we men do it?

Take over government? Send in 5,000 bulky warriors or blast some cannons at the parliament.

Succeed as CEO? Knock back the gin martinis and go to the strip bars with the rest of the boys in charge of the company.

A few signposts of the future:

  • There are more women Canadian premiers than men today.
  • Hillary Clinton and Condaleezza Rice and Angela Merkel are just the tip of the imposing iceberg preparing to sink the manly Titanic cruising along. The following countries have women Presidents or Prime ministers: Thailand, Germany, Argentina, Brazil, Liberia, Australia, Bangladesh, Iceland, Costa Rica, Finland, Trinidad and Tobago, Lithuania, Slovakia, Denmark, South Korea, and Malawi.
  • Major corporations like YAHOO, PEPSI, KRAFT, XEROX, ARCHERS DANIEL MIDLAND, AVON, DUPONT are all run by women.

Thailand PM

Women in charge is a good thing for the health of the world.

Despite the peccadillos of Lindsay Lohan, Kim Kardashian, and Paris Hilton…women have begun taking the reins and making the world over. And it will be a more peaceful, environmentally friendly, and orderly place.

The ship of patriarchy is now a leaky sinking hulk which is slowly going down and will not likely rise again except to be dredged from the murky depths someday to be placed in a museum and be marveled at.

Going back in time, men were convinced that the female was “the weaker vessel” and that the “seed of life” was contained within the male until the human ovum was discovered in 1826. Woeful ignorance kept women from voting, signing loan papers, owning property.

But it was really all just a surface farce. Reality was distinctly different. Even on BBC’s 1920’s era Downton Abbey, poor anachronistic Lord Grantham is surreptitiously ruled over by women ie his mother, wife and daughters who were truly in charge of the castle despite the full-frontal appearance of men in control.

downton-abbey

Lord Grantham (in front) only appears to be in charge…

It’s only speculation, but I think if there were women in charge of the Middle Eastern countries, we’d have an end to the interminable tensions and war in the region. Netanyahu and all of those Arab lads would be out on their cans just watching the women settle issues and grievances that have been stirring for centuries. Women wouldn’t allow their sons and daughters to be fed to the war slaughterhouses.

Here’s some reasons why women WILL dominate in years to come:

  1. Women don’t waste time playing video games and watching porn. Girls just grow up and get on with life…well, and obsess over shoes but that’s a minor pastime on the way to the corner office.
  2. Women excel at communication and conciliation, whereas mens’ authoritarian style of coercion is outdated. Women are attuned to social dynamics and know the benefits of collaboration vs. competition.
  3. Women are getting educated and at higher levels. In just about every field, women are either in the lead or are charging hard to take the lead. It’s like China vs the U.S.. Get lazy, and complacent and watch the competition overtake you.
  4. Women know how to balance career and family. Both career and social worlds can thrive simultaneously. Men can’t pull off multi-tasking unless beer and a TV remote are involved.
  5. Men persist in thinking they can rise through manual labour. The world has changed and many men refuse to believe or acknowledge it. If men don’t excel and women do, don’t blame women. Wake up and smell that coffee boys!
  6. Womens’ self-definition is changing. Women don’t feel the need to acquiesce to men to sooth their egos. If a job needs doing, women will just jump in and do it. Damsels in distress are so yesterday.
  7. Allowing women to vote, fight wars, run businesses, and play sports levels the field. Women may never be able to build the physical strength of a man, but can equal or better him in every other facet of life if they choose to.
  8. Men want to get rich quick but don’t want to work or wait for it. Men are too impatient and unwilling to take the longer, slower route to a better solution. Too many impetuous mistakes are made by wanting everything now.

Yes, women are coming on hard and we guys are struggling to adjust. We’re fearful and nervous of a world that doesn’t conform to the notion that we are meant to be in charge without having to prove our worth.

That doesn’t mean that men should just lay down on the tracks and be crushed under the coming locomotive. A smooth running train needs an engine with all of its wheels moving in the same direction.

Women spent the 20th century rejecting the notion that they were just pretty playthings.

The 21st century needs a similar awakening by men who need to exercise their brains as much as their brawn. And if we men can retain some status and influence, our male testosterone competitiveness will provide a nice balance of forward momentum. We need both mens’ and womens’ viewpoints and strengths to experience the best of all worlds.

So, good on you girls for taking the world by the balls and making your mark. Hail to you and your efforts, and please try to be firm but gentle on us fellas as we attempt to keep up.

The question isn’t who’s going to let me; 

it’s who is going to stop me. 

                                                          – Ayn Rand.

Woman Boss with Balls

A woman with balls will always be Boss…

Become the “Master of Your Domain”

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the world owes me nothing

The world owes me nothing.

The world owes you nothing. Your mother owes you nothing. The lottery corporations and casinos especially owe you nothing.

Whatever freedom or flexibility or security you can gather in your world ultimately comes down to one thing. YOU!

I’ve almost retired from my job, oh, I think it’s six, no, 7 times now.

You would think I hate my job, but I don’t. For me, retirement is all about male ego and delusions of investing grandeur. It’s about dreaming.

In my little Walter Mitty mind, I’ve always been a supreme investor à la Warren Buffett and the way that one knows they’ve arrived through investing smarts, is by retiring from productive, human-helping, paid work. The important stuff.

…………….

I’ve never made a particularly good income in any job I’ve worked.

I delivered the Hamilton Spectator newspaper for years as a kid — made pennies, maybe a buck or two each week.

LARRY SPEC CARRIER TIFF

Yep … my first job …

At 15, I made a huge leap forward in income. I got a McJob — REALLY.

Starting in 1973, I flipped burgers at McDonald’s for 4 and a half years at a starting pay level of $1.55 per hour. A full 8 hour shift poured $12.40 into my bank account. It took a lot of late night shifts and weekends to pay $1,000 car insurance on top of college expenses.

But I was a good McDonald’s man; I was an All-Star McDonald’s man, and yes, there truly are such things.

McDonalds All-Star

After 4+ years of saturating myself a few times a week in beef fat and dehydrated onions, I concocted my last Big Mac, hugged my teen co-workers so long and walked out the door. Finishing pay rate?  $3.40 per hour.

I graduated from Mohawk College with a certified-sharp hypodermic needle in hand and headed north to begin work as a Medical Lab Technologist. My first professional position at Stanton Yellowknife Hospital in the chilly Northwest Territories  — $9.69 per hour.

I was rich … for almost a week.

Then I had to pay grown-ups bills like rent and heat and groceries. Have you checked the price of milk in Yellowknife? Alta 3.9 Beer and Black Tower wine are cheaper than their more nutritious counterparts which perhaps explains why I remember so little of my time in the NWT. If only I had figured a way to milk a caribou.

I’ve moved on to other lab jobs in small B.C. communities like William’s Lake and Comox and now in Penticton and Kelowna. I won’t tell you what my hourly pay rate is today because my co-workers who make $25 per hour would be right ticked off knowing that I make 8 times their take. That’s not true, but I like to think that I’m worth that much.

Suffice it to say, I make a reasonable wage for living a moderate North American middle-class lifestyle. No complaints but I’m a good many Ironman-length distances from the elite 1% so frequently bandied about in today’s news reports.

I’ve always thought I would be in the 1%. Or at least have a bank balance that pushed close to 8 figures. So why not?

…………….

The answer? I didn’t understand the 10,000 hour rule.

I was never going to strike it rich on the employment income side of the ledger, so I decided that investing what little I did earn was the fast track to untold wealth.

In my 20’s, I believed I could just waltz in, read a few magazine articles and books, and answer the phone when my broker-friend Rick called:

“Larry, buy as many shares of JuJube Inc. as you canIt’s a certain triple in 3 months“.

Soon, buckets of investing dollars would pour over me like runny No-Name catsup over steaming, fragrant French fries.

You’re not stupid. You know how that worked out. Broker-Rick got Rich, Client-Larry got broker.

But a LOT of people invest in just that fashion.

Over years, nay decades, I discovered that money was actually Heinz ketchup and flowed slowly. Cash needs a few wallops on the back-end until it begins to pour and some compounding momentum is gained. I learned that the best one to trust in making important investment decisions is myself.

Investment success is like masturbation, only YOU truly know what feels and works the best.

I had to read the investment books, re-read the books and then live the experience and learn from the experience. And continue learning from the experience.

Every minute. Every day. Every now. Over a period of years.

Blue Chip stock investing is the perfect thing for an easily distractible fella like me. I can apply myself for an hour or two, and then walk away for the rest of the day and come back to it refreshed… tomorrow.

Today,  I’ve finally spent the requisite 10,000 hours learning my investment chops. The learning will go on and maybe before I die I’ll gradually turn green and become Investment Yoda. But I doubt it.

give-me-all-your-money-you-will

Most of us spend most of our adult lives working, saving, and investing to find a lush oasis of financial security and a fountain of funds to make our days more pleasurable. For some it means monster homes and luxury vacations, for others it means freedom to serve and assist those in less fortunate circumstances.

We all want secure money for life and we’re all looking under every unturned rock to find it. There’s a multiplicity of ways to make, invest and keep money. But we each have to find one (or more) and then settle in faithfully for the 10,000-hour learning curve.

I found my niche and so I expect to keep getting rich slowly.

I might even retire on my 8th attempt.

Some believe that Jesus will save them. Or Allah. Or Buddha. Or Jehovah. Or a Lotto ticket.

Pray if you wish to a great higher power, but in the end, pick yourself up off the floor and make your luck happen.

You owe it to yourself.

Minion Dollars

She was JUST the Wife of …

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Miley Twerks

The Miley in your life just twerked her way ahead over the blistered remains of your poor neglected groin.

Alright, it’s just a cheesy metaphor, but how would you feel about giving your life over to another person who would use you like a well-worn power tool to enhance and build their own life’s ambition, their career, their aspirations?

History is laden with the carcasses of those who have made just such a sacrifice.

What do I know, maybe you’ve thrown yourself on the pile already too.

Instinctively, do you feel a rush of warm, goodwill sensations bubbling up from deep within, climaxing with an enthusiastic,

YES, I must give of myself to do this for my one important person, the constellation of my life“?

I hope NOT.

……………………

The reason all of this is coming to mind right now is that I’m absorbed in reading a book written by Paula McLain entitled The Paris Wife.

It tells the semi-fictional but largely factual inside tale of a woman, Hadley Richardson, who marries a yet-to-be-discovered writer Ernest Hemingway in the early 1920’s. The new Mrs. Hemingway sheds any ambitions or dreams of her own (which included becoming a concert pianist) to be the jock-strap support to dear Ernest.

Young Mr. Hemingway and Hadley, his first (of 4) bride, travel to Paris where they live in semi-squalor so that he can write and mingle with the famed writers of the era: Ezra Pound, Gertrude Stein, James Joyce, F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Artists of all sorts rightfully want to be around others of their ilk hoping that brilliance will shimmy into them by osmosis, and fame will fall gloriously crashing into their laps.

It was the sign of an era and perhaps humanity to that point in time that a woman like Hadley would willingly leave behind her life, dreams, and family to facilitate the ambitions of her man, with no expectation of equivalent opportunity.

Hemingway and Hadley

Ernest and Hadley with young son Jack “Bumby”

You think Hemingway was a brilliant writer and true example of a REAL man?

His spare verbiage and testosterone-laden images of self-assured manliness — dragging huge sun-sparkling marlins onto a battered wooden fishing boat … or marvelling at the masterful skills needed by the matador to thrust a lengthy banderilla into the heart of a boiling-angry bull within the arena — are legendary.

Many many love Hemingway. I have a grudging admiration for his ability to transpose fully-laden ideas into crisp, compact sentences, but beyond that, I think he was an asshole narcissist.

…………………

I look at the reflection of my amazingly handsome visage in the mirror, fancifully seeing only the wrinkle-free 19 year-old that I once was and no longer am, and I can’t help but reflect on the narcissists of the world.

Can it be right for one “Hadley” person to act as a support, a lifelong appendage with no ambitions or personal goals, other than those that belong to another? Is it akin to becoming a monk or a nun and dedicating your eternal earthly soul to ONE other only?

Conversely, where is the human sense of honesty and fairness of “Ernest” when placing another in the position of servitude to his own talents, and abilities, asking, or even allowing another to sacrifice their own dreams and talents to live life as a crutch-bound Tiny Tim?

There are two pathways we can choose to take in our lives:

  • one is the profound journey.
  • the other is the surface journey.

Lifes journey

It may be a tragedy of human life that some of us allow ourselves to be distracted by the surface journeys while believing them to be the profound journeys.

The profound journeys are internal and substantial; the surface journeys are external and likely not significant.

For the first Mrs. Hemingway,

In many cases, the role was supportive only, sitting in the wives’ corner with Alice Toklas as she attended to her needlepoint—while on the other side of the room the “artist’s” talk crackled with excitement and invention. But some of the literary wives had strange and even toxic power—Zelda Fitzgerald, for instance. It was important to Hadley that she not try to run Ernest’s life but be his ally and his best friend. I think of her as essential to his emotional foundation, and that’s when the word “supportive” takes on a new strength and meaning.”

It brings me to tears to see someone leave a life of untapped potential shelved in support of another. It doesn’t have to be this way.

Hillary Clinton was obviously far more than just a sexy little thong hanging by her man’s side. Hillary was, is, the intellectual and ambition-laden equal to Bill, who lent her support to him for his aims, but didn’t just linger limply in the background.

Too, despite his “I did not have sex with that woman” faults, Bill Clinton also encouraged Hillary’s ambitions and lent his support in equal measure upon completion of his presidential terms.

But Hillary is still the exception, not the rule. It appears that Michelle Obama will be another of those exceptions … time will tell.

……………………

After writing 80 blog posts, I’ve found that the ones that have been the most viewed and probably provocative have been the ones I’ve written about the dwindling power and dominance of men in the western world. This is, and should be seen as a great movement forward in humanity’s development.

I give it a hardy thumbs up, so long as it’s based on women’s freedom and ambition to climb upwards, and not just a result of men’s tumbling off the rocky mountain’s precipice.

An article published in the Globe and Mail by Tabatha Southey this past weekend optimistically suggests that men are not falling back in their interest in higher education, it’s just that women are clambering like high-seas refugees onto the post-secondary boat in far greater numbers than ever before.

This is the future I dream of when I shutter my eyes for the night.

Unlike Hadley Richardson, er, Mrs. Hemingway, women (and men too) rightfully need to pursue their own personal goals and dreams. If the dream cloud can hold them both equally afloat, totally supportive of the other’s lofty ambition, there’s no reason to move like, and sing out like Jagger, “Hey You, Get Off of My Cloud“.

But for God’s sake girls, choose the profound journey.

Don’t ever let yourself become The Paris Wife and settle for saying, when asked what it is that you do: “I’m JUST the wife of …”.

the-paris-wife

WHEN I GROW UP … Sailing Away in Your Dreams …

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Ain’t never gonna happen –  growing up, that is.

They say that boys mature later than girls … well, we don’t truly mature … EVER!

I know I’m trying hard not to!

Most of us boys retain a big chunk of our childhood immaturity, especially when it comes to bodily-related things like farting, and sex.  Anyway, that’s not important here.

I want to talk to you about the childhood dreams we have for ourselves.

.

It’s not far to never-never land, no reason to pretend
And if the wind is right you can find the joy of innocence again
Oh, the canvas can do miracles, just you wait and see
Believe me      

Christopher Cross- Sailing

.

As youngsters, we lie half-awake in our beds, the hall light peeking in through the door cracked a hair.  Our little heads are filled with swirling thoughts and emotions and longings that we conjure up ourselves or are implanted into our heads by our parents, siblings, friends, and probably more often the media.

All of those influences jumble together and after blenderizing for a few years, out pours the smoothie that is us.

Boy Dreaming

As a 10 year-old I wanted – like so many many others – to be a doctor.

I’m not sure where the idea originated for me (it may have been playing doctor with Diane Dawson when we were 4 years old), but by the time I was in middle school, I was fascinated (academically only!) by illicit drugs and resuscitation and excitements of the medical variety. I wrote and pasted school projects together about heroin and other hard drug overdoses. I wanted to wear a cool white coat and save lives.

The idea that medicine might be a financial goldmine didn’t even seep under the door into my thinking, it was strictly the lure of blood and hard-pounding excitement.

And then in the early 1970’s along came a TV show called EMERGENCY!.

It chronicled two Los Angeles paramedics roaring around the California highways and freeways, saving hundreds of poor helpless souls with their blend of IV’s, and oxygen bottles and CPR. It was super-exciting, wet-dream stuff to a young pubescent boy.

There was nothing more I wanted than to jump into a red and white Paramedic vehicle that resembled a Good Humor ice cream truck but instead of ice cream delights it would be loaded with cases of bandages, and splints and stethoscopes and drawers and compartments filled with life-saving devices.

I would race to the scene of a car accident. Sirens and flashing lights ablaze.

Rivers of blood and broken, shattered limbs would be scattered across the freeway. I would jump out of the truck in my pristine white uniform and spring into frenzied activity like a superhero. The adrenaline rush would carry me from victim to victim as I diagnosed and miraculously saved each in turn. And look, when all is done, my uniform is still white and pristine.

Beautiful, sexy women and pets would fawn like fleas on a dog over my abilities to save lives, God’s power in my hands.

emergency!! TV Show

Yup, it was either a doctor or a paramedic.

So I became a medical lab technologist.

Huh, you ask? What happened?

The swirling dreams of childhood were just that as I adjusted to my personal perceived reality. In truth, I was a good, but fairly lazy student.

Becoming a doctor required a diligence and dedication to study and long working hours that I wasn’t prepared to commit. I wanted the dream, but only if I could attain it by sending in 2 cereal box tops and $1.49, whereupon I would receive my special MD certificate and stethoscope in the return mail. Easy peasy, but my own reality show was made of fewer fantasies and more real world truth … maybe I WAS into hard drugs!

The paramedic dream was dumped into the trash can when I realized that Canada offered no such training (at the time). I could be a “lowly” ambulance attendant and pick up fractured bodies discarded by the side of the road, but there would be no IV’s and electrical heart-shocking paddles, no heroic resuscitation efforts. It was just scoop ’em and deliver ’em to the real doctors who did the fun stuff.

What to do, what to do.

X-ray technology?  Black and white images shining through on light boxes? BORING!

Pharmacist? No paddles or IV’s there either. BORING AGAIN!!

LAB? Hmmm… there were needles and blood, and machines that had flashing lights and beeped. This could be it. It was almost being a doctor without 5 extra years of school and countless study hours.

Just two full years of college training and you had a certificate that gave you permission to poke needles into people and attach wires to read their heart beating. This was sounding better by the minute.

The pay rates kind of sucked but the counter-balance was that a lot of girls were enrolled in the course… instant dating material.

Blood, needles, machines, heart wires, girls, sex in hospital closets with nurses in white-starched uniforms …YES, this was it!

Nurse-Corset-

Sign me up! I wanna be a lab tech…

I signed on and before I could take another breath I was living the dream. I wore a white lab coat. I poked people with needles. I hooked wires to people’s chests. I was surrounded by cute girls. I was living the dream and living in the far north of Canada, saving lives of the miners and Inuit.

Working in a lab has given me a good life and I’ve had many wonderful moments. I’ve had a ton of laughs with some great colleagues.

But mostly, for me, it’s a job.

Like so many dreams, reality crashed the party.

  • Hours and hours looking down microscopes at drops of urine and blood.
  • Smearing smelly stool samples onto agar culture plates.
  • Call-backs in the middle of the night were adrenalin rushes for my junkie fixes but sending cross-matched blood to real blood-gushing patients had its stresses.
  • Analysis machines that flashed and beeped frequently broke down and were often uncooperative. I remembered how unmechanically-minded I truly was.
  • Hooking wires to the chests of 300 pound elderly ladies with gooey, fetid growth beneath their breasts was … well … EWWWW!

The chocolate cake that looks so good in the TV commercial ends up tasting like thick shortening and chemicals. The crisp, refreshing beer that attracts girls in bikinis by the harem-load tastes like every other beer minus the hotties. The car with leather heated seats that zooms and screeches around corners with a ferocious roar, breaks down on the side of the highway.

Not all dreams play out perfectly in real life.

Our dreams are like candy. They give us a sugar high that is elating. They sustain us when we feel crushed or low.

We’re mesmerized by dreams, and as Martha Stewart might say, “This is good”.

Whether fulfilled or not, life should be filled with dreams and wonder. Hope and promise are delights of the human spirit. Dreams refresh and inspire us to carry on through tough, painful times and are as important to us as Santa Claus is to Virginia.

To paraphrase a little,

dreams exist as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no dreams.

Yes Virginia, there are dreams.

And we are the dreamers, both as children and adults.

And I promise you, good reader, that as long as there are dreams to be dreamed, I’ll continue to let a dim shaft of light enter my bedroom. I’ll enjoy the endless swirling eddy of thoughts and emotions and longings that sustain me through the long night with a child’s openness and sense of wonder.

I ain’t never growing up!

Santa and Virginia

Do We REALLY Have to Work?

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I have a strong tendency towards laziness.

I love to just sit and think or allow my mind to wander in whatever direction it desires.

I’m so lazy that I don’t even give my brain directions about what it should think about. It decides and I just watch and follow. It’s a stream that meanders in all directions with no riverbanks to restrict its flow.

laziness

The other day my brain decided that I’m going to stop working for a living.

Just like that, no job.

I’m not retiring, I’m quitting. And it’s not because I don’t like my job or my boss. My boss is great, and most days my job is pretty good.

So … What’s Up, you ask?

Jesus didn’t have a job.

Well, some say he was a carpenter, but I can’t find any pictures, descriptions, or drawings of his work, and I did a full Google search.

jesus_carpenter

Unlike Muhammad, he didn’t become a Dad, so he wasn’t a stay-at-home working parent while his wife was out making the bacon (she wouldn’t be Jewish I guess). Some suggest he was a bootlegger who turned water into wine and then sold it to his followers who grew in numbers because they liked his stuff, but that’s just idle rumour.

Jesus had a dream job of being a saviour. How many kids tell their Grade 2 class they want to grow up to be a Saviour? None in my school certainly.

But truthfully, I don’t want to be a saviour… too many liability issues and guilt. And then you end up crucified.

I’m seeking out a sunny field of tranquillity. It’s a kind of mid-life crisis of form and understanding, a nighttime retreat into the womb of safety and comfort.  To be childlike and carefree with only the smell of green grass and sand between my toes, swing sets in the park, ice cream on the beach. A job implies responsibility and worry over bills and leaks in the roof.

Engagement and enjoyment of life is defined both by what we do for a paycheque and what we do as passion. Sometimes they coincide and often they run separate roads.

I don’t think I’m alone in my thinking. After all, millions have read the 4 Hour Work Week and The Joy of Not Working . How many of the thousands of people working at WalMart are there because they love to work? –Damn, ANOTHER clean up in Aisle 7. Hell, even the CEO is only really there because he gets a HUGE paycheque that lets him do the things he really wants to do.

Money-spewing lotteries are over-the-top popular because the multitudes hope and pray that a few lucky numbers will give them their dream job of a life of no work. It’s an ubiquitous feeling that work is a penance we pay so that we can eat and have a boat to fish from off a sunny Caribbean beach for 2 weeks every winter.

4-hour-workweek

I’ll admit that jobs have their place. A job is an important source of social capital, it provides daily structure for many, a place to meet friends and kindle romances, a detouring path away from crime and prison for young men, an example of industriousness and duty to children and a source of self-respect for parents.

But really, nobody has a born purpose in life to buy and sell stocks. Or create an ad agency. Or ride a dusty tractor all day long. Or work in a cubicle. Those are tiny side effects of being alive. We’re conditioned in western society from Day 1 to build ourselves into a work machine that produces something of value that others are willing to pay something for.

No matter how much talent and ability and know-how we possess and want the world to beat a path to our personal toll booth, dropping gold coins into our pocket of wealth, unless what we have to offer is desirable at a reasonable price, we starve.

People start up businesses by the hundreds and thousands every week, and then a short year later they shutter the front door forever because their incredible (to them) idea for sponging up currency that couldn’t go wrong, didn’t connect. Dreams are shattered and bankruptcies are born.

The real purpose is to do the things you enjoy, with the people you enjoy and who inspire you, as much as possible. If this happens in a job setting, great. But for the majority in this world of billions of souls, work life is lived as Bob Cratchit under the heavy thumb of their own Scrooge.  Work is a necessity, undertaken as a servitude for a turkey on the table at Christmas and some coal in the winter stove.

So we’ll continue working to survive like we always have. Maybe someday we’ll devise a way to put a million dollars in each baby’s bank account at birth and the work week will become a relic of an ancient era. Robots and technology will run our factories and our supermarkets and our transit and sewage systems.

Robot in home

I wish I could live to see such a day, but I consider myself lucky to see this moment in history when I can push a switch and my house is instantly made cozy warm, or refreshingly cool. In winter, I can fly like a bird to an exotic beach with loads of fresh, juicy fruit and cold bottles of beer laid out for my picking. If I want to read any magazine or book, I can open an electronic gizmo and have it sent instantaneously through the electronic ether to my lap. While I sit in front of a huge entertainment centre in my living room with 1000’s of movies and other media delights at my fingertips.

Most of my weekly blog posts are about 1,000 words long.  It’s a good length that doesn’t usually tax you, the reader, too much.  I was going to quit at 800 words today and just relax on my sunny, warm deck.

But this luxuriously wandering, creating mind that wants me to quit my job just wouldn’t listen and take direction from me.

I guess I’ll go on being lazy, starting tomorrow…

Lazy cat

Death of an Everyday Senior

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I’ve mused here before about how I might like to die.

Surely, since we don’t seem to have the choice over whether we die, we should be able to exercise the choice of how we might die … it’s only fair, right?

A truly loving God would acquiesce and give us that much. Merely munching an apple offered by a snivelling snake shouldn’t take away all rights and freedoms, should it?

APPLE _,SNAKE AND BEAUTY

And so in the spirit of my despair over lack of choice, the following is a true-to-life little black-humour tale of :

HOW I’D PREFER not TO DIE.

About 10 years ago, in the small’ish lab in which I work on the 3rd floor of a medical building in downtown Penticton, it was approaching 5 p.m. and near closing time for the day. I was putting the last samples of patient urine and stool onto agar-culture plates to incubate and grow bacteria overnight. Yes, somebody really does have to do this!

In the front patient-section of the lab, an elderly gentleman – we’ll call him Mr. Jones – was stretched out long on a thin mattress-covered table in a small private alcove. Liz, one of the lab assistants, was placing little sticky electrodes across his bared chest so she could perform an ECG (electrocardiogram).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Even dogs can have an ECG done…

Penticton sports a mild climate – by Canadian standards – and mixed with sun and beaches this means that the city is full of retirees. End result? The lab performs a lot of ECG’s to check on the ticker health of local seniors.

In a turn that no one anticipated, suddenly, unexpectedly, Mr. Jones gasped weakly and went limp and unresponsive … cardiac arrest. His skin tones dissolved into an ashen grey and his mouth sagged open … breathing came to a halt along with his heart.

All the stops were pulled out to resuscitate him.

Within minutes, the lab was jammed with firefighters, ambulance paramedics, police, doctors, and 5 or 6 of us lab folks.

The poor fellow was hoisted unceremoniously off the ECG bed like a limp Muppet and laid out in the middle of the lab floor. People in white coats and various other uniforms pumped and suctioned and intubated and shocked his poor spiritless body, doggedly determined to save this life and and AND…BUT…

… MR. JONES DIED.

ekg-flatline

The frenetic movements and loud voices of the medics gradually stilled and bit-by-bit a calm settled over the room.

It was over … Mr. Jones was over. Nothing more to be done. Just take the body away and everyone could go home.

And so the firefighters departed … and then the doctors … and since it was now well past closing time, all the lab staff melted away as I had volunteered to hang around and lock up once Mr. Jones was packaged up and taken away.

And THEN, the police and paramedics started to leave…HUH…

But, what about Mr. Jones?“, I inquired.

He was still placidly laid out on the floor with tubes sticking out everywhere… plasticy grey-skinned but otherwise quite peaceful looking. He seemed content.

Well“, said the paramedics, “we only transport living patients to the hospital, and since he’s deceased, our job is done here“.  Off they went….

Police??

Well… the doctor was here and declared it a normal death, no criminal concerns, so we’re out of here too. Try calling the coroner to see what she wants done with him“.

…BUT BUT BUT…

Suddenly, the lab door closes. All is deathly quiet and Mr. Jones and I looked at each other (metaphorically, of course) with puzzlement. He might have even grinned ironically at me, but I think my mind was perhaps playing little games on me at this point.

After a moment of absorbing the situation, I finally phoned the coroner. I explained the full story to her in great detail, and then she broke out laughing (it’s a morbid world I live in!). There was no foul play involved and so she too determined that it didn’t involve her.

laughing-woman

Me-“oh yeah, so what do I do now, just cart Mr. Jones home to meet the family?

She suggested I call the man’s family at home to see if there was a funeral home that they would like me to call and have Mr. Jones picked up. Kind of like calling 1-800-GOT-JUNK for a pickup.

GREAT…I get to break the news to Mrs. Jones that she can put that dinner plate back in the cupboard because Mr. Jones ain’t coming home for his supper. They didn’t teach us this stuff in lab school.

My heart was beating fast and hard when I dialled the Jones’ home number…a man’s voice answered…

Hello, is this the Jones’ residence?

Yes, this is Dr. Jim Striker, Mr. and Mrs. Jones’ family doctor.

Umm, I was just calling to tell Mrs. Jones about an unfortunate event concerning her husband-

Yes, I know…my brother Mark was the Doc that attempted to revive Mr. Jones at the scene…he called me to let me know that Mr. Jones had passed, so I came to the family home to break the news.

WHEW, my heart started pumping again! Didn’t have to tell the wife the bad news after all.

Dr. Striker conferred with the bereaved widow for a few moments and then gave me the name of a local funeral home that could pick up Mr. Jones.

This little tale ends a short while later with my poor old new friend Mr. Jones rolling out the door of the lab in a zippered shiny black bag.

Funeral home body

And so the curtain falls and the movie ends?

Yes and No.

When Mr. Jones woke up early that morning, he didn’t turn over, tenderly kiss his wife’s cheek and think to himself,

“This is the day I will die. I’m going to wait until I’m surrounded by strangers and then croak”.

He may have had an inkling that because he wasn’t feeling very well that time was running short, but nothing as dramatic as pegging out in a 3rd floor medical laboratory. This would never have been in his plans as he pulled the door closed to his house a final time.

It doesn’t really matter if I die like Mr. Jones. There are far worse ways to reach the end, but Mr. Jones’ death is just the start of a message I took away from this event. It reminds me that, short of suicide, we don’t have the choice of where and when we’ll expire. The day arrives and it … just happens.

I’m not afraid of death; I just don’t want to be there when it happens.”

Woody Allen

What matters more than how or where we die, is how we live. We have the capacity, no matter our lot, to find fulfillment in our days. It comes down to choice.

It’s complicated and it’s messy… but it’s simple, really.

Hope Flower

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