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The Sock Hop Kiss and Other Lessons

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I got dumped for my first time at the Grade 6 sock hop.

I paid the 10¢ admission for both Louise C and I, we danced to The Box Tops The Letter and the Bee Gees I’ve Gotta Get a Message to You. She was blond and pretty in a Grade 6 kind of way. It was heavenly

Then she ditched me (was it my purple paisley shirt?) before it was time for me to walk her home. Not a good date. Crap!

The second time was at the Grade 9 dance. She was a dark brunette and had some sexy dimples. We slow-danced to Black Magic Woman and Stairway to Heaven. We kissed for the first time at the exit door to the gym. It was heavenly.

Two hours later she was kissing my (soon-to-be-ex!) best friend Kevin in his basement rec room. Another bad date. More crap!

The third time was in a car riding back from the beach with my “girlfriend” and some high school work friends. She was moving on to a new guy (the driver of the car), but hadn’t quite told me yet. Triple Crap!

To be fair, the love ledger hasn’t always been one-sided, all credits and no debits. I’ve dumped others and seen the pain in their sad eyes and broken hearts. I think that is the crappiest.

Ultimately, I asked myself… What have I learned from the hurt, both mine and the others?

Today, I give you…

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8 Lessons I Learned at the Sock Hop and Beyond:

  1. My heart is fragile – love and desire – the chemistry and the butterflies – are gut-level emotions that don’t respond to logic. A love connection with someone else is a freak phenomenon that defies any sense of reality, a sci-fi animation where oxygen is no longer necessary to sustain life if someone you desire fiercely loves you back.
  2. My heart is strong – after a hurtful loss, and another, and another, we develop a resilience, the elasticity of experience that assures us that no matter the depth of anguish (whether it’s loss of love, or the loss of a loved one), the overwhelming sensation of pain will dull little-by-little. Pain lives on a bell curve that rises and falls. Time is the one friend that will never desert us.
  3. My life has many facets – love, desire, connection are major parts of our lives, but they are not the only areas that bring deep, genuine meaning. There are so many aspects to a full and rounded life that don’t require a dance partner e.g. pets, learning, exercising, music, books, working, volunteering, hobbies. Diversification on a personal level adds strength to our individuality.
  4. Lips are the gateway drug to romantic love – there’s good reason why some hookers won’t kiss a John (I’m told!)… a kiss is a powerful weapon, the key that unlocks the heart more than 1,000 words or “forever” diamonds ever will. That Grade 9 kiss I mentioned took me to the top of the mountain and then pushed me off the cliff.
  5. There are different dances in life – not all dance revolves around romance or courtship. Dance can be sexy and erotic. Dance can be friendly and cordial. Dance can be joyous and freeing. Dance can be technical and challenging. Dancing with your children can be the best dance you’ll ever have.
  6. Dance connects us to music – dance isn’t only a way to connect with another person … just close your eyes and feel the music infiltrate and massage deeply. Dance is a physical manifestation of what we hear and feel.
  7. Joy makes everything worthwhile – Joy is a stronger muscle than pain. Joy brings us back from the precipice when the night is dark and bleak. Joy is ultimately – thankfully – stronger than fear, anger, and grief. Joy should be a key piece of the movement of dance, a pleasure-drenched sway.
  8. A really great dance partner doesn’t laugh at my dance moves – Dance can teach us humility and grace… of course I feel like a dork when I dance. Doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy it though. The average child laughs 300 times a day… the average adult…5 times a day. My dance moves shouldn’t be one of your 5 times. Yup, acceptance of our Elaine Benes dance stylings are the litmus test for when we know we’ve found THE one!

Alright, you may have figured out that I didn’t uncover these thoughts all in one go after the Grade 6 sock hop. The visions and impressions sift and settle over months and years and decades.

That afternoon sock hop in the Glen Brae middle school gym in 1968 was my first tuition payment, the first of many learning and growth experiences in my long life of learning and understanding.

Dance can unveil truths about us we never knew. I’ll stretch the metaphor of “dance” here a bit by recounting a clip from a favourite movie of mine.

In When Harry Met Sally, Jess (Bruno Kirby) and Marie (Carrie Fisher), at their wedding dance, thank friends Harry and Sally publicly for being so utterly unappealing as dates and partners, and as an unintended result, bringing the bride and groom together.

To Harry and Sally. If Marie or I had found either of them remotely attractive we would not be here today.”

A simple dance, a touch of hands, the shuffle of feet, is sometimes all it takes to define a worthwhile connection, or prove a sour attachment.

Dances are like diversifying your stock portfolio… you observe and connect with different partners (stocks)… some are wonderful but burn out too quickly, some totally suck from the first cha-cha, and finally, some burn with just the right intensity to sustain a lasting flame of prosperity.

Our lives are better left to chance
I could have missed the pain
But I’d of had to miss the dance
Yes my life is better left to chance
I could have missed the pain
But I’d of had to miss the dance (Garth Brooks)

School days. It’s funny looking back and thinking about the apparent innocence of a Grade 6 Sock Hop where the greater lessons learned that day didn’t occur inside Miss Taylor’s classroom.

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I Do Stupid Things

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Everything was fine until I did something stupid.

Isn’t it always that way?

We looked first-class as we entered the east-end restaurant where her friends and classmates had gathered.

It was a fun evening with hoots of laughter and discussions of the ordeals and traumas and goofy occurrences that happen when a group of young people have shared time together for four years.

Long ago in a galaxy far far away…. her high school graduation and prom. I was her date.

Her short, dark brown hair pulled into an up-do, she looked artistically lovely in a flowing amethyst dress and I looked late-teenager handsome(-ish) in a late 1970’s kind of way. It was a toss-up of who had the longer locks that evening.

The night passed, we drank Labatt’s 50 beer (I was legal, she may not have turned 18 yet) and danced to a DJ, and then after the “prom” we adjourned to her friend’s basement rec room for the “all-nighter party”.

Angela was cute. We had a fun night. I liked her. Friends. That’s all.

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This is where the stupid part comes in.

We had been chummy for a few years while working evening and weekend shifts at our local McDonalds. She was a friend and classmate (at the nearby Catholic high school) of the girl I had a mad love for – the one I had taken to my own grad a year earlier – and who had dumped me a couple of months earlier.

As the all-nighter party approached morning and the excited momentum of the evening quietly slowed into an adagio, I could feel the devastating disappointment in her eyes… disappointment that all her girlfriends were making out with their dates… but we weren’t.

And so, as the sun rose – against my best judgment, and while paradoxically trying to make her feel better – I made out with her sans feelings of attachment or sensual desire.

“Made out” in the sense that no clothes were shed but lips touched. Maybe a breast was fondled, I honestly don’t remember now.

We drove down her street in my old tawny-toned Rambler American as daylight settled over the cool dew glistening on the lawns of her neighbourhood.

She was giddy and blissfully happy when I left her at her parents’ front door.

I felt crappy inside knowing the love in her eyes didn’t catch a similar reflection back from mine.

She had a major crush on me that lasted for a couple of years afterwards that I never reciprocated… at least after that one night.

In today’s parlance, I “ghosted” her.

And to show you how stupidity isn’t always a one-off, I did a similar thing with another amiable young lady when I moved to Yellowknife a year or two later. That time, clothes were shed.

Stupid.

Some things are plain old Stupid-dumb.

Some things are Stupid-hurtful.

Angela was Stupid-hurtful. I’m sorry Angela.

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And stupid-hurtful isn’t just something we do to others. Sometimes it’s self-inflicted.

… stupid-hurtful like… I blame myself for my Mom’s early death at age 60. I can’t leave behind the internal message that if I’d known CPR or artificial respiration, she might have breathed long enough, might have had a heartbeat long enough for an ambulance ride into the skilled hands of a real doctor. Her heart health wasn’t my responsibility as a 15 year-old, but a basic CPR course may have given me more time with her.

That’s stupid-hurtful to me, and yet at 2 a.m. I can’t shake the bastard thought despite it being nonsensical.

Some things are plain old stupid-dumb.

… stupid-dumb like… to keep my McDonalds job as a pimply teenager, I wore a wig… a short-haired wig that kept my non-corporate-conforming shoulder-length locks from the critical eyes of management.

… stupid-dumb like… as a 12 year-old, I cooked fried rice for my family’s traditional Sunday night dinner… clink tinkle tinkle… those are the sounds of hard rice landing on dishware when you don’t boil the rice in water first before frying.

… stupid-dumb like… as a student lab intern, reporting test results that had the potential to kill an unborn baby had an astute surgeon not called my lab supervisor for confirmation of my calculations before making the first cut into the Mom’s abdomen.

… stupid-dumb like… walking off the edge of an elevated deck in my yard where I had removed the stairs for renovation just a day earlier.

… stupid-dumb like…

Well, you get the idea, right? Even Forrest Gump had it right: “Stupid is as stupid does

Stupid must have a weight attached to it because sometimes my head feels heavy.

For all of the things we forget in our worlds – and we all forget sooooo much – the stupid things have a way of indelibly ingraining themselves in our psyche, like burrs in deep grass.

It’s fascinating and maybe even infuriating that I struggle to see the cherubic faces, to hear the angelic voices of my young children at their many Christmas concerts and dance performances and basketball games, and yet, I can vividly see and feel the sharp ends of a projectile nail protruding from my 11 year-old leg while playing a dumb game with childhood friends.

Stupidity doesn’t play fair.

And somehow, when I search for a silver lining to my playbook, I reflect on the conclusion that stupidity is directly related to life lessons and humility because the end result of any stupid thing I’ve done has a positive rebound effect of making me more aware of my terminal ordinariness… taking me one baby step forward on the bumpy road to becoming humble and kind.

I wonder if Sir Isaac Newton understood a few centuries ago that a whole lot of stupid does the job of gravity, holding us firmly to the ground?

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Don’t write what you know, write what fascinates you… and 21 more brilliant things I’ve Learned…

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22 Things I’ve Learned Since I Began Blogging…

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After writing 236 blog posts, I figure I’ve learned one or two things along this joyous journey, some about writing a blog and a few others about living a fuller life.

I’ll share a few of these with you and then you can add on the hundred or more that you figure I should have learned, right?

  1. Creativity isn’t a noun, it’s a verb. Treat your creative force as an action to be developed and actively teased into the open. The creative spark isn’t something that’s given to us like a Christmas gift, wrapped in neat bows and ribbons and cantookles and sneedles. One form of Boot Camp works the body muscle … another form involves the inner imagination muscle.
  2. Writer’s block is a fiction story. Persistence in writing something… anything… blasts away block walls like sugar infusions beat back the Marathon runner’s WALL. I’m a perpetual work in progress and really need to heed this lesson in my songwriting.
  3. I write about the fabric I know mostly, but I also try to write about stuff that is new to me so that I can learn while I write. Constantly learning anew gifts us deeper breaths and enthusiastic heartbeats.
  4. Polls cannot be relied on as truth. People lie and hide their occult souls from pollsters.
  5. We’ll never know the full capacity of our brain and its power to reason and formulate idea sex. There is no human mystery greater than the inner intricacy that lies between our ears (the second greatest mystery is the bewildering and seductive complexity that lies between our legs! We’ll never understand that one either)
  6. Beautiful music is a loving muse that brings forth beautifully elegant words in writing. Listening to music I love invites novel metaphors and descriptive adjectives that lie hidden in the forest.
  7. Listening to the real message in what people say is far more interesting than the obvious, surface stuff. Writing is all about observing deeply and closely, whether in a person’s spoken words or in the moody cloud layers bear-hugging the November hillsides or the serpentine striations in the bark of a Ponderosa Pine tree.
  8. It’s far better to Yoda try and fail than to fail to try in fear of what might go wrong. Theodore Roosevelt: “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds should have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly;…who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.” 
  9. The 1,000 hour or the 10,000 hour rule of practice really does pay dividends. I’m a lazy sort who like to gloss over the hard stuff. Both my writing and my guitar playing are significantly improved with consistent day-in-day-out concentrated effort. I wish I had taken this concept to heart while studying piano as a kid. So, how lazy am I? I began this blog post with the idea that I’d write 33 things I’ve learned. That’s how lazy!
  10. Women are generally much better managers of important stuff like families and organizations and governments. Testosterone is a bombastic nuclear weapon in a 21st century world, a world that performs better with more resilient pillow fights and fewer knife brawls.
  11. None of us really understands anyone else‘s difficulties or challenges until we’ve shared their experiences. “Never criticize a man until you’ve walked in his moccasins.”
  12. Leave the ambiguous, uncertain words out of writing. Either state an opinion or don’t. I’m pretty sure this is usually important or … just maybe it’s not. Wrong. 
  13. Children thrive on stories. Adults are much the same. This goes to the heart of the writing concept “Show, Don’t Tell“. People are far more intrigued by a point illustrated through an anecdote or story than they are by being told directly. We all love stories. When I gaze at a canvas of visual art, I look for the story the painting tells me. Stories are our comfort food.
  14. Pancakes are the perfect breakfast food. Hot, fragrant, mobile-if-necessary, sweet or savoury, all 4 (5 if you count chocolate as I do) food groups in a perfect circular package of yumminess.
  15. Blog titles that include the word “sex” or a sex-related term will ALWAYS get more readership. It’s too easy really. It’s like answering poll questions. We don’t reveal the true nature of our hormonally bawdy thoughts publically, but privately, the carnal rivers never stop flowing.
  16. The stocks I sell today are the ones guaranteed to double in share price in a week or two. This goes along in tandem with the dollar rising or falling sharply in reverse harmony to what I’ve predicted when someone asks me for advice in making a financial decision. Be warned: If I boldly predict one thing, run full out in the other direction. Take that to the bank!
  17. The terms MAN and WOMAN cover a broadly huge scope of gender identity. Our world is a nuanced place and masculinity and femininity are part of the 50 shades domain. Every aspect of gender identity deserves to be respected.
  18. Life is far too short to hang out in the company of compulsive negativity and naysayers. Keep the smilers and positives at your side and the sun will always be warming your insides like hot chocolate.
  19. Fiction books are amazing things. I used to be very pragmatic and believed I could only learn from non-fiction. WRONG! Quality fiction (like 50 Shades of Grey… NOT!) informs us about history, humanity, ourselves, in a constellation of ways we don’t always understand. See point #13.
  20. The older you get, the faster time flows past. I began my formative period with a thick mane of 70’s style dark hair where days passed as if in a horse-drawn surrey… that’s transformed itself into a follicularly challenged salt-and-pepper-fringe-on-the-top Ferrari Formula One racing car. Where the hell is the brake on this aging sucker?
  21. Write in very short paragraphs. People are intimidated by reading long diatribes of information in huge long chunks. Break it up so that it is far less fearsome to the sight. In today’s world, folks listen to musical songs that tend to last 3-5 minutes, not 20 minute symphonies . We absorb in small chunks. It’s who we are in 2016.
  22.  Everybody has a story. Good and bad. Everybody. That person who’s life looks so perfect. The one with the big house or the one who pushes a wobbly grocery cart down the street. They’ve got a story. Everyone needs compassion in some form. Everyone has compassion to give.

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