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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

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Woody Allen Soothed Away My Fear…

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Bisexuality immediately doubles your chances for a date on Saturday night.”

Woody Allen

"Irrational Man" Premiere - The 68th Annual Cannes Film Festival

 

I’m going to take this notion of bi-sexuality one step further and tell you that one of the advantages of embarking on a career like Medical Laboratory Technology is that you get to choose from 5 or 6 or 7 different lab areas (dates) in which to work.

This is important. It changed my life.

Medical laboratories are usual divided up into departments like Haematology (study of blood cells), Chemistry (measuring our inner chemical makeup), Microbiology (determining the microbial cause of infectious disease), Histology (preparation and study of body tissues removed during surgery or autopsy), and Blood Banking (preparation and crossmatching of stored donor blood for transfusion).

Often it’s necessary to choose (or have chosen for you) a specific department to focus your career upon.

In my former life as a lab tech I dreaded being called into the hospital in the middle of the night to crossmatch blood needed for urgent transfusion. There was always a mutilated car crash victim, or a woman needing blood during a Caesarian Section delivery. STAT!

On my chilly drive or walk to the hospital I’d look up at the dark night sky and hope the stars aligned for a positive outcome to the danger that lay ahead in the Emergency Room.

It wasn’t because I hated getting out of the warm bed I loved (well, it kinda was!)…

… or detested the sight of pools of still steaming crimson blood on the floor beneath the patient’s bed, bones and organs exposed beneath torn tissue (well, it kinda was!)…

… or the anguish of a distraught family in a time of crisis (well, I really did hate that too)…

I actually liked the jumping-out-of-an-airplane injection of adrenaline that I felt when I strode purposefully into the ER and a bevy of medical personnel were focussed solely on resurrecting a ghastly situation. THAT was a rush…

But the real reason I hated emergency blood crossmatches was fear. I couldn’t sleep once I returned home afterwards.

I’d sweat bullets the rest of the night worrying that I might have made a crossmatching error and there would be an ashen-faced coagulated corpse awaiting my sleep-deprived arrival for the morning lab shift.

Even a tiny error in my technique… and I accidentally provided incompatible blood to a patient… could result in a major reaction from the vital fluid flowing into their arm that might kill the patient.

sticky blood clump

Red blood cells sticking together… do I transfuse this or not?

It was all about fear.

I was afraid… terrified that in my attempt to heal, I might terminate someone because my blurry eyes made a wee mistake looking down a microscope at 2:47 in the morning.

I had memories floating in my head. Fearful memories.

As a student technologist I almost killed an unborn baby.

All because of a simple arithmetic error I made in producing a test result on amniotic fluid that suggested an unborn infant’s lungs were sufficiently well developed to be birthed via C-section.

The astute surgeon called moments before making the first cut into a Mommy-To-Be‘s abdomen and uterus to confirm the test result I had provided.

Oops… sorry.

On second examination of my calculations, I had placed a decimal point in the wrong place… stop the surgery… NOW!!!!

In my honour, there should be a big congratulatory plaque erected in my training hospital in Hamilton, Ontario. I was the one who had made a near tragic error that resulted in a change to lab rules concerning oversight of student technologists by senior staff.

It seemed pretty obvious afterwards that life-and-death test results should be double-checked and not trusted to an 18 year-old student (and part-time McDonalds burger flipper) without an official lab certification yet.

My confidence levels were shaken down several anxious notches which was probably a good thing for a boy who evoked this comment from his Grade 2 teacher: “Larry needs to work on his superiority attitude.

These lab-related nightmares and flashbacks convinced me that I would never make a good Blood Bank technologist. You can all thank me for discovering this early on in my career.

I was far safer to humanity and myself in another less critical lab area like Microbiology where vaginal yeast infections were typically my greatest concern.

As unpleasant as it must be, no one needs an urgent blood transfusion for an itchy cooter, nobody dies from an irritated baby cannon.

Now where was I going with this?

AH, yes… It’s about fear.

I know that most of our fears are unwarranted. We all know this and yet we still worry.

fear

Fear is good and fear is bad.

Or as Glinda the Good Witch says: “And so, what the Munchkins want to know is, are you a Good Witch (Fear) or a Bad Witch (Fear)?”

Our job, if we choose to accept it, is to distinguish between the good fears to heed and back away from, and those that we should march boldly headfirst into the thick of.

Fear is one of the odd reasons I love doing things outside of the normal routine of day-to-day life.

Jumping in and swallowing experiences – any experience, wherever it may come from – is like losing your teenage virginity all over again, damned scary and… scary exciting… hopefully!

The inner fear, those bastard voices that try to make us literally and figuratively impotent are there but the delicious rewards make it all worthwhile.

The really important part about fear is being able to distinguish between true good fear that helps us survive and the bad fear that holds us back from the exciting fireworks of life and living.

More than 20 years ago I would never have been able to write this blog. The “old me” was crippled by the bad fear that I wasn’t interesting enough, or smart enough, or important enough to make my voice heard. It was about fear of what you might think of me.

Ten years ago, the “old me” was too self-conscious to speak or sing in front of even a small group of strangers without a prequel week of diarrhea and sleepless nights.

So, you might ask… am I fearless now?

Hmmmm. Nope. Not at all.

Some fears in life are unavoidable… the impending death or loss of a parent, a partner, a child, a treasured pet. Life’s inevitable trials.

I still wouldn’t want to be a Blood Bank technologist. “Accidentally” killing someone is a good fear for me to respect and one I’m best to avoid.

I still encounter lots of fears.

The only difference now is that I recognize these rogue “fear” weasels and the plastic knives they brandish. I simply accept them as part of my growth process.

Merely knowing that fear is usually unfounded allows me to press forward with more confidence and acceptance of myself and my foibles.

I know that when I face my fear, I end up in a different place than I began, and it’s usually a better place, a lovelier place than I thought before I faced the fear.

If this all sounds Woody Allen neurotic to you, that’s okay because… well, friend?… pining for approval is not the monster or boogie man under my bed anymore.

Adrenaline rush

READY? Ummmmm…. NOT a chance!!!!

 

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

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