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Boo… 8 Things That Scare Me…

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Do one thing that scares you every day”

Eleanor Roosevelt

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T Rex fear

I threw up my hotdog one early summer evening in a family restaurant, its walls adorned with Hamilton Tiger Cat football and Toronto Maple Leafs hockey photos… it was mustardy messy and the cloud of smell was … well… you fill in the rest.

The waiter was nice about it, then probably gagged a bit when he went back to the kitchen.

It was a fancy restaurant and I was just a little kid, but the impression it left still lays inside me today, dormant like a herpes virus waiting to rise to the cold-sore surface.

For years, I was nervous that I might throw up in a restaurant again. Fear. Scared. A beautifully coutured phobia in-waiting.

Ultimately silly.

Fear is your friend,” said Tim Ferriss in a TED talk. “Fear is an indicator. Sometimes it shows you what you shouldn’t do. More often than not it shows you exactly what you should do. And the best results that I’ve had in life, the most enjoyable times, have all been from asking a simple question: What’s the worst that can happen?”

We all know that most of our fears are nonsense and should be stuffed in a coffin and buried six feet under, but there are some I hold onto because they make me more human. They are a part of me that makes me ME. (now there’s a sentence that a narcissist could embrace!).

Being a complete person means never having to say you deny your frailties and rough edges.

I’m full of rough edges.

rough edges leaf.jpg

So, what are some of my biggest “rough-edged” fears now that I’m approaching my 7th decade on this beautiful blue planet?

  1. Driving at night and worrying I might hit and hurt or kill an animal. This is a biggie in my mind and yet it’s one of those fears I embrace and never wish to wash away. Tsunami waves of nausea roll through me when I’ve actually hit, or even think about killing an animal while driving, or for that matter, any other time.

2. A dog jumping out of the ether, barking and snarling at me while I’m running or cycling… my heart rate is already well up there, I don’t need any more stimulation thank you. I hate to see animals in pain or discomfort, and I hate to see me in pain or discomfort because of an animal sneak attack… back off Rover!

3. Walking into a social situation alone… my introversion tendencies rise to the surface. I’m pretty good at projecting a positive public face, but the childlike inner feelings of inadequacy bubble through me as I walk alone through a door to a party or gathering. If I looked in the mirror, I’m sure I’d see I’m wearing little boy shorts and my Parkdale Steelers hockey sweater.

4. Bungee Jumping. I can handle the thought of skydiving (today but not when I was younger). I’ve scuba dived. I’ve explored in narrow, dark underground caves. I’ve slogged my way through a Tough Mudder. But bungee? NO F***ing Way… that’s a stroke waiting to happen and I’m not going there… EVER!!

5. TV or Movie Killings. The realization that watching a TV show or movie of someone being killed – murdered – and knowing it doesn’t bother me (at least not the way I think it should) is bothersome. It makes me fear something within myself that accepts the violence… perversely even enjoys it, and does it over and over again. It also makes me wonder why consensual, loving sex isn’t more accepted on our screens. Which is the more positive choice?

6. One of my kids getting really sick or dying. This one really doesn’t need elaboration. There’s a hardwiring – a Constitutional amendment – in a parent’s head that insists that our issue should never ever pass on before we do. We had a close call once when our son was 9 years old. My heart bleeds for those many who have experienced the death of a child. It’s the devil’s kiss of lightning.

7. Getting near to vomiting or diarrhea on a plane… maybe this goes back to the hot dog incident as a child, beats me. A prison-like situation where you’re incarcerated in a sardine can in the sky? Often no access to a bathroom? … seat belt fastened and nowhere to go? Nowhere to go! UNCOMFORTABLE!

8. Boney M music. Yeah, I fear that electronic disco sound. I feel revulsion and frightening thoughts welling up inside me at the first kitschy Jamaican beats of their music. Why not play Dead Skunk in the Middle of the Road and get this melodious mess out of our systems.

Boney M.jpg

And finally One bonus fear (every good blog list has a bonus!):

Dying suddenly without a chance to say goodbye. I’ve lived and felt the pain of not saying a final goodbye. It lies inside you, gnawing.

I’ve heard those many who say they’d like to be struck dead suddenly with a heart attack or stroke like a runaway truck on a London Bridge, swept away in a second.

Not me.

We can never express with the depth of our inner core, never capture the universe of emotion and love and respect and tenderness, the true multiplicity of feelings for our loved ones… not fully… until we’re in those final immersive moments.

Death mourned.jpg

OK, now some old fears that fell away like my thick head of hair? I’ve had a few.

Here is a sampling of ones I’ve inhaled, held inside, and then eventually exhaled into misty clouds with age and maturity, like:

… getting to the end of my life and realizing that I wasted most of it…

… singing or speaking in public…

… in early blog posts: sharp criticism of my opinions…

… in my young years… premature ejaculation…

… wondering what people thought of me…

… not losing my virginity: ever…

Overcoming rational fear is about being a better person…

Fear doesn’t ever really go away, nor should it. But confronting it is the way to move forward.

Nowadays I try to face fear like a gladiator. Grrr. And usually I’m strong and brave but occasionally… rarely… my inner child arises and I’d like to suck my thumb in the corner – please don’t ever point a gun at my head, OK?

When I see myself overcoming part of a fear each day it lifts me up — I feel the thrive.  

It feeds my endorphin fix needs better than a needle in my arm.

Dealing with fear is always a choice.

One final thought. The Art of Manliness, one of my favorite websites on the Internet declares this “fear” rule:

“Whenever you are presented with a choice, ask yourself which option you would prefer to have taken in ten years.”

yoga at sunset

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.

courage1

This Too Shall Pass …

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Of all the advice I’ve been offered or read over my life … one short statement has stuck to me like soothing peanut buttah on the roof of my mouth  … the most true …

This too 3

 

Unless you’re Steve Jobs or Amy Winehouse. It passed alright, but not in the way they, or we, might like.

This Too Shall Pass works in both directions: the GOOD… and … the BAD.

Today I’ll zone in on the bad. But, with optimism floaters in my eyes.

Optimist: person who travels on nothing from nowhere to happiness.” Mark Twain

Yes, the bad. We’re much more aware and tuned into the hardships that won’t seem to slough off … the BAD.

We all have shitty days, shitty weeks, shitty months and sadly sometimes, shitty years. SHIT Happens!

THIS TOO SHALL PASS

You may be in the middle of one of those shitty times…

Think of:

  • all the things that have scared you
  • all the times you’ve screwed up
  • the trauma of being dumped in a relationship
  • someone close to you dying
  • being fired or losing a job
  • struggling with health issues when your ears are buzzing because the doctor has just given you bad news …
  • being a Toronto Maple Leafs’ fan

Maple Leafs X Box

SHIT SHAT SHOT!

When the first thoughts are, “I can’t handle this … I can’t go on…

It’s painful and we bleed and we cry. It happens to every single one of us, bar none.

So cry and bleed. Why deny what’s there.

Once the initial shock or trauma wears off …

… Then … we begin to climb out of the septic tank, no matter how deep it is, just like the little kid at the beginning of the movie Slumdog Millionaire. Disgusting!

Holes happen – like shit happens – and then are climbed out of and filled in, a scab that fades and sloughs with time.

THIS TOO SHALL PASS

  • When I struggled before discovering I was hypothyroid and not actually dying, I was in a hole.
  • When my first real girlfriend dumped me, I was in a hole.
  • When my son was gravely ill and I thought he might die, but didn’t, I was in a hole.
  • When I came to the realization that I hated my lab job on Vancouver Island (sometimes we’re not even sure of what we’re feeling at the time) and dreaded going to work, I was in a hole.

I thought these hurts, these pains, these worries were there forever. But I was wrong.

It just feels that way when we’re in the hole and are still looking down into the darkness of the pit … before we turn our head upwards towards the light streaming in from above.

Hemingway said it succinctly, “The Sun Also Rises”.

sun and shadow

THIS TOO SHALL PASS

The bad news: nothing is permanent.  The good news: nothing is permanent.”

Every dark period passes.

But it’s up to us to find the strength, the internal dialogue of optimism, that helps to push us in the right direction.

It’s up to us to turn off the bastard voices that crowd our heads telling us that the world is crashing and nothing will ever be right again.

It’s the time when we have to stare the darkness down and repeat over and over, “This Too Shall Pass”.

Because it will pass.

Maybe not today.

Maybe not tomorrow.

But with patience and time, clouds part and let the sun shine through, traffic dwindles to let you make the left turn onto the highway, forest fires get drenched by rains, my cooking of the garbage eventually produces something worth eating.

I have a later life sense of optimism that has been well earned and learned through difficult times.

I’ve learned it so well because I’ve had so many wonderful, positive experiences following the dark times. I’m betting you have too.

THIS TOO SHALL PASS

… Unless… except… if … IF… if … you’re a Toronto Maple Leafs’ fan.

That’s a cesspool hole you’re never escaping.

im-sorry

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

What Doesn’t Kill You ….

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Unbeing dead

Did you die this week?

I’ll take that as a NO.

OK then … Are you happy this week? Are you feeling warm and contented? Do you feel an inner excitement, a zeal for getting out of bed?

I know that I only feel all of these things if I’m feeling the challenge: working on a beloved project, starting out on something new, learning a new skill or creating something fresh like a blog post or a song, and it’s always enhanced if the sun is shining.

Anyway, it gets easy to feel down about yourself sometimes, and maybe more so in the winter when days are shorter and gloomier. Nothing substantive has changed, but everything just feels less bright when there’s less light. Or maybe I just have SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder). Damn, one more set of initialized credentials to add to my ADHD!

The cure? Become an adrenaline junkie … an AJ.

A little story for you:

When I was 10 years old I was called out of my classroom at Glen Brae School to go and visit the Principal’s office. I was a “good boy” and so I shook violently in my shoes all the way down the halls until I arrived at the Principal’s door. Inside sat two very official-looking guys in uniforms sitting across the desk from Principal Russell.

They invited me in and introduced themselves as officers from the Hamilton Police Department. My sordid life of crime was officially beginning. Soon, I’d be someone’s bitch.

Hamilton cops

Don’t let those smiles fool you … they haunted my 10 year old dreams for weeks …

 

I sat down, shaking, no doubt beet-red faced, a great tsunami of cortisol-driven-nervous urine trying to force its way out.

I don’t remember the expressions on the cops’ mugs at the time, but I’ll bet they were gobsmacked when they saw this short-for-his-age 10 year-old cherubic lad that they were preparing to grill about car theft.

Son, where were you last Tuesday at 12 noon?”

“Ummmmmm.”

So this – I must have been telling myself inside – is what an anxiety attack feels like. I had no idea what a panic attack was. Actually, I didn’t know what it was called then, I just knew I was terrified.

“A car was stolen from in front of one of the apartment buildings that you deliver newspapers to and a reliable witness tells us it was you they saw breaking in and taking the vehicle… so … again … where were you last Tuesday at 12 o’clock?”

“Ummmmmm.”

I probably couldn’t have told them my name at that moment.

I squeaked out that I couldn’t remember, so they asked me to go sit in the library across the hall and think about it for a bit. When I was able to remember, I could return and fill them in on my whereabouts at the time of the heinous crime.

Eventually I recalled the details that exonerated me and the cops moved on to my older brother Gord next door at the high school as the next most likely culprit.

Neither of us ended up in criminal court – we were innocent – so the Green family integrity was happily preserved and my poor Mom’s nervous heart was no doubt robbed of at least a year or two’s worth of lifetime beats.

It was a traumatic experience, but I felt so alive afterwards from the nervous excitement.

I was attacked and I survived.

Survive a Zombie Attack

Granted, this may not be a great or even appropriate example of the things we should pursue in our days to make them more full of life. I’m really not trying to suggest you steal cars to boost your inner zeal.

I’m just using this as an example to show how the inner feeling of fear and then the resulting exalted relief and cathartic buzz of knowing we are truly alive is magnificent.

For me, the best highs seem to come about after I’ve taken on a great personal fear in the form of a challenge – in years past this would most likely have been public speaking or performing a song on my guitar in front of a gathering. Right now I think it would be performing one of my own songs publically.

For you it might be taking off white-knuckled in an airplane, learning to swim, going sky-diving, or encountering a snake in the middle of your path. There are a million things to fear.

Some things we fear are outside of our influence to control. Some fears are reasonable and are there for good reason. I SHOULD be fearful of dark, dangerous alleys and avoid them. Confronting that fear is just plain stupid.

It’s the fears I can do something about that I’m trying to stand up to now and face head on, knowing that the end result will be worth it. My sense of shame and embarrassment have slowly dwindled through the years and I can allow myself to look foolish. And, might I add, to my adult kids’ chagrin, I do this so well.

The adrenaline levels skyrocket, my heart pounds, my breath grows short, my brain totally fuzzy.

It becomes a total fear, total fight-or-flight scenario. The first 30 seconds seem like hours and then … as if by voodoo magic, the flood levels of hormones begin to dwindle, breathing settles a bit, and my mind engages and starts to concentrate.

Stand up to your fears...

Stand up to your fears…

We only have one life (unless we’re Buddhist… yes, I really must become a Buddhist).

We need variety. A job will eventually get boring. Daily routines will grow stale. It doesn’t mean you have to quit your job or move to a different city or country.

But always look for new things to learn.

Always look for new ways to surprise.

Always look for new ways to break out of your comfort zone.

I’ll love you even more if you show me how silly or ridiculous you can be if you’re doing something that you’ve always wanted to try but were too afraid.

Unless it’s stealing a car, then I don’t know you.

Dance like no one is watching