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The Muppets and No Country For Old Men

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statler and waldorf 2

Dear Mitch McConnell and Chuck Grassley:

We regret to inform you that The Muppets still have no openings to replace Statler and Waldorf in the balcony cheap seats. We would kindly recommend you return to your local Mayberry coffee shop and continue your enlightened pontifications of why women just don’t suck up to the good ole boys like they did in the ’50’s.

Sincerely, TROTTFCW (The Rest Of The Twenty-First Century World)

Did you know that the state of Vermont has never sent a woman to the U.S. House or Senate? … never ever in 242 years…

DANG! I really want to write light, fluffy pieces about music and books and movies and Halloween and all the great stuff that inhabits my world. I want to laugh and kibitz with you like we’re young children in the schoolyard of our dreams. Blue skies, shining on me… nothing but blue skies, do I see….

But the current affairs’ bus just keeps careening off the US Interstate Highway and I can’t look away.

I feel like a victim even though I play for the side of the victimizers. Yeah, I know that’s a bit like Melania saying SHE’S the MOST bullied person out there… BOO HOO!

melania bullied

What the hell am I talking about?

Baseball of life.

I have 3 strikes against me and there’s nothing I can do to change it (short of surgery and hormone therapy).

  1. I’m a Man.
  2. I’m White.
  3. I’m Old(er)!

AGAIN. BOO HOO!

I sort of belong to the same club as McConnell and Grassley and Trump and it scares the hell out of me. I have to fight back against my privilege.

You see, I watched some of the U.S. Senate hearings a month back where another white man – angry, juvenile’ish Brett Kavanaugh – sat in the hot seat and told me how much he and his buddy PJ enjoy(s)ed beer.

Add that to the sight of a murder of old, white codgers sneering angrily, contemptuously, at a woman who has a boatload more credibility than any of those interviewing her and…

It made me ill. I’m one of them…. and….

These relics aren’t learning and changing. They’ve dug themselves in and are hanging on by their richly manicured fingernails… and…

I felt a whole lot of disgust and animus.

I love the differences that delineate men from women, white from black, Christian from Muslim from Jew, old from young, gay from straight.

But different should never imply better or superior.

I’m a product of my culture and generation, as are you.

There is hardly anything in life that is not changing… rapidly.

Some changes we like, many others create fear and anxiety.

We all have to do our best to grow and change and wonder and debate those changes, morphing and putting ourselves in the shoes of the “other”. It’s called understanding.

Because I belong to that clique of “old, white men”, it is ever more important that I stay attuned and sensitive.

old white man.jpg

Almost daily, I have to assess and determine those areas of humankind that are basic and unchanging, and those that are elastic and variable.

I’m learning to change as the circumstances make sense.

Here are just a few of the things I recognize now and changes I’ve adapted to in my years.

  1. Sexuality and the nature of manhood/womanhood are less distinct than I ever realized or accepted. There is a flow in the world of sexual preference, gender fluidity and spectrum. Love is Love. Gay marriage, Interracial marriage, Sex outside of marriage. I accept various forms of sexuality and gender now that I could never have fathomed as a young boy and man.
  2. I can’t blindly use derogatory terms as I did in my youth. It’s embarrassing to think of the ignorant words I used to describe others: Nigger (we ate licorice nigger babies from the corner store); Jew (“too expensive, we’ll jew them down”); Newfie (Newfoundlander) jokes; Dumb Blonde jokes; Pollock (Polish) jokes; Paki (Pakistani/Indian) jokes; Wop (Italian) jokes… on and on it went without any thought of the hurt it might cause.
  3. Tattoos and piercings are not only for sailors and Hell’s Angels. Not a fan but I quietly accept.
  4. Circumcision isn’t a given. A penile toque is kinda cute (I hear!). Female circumcision is plain nutso.
  5. Women as leaders. The safety and security of our world would be stronger in the hands of women. Pollution measures would be more robust.
  6. Technology is the driving force behind everything we do. One small example? Elections have changed immensely with social media alone.
  7. Animals are deserving of life and kindness. I do not have dominion over all creatures.
  8. Bullying is just not acceptable. ‘nuff said.
  9. Mental health should be treated as seriously and openly as we treat physical health. Too many folks suffer needlessly because of our fears and stigmas.
  10. The things I do and consume, contribute to global warming and have a negative impact. The sad thing is as I age my methane production goes up, what’s a concerned boy to do?

The leaves on all the tall birch trees outside my house have turned yellow and most of the leaves have flittered like gossamer feathers to the earth. Yes, change is as perennial as the seasons.

The unearned privilege of being an old(er!) Canadian white guy weighs on me when I see the struggles of others who did nothing to deserve their plight.

I’m trying my hardest to avoid looking in the mirror and seeing McConnell or Grassley as my reflection.

I’m hoping that I’ll soon find my way back to writing light, fluffy posts that might make me smile like Kermit or Miss Piggy and not frown like Statler and Waldorf.

As for a woman finally being elected to the Senate for Vermont this year? Fat chance… there’s some old white guy named Bernie Sanders standing in the middle of the road.

frustrated woman.jpg

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300… The Vagenda Continues

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300

300 blog posts. 300,000 words. On my way to 10,000 hours and mastery.

HOLY SMOKES! I’ve been writing these weekly missives for almost 6 years now. Thank you for your help in pushing me along this winsome winding road. I appreciate your generous Samaritanism.

One sunny day in June 2012 I sat and pecked out my first blog article .

Genesis began with the obvious hint that I would be exploring and commenting on the Mars vs Venus tangle we find ourselves amidst in the world of men and women.

I know. It’s lunatic foolish of me to think that I – a tiny bobbing boat – could find an understanding where other brighter ships have crashed on the rocks.

My foolishness persists to this day. Go figure.

But let’s be clear. It’s not one-sided although it is unbalanced. Men misunderstand women and women misunderstand men. Human math says it should be an equal equation x=y. That day is not yet today.

And to add to the doggy-pile of confusion is intra-gender misunderstanding. Hell, I’m a man and I frequently don’t get men.

men group.jpg

Yeah, I get frustrated with my own gender. Bigly.

Only last night I was playing my guitar at an Open Mic, watching a couple of middle-aged men guzzle down entire over-sized bottles of beer in one gulp and yelling loudly so that none of us could hear other performers giving their heartfelt best on stage. SHUT UP A**holes !! (Aside: They were kindly quiet for the first 2 of my songs, but couldn’t contain their boisterousness for the 3rd piece I played!)

That doesn’t mean we should throw our hands up and walk away. Attempts at understanding in all directions is what propels us forward. That’s why we should all travel and immerse ourselves in other cultures and religions and beliefs.

It seems kind of fitting today to return to the topic that I began musing on those 6 years back with the maelstrom of news and comment regarding #MeToo and #TimesUp

Women are an unstoppable force driving us forward in the new world of brains vs brawn. The crystal ball is as clear as the chill ice I see on the lakes in the nearby mountains.

The fleeting rise of TrumpWorld has merely highlighted the schism that exists and which will inevitably tumble avalanche-like in a totally new direction. HUGE.

Dinosaurs died out many millennia ago and sadly, men are today’s dinosaurs… of course we won’t die out but we are having to accept, adapt and change our “DNA”. The metamorphosis needed has to occur a hell of a lot more quickly than what Darwin observed on the Galapagos.

darwin.png

Happily, I feel confident it will.

On the flip-side, I know that I… yes, even little me… contain some fragments of that outdated dinosaur DNA just as I’m filled with the brawny DNA that drives my attraction to the female gender and not my own male brethren.

Like you, I’m a product of the generation and the culture in which I was raised.

Adapting to new social realities is like trying to maintain currency with the advances in the software and apps that flood my tech world on a daily basis. Am I the last one left to own a paper printer? I can only absorb and redesign myself so much over a short time frame. For sure I feel the dogs snapping at my heels.

So maybe you’ll understand that while I’m fully supportive of the feminist movements zooming up in my rear view mirror – I condemn the crass stupidity of men where sexuality and harassment are concerned – I’m also fearful of what I say and where I step.

My funny-bone misfires. My explanations sometimes lack nuance or sensitivity. Those times I don’t step on a landmine with my words, generally mean that at best I’ve trod in some stinky shit on the pathway. Some choice, eh?

This is my daily reality now… my emotion, my motivation, my personal experience.

 

  • I’ve never lived a world of gender-linked cruelty or suffering… the infuriating or fearful experience of sexual pressure (not on a true physical or financial level anyways).
  • I’ve never been callously subjugated because of the tint of my skin.
  • I’ve never felt heartless persecution because of some God I do or don’t believe in.
  • I’ve never encountered a curb or a building I couldn’t enter because my legs weren’t capable of lifting me up.

discrimination-fish.jpg

That’s not my reality. Those aren’t my tears.

The best that I can do is to try to empathize and imagine those experiences by observing and understanding what others pass through.

It’s never enough but it’s all I have. This is what I want women to know when I mess up.

#MeToo and #TimesUp are movements I enthusiastically support but will not for a moment be a real part of and will never viscerally know from my own involvement.

So I’ll keep trying to understand.

300 posts down… I’ll continue (until I don’t) writing my weekly words despite the chaos and chatter between my ears… words, sentences, and paragraphs where I’ve chatted about positivity and inspiration and aspiration and music and movies and writing and exercise and creativity… and the lyrical poetry and wonder that exists between men and women… things that I believe to be true in my vision of the world.

… until My Times Up.

Thanks for joining me and the 300 club today.

woman and man

What’s This Blog About? A Breath in the Life …

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One minute he was sitting in his car … breathing … just like you and me, perhaps laughing, maybe scared, maybe just sitting quietly thinking about things.

Then, the next he was a blood-spattered mess like we might see in a TV cop drama. DEAD.

On one hand, in the pretend world, we watch for “entertainment”, while on the other hand we cry because it’s real life and we don’t like seeing real people killed.

I know I don’t. I feel the pain.

Today I harbour dark thoughts and nauseous feelings about a cat I hit with my car in Quesnel in 1981. Yeah, 1981… 35 years ago and it still bothers me.

bullet thru window

…………

People who don’t know that I have an alter-ego known as The Man on the Fringe and that I write a blog are bit surprised and curious when I mention it.

People don’t see these alter-egos, the “super-hero capes” and masks we don’t prominently wear in day-to-day life.

We all have aspects to our lives that many acquaintances have no insight into.

I write blogs, you raise equestrian horses or Golden Retrievers, the lady you met behind the deli counter supports a Syrian refugee family and is a massage therapist on weekends.

People almost always ask, “What is your blog about?”.

Well, initially they make snide comments like, “Are you sure it’s not The Man With The Fringes, or The Man in the Fridge?” before they ask the more serious question.

And it used to be the answer was simple. The words just flowed like warm blossom honey off my tongue.

  • Men and Women
  • Venus and Mars
  • XX and XY
  • Penis and Vagina
  • The Similarities and Confusions 

4982370-large

Now it’s harder to define. Partly it’s because a year and a half back, the FRINGE Man retired from his lab job.

37 years a lab tech.

For 37 years this white-coat occupation defined my life. I was an almost solitary man in a sea of women …

… a teaspoon of testosterone swirling in a large, steaming cauldron of estrogen.

A blood-testing laboratory served me up my own inner laboratory of gender observation.

It was a fun position and I enjoyed it.

And there were times I admittedly pushed the limits of acceptability … often approaching the edge of gender-inappropriateness before easing back on the throttle to stay just inside the lines of propriety.

Most times I think I succeeded in not jumping over the line, although, I confess a few might disagree. Veni Vidi Aberravi (I came I saw I flubbed).

Anyway… the lights have gone dark on that gender-based observational lab now.

It was just like this every day!!

It was just like this every day!!

So at this point in time I write about those things that interest me – just the stuff I feel inspired or bothered or excited by.

I’ve turned the microscope into my own navel, not the flesh-eating bacteria that once occupied my gaze.

For example, this week I’m bothered and saddened to hear that a 22 year-old local man whom I knew when he was a youngster – a child adopted from Nigeria to a local family here in Canada – was found murdered in a car a few days ago.

He was a cute, smiley, enthusiastic little guy who would come and watch his older brother play soccer alongside my son who was a teammate.

Almost a team mascot, he played the role of parent entertainer during unexciting moments of the match.

In my mind, I ask what events and forks in the road in the last dozen or so years brought this happy-go-lucky kid to become the victim of a “targeted” murder, as the police have described it.

What heat and pressure created an apparent lump of coal instead of the envisaged diamond?

Where had he been, what had he seen, who did he hang out with that brought him to his sad, premature, violent ending?

It reinforces in my mind that all of us change over years.

We encounter people and ideas and activities that shape who we are and where we’re going. It’s like global warming on a personal level. We barely recognize the glacial pace of change but it’s there nonetheless.

I’m a slightly different person today than I was 6 years ago. You are too.

I know the shape and dimension of who I am was altered when we spent 4 months living in Cusco, Peru those 6 years back. Learning Spanish and interacting with beautiful, generous local folks and enthusiastic, young international travellers moulded this lump of clay that I am.

Maybe it was eating guinea pig that brought about change, maybe it was the spiritual magic that emanates from Machu Picchu. I don’t know, it’s that insidious.

Every day we’re sculpted and whittled tiny-bit by tiny-bit, the canvas of our art transformed.

But that’s just an aside.

I’m writing now to explore my inner mind, to develop creative thought processes that influence not just my writing but my music and my personal interactions with the world in general. Each week is just a breath in my life.

I’ve lived most of my breaths by “rational” rules and I’m now at a time where I’m truly enjoying living my days more across the “creative” side of the tracks.

For 37 years it was pretty important to a lot of sick people that I never explored a sense of creative in my laboratory job. Creative thinking in such a scientific and rationality-based career would be dangerous, and … most likely illegal too.

Next week I’ll inhale a deep breath and another 1,000 words will exhale. Hopefully, I’ll unearth something creative buried inside.

I don’t know what that breath will look like, not yet …

… who knows … maybe I’ll write a whole blog post about the word:

SAVVOCITY

… just because it’s a cool word.

machu picchu

 

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

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

 

 

Please Don’t Die To Avoid ROUTINE …

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Lethal Routine

ROUTINE …

A neighbour of mine, Hal, died violently this week.

He awoke Wednesday as usual, settled his feet onto the early morning chill floor of his bedroom, and focused his sights on the forthcoming day. But come evening, unlike every other day, he didn’t sink into the comfortable bed that awaited.

Yes, it began a routine day for retired Hal, probably a lot like many other days in his 70 or so years. He kissed his wife, Maica, goodbye as she left for work, put on a routine shirt and pants, and prepared a routine breakfast. He slipped on his routine shoes.

The day’s schedule? Just a bit of routine home maintenance.

A couple of hours later, Dianne, our nearby neighbour, casually strolling past his house, spotted some feet sticking straight up in the air from the outside basement stairs like toothpicks in a jar.

Hal had fallen from a ladder perched inside his back stairs, then smashed his head on a concrete ledge. He laid hanging upside down dripping thick, crimson blood from a gaping wound, eyes open in a fixed, blank stare, until Dianne happened along.

Heart in throat, she called 911 while reassuring and comforting comatose Hal – tall, slender, quiet-spoken, shy, white-haired, sweet-smiled, Salvation Army member, dog-loving, just remarried 3 years ago … Hal.

It was a routine day that began in a similar fashion to the 25,000+ that preceded it.

But 24 hours later, Hal’s routine was no longer. Routine, like Hal, was dead.

New Things

This put me to thinking about the paths we roam … about life’s routines and hidden dangers.

ROUTINE is a word, that for me, is like MODERATION.

It lacks energy and spark. It lacks a clear meaning that paints a picture in our heads. When we use a word, everyone should know the story.

Of course I have routines, sometimes I even embrace and feel comforted by routines. There are routines, but then there are … routines.

The difference?

One type of routine is pursued as a way of becoming great at something that inflames an inner passion.

Example? I try to practice my guitar a minimum of 1/2 hour each day as a way of improving my skill, my ability to make pleasing harmony – something that plunges to my deepest inner core. It is a heady, floating feeling that accompanies improvement.

On the physical side of life, I routinely run a whack of miles each week to maintain my Sidney Crosby level of fitness (cough cough) but also to develop a slightly greater pace than the week previous. I’ve attended my friend Marsha’s yoga class for 7 or 8 years now to stretch my aging muscles so I can keep running for a few years still to come.

There are times when this self-improvement business feels like the other kind of cancerous routine I’ll discuss below, but it’s a necessary evil when we want to work towards mastery.

THIS is GOOD ROUTINE

I encourage you to build a strong base of these types of routines. Put in your 10,000 hours. Become a better pianist, golfer, chef, mathematician, stand-up comic, learn German. Work hard on those routines.

Sweat. Bleed. Cry. Vomit. Improve.

.

My mind rebels at stagnation. Give me problems, give me work, give me the most abstruse cryptogram, or the most intricate analysis, and I am in my own proper atmosphere. But I abhor the dull routine of existence. I crave for mental exaltation.

Arthur Conan Doyle

EXALTATION! It sounds religious, but it describes the feeling we get when we do something that excites us and we want to become better at.

 

And THEN …

… there’s the other ROUTINE …

People-Wait-Everyday-Health-Quotes-Inspirational-for-Kids

This other kind of routine I try to avoid like hair in my soup, or nails scratching down a blackboard. I don’t want to see or hear it.

No day should be a carbon copy of any other, should it?

Every day should have a little something special to say, as if it were as unique and notable as your birthday.

I struggle with this. I’m plagued by the idea of normalcy and routine. There’s a reason why some people respond to the question, “What’s new?” with “Oh, the same old, same old“. They’ve allowed the cancerous routine to set up shop. Are there sadder words to be spoken? Their eyes take on an appearance of something from The Walking Dead zombies.

Walking Dead Workout

Here’s an inspired way out of that Walking Dead routine of life….

When someone says this to me I want to grip them by the shoulders and shake them. PLEASE … find a path that makes your heart hum along with an enthusiastic beat.

I’ve said this before (maybe it’s a part of MY routine!), but if you don’t wake up on at least one Monday morning each month feeling an inner urge to skip along the sidewalk to work, then there’s a few cancer cells in your routine that might benefit from a dose of treatment.

Last Sunday, I pedalled my bike in the early morning sunshine along Highway 97, up the long, steep hill that leads to my little Okanagan town of Summerland and the Tim Hortons coffee shop perched at the top of the hill. It’s probably the last Sunday to ride a bike up to Tims as the weather grows cool, the day length shorter.

The bike ride to Tims used to be our Sunday “routine”. It needed a change-up.

It was displaced by another routine, a TRX exercise class with Andre, which then was displaced by another routine, a Boot Camp-style exercise class that a friend, Cara leads. It’s like a mixed salad that gets tossed about from time to time. One routine pushed aside by another routine by another routine. They all light a similar fire using a different spark.

Why do I rail against routine as a default style?

Death has a hold on my psyche and it shapes my life. At an early age, I was saddled with the deaths of aunts and uncles and then my parents. I hope you miss(ed) those milestones until much later in your journey.

The Grim Reaper is the fire that burns beneath my feet and reminds me that I have a finite number of days and hours to be – days and hours I can while away in a routine stupor or breathe in with verve and eagerness and fire and spirit.

I have sweet, kind Hal down the street to thank for giving me an unintended, mournful wake-up call this week.

It’s nice to know that even the unkindest chapter of life can contain a message of inspiration.

 

Calvin and Hobbes routine

 

How To Go Out At The Top While Growing A Pair …

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HAPPY SAD

I’m struggling to write this blog post this week.

Happy Sad Knees

 

You know that game we play with infants? Yeah, the one where we pull an open hand across our face – we start with a big smile and then … as our hand slowly passes over our face the smile turns magically into a sad sad frown.

That is the week that was.

Normally each week, I unearth a blog topic that intrigues me and the words begin flowing slowly and then the current of the river picks up in pace and rhythm. The muse kicks in and it just happens.

For me, this is a jumbled week of emotions, both positive and negative. It’s all about departures.

There are doors and windows flinging open and slamming shut for me in the windy maelstrom that is life.

As I write, someone close to me is edging silently, unstoppingly, towards the exit door of life. Cancer is having its way and it’s not pretty.

Do you have one of those people in your life that you can’t believe will ever die?

They’ve always seemed invincible, and like a 250 year-old majestic cedar in the rainforest, there is no wind or lightning storm that can cause them to topple.

Until they do, suddenly, tragically, mysteriously.

All that’s left after the fall is an ugly hole and a ragged scar in the earth until the ache slowly subsides and healing begins to take hold – eventually all returns to a new normal, a normal that never quite feels like the old normal.

Cut Cedar Stump

In the same week as this happens, my long – yes, 25 crazy years long – “planned retirement” has taken place. My co-workers happily razz me as I’ve threatened to retire since I was 30 years old.

Anyway, after 37 years as a medical lab technologist, I’ve chosen to push the employment door open and leap into the thin air … thin because there’s no longer a bi-weekly parachuting paycheque providing a security cloud to reassuredly float upon. Thin too, because it’s a major upheaval to the world I’ve always known.

I said in an earlier post that the only thing we have to do is die.

All we have to do is … die.

Everything else is optional, a choice, a decision that makes us think about where we want to be and where we want to go.

It sounds simple on the surface and utterly rational, but making choices is really one of life’s more difficult assignments.

I don’t want to expire in my office chair … either literally or figuratively. I’m not the drag-him-out-by-his-boots kind of guy.

Workwise, I’ve been expiring little-by-little as the IT role I fill loses the challenges it once held. A few years ago I woke up each morning with enthusiastic thoughts about the problems I would conquer and the great feelings associated with overcoming the blockages.

But the demanding obstructions grew fewer as I began to master the part (I guess I was approaching 10,000 hours of practice!). I slowly began to give off those fouls smells of stagnation – I still enjoyed going to the office, but now mainly for the social outlet of the wonderful people I worked with.

You and I have been conditioned from our earliest infant breaths to go to elementary school, high school, college/university, get a job, marry and settle down, have kids, grandkids, then … lie down on the sofa watching the 10 o’clock news and sucking in our last inhalation … The Story of A Life.

But it’s just one story and just one path.

Make it your story and not the one handed to you like it was the only card in the deck. I’m pulling another card from the deck. You’ll be hearing more about this in my blog posts as I stumble along.

YellowBrickRoadFork

There are forks in the road, and the right decision is taking the fork that you want and not the want being pressed on you by those around you. This is harder than it looks and it’s subtle.

What does your heart say?

What does your stomach tell you?

If you wake up and don’t remember the last time you felt like skipping to work on Monday morning, then listen very carefully because the signs are whispering in your ear.

Sure, the fear is there too. But inside of your fear is a message. It’s a cry for change.

Hear the cry. Feel the tears.

Find a creative way to take a step beyond –  where you reach forward, as if stretching precariously out over the Grand Canyon and suck in the rarified air that so few have sampled.

If and when you accept the fear and move forward anyway despite the risks, you have the best junkie high ever.

skydiving

I’m starting my new life this coming week as I absorb the painful passing of someone I love.

The only thing I have to do is die.

And when the day comes that I’m lying in my deathbed, I want to know that I loved and feared and lived.

The emotions – the good, the bad, and the ugly – have all been accepted and embraced. I’m growing a pair.

For better. For worse…

… ’til death I depart.