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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

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

On The Lightness of Being An Evangelist of Positive Passion …

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Two wolves

BEWARE!

Look both ways before crossing my path because I’m not always sure that I’m heading in the right direction.

I’m sorry. Don’t worry.

This is all just a metaphor for my choices in life.

We ALL have a direction. We ALL have choices.

We ALL make choices, even if we choose to do nothing … that’s a choice too!

positive passion

This is where my concept of Positive Passion vs Negative Passion comes into play ….

Many dive into politics and weighty issues. This is a good thing in most cases.

With lofty intentions they dive into the stinky diapers of the world and try to make changes, or try to change the opinions of others, or fight injustice and inequality.

The most common form of this arises in protest of government edicts or legislation.

Unions and armies have fought their negative passions for eons. Protesters have died in Tiananmen and Tahrir.

They are filled with passion, but it’s a negative passion. It’s a contra passion… an “against something” passion.

I feel inferior when I encounter people like this and yet I don’t change.

I’ve made my choice. Why? What choice?

I’m not a negative passion kind of person.

I decided some time back that I want to fill my life with positivity. I want to do and live positive things with positive people in a positive way.

Happy dog

I want to fill my life with Positive Passion, not Negative Passion.

Check out this Letter to the Editor in my local Penticton newspaper last week. It suggested we find something we don’t like in the world and then fight against it as our life’s passion. Negative Passion.

I hear, “what can I do” or “nothing is going to change.” 

There are many people and organizations tackling challenges we face; environmental, social and economic challenges that have the power to cripple if we let them. In the face of these challenges, these people are making changes that few of us hear about, or if we do hear, our hopelessness doesn’t allow us to register. 

I say, “Get mad, get motivated and get moving.” Action is the only thing that ever has, or ever will, change anything.

First, what bothers you?

Finding your discontent is the key to discovering your passion, and when a person is passionate, there is nothing that can’t be accomplished.

Second, “get motivated.”

Who else shares your pet peeve? I can guarantee there is a person, people or an organization already tackling the challenge you see.

Third, “get moving.” Contact one of those people or organizations. Start your own movement, volunteer, donate, whatever you can do with  whatever you have is good enough. Never let anyone tell you your efforts will never be enough.  

It’s noble and elegant, isn’t it? Superheroes fighting crime and injustice.

But I don’t want to fill my mind with negativity. I don’t want to be mad. Why do I want to be bitter and angry?  “Finding your discontent is the key to discovering your passion” just doesn’t work for me.

I try to float a bit lighter, filled with positive thoughts, positive energy; perhaps I can lessen just a teensy bit some of the problems that exist by the approach that I take.

Will I solve all the issues, the myriad of problems that beset us? Nope, not by a long stretch.

Don’t call me Polly’annish.

But I know that when I smile and see a grin mirrored back by others, problems somehow seem less significant, less bothersome. Smile dynamics break through where confrontation fails.

Here’s another approach that I’d describe as Positive Passion… this is from my local Penticton Herald newspaper Letters to the Editor, same as the example above. Positive Passion.

 

As the Okanagan summer draws to a close, we gratefully acknowledge the tremendous support given to the Soupateria.

Donations of fresh fruit and vegetables from local orchards, farmers and home gardeners have been delivered. Merchants have donated bread, baked goods and various food items. Service clubs, churches, businesses and individuals given assistance in various ways. These  contributions have enabled us to continue providing a hot, nourishing lunch each day.

To the end of August, 30,506 “signed in” lunches were served, an increase of 945 over the same time period in 2014. Due to the influx of seasonal transient workers, numbers grew exponentially.

These numbers will drop dramatically at the end of harvest time. However, as a result of the downturn of the economy, the local clientele continues to grow. Many new faces appear in the lunchtime lines. 

Our dedicated volunteers have been champions, giving of their time and talents throughout this long, hot summer. The smiles of appreciation from clients, their compliments to the soup makers, and their cooperation during a busy season have made the effort well worthwhile.

On behalf of everyone here at the Soupateria, to the community of Penticton,  we say, thank you.

What a beautiful, thankful way to deal with a problem that exists. Feeding the positive wolf.

I respect, sometimes even admire, those who choose to fight with negative passion.

BUT.

I’ve made my choice.

I’m choosing to feed my positive wolf.

ACCENTCHUATE_THE_POSITIVE!_

You’ve Just Crossed Over Into … The Grey Zone …

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Fish in lightbulb

Why is no one paying ME billions of dollars for my ideas?

I wonder if it’s because I’m caught in the twilight of The Grey Zone.

I’m a prisoner in this quagmire and I need to make myself break free.

Well before 50 Shades of Grey came along, I invented the whole genre of the “grey zone”.

I can’t see anything as black or white.

50 Shades of Grey?

Hell, I can see the universe in 1,000 shades of grey.

50-shades-grey-paint

The other day while I was pouring drinks at my bartending job, someone said to me,

“Who are you voting for in the upcoming federal election?

Depends…

… the choices?

Conservative, Liberal, New Democratic Party (NDP) or Green.

Hmmmm… depends on where my sense of priority lies on voting day, I suppose… I think, I’m pretty sure!

  • Conservative if I feel angry at the world and want to fight wars and abortion laws and gun control and market controls.
  • Liberal if I like Justin Trudeau’s hair style that day and I want a bouncy mix of free markets and social justice.
  • NDP if I feel in sync with the friendly folks patiently waiting for me to open the doors to the Penticton Soupateria kitchen who need free daycare and subsidized dental care for their cavity-laden mouths.
  • Green if I’m sick of picking another empty Tim Hortons cup off the street under the ozone-thin rays of sunshine, AND perhaps I feel a subtle loyalty to them because my last name happens to be Green.
  • Is Obama a choice? Doesn’t Barack need a job after November 2016?

OK … you might have insinuated by my choice of words above that it won’t be a CONSERVATIVE check mark!

But other than that, I just don’t know!

And I don’t want to spend a lot of time working my way through the issues. I’m one politically lazy cat.

lazy-cat5

And this political muskeg? This is just one small example of my grey zone or “sitting on the fence” outlook on life.

My “grey zone” often has me seized up by the glut of alternatives in our world… you know… the Walmart selection of choices in everything we do or purchase.

In the halcyon days of The Waltons (nope, not Sam Walton of Walmart, I’m talking John Boy Walton of Walton’s Mountain, Virginia), you would just walk into Godsey’s General Store and say,

“Ike, I need an iron, two spools of blue thread, a package of laundry soap, and a suit for Yancey Tucker’s wedding this weekend.”

Two minutes later, with no further questions, Ike would smile his boyishly toothy grin and have everything tied up in a neat bundle and off you went, a happy camper.

No VISA, no MasterCard, no Air Miles or Loyalty Club cards… just cold, hard-earned cash slapped down on the old oak counter.

Can you imagine?

Now… NOW! … you need 2 days, 2 weeks, 2 months… whatever … to make all of the important decisions involved in these same purchases. Questions and more questions:

  • Self cleaning iron or auto shut-off? GE or Samsung or Toshiba? Corded or cordless? Removable steam tank? Retractable cord? Anti-burn control?
  • Sky Blue, royal blue, indigo thread? Cotton, nylon, polyester, heavy-duty, silk, wool, or metallic thread?
  • Powdered or liquid laundry soap? Detergent with bleach added? Dye and perfume free? Cold water active? Top or front-loading washer?
  • And, it would take an entire blog post to go through the choices when selecting a man’s suit for a wedding.

Choices

I just don’t know! And I don’t want to spend a lot of time working my way through the consumer consumables. I’m consumerly lazy.

I like the idea of options, but the harsh reality of endless choice is endless decision-making and the need to do extensive research on the purchase of my next Bic pen or Gillette razor blade.

I sometimes rue having to use what little brain power I do have, to investigate and research and think and weigh options.

Really, I want to use my “grey’ matter to think about the things that are important to me. Things I’ve prioritized, or have wanted to prioritize.

Really, I want my head filled with story ideas for blog posts that infinitely stretch my thoughts and imagination.

Really, let me work on the concept of Idea Sex where I can take two or more unrelated ideas and tap my J.K. Rowling magic wand to marry them into something new and beautiful.

Really, the same for my music writing and playing. I don’t want to create everyday songs that anyone lacking imagination can pen for a commercial audience. I want unique songs with meaning and substance, stories filled with relevance, and emotion… and heart…

Experts such as psychologist/author Roy Baumeister (Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength) tell us that we have a finite amount of willpower.

The willpower needed in making decisions becomes depleted as we use it, and we use the same stock of willpower for all manner of tasks.

If I spend 10 minutes making a decision over something as seemingly simple as which toilet paper to buy (3 ply or 2 ply, 12 rolls or 8, super soft or Russian sandpaper, and on and on), those 10 minutes have depleted my eagerness for making sweet music.

Regrettably, almost unlimited choices in today’s world saps my energy.

In order to change, it’s a circular conundrum of making decisions about decision-making. Yup, my very own personal 1,000 Shades of Grey.

Meanwhile, I feel like I’ve crossed over into… Nu-nu nu-nu …. THE GREY ZONE.

rod serling

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.

 

 

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.

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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.

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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

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

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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!!

All we HAVE to do is Die…

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It’s kind of cheering to read this, isn’t it? ALL WE HAVE TO DO IS DIE…everything else is a choice (yes, even taxes!).

This may not be an original thought – what is? I read this line in another blogger’s post the other day and it pierced like a sharp Hattori knife through to my core. It’s harsh and perhaps a bit unsettling, and probably even complicates life somewhat, but I think it can also be freeing.

all we have to do is die

And it reminded me that choice in life is one of my core beliefs. We can choose to do. We can choose to be.

Sure we have to eat and drink to sustain life, but so many things we think we have to do are things that we choose to do. It’s like the difference between needs and wants.

Do we make the choices we do because:

  • society (family, friends, media) dictates it
  • we feel an obligation to do it
  • we fear loss or punishment
  • we don’t see any other options
  • the benefits are greater than the drawbacks
  • it’s enjoyable or rewarding
  • it’s the easy thing to do

Life is like WalMart (this is in addition to Forrest Gump‘s box of chocolates!). We wander the aisles of selection, the shelves are stuffed to the rafters, full of alternatives, and we can choose to nab the items we want or amble by to another aisle. For example, we could put a career choice, a partner, a pair of shoes into our basket. Do we ever ask ourselves, “Why did I pick that job? Why do I eat? Why did I get married or not get married? Why do I go out with friends? Why did I buy a new car?”

And even after make our selections, do we then ask ourselves, “Am I happy? Is what I’m doing really fulfilling and meaningful? When I arrive at the time of my death, will I look back at my life and be happy about what I did, or will I have regrets?”

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 The only thing people really have in common is that they are all going to die”

-Bob Dylan

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Choice in life means lots of good things but it also brings with it…wait for it…responsibility. Being rational and adult means there are consequences to every choice. This is why choice can be so rewarding but also so damned messy and difficult. It takes thought and judgment and it can be painful. It’s hard work!

I can choose to quit my job tomorrow, but the consequence becomes a loss of a paycheque and all of the details that entails. How will I pay for food and lodging and entertainment and a hundred other things? So, do I absolutely hate my job? Could I find something I might like to do instead if I went to college for a year? Could I move to a smaller town where the costs of living are lower and the need for more income would be lessened? With enough thought, effort, and often courage, we can find a more satisfying choice.

Over twenty years ago, I chose to work just 3 days each week so that I could actively participate in raising my kids (now there’s a decision they regret!). There were lots of questioning glances at my withdrawal from western culture’s expectation of what a father’s and breadwinner’s role should be. This choice meant a lower income and driving slightly older cars, and not having magazine-perfect furniture as society told me would be appropriate. But it’s a choice my wife and I made and have never regretted. Believe me, not every choice that I’ve made has been as easy to declare a success.

stay-at-home-dad

As we go through life, we need to ask ourselves tough questions and then answer honestly. Living life like there are few choices can be a simpler existence. But for me, life is richer when filled with choosing the paths I want to wander. The paths may be tangled by weeds at times, but at least they are heading in the direction of my choosing.

I think making choices consciously gives us freedom and a sense of honesty within ourselves.  Most of us spend much of our lives making choices based on false assumptions and beliefs drilled into us as children. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy promotes “thought challenging”- questioning our basic assumptions from different angles to help us make better choices.

When I was a kid, I was told that God and Heaven existed and that there was no need to question that belief. I was also told that going to university was necessary if I wished to live a “good” life. I was told that sexual intercourse was something preserved until marriage vows had been exchanged. I was told that men marry women and women marry men. I was told that after I married a woman, I would buy a house and have children. I was on a pre-determined train track and would chug along in the direction that track took me on.

All of the above were absolutes. But now I know that they are all choices. Everything but dying is a maybe.

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Lance Armstrong made choices that most of us likely think of as flawed and of poor moral backing. No matter what he says, he knew what he was doing was illegal and cheating. He lied to cover it up. BUT…he made a choice to use drugs and illegal methods to accomplish something that was deeply desirable to him. The benefits were greater than the consequences in his mind. The possible outcomes were something that he chose to live with in order to win big.  That he didn’t believe he would be caught and disciplined suggests to me that he wasn’t making conscious AND conscientious choices. Narcissism perverted his ability to make respectable choices, for himself, and others. Choices can be messy.

mommy_puts_out

Mommy made the choice to “put out”…here’s her consequence…

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We try to find our happiness through periods of life that include birth, aging, sickness and death. Any pleasure and success we have is not going to run in unending, neat straight lines. But we can make the conscious choices that reflect our own core beliefs and desires, not those dictated by what’s going on around us.

Didn’t we all have childhood dreams of what we might do or be in life? It’s never too late to be what you might have been.

We all make choices, but in the end our choices make us.”

–Ken Levine

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