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Fear in Leaving The Land of Oskee Wee Wee …

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Hamilton At Night

I was raised in the city … smoggy, gritty, industrial, lunchbucket lugging … Hamilton, Ontario.

And I loved it. It was home.

Steelmaking was its lifeblood – so the price to pay for coke furnaces belching thick billows of smoke into the Southern Ontario skies was a Beijing-lite atmosphere. A city built by tenacious blue-collar immigrants from around the globe.

The white-collar high-finance banking and head office territory of Toronto, just 50 kilometres east, made for clearer skies there so long as smoggy flatulence from Hamilton didn’t waft in on them like the Wicked Witch of the West.

Hamilton isn’t usually described as a classically beautiful city. I get it now.

Hamilton – perched on the shores of the western tip of Lake Ontario.

Hamilton – a burg filled with autumnal panoramic swaths of bright orange and fiery red maple and oak trees cloaking, like soft wispy pillows, the hillsides of the escarpment “Mountain” – the very same escarpment that leads slightly southward to Niagara Falls’ waters tumbling ferociously over the parapet.

Hamilton – central to the history of the War of 1812 where British soldiers and local Indians held their ground against invading American frontiersmen; almost within musket shot distance of where Laura Secord spied on the Yanks and saved the British hides before becoming a fabulously successful corporate chocolate icon.

Laura_Secord

Laura-Secord-chocolate

Hamilton – whose only true professional sport’s team causes its citizens to chant the Oskee Wee Wee battle cry as if it held a sacred Da Vinci Code-like meaning outside of a football field.

Hamilton isn’t a sparkling jewel to look at. But beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

We are products of our childhood. Not knowing any different, we accept the world that is given to us.

We develop rose-coloured glasses that can transform a plain woman into a stunning beauty because of the joyful energy and love she exudes.

Hamilton, through my rose-coloured glasses – not Vancouver stunning – was beautiful to me because I knew it as HOME.

And I thought it would be my home forever.

And then one day it wasn’t.

………………………

In Grade 13 Physics class – yup, Ontario had Grade 13 in those days –  ginger-haired Mr. Miedema taught me about various forms of energy.

I was a really crappy physics student – Strangely? Fortunately? The only two concepts I learned and understood that year were those of “potential energy” and “kinetic energy”.

Stored or “potential” energy signifies the idea that harnessed energy can readily be transferred as work.

When a rollercoaster sits still, having inched to the top of a monster hill, it has harnessed a huge amount of potential energy in those seconds just before it plummets at vomit-inducing speed down the track ahead.

Then, once  the rollercoaster begins its descent, the “potential” energy transforms into “kinetic” energy  energy that is in motion. Moving water and wind – and plummeting rollercoasters – are good examples of kinetic energy.

rollercaoster

Although I didn’t realize it at the time, I was filled with late-teenage “potential” energy. It was bottled up inside me waiting to be unleashed.

One morning before heading off for a Blood Banking job interview at the hospital where I had interned in lab technology, the phone rang in the apartment I shared with my sister.

It was Marg Allen, head of the laboratory at Stanton Yellowknife Hospital, way up in the Canadian Arctic.

“Larry, we’d like you to come work for us here in our lab in Yellowknife.

OMG, had I really sent an application to the land of the Inuit?

The expression, “Go North, Young Man” clattered around in my foggy head.

This one little phone call rocked my world of “potential” energy.

An earthquake, a tsunami, and a tornado all hit my existence simultaneously.

I was full of fears:

  • Fear of change
  • Fear of leaving my hometown, my friends and family behind
  • Fear of the unknown
  • Fear perhaps, even of Polar Bears and Musk Oxen and Northern Lights (I could be frightened of my shadow at this point)

Once the palpitations had settled and I breathed (does breathing include stomach contents?) into a brown paper bag for a while, I gathered up my courage and phoned Marg back.

Thank you for the offer Marg … I’ll be there next Monday morning.“, I nervously mumbled.

Yellowknife_northern_lights

Yellowknife and the Northern Lights …

My “potential” energy had been locked away in a safe I didn’t know existed.

Pulled from its cocoon, it transformed into “kinetic” energy that late-September day in Hamilton, my hometown.

Life changing experiences – forks in the road – come along a few times in our lives.

One transformative phone call can change us forever. One e-mail. One kiss. One accident, good or bad.

I learned as the months passed that I wanted a life filled with kinetic energy experience.

I learned that I could adapt to different climates and people and embrace the huge and exciting diversity that I never understood or realized existed before that day.

I learned that the solution to ignorance is to throw yourself into the messy milieu of life and understanding would follow.

I learned that my best experiences in life would appear like magic out of the ether… Black and White Swans that neither I nor anyone else could have predicted.

I learned that the best way to live with fear of the unknown is to plow forward with positive hope and enthusiasm.

I learned that I would rather regret the things I did, than regret the things I didn’t do out of fear.

I learned that to die by a thousand cuts of rippling fear of the unknown is not the way to live, truly live.

I learned that Home is heartwarming and comfortable. Home is welcoming and loving.

I learned that home is actually inside of us whether it’s in Hamilton or Yellowknife … or for this Man on the Fringe … Summerland.

waltons at home

 

 

Do Something …

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Nobody cries at the end of a movie about a guy who bought a Volvo.”

-> Donald Miller

A Million Miles in a Thousand Years.

 

From time to time I feel a rant coming on and that time is now.

I want to stand on the pulpit like Jerry Falwell or Oral Roberts, my welcoming arms spread wide, and preach to you about how to live your life.

I can sense a warming Pastor’ish aura descend over me, like a rich multi-coloured woollen cloak.

And the really wonderful thing is I won’t make a pitch for you to send money… hmmm, hold on a minute … if you want to send me a few dollars I won’t object.

So, friend … Join me today in the esteemed CHURCH of LAWRENCE.

Church Sign

Do you want to be the one who left this earth and they said at your funeral:

he read a lot of books.” (although that’s good too!)

 

I want to be the one who reached his final breath, where they said :

there were a lot of books written by and about him.”

 

In other words, I DID something.

Do you see where I’m going here?

Lose the passive, lose the inertia … become the active. Physical. Mental. Spiritual.

It doesn’t have to be earth-shattering, really important stuff to anyone other than yourself or the small world around you. If you want to be Nelson Mandela or Maya Angelou… go for it. But it’s good enough to be a better Joe Schmidlap.

In Grade 13 Physics class at Sir Wilfrid Laurier school in Hamilton, Mr. Miedema tried to teach me all about the various forms of energy. I was bored stiff other than when I was ogling sweet-faced brunette Charlene, dreaming of what she looked like naked, but this much I absorbed:

It isn’t enough to have potential energy… you can store up all the energy in the world but unless it’s released, there ain’t nothing happening.

I need my energy to become kinetic … active energy that makes things happen.

potentialkinetic energy

 

Because I’m preaching and ranting today, you might think I’m claiming to be perfect.

I wish.

I know people who brag to me about not watching any television. BULLSHIT…

Not me …

If you don’t watch “television” you’re most likely watching your iPhone or Netflix or downloading movies and TV series from the internet … it’s all semantics. I love good TV and there is some very good TV available, just like there are great books, great movies and great music.

Like the food I eat, I try to limit the junk TV (did someone say Reality TV) and seek out the quality screenwriters and performers that nourish my mind and inspire my funny gene or my idea machine after I click the box off.

I even like to watch nighttime soap operas like The Good Wife, House of Cards, and Nashville (of course the music negates the “soap” component here).

But if I sit in my La-Z-Boy hour after hour, day after day, after sitting at an office desk 9 to 5, my muscles atrophy and I slowly dwindle. My strength shrinks and fades as surely as my gut swells and my chin clones multiply.

If I think and do … build chicken coops, write books, ride bikes up mountains, play some piano, cook a gourmet meal … my kinetic energy builds and multiplies.

growth mindset

We have to measure our time carefully so we don’t become strict observers of life.

The kinetic energy that makes us grow smarter and better needs to be used over and over again and then it grows like a voraciously hungry trumpet vine or a wisteria, wild plants that once started, sprout new tendrils at an astounding pace.

It takes sweat and effort. It’s hard work to think and grow and generate ideas and make things.

Just like in the gym though, the muscle won’t grow until the effort creates heat and rivers of sweat.

And sometimes it’s not what we do, it’s what we don’t do that makes the difference.

For example, I’ve stopped buying the Globe and Mail newspaper every day. I can spend a couple of hours easily each day, reading news that means nothing to my life.

By cutting this back, I can use that time to do and create, or maybe just think. I still buy the Saturday Globe, it has the Books section and lots of pretty pictures of models wearing swell clothes, so I won’t give that up.

Our electronic world is filled with wonderful time consumers, little bastard time-wasters that vacuum up precious moments of our lives.

Time waster

I’m learning not to waste my time with negative people or those that are draining … I want positive interactions with those who plan to live life in an uplifting fashion.

I have a friend Henny who seeks out newness in her life to the tune of her birthdays. For each year of her age, she finds something that she’s never done or seen, or even eaten, to accomplish in the year between birthdays. So, for example, at age 35, she finds 35 new things to be a part of her life.

They’re not all big items – most aren’t actually –  just something unique and different to her.

It keeps her fresh and excited about her life.

Things like a trip down a zipline, a bottle of wine from a country never tried before, reading a book about something totally foreign to her, riding her bike down every street in her small town at least once in the year.

These are little exploits that take a touch of effort but reward her with an ongoing profusion of experiences and enthusiasm.

So, my friend, dive in … I’ll cheer you on.

Do something that makes you catch your breath, even if just a little.

We can all become minor Superheroes. No cape required.

Maybe your earthbound days will roll to the finish line and the immortality of your name will live on as an eponymous adjective.

Wouldn’t it be cool to have the newest “IT” thing described by the masses as … not Kafkaesque, Orwellian, Wagnerian or Napoleonic or Shakespearean, but … maybe Fergusonian or Fisherite or Swidzinskian … or perhaps  best of all… Greenesque.

There you have it good friend, this concludes today’s sermon.

Go forth and be kinetic. You have the potential.

Ordinary superheroes are just like you and me ...

Ordinary superheroes are just like you and me …