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BITCHES Have All the Answers …

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Driving along the Penticton beach strip, I looked out at the dark, foreboding, icicle-cold water of Okanagan Lake.

Just a few months ago, I had swum across this lake on a bright and balmy summer morning – my annual 2.6K cross-lake paddle with my amiga de swimming Jennifer.

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Today, it wasn’t really all that cold outside, maybe slightly above the freezing point, but the dusky colour of the lake and the sombre grey sky gave the impression of an Arctic-frigid kind of day.

I felt a little chill run through me as I gazed out at the small ripples on the water. Even the stately, visiting Trumpeter Swans looked shivery bobbing out there.

Motoring along just in front of me was a big, dark-toned pickup truck, the kind driven by men with tattoos that cover their entire meaty arms and shotguns in the back window.

A large black dog with a sleek, shiny coat of fur was zig-zagging across the box in the back of the truck … one side, then the other, then the other, over and over again. It was hypnotic the way she floated like a pendulum back and forth, back and forth.

Just so you know – and I know I shouldn’t make snap judgments – I’m calling the pup SHE because her owner probably likes the idea of owning a bitch.

(Aside: It’s illegal to carry untethered dogs in the back of your truck in B.C. but I don’t think doggy knew she was at risk of being jailed. She maybe even smokes forbidden pot without realizing this isn’t Washington State or Colorado… some dogs can be so nonchalant.)

Black Dog in Pickup

Anyway, I wondered.

What was this dog thinking?

Was she taking stock of her situation just for the moment at hand, or was she trying to determine if this was the life she really wanted to lead?

Searching for life’s key, she flashed a thoughtful look out in all directions, imploring, begging for the answer to find a windy pathway into her nose where she could digest its meaning.

Did this canine have a secret, a secret that I should know?

Of course. Right then, I knew the black doggy had the right approach. She was actively absorbing and questioning her life’s choices and taking stock.

If she could be so perceptive and insightful, it seemed only right that I should do the same.

But. When is the right time to take stock of your life?

Should we even try to take stock of our lives?

Should we spend those Malcolm Gladwell 10,000 hours to think, become curious and become masters of our own lives?

Pssst… Let me share a small secret with you.

The laws of biology dictate that our “life road” will come to a dead end at some point.

Turbulent but brilliant Steve Jobs knew that when he spoke at the 2005 Stanford University Commencement ceremony:

Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.”

Steve Jobs Candle

Absorbing this important message, taking stock isn’t something we should wait until later in our lives to contemplate, is it?

When we’re driving to work, when we’re relaxing by the fire in the evening, when we’re running or knitting, or having sex – no, forget that last one – those are the times to ask ourselves if all is settled and as it should be, or are changes needed. Asking the question:

Am I living the life I thought I’d lead when, in Grade 11 Math Class, I dreamed of the future instead of listening to Mr. Warneke?”

Today, just like Steve Jobs said, I’m in the process of becoming naked.

Just like the black dog in the truck. Naked.

My young adult kids think I’m way too undressed already, and maybe they’re right. But I don’t think so.

I think they’re young like I was just a few … weeks ago. The wisdom of roaming the earth in metaphorical nakedness is something that grows cunningly inside as our hair grows grey on the outside.

Maybe someone should be really taking stock of their life choices...

Maybe someone should be really taking stock of their life choices…

Becoming who we want rather than what our friends and family and media tell us to be is a huge courageous step forward. Taking stock and being honest to ourselves can be slow, it can be difficult, maybe even painful.

There are still some parts of myself that I can’t bring myself to share with the world because of my pride and fear of embarrassment.

I’m not fully naked and I probably never will be. But there are fewer and fewer secret coves that I’m protecting, and it feels good to let go of my pride.

Taking the time to look out the window. To think. To digest the robin or chickadee songs, the views of luscious green hillsides, breathing and smelling the lilac in the air, tasting a bit of sandy grit in my teeth as dust swirls when a truck passes is useless dreck.

Maybe that’s just stuff to be ignored. Maybe. But I don’t think so.

I have less and less to lose and I have a black dog to thank for reminding me that I don’t have to hide the parts of me that used to scare me. It’s a risk that’s worth taking.

Taking stock of where I am and where I’m going is a sign of strength. I love that feeling of risk and fear.

The rush.

Like the carriage return when I hit the Publish button.

Click.

Stories Your Parents Never Told You … on Becoming an Ewok

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There are stories our mothers and fathers never told us because they hurt too much.

My baby pic

Why didn’t my parents tell me about hairy issues?

I get it.

Honesty from our parents should be a given, but parents want to protect their children from the cuts and scrapes of life and so they shelter us from life’s storms. They tell us to be truthful, then they turn around and say Yes, Santa lives, Virginia“, and we snuggle contentedly in our beds and dream sugar-plum dreams for one more night.

Our parents read the newspapers and watch the TV stories of the terrible things that happen: the school shootings, the terrorist attacks, the derailed trains, but they filter and smooth the harshness of life.

Spine-chilling events occur every minute of every day somewhere, and the best we can do in this life is to make sure we keep ourselves out of the line of fire. But we do this while still trying to lead the most fulfilling lifetime possible, right? It’s kind of contradictory, but really, it makes sense.

We all want to be sheltered from the scary things that go bump in the night, so when we look in our kids’ eyes and they glow with the innocence of believing that everything is blissful and merry, we too immerse ourselves in that soothing spa of naivety.

It feels good. It feels warm. We bask in their sunny simplicity.

It’s the salve that protects and heals us in a world that makes us joyously happy as well as heartwrenchingly sorrowful.

Life is hard to live. And even if Facebook tells us that everyone out there is gloriously happy, don’t believe it. We don’t usually share our anguish and ill thoughts on social media. We all have snippets of misery bound up inside of us.

I’ve had to learn some life lessons the hard way. Maybe that’s the way it should be, but I can’t help thinking just a little forewarning would have been nice.

There are three areas of life my parents never, in the slightest, prepared me to handle or understand:

1. Hairy ears  – It is patently unfair that the hair on my head dwindles as the hair on the rims of my ears and inside my nose grows like a wildfire raging out of control.

Ear HairMy father must have known, yet never explained to me that I was under threat of becoming an Ewok as years passed. Shouldn’t this be common father/son discussion territory right along with “use a condom” and “run if she says she wants 6 kids“?

So here I am taking razors and tweezers to regions of my body that were supposed to be virginally pristine, perpetually clearcut, and looking after themselves. They did their jobs just fine for the first 40+ years, so why change the contract now?

Maybe I’m missing the point and it’s really just divine intervention to ensure that barbers and hairstylists have job security.

My travel agent friend has a fluffy bush growing out of his nose; when I’m sitting across the desk from him do you think I can hear what he’s saying? I can’t see the travel trees for all of the furry forest on display. I’m dying to pull out a pair of little bonsai scissors and try out some topiary design work – give me 10 minutes and he could have a full Disney menagerie hanging from his nostrils for his next ride down Splash Mountain.

…………………….

2. Growing Nose – I didn’t enter my adult years with a large nose. Alright, it wasn’t tiny or something that you might describe as a cute button like Emma Watson’s or Leonardo DiCaprio’s, but it was fairly narrow and unhumped and well-behaved. Not perfect, but pretty damned good.

michael-jackson-nose

My nose is growing the opposite direction that MJ’s took…

Then, as the hair follicles on my head began spitting out their woolly cargo, and the downy fuzz on my ears sprang joyously to life, my nose too decided that it wanted to get in on the action and do its Pinocchio thing. 

Now I don’t have a huge honking proboscis today, but the width has definitely increased and occupies a broader expanse of my face. Dr. Oz acknowledges it occurs, so it must be true. Our noses do keep growing, even if we don’t lie.

The bone tissue stops increasing, but the cartilage keeps adding layers, just like the new 3D printers that are all the rage in the media these days. If the day comes where humans live to 500 years old, we’ll be guessing our neighbour’s age by the length and breadth of his nose, like counting the rings on trees.

When the weight of our snout causes us to tumble over, we’ll know that we’ve reached the maximum lifespan for humans. I’m getting close.

…………………….

3. Raising Children –  is damned hard work and maybe not for everyone. There is a mass societal deception; we’re inundated by positive messages about the joys of parenting and raising a herd of little Liams and Emmas (2013 Most Popular Baby Names, brought to you by Pampers).

Like the myth of Santa Claus, “Joyful Procreation for Dummies” is another one of those fallacies foisted on us by the ones who know better… actual parents and grandparents.

child-play

Of course our parents want us to have kids. What greater joy is there than to see your own children suffering through the same slings and arrows you went through 30 years earlier? It’s called “Don’t get mad, get even.” And Grandparents love their grandkids; as soon as they begin to misbehave, it’s “OK, out to the car Marge, we’re goin’ home.

The real truth is, despite the joys of “Mini Me’s” reflecting our vigours and foibles, bringing up children is exhausting: physically, mentally and emotionally. No minute or dollar is your own once a young’un arrives.

They wait at bathroom doors like meowing cats, except they learn how to turn the handle. Privacy, what privacy?

They instinctively know when a few extra dollars linger in your bank account for a special date night out – an instant need for $100 for the school basketball trip arises.

Have kids … please.

But also know that your workplace labours will seem like child’s play in comparison to the rigours of parenthood. The money train is constantly leaving the station, but there are no income arrivals on this trip.

OK, I kinda get this one. If my parents had told me all, I could have missed the super highs that triumph the perils of parenting. Well played Mom and Dad.

…………………….

So, like a modern-day Scrooge, my rant is now complete.

And you know, for all my complaints, my parents really did prepare me for most of the important things in life eg. SACRIFICE: chocolate truly does taste better after you’ve eaten your liver or spinach; LOGIC: “Because I said so, that’s why“; ANTICIPATION: “Just wait until I tell your father“; and finally, JUSTICE : “One day you’ll have kids, and I hope they turn out just like you!

It would make me feel so much better and less lonely if you shared even one area where you wish your parents had shared the truth.

And finally my friends: “Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!”

There are some things I just can't tell you ...

Yes Virginia, there is a Santa …