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Surprises, Epiphanies, And Seeds.

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seeds

In 1977 I had a life changing-, life expanding-epiphany.

The epiphany? I had choices. WE have choices. 

Seeds.

I had just recently left my teen years, turning 20 years old, a freshly minted college grad… thick, dark hair and a future of limitless potential, but…

… I didn’t know that I had choices. Really?

I knew there were boxes I could open that contained minor differences, but the general course of my life was pre-determined as if I were some young Amish kid.

Pre-determined similarly to 50 years earlier when girls had free choice to be anything they wanted, you know, either… teacher or nurse. Woo Hoo!

Choice?

Not real, life changing choices where I raised the jib and held the rudder. Choices that let me contain and control the wind.

Foolishly, I didn’t know that until I picked up the phone one late September morning and a lady on the other end of the line said:

“Larry, this is Marg Ramsden in Yellowknife. We received your resume for a lab job and we’d like you to come and work for us.”

Yellowknife! Yellowknife?

Did I really send a resume to Yellowknife? What was I thinking? Yellowknife?

Arctic-ice-cold-dark-winter-night-isolated-Eskimo-territory Yellowknife? (remember, Eskimo was a happily acceptable term for the Inuit in 1977).

Then… I was offered another lab position that very same day in the Hamilton hospital lab Blood Bank where I had interned.

That was the box I was conditioned to expect.

Obviously an easy decision, right? At least I thought so.

Nice big city 600-bed hospital job crossmatching blood vs. tiny cold remote northern 72-bed hospital where I’d cover all the lab departments (hospital labs usually encompass Blood Bank, Haematology, Microbiology, Histology and Biochemistry).

Why would I trade the familiar homey scent of Hamilton smog and my “Oskey Wee Wee” Tiger Cat football team for belligerent black flies, murderous mosquitoes and -45C temperatures?

Then I surprised myself.

Yup, there can be unexpected earth-tremors along our journey.

Surprise. Life changing.

Yes, I burned away the easy choice and nervously put myself onboard a Pacific Western Airlines (PWA) Boeing 737 in Toronto that touched down first in Edmonton, then in Yellowknife, on a chill October Arctic evening as lovely tiny snowflakes fell.

I was so isolated and naive in my little world that I had tried to book a flight on TWA (TransWorld Airlines) instead of PWA … the TWA agent had no idea what the hell a “Yellowknife” was… I had no idea what the hell a “PWA” was.

My palace was shattered like a beach sandcastle hit by a rogue wave, but I only realized that in retrospect.

That was the first seed.

crumbling palace

As I slowly grew acclimatized and comfortable in this foreign northern life, my slightly older roommate kept talking about the great time he’d had travelling throughout Europe a couple years back. I would never do that. Never.

Of course, my roommate did a lot of crazy things like drinking an entire bottle of beer while standing on his head at parties.

I’d never try that either. NEVER.

But the seed was planted.  No, not THAT seed! I’ve never quaffed a beer while standing on my head.

Head stand beer.jpg

And so, two years later in 1979 I backpacked my way throughout Western Europe. (a few years ago, I wrote about an unusual event from that trip in another post.)

Another seed.

That was a surprise. Never ever dreamed of doing that until I did.

It was slowly dawning on me that the choices in my life were mine to make if I only opened my head to possibility… oh yeah, that and… conquering the fear factor, just like I conquered (OK, conquered may be too strong a word… I edged by…) the fear factor in jumping out of an airplane a couple of weeks ago.

I’ve enjoyed gardening, sowing and tending beautiful flowers and vegs and fruits since I was a wee gopher. I know, weird kid!

Once you become a gardener and can finally see that seeds are what grow into luscious plants that nourish us, well, you begin paying attention and looking for seeds to blow into your yard.

Some seeds turn out to be weeds that are ugly and beg to be pulled and composted. Out, damned spot! out, I say!

But then other seeds land lightly, push through the fresh earthy humus and put on an amazing display like you’ve never ever seen.

These are the seeds and plants you tenderly water and provide nutrients so that artistic natural beauty is of your own making.

Choices are the seeds that we can select to make into our life art.

Not every seed is a ravishing stunner, a scented rose, a splendiferous bougainvillea, but we can’t always tell the beauties from the rejects until we give them a try.

As John Denver sang, “… some days are diamonds, some days are stone…“… or why not a bit more bluntly from Mary Chapin Carpenter, “… sometimes you’re the windshield, sometimes you’re the bug…”

A tiny example? Sure. More recently, a small seed that’s become a beautiful bloom for me has been tutoring a young Syrian fellow.

While he thanks me profusely, believing that I’m giving him a big jump in his new calmer world in Canada, in reality, we’re both gardeners that are enjoying the fruitful benefits of expanding our worlds.

The laughter we share when he knows he’s being mischievous in English and whispers the “F” word with a sly grin reminds me of how interconnected and similar we all are despite the huge differences.

I’ve had lots of surprises and epiphanies and seeds that drifted into my sightlines over the years.

My eyes may be growing older, but in some surprising ways, I can see better now than I ever have in my life.

Baby-With-Funny-Glasses

Better Living Through Invisibility and Time Travel…

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black and white swans

How can you turn bloodthirsty ugly Black Swans into beautiful iridescent White Swans?

The forces of evil (Black Swans) and goodness (White Swans) do battle, each character standing on one of your shoulders, glaring viciously across the divide.

A duel to the depths.

Invisibility vs Time Travel

THEN – Young next door neighbour Gary and my titillated wee self – baby woodies in our pants – gleefully reflected on invisibility while perusing the X-Ray Specs ads in Batman comic books:

We could sit in girls’ changerooms and bedrooms and watch them undress.”

INVISIBILITY. The force of evil and sexual vice.

xray specs.jpg

Most boys, yes, young and old alike, want to see ladies naked.

I’m sorry, but we can’t help it. It’s in our DNA.

Do you think the porn industry is a fringe element? Nope!

The internet gives us (kind of) Invisibility. 

NOW – Me, reflecting on invisibility while watching the Trump Channel (CNN):

“I’d sit in the oval office laughing in sadness and pity at the smoky haze of profanities and expletives fired by Donald at the poor helpless waifs Sean Spicer and Kellyanne Conway or any other sycophantic lackey that wormed woefully across the carpet to his desk. And each time he berated anyone? I’d sadistically pull one shocking orange hair from his scalp so his pain reflected theirs’.”

INVISIBILITY. The force of goodness and atonement.

………………………..

THEN – Me, as a young man, reflecting on Back-to-the-Future time travel:

I’d travel into the future and find all of the businesses that skyrocketed from penny status to mega-billion dollar success with huge stock market gains. Then I’d come back and plow every cent I could get my hands on into these sure winners!

TIME TRAVEL. The force of evil and greed.

NOW – Me, reflecting on coulda/shoulda/woulda Time Travel:

I’d go back in time to 1973 and, knowing more about healthy lifestyles, equipped with some CPR and rudimentary life-saving skills, I’d help my Mom look after herself better- stop smoking, lose weight- and failing that, perhaps keep her heart beating a few minutes longer – as she laid dying from a heart attack on our family driveway – until proper medical personnel could revive and maintain her heartbeat and breathing.

TIME TRAVEL. The force of goodness and mercy.

Back to the future.png

Time travel and invisibility are like super-power bribes offered by the stars.

It’s intoxicating, that alluring possibility of changing things, making things better – better for ourselves, better for others, better for the world.

The forces of good and evil, with or without the interference of religion, can assume their roles like characters in a Broadway play, or a Faustian bargain. Which road should we travel?

 

……………………

What ever made me think of these things this week? Thanks for asking.

I was meeting for a tutoring session with my young East-Indian student friend the other day at the library – as part of his requirement for passing his IELTS (International English Language Testing System) exam he is required to talk – intelligently – for 3 minutes about a topic of the interviewer’s choice.

If you could choose the super-power of either time travel or invisibility, which would you select and why?”

This was the practice question I asked Ramesh. He’s damned good at this stuff. Usually.

To Ramesh, it was merely an academic question, a practice session, but I was interested to see how his mind worked and where he might take this idea.

Initially, he looked a bit stunned at the question, struggling with the proposition, the notion that such a feat was remotely possible.

I’m guessing that his cultural and educational background in the Punjab region of India had never addressed the airy concepts of imagination and head-play.

It’s pretty obvious that he had never read the story Anne of Green Gables – the ebullient orphan waif whose carrot-haired head floats on wings in the imaginary clouds more than her feet are on terra firma. Reality is less real than her inner visions and dream life.

Behind Ramesh’s dark eyes, I saw the question coursing through his mind… This isn’t something that could ever happen, so why would you ask me this nonsense? 

OK“, he said finally as he gave me that intriguing, yet charming head waggle that only Indian people possess.

I’d go back in time and save my country from the corruption that made things bad in the past for the people around me.” He explained the back story and gave me a lesson in Indian politics, succinctly and in 3 minutes.

He chose time travel and the White Swan force of goodness and remedy.

I smiled. I like Ramesh. His heart has a sympathetic rhythm.

Black swans are an unstoppable force. We can’t predict them. We can’t prevent them.

… who saw 9/11 coming and how it would change our world in countless ways… who saw the bullets that stole the breath away from Lincoln, Archduke Ferdinand, Luther King, Kennedy or Ghandi… who saw the tsunami that swallowed the coastlines of Indonesia and Thailand, snuffing out a quarter of a million loves in minutes… who saw the butterfly whose flapping ephemeral wings caused a momentous shift in your life…

But sometimes those real unstoppable forces – the black swans – need to meet an imaginative unmovable object – the white swans – invisibility and time travel… if only in our mortal minds and starry starry dreams.

Starry Night

 

Passions and Reflections …

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Ruby:  Every piece of this is man’s bullshit. They call this war “a cloud over the land” but they made the weather and then they stand in the rain and say “Shit, it’s rainin’!”

COLD MOUNTAIN (Movie)

cold mountain

Certain movies come to have extra meaning for us.

Stories of longing, or joy, or sorrow, or zany moments…

It’s because they reflect ourselves back to us as if we’re standing buck-naked in front of a mirror… we realize, “This is MY story” … sometimes we don’t even realize why we’re feeling this …

Or we watch longingly and tell ourselves, “I wish this was MY story“…

And of course there are many that we view and genuflect, “Thank God this ISN’T my story.”

I think this is why I’m not a big fan of sci-fi or horror movies (But of course I’ll be going to see the new Star Wars!). I don’t see my reflection anywhere in the picture.

And most times I definitely don’t want to see myself there. I don’t feel a personal connection to having a spaceship battle or slashing someone’s throat, spattering pools of hot crimson blood. They can be fine for an hour or two of escapism and entertainment, but they won’t find a place on my favourite flick list.

Movies – when I stop munching popcorn long enough to pay attention –  are often my mirror and where the reflection unearths my passions and what the future holds.

Quotefancy-12466-3840x2160

Throughout life, passion is a result of struggle.

For the young, the struggle is to attain an identity and become a functioning adult.

For the middle-aged like myself, the struggle is to find meaning whilst a blanket of heightened sense of mortality envelopes us.

Meaning and purpose for these years should revolve around issues bigger than which buffet to patronize, or which toilet paper is softest on my bum.

…………………

There are light fluffy Christmas flakes, tiny little daytime shooting stars wafting from the grey sky outside my window as I write this.

Little pillows of cotton fluff adorn the tips of the towering Ponderosa Pines and I can hear chickadees chirping through the chilly air as they forage for seeds to keep their systems running warm and smooth.

December, with it’s shorter, colder days is a perfect month to reflect and take stock …

To me, a balanced, healthy person needs to look after a number of areas within their life to sustain what we might describe as happiness, a calm reflection of what is important to them.

We can wake up each morning and allow life to happen to us, wearing a blindfold while teetering on a cliff’s edge, waiting for a sharp breeze to send us plummeting …

… or we can arise with a determination to shape our direction with our eyes wide open and bright, skipping confidently along the rim of the Grand Canyon, seeking ideas and plans for a vigorous, well-lived life.

Life should be a little like doing core exercises at the gym. It’s not always obvious that as we pile on the crunches, strengthening the middle, it supports all of our other regions so they perform at their best.

In this life that is MY movie, my core … here are just a few of my miscellaneous December life reminders and reflections:

  • look after my own well-being – if you always give those around you the oxygen mask first, what good are you when you’re the first to die?
  • writing – helps me discover the inside me that hides away, even from myself. Life is filled with mysteries, none so great as who we ourselves are.
  • creativity – I have to nurture the seeds and persist in writing, music, cooking, anything that requires imagination and deeper thought. Not every moment, every attempt produces a work of fine art, but fine art will never appear unless my bum appears in the seat to make the attempt. Over and over.
  • investing – the life I live and person I choose to be is not going to come about unless I can sustain a livelihood. Taking time to read and digest, and then make good judgments about investments is critical.
  • physically – life itself is under threat if the physical body isn’t maintained. Our ability to function and thrive in daily life rests on a healthy, fit-based lifestyle.
  • finding growth – the mind needs its workout as much as the physical body. Learning and growing by experiencing new and unique challenges gives us verve and enthusiasm.
  • spiritual peace – a calm place to breathe and reflect – whether through religion or meditation or yoga or laughter – supports and cushions each difficulty we face. Life isn’t ever going to be easy no matter the amount of $$ in our bank accounts, so a steady base carries us past the trials we inevitably encounter
  • love – family and friends are the personal glue that holds our lives together. The Christmas spirit is alive in each of us when love is a part of our days.

Passion of many colours, textures and flavours is what makes my heart beat loudly in my chest.

If Cold Mountain‘s Ruby is right and “Every piece of this is man’s bullshit

… isn’t it reassuring to know it’s bullshit of our own making … finding our own joys in the days we have, choosing to be a true reflection of the person that looks back at us in the mirror?

rockwell_mirror

Choosing My Own Path…

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shame 2

THERAPY TIME!

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

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

I was:

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

Of course I wasn’t perfect.

I was also:

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

better than you

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

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

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

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

There is wisdom to be found in the Indian prayer:

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

Understanding

Understanding.

Yup … Understanding.

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

Whaddy mean? “Get” what?

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

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

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

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

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

But I’m OK with that, because …

I’ve Chosen My Own Path.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lucy Charlie Brown

 

 

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.

 

 

The 1,000 Hour Rule

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10000 hours

I’m just too ADHD for Malcolm Gladwell’s renowned 10,000 hour rule of mastering something … ANYTHING.

Sure, it worked for the Beatles and for Bill Gates and countless prominent others – but like American Senator Lloyd Bentsen said to Dan Quayle during the 1988 vice-presidential debate:

I knew Jack Kennedy. Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you’re no Jack Kennedy“.

And I am no Paul McCartney or Steve Jobs or Margaret Mead.

These are all extraordinary people who bled buckets of blood and sweat over years and years to pursue and perfect just one special thing.

Songwriting. The Personal Computer. Anthropology.

paul-mccartney

They focused their entire beings on their passion with unbounded dedication. It’s bloody admirable and I celebrate their accomplishments. It’s like they won gold medals in the Life Olympics.

But for this Man on the Fringe, anything I do for more than an hour or two at a time becomes a burden … yes, a job. Even my laboratory job that I enjoy becomes a job after 4 hours at my desk, so I’m packing it in in two weeks and indulging my ADHD side.

I accept and sometimes even celebrate that I’ll never be a master of anything.  Huh, you say? Why?

I know Mr. Miyagi would be disappointed in me… wax on, wax off… oh, go catch flies with chopsticks Mr. Miyagi!

I’m resolving to be a mini-master using the 1,000 hour rule.

Yup. 1,000 hours.

One thousand hours is no small feat.

Concentrated effort that is expended for that time frame will take you or me to a level well above the norm – whether its playing violin, sinking golf putts, or painting landscapes. It just won’t make us Anne Sophie Mutter, or Tiger Woods, or Salvador Dali.

Let’s put 1,000 hours into context ’cause it’s pretty meaningless when I just put it out there as a number.

A personal example: I’ve been writing this blog once each week (more or less) for a little more than 2 years now.

On average, I guesstimate that I spend 5-6 hours perched wiggling and squirming in front of my keyboard for each post. It’s not easy to avoid the lure of porn for such long periods. Modern man wasn’t made this way …

Putting all of my grade-school math skills into play tells me that 52 weeks x 2 years x an average of 5.5 hours… equals…

572 hours

572 hrs2

This means it’s going to take me about 182 weeks of writing these posts to reach 1,000 hrs of writing. That’s three and a half years of consistent week-in week-out blog writing at a pace of 5 and a half hours a week.

That’s a time frame I can live with. I hope – and feel confident – that my writing skills will continually improve at this pace AND it lets me do a bunch of other things I love to do all at the same time.

Take those same numbers and plug them into whatever your great interest or passion is: piano, knitting, dumpster diving, baton twirling, soap making, archery, Russian lessons, disco dancing … the list is endless but the point remains the same.

You can become really good at a number of things in just a few years with some reasonable focus and effort.

No SuperHuman skills necessary.

Man in leotard

See… anyone can do it …

If I was trying to achieve the 10,000 hour level of accomplishment, I would need to multiply my daily efforts by 2 to 10 times in order to meet the MASTER level within 4-25 years.

This is why I could never be a great entrepreneur. The passion and focus needed is not a part of my internal makeup … it just isn’t.

There’s something beautiful about doing something for the first time.

If I tried to dedicate 10,000 hours to merely one area of interest, I’d be sailing away at the end of my years with many fewer life firsts – and there are so many first adventures I don’t want to miss.

So … Paul, John, George and Ringo’s troubles are all far away with their “Yesterday”‘s fame. Bill Gates can feel relaxed sitting by his fireplace knowing I will never replace his “Windows”.

Dear Mr. Gladwell:

I’m only 1/10th the person that you write about in your excellent book (Outliers) but I’m content knowing that I can live a great life without being GREAT.

There will be no gold medal for this guy but I’ll stand on the podium all the same – silver medallion swinging in the breeze from my neck – with a smile just as big as if I was the winner.

That is, if I can fit the medal presentation in between German language class and creating a fantastic Chicken Kiev a la Julia Child .

Sincerely,

Man On The Fringe

Dilbert 10000 hr rule

What’s It Gonna Be Girls, 50 SHADES or BITCHES? You Can’t Have it Both Ways…

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Today’s WORDS OF WISDOM:

Before sex, a man isn’t thinking clearly and a woman is thinking clearly.

After sex, it reverses. The man is thinking clearly and a woman isn’t.

 

Ana and Christian

Prepare yourself … Christian and Ana are coming to the Silver Screen …

50 Shades of Grey Moments:

Anastasis Steele: “You’re a sadist?”
Christian Grey: “I’m a Dominant.” His eyes are a scorching gray, intense.
“What does that mean?” I whisper.
“It means I want you to willingly surrender yourself to me, in all things.”
I frown at him as I try to assimilate this idea.
“Why would I do that?”
“To please me,” he whispers as he cocks his head to one side, and I see a ghost of a smile.
Please him! He wants me to please him! I think my mouth drops open. Please Christian Grey. And I realize, in that moment, that yes, that’s exactly what I want to do. I want him to be damned delighted with me. It’s a revelation.

…………

“It slips down my throat, all seawater, salt, the sharp tang of citrus, and fleshiness…ooh. I lick my lips, and he’s watching me intently, his eyes hooded.”

Put that thought away, she’s just eating oysters!

 

Why Men Love Bitches Moments:

“Relationship Principle 1:
In romance, there’s nothing more attractive to a man than a woman who has dignity and pride in who she is.” 

…………

“That’s the big picture, your happiness. And health. You should never care what a man thinks of you — until he demonstrates to you that he cares about making you happy. If he isn’t trying to make you happy, then send him back from “whence” he came because winning him over will have no benefit. At the end of the day, happiness, joy…and yes…your emotional stability…those comprise the only measuring stick you really need to have.”

Why Men Love Bitches

 

Are you feeling and smelling the slimy contradiction here?

Sometimes when I’m at work I sit in on coffee breaks and listen to my female co-workers chatter excitedly about their latest reading conquest. It’s fun to be the boy-fly-on-the-wall and catch the girly gossip.

Last year, the long white table surrounded by floor to ceiling windows and overlooking the busy Kelowna street was filled with talk of the lady, or Mommy porn prose of E.L. James. You may have heard of this little sensation – 50 Shades of Grey.

I’m not sure I’ve met a woman yet who hasn’t read at least a part of this beyond-bodice-ripping book.

It surprised me that non-street walking women were feeling quite comfortable admitting they had read the book (or the full series). After all, where was the timidity and reticence of the good girls to admit they were enjoying porn BDSM literature?

Could it be that women have come out of their sexual-inhibition closets?

women-reading-fifty-shades-of-grey

 

This year I’m cocking my ear to the sounds of discussion over another popular book called Why Men Love Bitches.

Bitches, written by Sherry Argov, is like the anti-Christ retort to the 50 Shades Bible, a liberated and strong view of how a woman should want to be treated by a man, and where to bury him if he crosses the bitch-acceptability line.

When I first saw the title to the book, I thought to myself: “Oh, come on … What man loves a bitch? What idiot wrote something stupid like that?

We all know a bitch or two – a spiteful or unpleasant woman – a witch, a shrew, a hellcat, yeah – A Bee-OTCH!

Do you remember how I tricked you by using the word SEX in last week’s blog title? Well, this author hurls out the word BITCH in order to trick us into reading her book.

It’s sneaky deception – she ain’t talking ’bout bitches like you and I know bitches.

But could she sell a book that was titled Why Men Love Strong, Confident, Independent Women?…BLAHHHHH! Boring!

And yet, this is exactly the type of women that she writes 272 pages about. The sensible, strong, sexy, charming, independent, loving woman that yes … many, if not most, men LOVE.

There are no perfumed hints in Why Men Love Bitches of the 50 Shades Ana that comes to thrive on submission to Christian’s every physical and emotional desire:

Christian lays it out to Ana:

 The ownership thing, that’s just terminology and goes back to the principle of obeying. It’s to get you into the right frame of mind, to understand where I’m coming from. And I want you to know that as soon as you cross my threshold as my submissive, I will do what I like to you. You have to accept that and willingly. That’s why you have to trust me. I will fuck you, any time, any way, I want – anywhere I want. I will discipline you, because you will screw up. I will train you to please me.

CFMs on face

Give it back to him Ana!

SUBMISSIVE or BITCH?

Strangely, I’m pretty sure the reading audience for each of these books is similar.

What the hell is going on here … this doesn’t make sense, does it?

Trying to understand the wickedly confusing female psyche, I made myself read both books – such torture for a man to read about explicit sex with beautiful women.

Obviously, I’m now an expert peeking over the other side of the fence knowing exactly what women REALLY want in their men and relationships.

And the short answer is? I have NO IDEA!

Actually, that’s not true. I do have an idea, so hear me out.

Our GREY girl Ana is subservient and plays the submissive princess in the Grey castle where he holds the economic clout and other levers of control. Eventually, like a hostage with Stockholm Syndrome, Ana comes to love Christian and his sexy wicked ways.

The BITCH girl is no one’s bitch. She pays her own way and supports her own castle. As the BITCH says: Work=Money=The ability to choose the way you want to be treated=Personal Control=Dignity. 

These are two hugely popular books with enormous numbers of (predominantly) female followers. And yet, two very different views of how men and women relate on a personal and intimately sexual level.

Contradictory? Yep. But it comes down to this:

We love fantasy as a way of spicing up our lives.

We daydream, we nightdream, we fantasize, we blush inside and conjure up erotic images that we share with absolutely no one – I mean no one – in our real-life world.

It’s a little sweet, chocolate treat we give to ourselves to make our sometimes daily drudgery of working and shopping and cooking and cleaning and vanilla sex tolerable.

50 Shades, like many movies we adore, floats those forbidden fantasies that dwell down deep upwards to the surface and scratches the nagging itch of our inner kinky beings.

But even fantasy-driven people come back to their steady, earthly selves when reading BITCHES, knowing that life – REAL LIFE – is about respect and equality.

Think of it this way:

  • 50 SHADES OF GREY is the Lusty Lord of the Rings trilogy, Star Wars of Sex, Indiana Jones of Intercourse.
  • WHY MEN LOVE BITCHES is the PBS documentary NOVA or Nature of Things or Home Improvement episode.

Sex Wars

 

Before a woman starts into 50 Shades, she’s a rational, documentarian bitch, a librarian with glasses and hair tied up prim and proper.

But find her a couple of chapters into Ana and Christian Grey’s story and the BITCH bondage of her updo transposes into the 50 Shades bondage of wrists and erotically lustful unbounded submission.

It’s a beautiful contradiction, and maybe you CAN have it both ways.

………………..

One last thought.

I can’t resist pointing out the appalling writing contained within 50 Shades. Who can write this stuff and STILL sell a billion copies??:

Ana: “And from a very tiny, underused part of my brain – probably located at the base of my medulla oblongata near where my subconscious dwells – comes the thought: He’s here to see you.”

 

 

 

 

10 Things I Would Take if My House Was Burning

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willferrellstreaking

HELP!! My house is on fire … ma’am, my eyes are up here!

Do you ever have that unsettling dream where your house is on fire?

You’re hugging the floor – thick, grey, impenetrable smoke surrounding you and clogging up your breathing passages. You crawl through the acrid lung-choking miasma and eventually – thankfully – run shivering into the street … and then you look down …

Naked … totally naked.

You’re vulnerable, you’re cold, and you’re exposed, buck naked just like when you first squeezed out into the world.

You can feel the eyes of your neighbours peering through the smoke, boring into you with pity and perhaps just a touch of jealousy at your incredibly toned body, “Wow, those clothes hide an amazing set of abs, and look at those biceps.”  – look, I have to get some enjoyment from this scenario.

The dream is scary (I hope that it has only been a dream in your life)  and it gives you a panicky feeling inside, wondering what you would possibly save if you could rescue a few items along your escape route.

You will never be put in a situation ever again that requires you to assess your life and what’s important to you more than at this moment. Your life flashes before your eyes and what do you see? What do you think? Is it a pretty picture?

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My dream at 10...

My dream at 10…

 

You know, when I was 10 years old my greatest purpose in life was to score goals in ice hockey … that was what was important to me.

I didn’t have a bucket list, or a long set of aspirations that guided me through each day.

My goal was to put a hockey puck into the back of my opponent’s net… that’s it. It was both fun and serious to me.

If my childhood home had lit up with angry hot flames, I would have saved my treasured little red velvet-covered autograph book with Gordie Howe’s signature, my hockey stick, and our family’s black and white water-spaniel Nipper.

Somewhere along the way, I left my childhood innocence behind – perhaps when my Mom died when I was 15 – and other things rose in importance. And now that I’m practically – well, let’s just say – aged like a fine cheese, my goals and the things that are important to me have changed, just as they have, no doubt, for you.

There was a book published in 2012 called The Burning House that interviews a host of people about what they would rescue from an inferno.

It’s fascinating to read and see what items others would salvage with only a moment’s notice. It’s filled with happy and often poignant impressions and desires. There’s such a slim hairline of difference between laughter and weeping sometimes.

the-burning-house

Now, imagine with me, in a metaphorical sort of way, that it wasn’t your house but your WHOLE LIFE that was on fire and you had to decide what comes with you and what goes.

Your life has just crumbled because of a meltdown of purpose and meaning.

And some omnisciently shitty devil has given you the “Sophie’s Choice” of deciding what about you will remain in the little suitcase that contains who you are.

People will often think about the tangible items they would carry from an inferno, but this blog post is a fusion of the fiery physical and the blazing soulful.

So right here, right now, I’m listing the important things, physical or psychological, that I would toss over my shoulder and drag out of the holocaust of the burning embers that threatened to destroy me. Think about it yourself … what would be on your list?

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 10 Things I Would Take if My House Was Burning

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1. My support and love system, my wife and my kids.

I’ve been so fortunate to find a stable base to springboard my life upon.

How can we pursue our objectives and desires, when the sub-structure to our personal self is crumbling or rotting? It’s the most basic of human needs and yet for so many, the most unattainable.

I’ve said before that I don’t believe in luck, but this is one area of my life that comes closest to changing my mind.

2. Guitar

Funny, but I almost feel like including this under #1 above.

My guitar (Martin DX1AE) has been a lifelong friend and comforter since I first picked one up at about the age of 10 (probably when my hockey stick first began to wane in importance).

John Denver wrote a song years ago called This Old Guitar that sort of sums up the deeper connection we can sometimes feel with the objects in our lives. Music connects us intimately with our emotions, drawing them to the surface where we find and embrace the laughter or tears or anger.

I play a lot of different instruments (none really well), but the guitar always charms its way into my arms like a long lost lover who always returns.

JimandLarry_Play_Music

Me and pal Jimmy channeling Simon and Garfunkle …

3. Courage to try new things.

If I had to wake up each morning and live life like in the movie Groundhog Day, each day lived over and over just the same, I would jump off the nearest rooftop.

A life lived repetitive, routine and colourless? No thanks. New opportunities, new experiences, new challenges, make my heart beat with just a touch more enthusiasm and spark.

That first bite of guinea pig in the high Andes Mountains of Cusco, Peru? Barbecued bull’s testicle in Athens, Greece? Drinking snake wine in Suzhou, China? Nibbling on Ptarmigan in the Canadian Arctic? Cod cheeks and tongues in Newfoundland?

Sure, maybe a bit unnerving, but who in the world would turn away and miss these chances? Well, not me at least. Mmmmmmm …

4. My memories

It’s a sign of my age that past memories are now as important to relive and enjoy as are the things to look forward to. Life is a rolling collection of experiences and moments: good, bad and indifferent.

The fond memories that sit in the rocking chair in the back corner of my mind are like a favourite TV show or movie that I can watch over and over, savouring and enjoying. These memories have a script only I could have written.

It scares me inside to think of a day when age ravages my brain cells so those memories could be locked behind a door that I’ve lost the key to.

5. Strawberry Jam and Ketchup

It’s often the really little things in life that mean the most to us.

There’s absolutely no way that my life would be as rich, sweet, and full, without the sugary and salty condiments that take the bland and boost it up a notch. A bagel or slice of buttery toast without strawberry jam? A french fry crying out for ketchup? Gotta have it … BAM!!

6. Courage to look stupid, no matter what.

It took me a LOT of years and internal embarrassment to reach the point where my father’s voice wasn’t whispering to me, “What will the neighbours think?”.

The voice now murmurs, “Larry, it just doesn’t matter.”

This blog is evidence of my growth here. I could never have revealed some of the (many) shortcomings I possess so publically in my earlier years. I like this aspect of not being afraid to be seen naked.

You may not like my new-found naked soul, but I figure that is no longer my hangup.

7. Passport

I’m Canadian by birth, and I’m also a curious traveller on this earth of the human race. But to be and to stay an explorer, we all need this little magic book that convinces stern-looking uniformed people behind glass windows all over the world to let us through their doors.

Why anyone would have a look at the photo of me inside the front cover and still allow me to pass is beyond me, but it eventually works its charm every time.

8. James Taylor “Gorilla”  /  Carole King “Rhymes and Reasons”Albums

Certain singers, certain songs define us for some reason.

I’d guess that most of us are seduced by the music of our teen years when so much personal tumult, excitement, and change is occurring. This pair of singers carried me through the journey of adolescence to adulthood and thankfully have somehow stayed around for the rest of the ride.

These are the early albums of their’s that soothed and charmed and reminded me that “You’ve Got A Friend” .

James and Carole

James and Carole

 

9. Imagination/Creativity

I talk a lot about using our inner creative powers to enrich and learn about ourselves.

I’m in constant awe of those who create – movies, books, music, art of all kinds, business solutions, personal connections.

Every one of us houses enormous potential to dream, envision and create. Beauty abounds in life when the creative spark is kindled.

This just has to come along. Escaping the fire that destroyed everything around me would bring out the need to create and re-imagine my  life.

10. Positive Attitude and Smile

Who are the people that you enjoy being around? Who makes you smile? Who makes you feel passionate and enthusiastic?

For me, it’s those surrounding me with a way of finding positivity, not 100% of the time, that’s too phony. But given the challenges of making it through the good times and not-so-good times, the ability to dig down and find something good, something worthwhile, something positive from the sweetest red roses and the rankest grey ashes is the greatest gift of all.

I want to be around those people … I want to be one of those people.

………………….

Now if you’ll excuse me, it’s time to wake up and put on my clothes for the day.

Yes, I was naked this entire time since I opened my suitcase and exposed the items I would carry next to me through the hungry flames. You’re OK with that, right? You can breathe again, it’s over now …

Fortunately, my nighttime dreams were just a mirage, ghostly images that remind me of the ingredients of my inner spirit.

……………..

Smile, though your heart is aching
Smile, even though it’s breaking
When there are clouds in the sky
you’ll get by
If you smile through your fear and sorrow
Smile and maybe tomorrow
You’ll see the sun come shining through
for you

Light up your face with gladness
Hide every trace of sadness Although a tear may be ever so near
That’s the time you must keep on trying
Smile what’s the use of crying
You’ll find that life is still worthwhile
If you’ll just
Smile

Charlie Chaplin

How Do You Become A LIST Whore?

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Hello my name is Larry and I’m a List-aholic”

mens-health-march-2014-1

 

Follow me here…

Every day, I check the Huffington Post, or Zite, or Flipboard or The Globe and Mail on my iPad or Kobo and there are lists.

10 WAYS YOU CAN BECOME… 5 REASONS YOU SHOULD… 8 TOP SECRETS OF…

Every time I stand waiting in a supermarket line, I sheepishly – is anyone watching? – glance over the covers of magazines like People and Cosmopolitan and Men’s Health filled with rules and Top 10 lists.

  • 30 Rules For Boyfriends From Two Wise Little Girls (Huffington Post)
  • 17 Things Women Think During Anal Sex (Cosmopolitan)
  • 13 Ways To Prevent Excessive Gas (Huffington Post)
  • 73+ Pivotal Blogging Shortcuts and Tips (Blog Tyrant)
  • We Shit Glitter: The 9 Unsexiest Secrets Of Being A Burlesque Dancer (Sabotage Times)

A lot of it is pure BS, but I can’t pull myself away from the lure of the car crash scenario. I don’t want to be drawn to them, but the curious irresistibility factor suckers me in. “Read me, read me!”

One more list and then another, just one more list will make me a better lover, or athlete, or father, or pickle maker. You name your interest and there’s a list to help you become a better (fill-in-the-blank).

It’s an addiction that I need to feed, and there are idea nutrients spread everywhere like a military carpet bombing. Lists are mind candy – the succinct conduit for delivery of ideas and inspiration.

Honestly, I crave lists and rules like I hunger for creamy sweet chocolate, french fries, and oxygen.

Lists play into my insecurities.

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It’s no secret to me that the success of all these lists is that people, myself included, are feeling a veiled dissatisfaction with some area(s) of their lives.

At its root lies the question, “What is my life about?

That might sound bad, but it’s really not. Let me explain, OK?

A couple of times over the past year or so, I’ve shown you the picture of actor Sally Field clutching her Oscar “Best Actress” trophy in delirious victory. I love that picture and the honesty that poured out from her throat.

People made fun of old Flying Nun/Momma Gump Sally when she stood on the Oscar stage in 1984 and emotionally declared, “… you like me, right now, you like me!”.

SALLY_FIELD

…of course I like you Sally…

Sally blurted out the hidden but truthfully obvious fact that 95% of the actors, directors, camera operators and the general public in the audience just want to be liked, whether on stage acting, or in the everyday trenches of real life.

We want others to like us and to recognize that we are good at something. And a great way to show us that we are lovable and worthwhile is to give us a gold statuette and clap at us while we stand on a stage basking in glory.

It’s no different than when we were little kids and we badgered our Mommies and Daddies to watch us jump into the swimming pool: “Mommy, watch this… Mooooommmmy, WATCH THIS!”

These needs to be loved and admired within most of us are what lead us to push harder and try to be better at something, which feeds into our sense of self-esteem.

Most of the wonderful advances and improvements in our world and society (yeah, a lot of the bad stuff too) came from those who wanted to be recognized as achieving excellence, and hence, received love and admiration from their peers, friends and family, and the world at large. So what’s wrong with that?

The great innovator Steve Jobs loved to wander back and forth on a stage in his black turtleneck sweater, basking in the glory of the spotlights and hordes of admirers before he would utter those famous words, ” Oh, and one more thing…” , just before making a huge i-whatever product announcement.

That was just a grown man standing by the edge of the kiddie pool, yelling, Mommy, watch this…”.

When I crossed the finish line of an Ironman race many many years ago now, would I have experienced the same joy if there was no one there watching? Of course not.

I craved the adoring gush of the throngs of people and my family acknowledging what a wonderful achievement I had accomplished. Mommy would have approved of me and I would have smiled inside.

Ironman 1990

This is one of MY Sally Field moments …

 

There are very few of us who don’t have underlying insecurities, little voices in our head telling us that we need to be better.

Lists and rules offer up handy – and often, admittedly, too facile – solutions to our insecurities.

But they CAN help to give us tools and innovative ways we hadn’t considered to become new and improved.

CREATIVITY CAN BE FOUND IN A LIST

29-ways-to-stay-creative

I choose to look at lists positively. I’m seeking the bravery to push outside my comfort zone, to subdue my insecurity if you will.

If it takes a list of ideas and suggestions from outside, I’ll happily look at it and decide if my choice to create something new for me – within me – is worthwhile.

Creativity doesn’t always have to be newly invented from within. Epiphanies come in lots of costumes. Let’s make like Bonnie and Clyde, like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, like Bernie Madoff, and make off with as many ideas that are offered freely from others as we can.

The choice is ours, steal what looks useful and leave the rest of the dreck behind, like yucky canned peas on a plate of hot, fragrant fish and chips.

Finally, let me offer you one little list I’ve come across. It’s a list for cynics and for those List Haters that I know exist out there who smirk and scowl at us dreamers aka List-Lovers.

FIVE RULES TO REMEMBER IN LIFE

  1. Money cannot buy happiness, but it’s more comfortable to cry in a Range Rover than on a bicycle.
  2. Forgive your enemy, but remember the ass-hole’s name.
  3. If you help someone when they’re in trouble, they will remember you when they’re in trouble again.
  4. Many people are alive only because it’s illegal to shoot them.
  5. Alcohol does not solve any problems, but then neither does milk.

 

Call Me Maybe … Nah, Call Me Mr. Lucky

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Luck Be a Lady… A Stroke of Luck … Good Luck… Luck of the Irish … Outta Luck … Better Luck Next Time … Lotsa Luck … Lucky Dog … Lucky at Cards, Unlucky in Love … Beginner’s Luck … Don’t Push Your Luck …

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I believe in luck: how else can you explain the success of those you dislike?”

Jean Cocteau

………………………….

I don’t buy lottery tickets.

I don’t go to casinos and sit at the blackjack table for hours even though you can almost smell the rich scent of cash wafting through the air of the casino.

blackjack3

I don’t visit bingo halls (except as a fundraising volunteer), even though – until a couple of years ago- you can almost smell the rich smoky tobacco flow wafting through the air of the chamber.

I don’t creep into narrow-doored massage parlours or “Cat Houses” knowing I’ll get lucky just by plunking a sweaty wad of cash or my charge card on the counter.

I didn’t get to choose my parents. I didn’t get to choose where I was born. I didn’t get to choose when I was born.

It all comes down to LUCK.

luck |lək|:

success or failure apparently brought by chance rather than through one’s own actions

luck pictures

And yet, I’ve always rejected luck as a factor in my life. And I think I’m about half right.

For if luck doesn’t truly exist, then what words would you use to describe how I could be born at this amazingly wealthy, relatively peaceful time in history – in a tranquil locale such as Canada?

Luck is a two-headed beast.

It does exist, although maybe not in the time and place where most of us would like.

One head of the luck beast lies in our genes, our history, and in the air and atmosphere that surrounds us every day.

Luck is a prenatal event that transforms slowly as we jettison from between our Mommy’s legs.

We emerge into the light with the potential of both good and bad before us: the genes that determine a portion of what we will become, and a place in the world that will make our rise either easy or hard.

Once that first breath has been absorbed and we’ve screamed our first “WTF”, luck gradually melts and blends into the ether of a netherworld that drifts away like vanishing water vapour clouds in the hazy background of our lives.

Or maybe luck is like Santa Claus; a wonderful, red-suited, generous benefactor that gives us dreams and limitless possibilities.

By the time we reach our adulthood, the misty vision of Santa or luck is now just a faint but happy memory. We reflect on it with lament but realistic thought tells us that the true source of the gifts beneath the tree is us.

Yes Virginia, once we’re catapulted from the womb and move forward in years, we create our own luck.

I’ve often lacked patience with those who blame the world and its denizens for their fate. When the wind blows a tree over my house, I can utter the words, “Tough Luck”, but then I need to make things right, right?

When I lose a job, I can (and will) cry for a day and then find a way to make my “luck” return.

If I wait around for luck to bestow its gifts, I’ll pass my life in anxious anticipation of something out of my control.

Instead, I’ll continue to choose to make my luck and if it turns out not as well as I had hoped… Well, that’s a life lesson that I need to take and transform for my future gain.

And with any luck, that transformation won’t be happening in a casino or at a lottery ticket counter!
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  • “Go and wake up your luck.”Persian Proverb.

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PS. My friends, I’m off playing and learning in Morocco right now so the next blog post or two will be “travel blogs”. Come travel the northern part of Africa with me and see what mischief I can create. With “luck”, we’ll uncover some fun and funny happenings!!

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