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VULNERABILITY Seems To Be The Hardest Word … Big Boys Don’t Cry

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Man in war crying

It’s my life and I’ll cry if I want to …

I’ve wasted a lot of time over the years trying to hide my feelings and imperfections.

It’s a stupid exercise, but peer and society’s dictates are strong motivators to bury our intimate thoughts.

As a young teenager in the early ’70’s, I laid in the late, hot darkness of my bedroom, a thin ribbon of warm, amber hall light sneaking through the bottom edge of the door. Thick, humid air off Lake Ontario fell heavily through the window making simple breathing an effort.

My bedroom was typically psychedelic-adolescent of the era with colourful, fluorescent posters of Three Dog Night and Led Zeppelin hung out at odd angles on the walls – groovy, manly music posters of guys with long stringy hair, cool and unemotional as hell; guys I was trying to identify with and mimic in my early years at Glendale High School.

Led Zeppelin

But my attempts at exterior coolness sharply contrasted with the veiled reality I felt laying there – fretting and unsettled about the unknowable possibility of my Mom dying – with small rivulets of tears tickling down my cheek, falling gently, soaking silently into the pillow.

It was a desolate place because these feelings were something I could … would … NEVER share with anyone. Not my Mom or Dad, not my siblings, and especially not my best friends Renato, Frank, or Jerome.

Fears and vulnerability were an inner war to be fought on a minute-to-minute basis. No battle in this realm could be lost, for if even one clash was forfeited, then the war was over. You were a “girl”… none of us boys wanted to be a “girl”.

In my sissy-free mind, I had to be bravely perfect, or close to it.

At my own Mom’s funeral when I was 15, not a single tear escaped my eyes in public.

…………………….

I’m a so-called grown-up now and I can let my hair down (oh wait, sadly I can’t do that the way I could as a ’70’s long-haired kid).

But I’ve found that shedding the cloak of tough guy is not so easy.

Childhood rules are locks and chains with strong forging. Can’t you hear the early voices of your parents, grandparents, and friends warning you to be this, or not to be that?

We want to please our parents, right?

Mommy, watch this … aren’t I good, aren’t I special?” –  “Yes Daddy, boys don’t cry …

These are the RULES.

Correction: Those WERE the rules.

Vulnerability and a willingness to look foolish are first cousins.

Vulnerability ties itself to the post that is perfection. If we have strong knots holding our weaknesses to that post, we’ll never risk losing face. We can always maintain the illusion of perfection, if only the knot holds.

With time, I’ve tried to be more honest about my mistakes and emotions. Even if I’m afraid of what people think.

Yes, I may no longer look as smart as they thought I was. And yes, for a small moment I won’t be the spinning top that never falls.

That’s ok. I’m human. I can be vulnerable and foolish.

And Praise The Lord, ’cause I look foolish a lot these days, and finally … I don’t care. I feel like Forrest Gump gallumping down the road with my leg braces snapping and breaking and flying madly off in all directions. There’s a refreshing wind blowing through my hair and a smile in my heart.

Years ago – maybe I was 18 at the time – I approached a young bikini’ed blond sitting by herself on a beach in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. I’d never tried picking up a girl in a bar or on a beach ever ever in my life. But, what the hell, I thought. She looked good, and no one knew me there. I could be foolish in camouflage.

Risk versus reward … Heart thumping in my throat, I went for it.

Mr. Smooth Operator (NOT!!!), I sat down beside her beach towel and introduced myself. We talked and did the ritual animalistic checkout of our ancestors. A quick two minutes later – my jittery breath returning – I think we both knew there was no chemistry happening, no likelihood of making beautiful babies together.

So I stood up, smiled, said goodbye, and walked away… sad that nothing would come of it, but happy that I’d unlocked my vulnerability and exposed myself to potential ridicule and rejection and went for it anyway.

But unfortunately that moment of brave vulnerability was the exception and not the rule for me then and for many long years after.

Now I realize that losing my vulnerability pays dividends just like my stock portfolio and my beloved Tim Hortons’ (er … em … Burger King) shares.

Dividends-become-more-popular-again-NF1LPPHI-x-large

 

 

Creativity doesn’t exist and thrive in houses overstuffed with rules.

This is why I sometimes, really just occasionally, say things that might seem a bit outrageous in this blog. I’m trying to cast off the rules – society’s shackles that hold me back from molding something that approaches “new” (I know that little is truly new, but “idea sex” allows a fresh take on the old).

If I follow all of the rules of life, I’ll live a carbon-copy existence to everyone else. Then I’ll wake up, stuck in a lousy traffic jam cursing the guy in front of me, who’s cursing the guy behind him (that would be me). Give me a wide open country road with wind-blown sand in my teeth and gravel under my wheels.

To be creative and set in motion a billowing mushroom-cloud of ideas, I have to forget about macho perfectionism and playing one or more of the roles thrust on me by others. As a strange consequence, I even think that people like me better when they see how foolish and imperfect and vulnerable I can be.

The time is past due to boldly consider breaking rules. Crossing some boundaries is exponentially exhilarating and joyous.

Sorry, dear friend, but I’ve gotta come clean here.

This blog? I’m really just using you as my analyst.

Thank you for your service! Oh, and your cheque is in the mail!

PS. One last thing.  I still can’t shed a tear in public … some locks were just forged without a key.

Analyst

 

 

 

How Do You Become A LIST Whore?

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Hello my name is Larry and I’m a List-aholic”

mens-health-march-2014-1

 

Follow me here…

Every day, I check the Huffington Post, or Zite, or Flipboard or The Globe and Mail on my iPad or Kobo and there are lists.

10 WAYS YOU CAN BECOME… 5 REASONS YOU SHOULD… 8 TOP SECRETS OF…

Every time I stand waiting in a supermarket line, I sheepishly – is anyone watching? – glance over the covers of magazines like People and Cosmopolitan and Men’s Health filled with rules and Top 10 lists.

  • 30 Rules For Boyfriends From Two Wise Little Girls (Huffington Post)
  • 17 Things Women Think During Anal Sex (Cosmopolitan)
  • 13 Ways To Prevent Excessive Gas (Huffington Post)
  • 73+ Pivotal Blogging Shortcuts and Tips (Blog Tyrant)
  • We Shit Glitter: The 9 Unsexiest Secrets Of Being A Burlesque Dancer (Sabotage Times)

A lot of it is pure BS, but I can’t pull myself away from the lure of the car crash scenario. I don’t want to be drawn to them, but the curious irresistibility factor suckers me in. “Read me, read me!”

One more list and then another, just one more list will make me a better lover, or athlete, or father, or pickle maker. You name your interest and there’s a list to help you become a better (fill-in-the-blank).

It’s an addiction that I need to feed, and there are idea nutrients spread everywhere like a military carpet bombing. Lists are mind candy – the succinct conduit for delivery of ideas and inspiration.

Honestly, I crave lists and rules like I hunger for creamy sweet chocolate, french fries, and oxygen.

Lists play into my insecurities.

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It’s no secret to me that the success of all these lists is that people, myself included, are feeling a veiled dissatisfaction with some area(s) of their lives.

At its root lies the question, “What is my life about?

That might sound bad, but it’s really not. Let me explain, OK?

A couple of times over the past year or so, I’ve shown you the picture of actor Sally Field clutching her Oscar “Best Actress” trophy in delirious victory. I love that picture and the honesty that poured out from her throat.

People made fun of old Flying Nun/Momma Gump Sally when she stood on the Oscar stage in 1984 and emotionally declared, “… you like me, right now, you like me!”.

SALLY_FIELD

…of course I like you Sally…

Sally blurted out the hidden but truthfully obvious fact that 95% of the actors, directors, camera operators and the general public in the audience just want to be liked, whether on stage acting, or in the everyday trenches of real life.

We want others to like us and to recognize that we are good at something. And a great way to show us that we are lovable and worthwhile is to give us a gold statuette and clap at us while we stand on a stage basking in glory.

It’s no different than when we were little kids and we badgered our Mommies and Daddies to watch us jump into the swimming pool: “Mommy, watch this… Mooooommmmy, WATCH THIS!”

These needs to be loved and admired within most of us are what lead us to push harder and try to be better at something, which feeds into our sense of self-esteem.

Most of the wonderful advances and improvements in our world and society (yeah, a lot of the bad stuff too) came from those who wanted to be recognized as achieving excellence, and hence, received love and admiration from their peers, friends and family, and the world at large. So what’s wrong with that?

The great innovator Steve Jobs loved to wander back and forth on a stage in his black turtleneck sweater, basking in the glory of the spotlights and hordes of admirers before he would utter those famous words, ” Oh, and one more thing…” , just before making a huge i-whatever product announcement.

That was just a grown man standing by the edge of the kiddie pool, yelling, Mommy, watch this…”.

When I crossed the finish line of an Ironman race many many years ago now, would I have experienced the same joy if there was no one there watching? Of course not.

I craved the adoring gush of the throngs of people and my family acknowledging what a wonderful achievement I had accomplished. Mommy would have approved of me and I would have smiled inside.

Ironman 1990

This is one of MY Sally Field moments …

 

There are very few of us who don’t have underlying insecurities, little voices in our head telling us that we need to be better.

Lists and rules offer up handy – and often, admittedly, too facile – solutions to our insecurities.

But they CAN help to give us tools and innovative ways we hadn’t considered to become new and improved.

CREATIVITY CAN BE FOUND IN A LIST

29-ways-to-stay-creative

I choose to look at lists positively. I’m seeking the bravery to push outside my comfort zone, to subdue my insecurity if you will.

If it takes a list of ideas and suggestions from outside, I’ll happily look at it and decide if my choice to create something new for me – within me – is worthwhile.

Creativity doesn’t always have to be newly invented from within. Epiphanies come in lots of costumes. Let’s make like Bonnie and Clyde, like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, like Bernie Madoff, and make off with as many ideas that are offered freely from others as we can.

The choice is ours, steal what looks useful and leave the rest of the dreck behind, like yucky canned peas on a plate of hot, fragrant fish and chips.

Finally, let me offer you one little list I’ve come across. It’s a list for cynics and for those List Haters that I know exist out there who smirk and scowl at us dreamers aka List-Lovers.

FIVE RULES TO REMEMBER IN LIFE

  1. Money cannot buy happiness, but it’s more comfortable to cry in a Range Rover than on a bicycle.
  2. Forgive your enemy, but remember the ass-hole’s name.
  3. If you help someone when they’re in trouble, they will remember you when they’re in trouble again.
  4. Many people are alive only because it’s illegal to shoot them.
  5. Alcohol does not solve any problems, but then neither does milk.

 

Double DD’s … A Sweet Slice of Heaven Lies in Perfection?

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Meg Ryan sliced through my heart …

Meg-Ryan before after

She didn’t have to. She had a choice. And I’m left in a soggy heap asking why?

She must have known she had me enthralled even before she went all gastronomically orgasmic in When Harry Met Sally.

And now here she is looking like someone from the Real Housewives of Hollywood — pumped and plumped lips, cheek implants, brow lift and who knows what else.

She’s a 10 who hit the math subtraction sign of her plastic surgeon on her iPhone and sadly, regrettably, ended up a 5.

It kills me when, like a fluffy puppy, you’re cute and adorable and intelligent in a beautiful little bundle, and then you ruin a recipe approaching perfection by adding a cup of salt — there’s no going back.

Every time Meg cocked her perky little head, flipped a few strands of her blond ringlets and coyly smiled at me in Sleepless in Seattle or You’ve Got Mail, I felt a gentleman’s stirring which meant I couldn’t stand up for 5 minutes.

But Meg? What blurred your senses making you think you needed a Dexter-style slicing and plumping?  Let Dolly Parton and Pamela Anderson and Bruce Jenner have the implants and injections and tucks.

Gold Medalist Decathlete Bruce Jenner

Decathlete Bruce Jenner … Olympic Gold turns to Plastic …

Now me – at my objective best – I have physical faults, lots of ’em.

How do I perceive such? Let me count the ways:

  • My nose is too wide.
  • My hair is thinning and I have a bald spot.
  • I’m a bit overweight.
  • I have wrinkles criss-crossing my wrinkles.
  • I have sagging skin on my jaw line, the start of jowls.
  • Secretly, I fear I’ll never be a folk-singer star.

OK, that last one isn’t a real physical fault, but it just goes to show you the depth of my insecurities.

It’s sad that my outsides are sliding and sagging down a Sochi Olympic slope. I’ve watched my juvenile bloom drain and melt away year after year in the bathroom mirror. Where’s Dorian Gray when I need him?

But you know, I’m at an age and a stage where technology could help me retain a semblance of my youth, if I choose.

And so I ask myself…

Would I take on a bit of plastic surgery?

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Plastic surgery has become a part of our western culture — like it or not. It has insidiously seeped through our pores like the creams and lotions we massage into our dermis to magically remove the wrinkles.

We pretend that advertising and peer pressure doesn’t affect us, and then we go buy the latest iPhone.

When we see enough people getting BOTOX injections or calf implants or beautiful voluptuous breasts, we begin to believe that it must be OK. Once everyone in your office has had lip plumping and liposuction, don’t YOU begin to feel like the odd one in the group?

Let’s not beat ourselves up about this.

It’s not bad – alright, maybe a bit sad – but it’s who we are. It’s the nature of humans to be a part of a culture, a society … to belong.

You can't handle the boobs!!

You can’t handle the truth …these Babies are REAL!

I can tell myself that I’m superior and above such frivolous thoughts. But am I really? 

What used to be a perk of the Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous out there, has, like maybe owning a Porsche or a 150″ theatre-style TV, become a possibility for Mr. or Ms. Anyone with a few extra dollars of expendable income.

Remember Bill Clinton’s successful campaign slogan from 1992 that helped him defeat George Bush Sr.?:

It’s the economy, stupid.

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Well, plastic surgery should have its own slogan:

It’s our insecurities, stupid.

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I have insecurities, you have insecurities, we all have insecurities.

And so we place ourselves under the knife or needle to fix on the outside what we can’t or won’t repair on the inside.

The inside stuff is just too difficult, and often emotionally painful to deal with. If we can fix the outer problems, maybe our critical inner voices will melt away, right?

Or maybe its just that we struggle with respecting or accepting the value of aging and therefore reject the mantle of wisdom.

…………………

I have a friend Julia, who recently had some work done to her face. Twice actually.

Julia is an attractive, slender, divorced woman in her early 60’s.

Unlike Meg and so many others who have become possible substitutes on The Walking Dead, she looks really good after her facial manipulations.

When I talk with her, I see a perky youthfulness that gives her a freshness that had ever so slightly waned as she entered her fifties and then her early 60’s. The changes have been subtle but restrained enough to see that there wasn’t an attempt to regain a face of a 30 year-old.

It makes her feel good about herself and I can’t criticize her or judge her. I guess I only hope she didn’t do it as “Whore Lure” to attract the male of the species.

…………………………..

I feel badly Meg. You didn’t need to change for me. You were good and nice in so many ways already. And I’m really glad you didn’t have breast augmentation, despite your modest endowment in the pectoral area.

I don’t like the look of fake boobs. And honestly, large real boobs don’t really call out to this Man on the Fringe.

But I digress. Have you noticed that I’ve skillfully avoided answering the question I posed earlier?:

Would I take on a bit of plastic surgery?

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My hesitant answer?

Forgive Me Father for I have sinned!

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  • I admit that a portion of my fitness activity is partly an attempt to retain a semblance of youth without taking a blade or needle to the temple that is my body.
  • I’ve had my some amalgam added to a couple of my teeth to remove the appearance of gaps.
  • I’ve had my eyes surgically-lasered so that I don’t need to wear glasses.

By a matter of degree and nuance, I’ve already joined Meg Ryan and so many others desperately seeking perfection.

I won’t be running to a cosmetic surgeon any day soon, but, in a few years, if my Levis begin to sag badly in the rear — or heaven forbid — I should succumb to one of those “male enlargement” e-mails … well, who knows what sin I’m capable of!!!

Butt implant