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I Can’t… But I Can… 

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I’m not Pollyanna.

There are some things I can do.

There are some things I can’t do.

There are some things I don’t wanna do.

There are some things I shouldn’t do.

I’ve had some fun. But was it worth it?

I was handcuffed once and taken into custody. Twice actually. By the RCMP, not a BDSM lover.

It’s a long story I may tell you one day, but it was worth it.

YK Handcuffed  2

The morning following my 21st birthday, I gin-vomited my way from room to room around Stanton Yellowknife Hospital while doing my rounds collecting blood samples for lab testing.

I shouldn’t have done it but was the fun of the night before worth it? Yeah, it was!

She made me feel good, until she didn’t. I broke up with a nice girl, a girl who liked me a lot, merely because she cut off my oxygen supply with her tongue while we were kissing.

I selfishly let her become too attached just so I had a girlfriend. I still feel badly. It wasn’t worth it.

I smoke cigars. Occasionally. I love the musky scent and the feeling of relaxation it imparts.

Short-term it feels worth it. Long-term? Maybe not.

I’ve invested in companies – relying on others’ advice –  without doing my own intense research to see if they were great investments for long-term wealth.

I’ve almost always lost money when I got lazy and let someone else make my decisions for me. Definitely not worth it.

LARRY SPEC CARRIER TIFF

Relying on others’ investment advice at 10 years of age!

I’ve gossiped behind the backs of people I considered friends, saying nasty caustic stuff.

Never worth it. ’nuff said.

………………..

Do. Or do not. There is no try.”    

Yoda.

Actually Yoda, there is a try. There should always be a try. A try with conviction and curiosity and wonder.

A lovely friend across the globe has been recently diagnosed with terminal lung cancer.

She’s accepting of her fate, acknowledging the role of long-term smoking, while appreciating the wonderful opportunities she’s had. There’s a contented resignation to the approaching darkness at the end of the tunnel.

Whenever we hear of someone whose existence has just ended or is nearing their end, we internalize and meditate on our own lives and silently wonder if we should be happy with where our lives have taken us. It’s natural and human.

I know I think about the things I’ve done, the things I’ve not done, and those things I can’t do.

My solution? The voice goes a bit like this… “I can’t do ‘x’ anymore” But on the other hand, “I can do ‘y’!“.

I can try.

We can all try.

If you have an accident or illness and sever a leg and you’re an avid runner, then you know you can’t run anymore (or maybe you can, look at Terry Fox)… but you can still exercise your body with swimming or weight training or wheelchair athletics. Thousands have. Witness the Invictus Games.

To try is to hope. We all need hope. Hope is purpose.

Today, I’m reflecting on the stuff I could do in my earlier years but maybe I have difficulty with now.

Sometimes it’s a physical issue, but often it’s a mind issue.

My “Yoda-try” response is to substitute something else I can do now that maybe I didn’t or couldn’t do back then. I try.

Here, let me give you a few examples:

I can’t run a 10k race anywhere close to the 40 minute pace I could manage 25 years ago.

But I can run a half decent half-marathon once or twice a year. It’s slow, but damned pleasing to cross that finish line knowing that my body has been an active friend for 2 hours

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I can’t become a fabulously famous rock/folk/country performer.

But I can sing with a larger range and more emotional depth and connection than I could in my teens and 20’s. Bigger still is the sense of confidence in writing and performing that increases along with the age on my birth certificate. 

I can’t discipline myself sufficiently to write an entire novel.

But I can find the discipline to write and share a thousand words with you here every week. Acknowledging and understanding my strengths and limitations is deeply satisfying.

I can’t make a beautiful flaky pie crust worth a damn.

But I can cook up a pretty impressive assortment of ethnic foods that I’ve learned from home cooks and cooking classes around the world. I’ll just appreciate the amazing pie crusts that others have the skills to execute.

I can’t sleep on the hard ground on a farmer’s field like I did in the English countryside in my early 20’s.

But I can hold out a credit card with my name on it and sleep in an incredibly comfortable cozy bed in a fancy hotel or resort in Canada or pretty much anywhere in the world. Age and saved/invested wealth bestow some pretty incredible benefits. 

I can’t ever have a high-powered corporate career with the all the bells and whistles and stimulating highs and crushing lows. 

But I can take on little “careers” like making and serving soup, bartending, tutoring and making music where money making isn’t the primary goal. There are tiny pots of gold at the end of many mini-rainbows.

I can’t stay up til midnight or 2 am partying with high alcoholic energy.

But I can get to sleep at 10 pm and not wake up with ringing ears and pounding temples the next day. A clear head is a magical gift.

OK, maybe I am Pollyanna.

‘Fun’ and ‘Can’ and ‘Can’t’ come in very different packages for each of us. Ain’t individualism great?

But to try is the same package for us all.

To try is hopeful.

To try is courageous.

Nietzsche said: “No one can build you the bridge on which you, and only you, must cross the river of life…”

Maybe Nietzsche knew something even more profound than that weird little green Yoda.

Yoda apple

 

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Variety: Building Your Courage to say YES

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destiny-courage

Here’s a joke: I should be a very fit guitar-strumming homeless meth addict with an alcohol dependency and a huge bank account. (It’s alright, I don’t get it either…)

But you know, there is a saying, “you’re the average of the five people you surround yourself with.” 

I’d like to add an addendum… ” and… you’re the average of your five favourite activities/interests.”

My five?

Well… I live in a mixed salad bowl with a rainbow assortment of tasty characters; a potpourri of positive people jumbled together with a hodgepodge of projects and pursuits.

It’s a part of my ADHD approach to life, doing something different each hour of the day so that I don’t feel tediumized.

  • I write blogs
  • I run and swim and go to boot and spin classes, I go yoga stretching.
  • I chop vegetables at the soup kitchen
  • I read books
  • I mix and pour drinks at a Greek Restaurant
  • I play my guitar and sing my songs at Open Mic night
  • I research and buy and sell stocks online
  • I cook ethnic foods
  • I watch movies and eat too much popcorn
  • I tend chickens and gather eggs
  • I smoke cigars.

Variety.

variety

I thrive on variety.

Variety in the things I do and the people I hang around with.

I’m like my backyard chickens. Cluck cluck.

The girls are a worry right now because I see some unfriendly pecking going on in the hen’s yard.

Chickens are cannibals by nature.

They like to eat their own eggs. They like to eat their friends. A bored hen gets her jollies by picking and pecking on her friends and relatives.

Chickens need stimulation. VARIETY.

I’ve thrown some jingly cat toys in the yard to distract them from playing KFC on each other.

I need jingly things too. VARIETY.

I glaze over easily when I’m lacking stimulation and start to peck at the other birds of my tribe just because they’re there.

Not on you. Other people.

I don’t want to be a cannibal so I desperately seek variety. Variety in life means saying YES.

I spent most of my life saying NO… NO was the easy way to live. I became an expert at saying NO… I lived in fear of the YES word.

I grew up and became a (semi-)functioning adult when I finished Mohawk College in Hamilton at the age of 19.

I was offered 2 lab jobs on the same day.

One was in the Blood Bank of the hospital where I had just interned for a year; the other was a general lab position in pocket-sized Stanton Yellowknife Hospital in chilly northern Yellowknife, NWT.

Male and Female Logic

My scientific logical NO head said, “Larry, be realistic, take the safe and easy job here at home”.

My firework-laden, emotional YES heart said, “Larry, this is your chance, choose the unknown and go dance beneath the Northern Lights.”

I held my breath and hesitantly mumbled YES.

I think the fear we feel when we say NO is different from the fear we experience when we say YES.

The fear that holds the hand of NO is a running away fear.

The fear that makes love to YES is the fear of running towards something.

YES fear is better than NO fear, isn’t it?

freedom-of-fear

More and more I find I’m trying to grasp ahold of the YES fear…

I’m not the guy I was 10, 20, 30 years ago.

I want to experience the amazingly diverse world around me, sample the flavours of life, roll them sensuously over and around my tongue to feel and touch and taste those things foreign and different.

I want my heart to race with restorative enthusiasm and excitement and a beguiling anticipation of the unknown.

YES to Volcano surfing, YES to Snake Wine, YES to becoming a Bartender. YES. YES. YES.

Now I see you nodding your head, tsk-tsk’ing, and thinking I’ve gone all looney-tunes… well, you’re right, but let’s step back a second.

I am saying YES more… yup… but not an indiscriminate YES. I won’t say YES to everything.

Here’s a tiny example: When I write this weekly blog, it usually takes a bit of time and thought before I settle on a topic I want to pin to the wrestling canvas and put my eye to the telescope and zoom in more closely.

I don’t jump out of my chair and yell an orgasmic YES – like Meg Ryan in When Harry Met Sally – to the first seed that feels its heart beat, then germinates and pops its head above the soil.

I know I’ll say YES eventually… eventually… once I’ve marched each potential idea up and down the echoing halls inside my head, turning them over and over before I finally begin to sense a stiffening VIAGRA-like boost of enthusiasm for the one.

YES!

Those “ADHD” things I do that I mentioned at the beginning of this post? They all began in the sparkling infinite stars-in-the-universe of ideas and possibilities. There is no counting the beautiful stars in an inky sky just as there is no counting the galaxy of ideas and pursuits. It only takes one YES to find and develop momentum.

Go ahead, choose another venture… another ADventure.

One by one the whirling, expanding universe hurls the losers out of the murky cloud of the Milky Way. A shortlist survives the onslaught and the strong gravitational force draws me into its orbit of excitement.

I’m just an average guy who dreams and schemes of finding extraordinary moments that lie hidden within an ordinary life waiting to be discovered, like a ravenous tiger concealed in the underbrush, patiently aware and ready for a tasty morsel to pass his way.

The best way I’ve found to unearth the extraordinary in a day is in seeking variety and being open to the unmapped journey, willing to travel down unknown side streets and paths that aren’t part of life’s standard itinerary.

Courage begins as a little thing that helps small people cast large shadows.

That’s why I’m reminding myself that YES fear is better than NO fear.

child shadow

Writing For Myself …

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Matt Damon portrays an astronaut who faces seemingly insurmountable odds as he tries to find a way to subsist on a hostile planet.

I saw the movie THE MARTIAN the other night.

The popcorn –meh – was only one thumb up but the film was two thumbs interstellar high.

I felt a whack of deja vu as Matt Damon, sitting solitary, totally alone on a strange planet, growing potatoes in his own shit … played Tom Hanks talking to a volleyball on a deserted island.

Blog writing is me playing Matt Damon, sitting here on Mars talking to myself … and lucky you, you get to listen in on my inner workings…

Writing affords me the opportunity to talk to myself and decide what I’m all about … I’m growing potatoes in my own shit just sitting here and looking inside myself and the world around me.

It’s like flipping a sock inside out and getting to see my own insides, smelly yes, but a part of me.

get lost

And here’s an example of something I’ve learned:

Two years ago I thought that “sure”, I might have a novel in me, so I took on the challenge of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) … an online 30 day challenge with the goal of writing a complete novel, start to finish.

NaNoWriMo was a fantastic exercise and I managed to eke out an astounding 50,000 words in a novel format in 30 days … OK, I’ll admit the end result was pretty crappy … with a few minor bursts of brilliance (if I do say so myself).

But more importantly I learned – or confirmed – something abut myself that carries over to other areas of my life .

My little life “AHA” was that I’m not one to sit for long long periods of time writing lengthy chapters. I love the idea. But that’s not good enough. NOPE.

My restless, ADHD-type personality just isn’t suited to the full-length novel form. Margaret Atwood or Stephen King ain’t in me.

But writing blog posts is the perfect pastime for those of us who enjoy writing but suffer from short attention spans.

I love writing about 1,000 words each week. Since I’ve been doing this for 3 and a half years now and still enjoy it, I think blogging and I are perfect companions.

A reasonable writing output for most serious writers is probably something along the lines of 1,000 words in a 4 hour sitting.

For me, it works out more like 200-250 words per sitting spread out in 4 one -hour bursts interspersed throughout the week.

Each post sends me down the gritty foxhole that is my mind to explore and dig through my memories and experiences and imagination.

There are countless things I find inside my head that I would have never dreamed existed and yet, by dint of some magical mystery tour, they arise and percolate to the surface like oil crude bubbling through the ground for Jed in the Beverly Hillbillies.

tightrope walker

Another lesson I’ve learned?

When pecking out a blog post:

All that matters are the words you write. Nothing else.

When you write your inner thoughts, it doesn’t matter (and it shouldn’t) what others are going to think about it.

When I write, I have to stop worrying about whether or not people are going to like my story, whether or not someone’s going to read it, whether or not they’ll care. I don’t want to hurt anyone in my writing but beyond that, the horizon is clear.

And it’s not about saying something that no one else ever thought of saying, but about saying it in my own voice. And that’s something we all have.

Writing is about finding the courage to write. Courage to say things that hopefully are meaningful but that we don’t often say out loud.

Fear is this construct usually made up inside our heads. A tiny bit of respectful fear is good … we don’t want to jump into the Niagara River above the Falls. That is a good fear.

But most fear is irrational. It’s our mind, our head, playing crappy nasty games with us trying to tell us there are gruesome monsters in the closet.

And courage is all about realizing that some things are more important than fear.

Matt Damon was all alone on a hostile planet with no one to talk to … no one to guide him. But he turned the bastard voices off, or at least down, and took one step forward and then another step and refused to say die.

We all contain the seeds of courage and the inner strength to turn down the irrational voices – living in the moment – and just live for ourselves.

It’s a tiny step, but writing these words to you is me discovering and nurturing a small seed of courage.

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How to Find Your Courage …

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But life isn’t hard to manage when you’ve nothing to lose.”

                                – Ernest Hemingway

So it came to pass that as he trudged from the place of blood and wrath his soul changed.”

                                – Stephen Crane, The Red Badge of Courage

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What do I have to lose? Really?

In this life I’ve embarrassed myself so many times and in so many ways, it just doesn’t matter.

It never did actually, I just thought it did.

So I’m pushing myself to be courageous.

Not climb-over-the-wall-shooting-bullets-at-the-enemy, being-shot-at-by-the-enemy courageous – that’s WAY beyond my imagination-to-conceive courage. That just scares the shit out of me. How do people ever do that to themselves and to each other?

Nope, I just want to be gritty enough to walk up the stairs to a stage where a microphone awaits and I begin playing my guitar and singing a song.

Not any song.

A song of my own composition.

It’s a tiny thing that feels not-so-tiny in my mind. Kinda like my penis.

They tell us to conquer our fear of this sort by envisioning the audience in their underwear. Great idea.

audience-underwear

The problem as I see it is that while the good folks watching me are in their underwear, I’m standing in front of them TOTALLY NAKED!

It’s a level of personal exposure that this blog should have prepared me for … except … I can post these blog posts without you looking me in the eye as I unveil my inner demons, my successes, my failures and joys.

The reason I want to do this so badly is because I need something to push me from behind… I’m not a super self-motivator kind of guy.

You see, I want to write songs, but I’ll only do it well and consistently if there’s a loaded gun at my head. The end of the barrel says “DO this or DIE!” … that’s motivation. I have to take the dark fear and compress it into a sparkling diamond.

Let me give you a few examples of motivation diamonds:

  1. I enter running races like this weekend’s 8K run in Kelowna regularly because I train harder and more consistently when I know there’s a timed event coming up. Otherwise, I yawn and roll over in my bed in the morning and snore and drool instead of sweating at 6 am.
  2. I write this weekly MAN ON THE FRINGE blog that I publish every Sunday. If I don’t publish as expected, I start getting e-mails from kind readers asking if I died. BTW… if/when I do die, I may not respond to your inquiry. I’m not sure if there’s Wi-Fi connections in hell … Just sayin’.
  3. When I was working (Another BTW: I am working part time again… stay tuned for next week’s post)… I had a few hundred dollars taken from each of my paycheques and deposited automatically into my RRSP (Registered Retirement Savings Plan). I don’t want to be penniless in my dodderage. If I didn’t do this I would have visited Tim Hortons 3 times every day and blown a bunch of $$ on sweet chocolatey donuts which would have really negated the usefulness of point #1 above.
priestley-eating-doughnut

I guess sweet appetites come in different forms, eh Jian?!

Writing music is something I’ve longed to do all my life.

My passions, my dreams, my desires won’t be lived out unless I’m courageous enough to accept and brush past my fears. Every great personal reward has its gut-twisting risks.

The push that motivates me now is the fear of going onstage and looking foolish because I’ve written something that I feel little or no pride in … something that sounds like so much commercial stuff we all hear on our radios and iPods and iPhones and through Spotify and Sound Cloud. There are amazing musical gems out there, they just tend to be few and far between … needles in musical haystacks.

I need the courage to test my music – a rare needle or just a stack of formulaic hay.

Courage is something we all seek within ourselves and for a host of reasons and causes.

Courage comes in all McDonalds’ sizes: small, medium, large and super-sized.

We need courage when we look for a job, we need it when major changes occur in our lives, we need it when we lose someone special to us, we need it sometimes just to get out of bed in the morning.

For me, finding the courage to expose my inner self on-stage is a big deal. That and remembering lyrics. Singing John Denver or Sam Hunt or Gordon Lightfoot gives me a couple of butterflies to perform… but I’ll need to envision a lot of sweet golden lab puppies to calm my nerves when I sing Larry Green.

I found my courage once earlier this year when I sang one of my songs in public, on-stage. I did it and I woke up breathing the next morning.

The real test for me now is to load the gun over and over until I forget that courage was ever needed to walk up those stage stairs.

Then the smile on my face will be one of true joy and not just a faux front I plaster on as I climb over the battle wall and face the guns.

fake-smile