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BIG or SMALL, Some Have It All…

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Johnny CAsh

Dammit… Where are my pants?… no, not the beat-up, torn garden jeans. Although the rips would make me look like a fashion icon in today’s style.

I want the black ones that I wear with my black button-up shirt that make me feel like Johnny Cash… real bad ass… I Walk The Line…

Depending on the time of year, the pants will fit me either too big or too small. Winter small, summer big… spring and fall are the goldilocks just-right periods.

I know it’s all relative but I’m feeling BIG and small simultaneously.

I feel BIG because my world can be anything.

I can pretend I’m Tom Hanks in the movie BIG and do all sorts of adult stuff that makes me look grown up.

BIG.jpg

I can write a blog post each week that any person on earth with a modicum of technology can access and read. I’ve been to remote villages in godawful poor countries where there’s no safe water supply but they have cellphones and internet. BIG.

I can write songs, play guitar and sing on different stages all around my region. It’s like being a rock star on a tiny stage. BIG.

I can buy and sell stocks on any North American stock market just like a big shot Wall Street trader or even the Oracle of Omaha, Warren Buffett. BIG.

I sometimes help others who, by no choice, were given a lower placing on the lottery list of life. I was, again by no choice, put pretty darn close to the top of the humanity heap for access to education and financial wealth. BIG.

BIG is good.

BIG is good

Is SMALL good too?

I feel small.

My impatience and my “seed growth are incompatible forces that thwart my dreams and goals.

My seeds grow way too slow for my taste. There are parts of ourselves – dreams, hopes, beliefs – that are the seeds waiting to germinate.

There are stories galore of small peeps like me who made a huge splash with their creativity and energy.

J.K. Rowling was small once. So was E.L. James. KD Lang. Samuel L. Jackson. So was Louis CK (maybe not such a great example)… hmmm… maybe if I go by my initials? LW Green? Nope, don’t feel the creative energy swelling…

Those folks have seeds that keep sprouting and growing in a seemingly endless flow.

Fortunately, I learned in my previous Microbiology lab-life that seeds (spores) can lie dormant for months, years, centuries.

They’re not dead.

But…

They’ll only spring to life if one day they perceive the conditions are right for them to survive. Then they split themselves open and take a make-it-or-break-it-risk.

It’s more than a sprint to be the winner of the Kentucky Derby… the risk is either success (LIFE) or failure (DEATH).

I think we all have seeds inside ourselves that can be germinated and grown.

seed germination

 

A whole lot of writers and musicians have had moderate popular success with appreciative audiences that adore their work and output.

Not every song needs to be played for 25,000 people in an arena to make it worthwhile and special. A hall of 200 admirers can be a lifetime achievement.

Not every book written need sell a million copies to make a complex, wonderful story.

Small movie? We sat through the quiet flick Maudie last year. Oscar-worthy, it was seen by a relatively small number of folks and yet had beautiful, heart-tingling imagery and a soulful message.

Germinated seeds.

In most cases, germination doesn’t really mean life or death… success or failure.

Merely making the effort to succeed is enough. There are layers to seed growth. Not every plant has to be a huge monolith, like Jack’s beanstalk.

But I still feel small.

I’m spending a good deal of time these days working with a Syrian refugee who is struggling mightily to make the unexpected, tumultuous transition to Canadian life.

His seeds of potential are buried deep inside the earth under layers of war and deprivation, and I fear it may take years to surface and germinate.

The relatively palatial lifestyle of native-born Canadians and other Syrians who came before him with higher levels of education are irksome and heavy on his soul.

He’s helplessly hoping impatient because he can’t turn off the images that bombard him in his new country.

He wants it all for his family, a wife and four young children. I want it for him too and wrestle with the discomfort and ache of watching his contest.

His desire to be BIG in a new land seems to barely match my small goals.

Here I am dealing with my 1st-world desire to channel my inner Man-in-Black Cash. On the other side of the fence, is my Syrian friend who merely wants enough language, education, employment and green cash to raise his kids to be good Canadians and become part of the dream he floats alongside of but isn’t part of, at least not yet.

I feel BIG, yes, but really I feel small.

Canada's PM Trudeau shakes hands with a Syrian refugee during Canada Day celebrations on Parliament Hill in Ottawa

I Can’t… But I Can… 

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I’m not Pollyanna.

There are some things I can do.

There are some things I can’t do.

There are some things I don’t wanna do.

There are some things I shouldn’t do.

I’ve had some fun. But was it worth it?

I was handcuffed once and taken into custody. Twice actually. By the RCMP, not a BDSM lover.

It’s a long story I may tell you one day, but it was worth it.

YK Handcuffed  2

The morning following my 21st birthday, I gin-vomited my way from room to room around Stanton Yellowknife Hospital while doing my rounds collecting blood samples for lab testing.

I shouldn’t have done it but was the fun of the night before worth it? Yeah, it was!

She made me feel good, until she didn’t. I broke up with a nice girl, a girl who liked me a lot, merely because she cut off my oxygen supply with her tongue while we were kissing.

I selfishly let her become too attached just so I had a girlfriend. I still feel badly. It wasn’t worth it.

I smoke cigars. Occasionally. I love the musky scent and the feeling of relaxation it imparts.

Short-term it feels worth it. Long-term? Maybe not.

I’ve invested in companies – relying on others’ advice –  without doing my own intense research to see if they were great investments for long-term wealth.

I’ve almost always lost money when I got lazy and let someone else make my decisions for me. Definitely not worth it.

LARRY SPEC CARRIER TIFF

Relying on others’ investment advice at 10 years of age!

I’ve gossiped behind the backs of people I considered friends, saying nasty caustic stuff.

Never worth it. ’nuff said.

………………..

Do. Or do not. There is no try.”    

Yoda.

Actually Yoda, there is a try. There should always be a try. A try with conviction and curiosity and wonder.

A lovely friend across the globe has been recently diagnosed with terminal lung cancer.

She’s accepting of her fate, acknowledging the role of long-term smoking, while appreciating the wonderful opportunities she’s had. There’s a contented resignation to the approaching darkness at the end of the tunnel.

Whenever we hear of someone whose existence has just ended or is nearing their end, we internalize and meditate on our own lives and silently wonder if we should be happy with where our lives have taken us. It’s natural and human.

I know I think about the things I’ve done, the things I’ve not done, and those things I can’t do.

My solution? The voice goes a bit like this… “I can’t do ‘x’ anymore” But on the other hand, “I can do ‘y’!“.

I can try.

We can all try.

If you have an accident or illness and sever a leg and you’re an avid runner, then you know you can’t run anymore (or maybe you can, look at Terry Fox)… but you can still exercise your body with swimming or weight training or wheelchair athletics. Thousands have. Witness the Invictus Games.

To try is to hope. We all need hope. Hope is purpose.

Today, I’m reflecting on the stuff I could do in my earlier years but maybe I have difficulty with now.

Sometimes it’s a physical issue, but often it’s a mind issue.

My “Yoda-try” response is to substitute something else I can do now that maybe I didn’t or couldn’t do back then. I try.

Here, let me give you a few examples:

I can’t run a 10k race anywhere close to the 40 minute pace I could manage 25 years ago.

But I can run a half decent half-marathon once or twice a year. It’s slow, but damned pleasing to cross that finish line knowing that my body has been an active friend for 2 hours

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I can’t become a fabulously famous rock/folk/country performer.

But I can sing with a larger range and more emotional depth and connection than I could in my teens and 20’s. Bigger still is the sense of confidence in writing and performing that increases along with the age on my birth certificate. 

I can’t discipline myself sufficiently to write an entire novel.

But I can find the discipline to write and share a thousand words with you here every week. Acknowledging and understanding my strengths and limitations is deeply satisfying.

I can’t make a beautiful flaky pie crust worth a damn.

But I can cook up a pretty impressive assortment of ethnic foods that I’ve learned from home cooks and cooking classes around the world. I’ll just appreciate the amazing pie crusts that others have the skills to execute.

I can’t sleep on the hard ground on a farmer’s field like I did in the English countryside in my early 20’s.

But I can hold out a credit card with my name on it and sleep in an incredibly comfortable cozy bed in a fancy hotel or resort in Canada or pretty much anywhere in the world. Age and saved/invested wealth bestow some pretty incredible benefits. 

I can’t ever have a high-powered corporate career with the all the bells and whistles and stimulating highs and crushing lows. 

But I can take on little “careers” like making and serving soup, bartending, tutoring and making music where money making isn’t the primary goal. There are tiny pots of gold at the end of many mini-rainbows.

I can’t stay up til midnight or 2 am partying with high alcoholic energy.

But I can get to sleep at 10 pm and not wake up with ringing ears and pounding temples the next day. A clear head is a magical gift.

OK, maybe I am Pollyanna.

‘Fun’ and ‘Can’ and ‘Can’t’ come in very different packages for each of us. Ain’t individualism great?

But to try is the same package for us all.

To try is hopeful.

To try is courageous.

Nietzsche said: “No one can build you the bridge on which you, and only you, must cross the river of life…”

Maybe Nietzsche knew something even more profound than that weird little green Yoda.

Yoda apple

 

Oh, What A Lucky Man… He Was…

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moonlight-trees

He rose groggy from his snug bed at 4:09 am, absorbing the chilly touch of the wood floor on his toes and shuffled past the window’s view.

Somewhat startling, it appeared as if fresh snow was a light sugar coating on the shrubs in the front yard, the Kerria, the Boston Ivy climbing up the wooden trellis… the Ponderosa Pines all tip-covered in white frosting. How???

He was taken aback as it didn’t make reasonable sense. When his eyes closed just a few hours earlier it had been 8 degrees celsius outside… had a rogue Arctic front sprinted in from the north like an Olympic athlete in such a short time?

Playing detective and investigating further, he wandered sleepily through the quiet house darkness to the back dining room.

As he grew closer to the large picture window overlooking the yard and chicken coop, bright golden light flooded the floor in front of him.

Now that makes sense, he whispered.

An almost-full moon hanging high in the sky was blanketing the outdoors and pressing through the house windows with a coat of lustrous brightness, much the same as snow on the coldest, darkest nights of winter.

Tiny pinprick stars in the sky surrounded the spotlight-bright moon as if the stars were actually moons circling the true Earth moon.

Despite his early morning wooziness, a recognition grew inside him that not everything greeting us is initially as it seems. There is a subtleness and complexity to life that evades us unless we look more closely or evaluate more fully. And superficial looks lead us to luck.

complexity

It can be easy to simply believe that luck is either happily with us or tragically against us.

Luck that isn’t merely coincidental circumstance… the narrowly missed car/bicycle crash, the bullet or knife that evades an artery by a fraction of an inch, the whispered hot stock tip that actually results in a ten-bagger (10 times the original investment)… is really a horse of a different colour.

I used to say NO a lot…

NO is a very useful word to utter when it’s something you truly don’t want to do. Say NO when you really mean it.

But I used to say NO often because I was fearful, nervous, afraid of not succeeding or making an embarrassing dumb fool of myself. I have an extraordinary capacity to do and say embarrassing stuff. Even still.

I feared raising my hand in Miss Mole’s high school Science or Mr. Warneke’s Math classes even if I felt confident in my answer… the scary WHAT IF‘s ruled the inner hallways of my head. Those kids that did raise their hands didn’t always have the right answers. Are they destitute druggies filling the soup kitchen lines now? Hmmmm…. I hope not.

My WHAT IF has largely been replaced with my WTF now. Who cares if I ask a dumb question or don’t know an answer? So long as I’m not hurting anyone else with my words or questions… who cares?

Yes or No.jpg

I say YES a lot more now than ever.

YES is a very useful thing to say when it’s something that enthuses and excites me and fills me with a heartbeating rush of desire to accomplish or try a new adventure, large or small.

Sure I’m still a bit fearful, nervous, afraid of not succeeding or making an embarrassing dumb fool of myself. Not every YES turns into a pot of gold… not very leprechaun is a magically delicious lucky charm.

Irrational fear (you really should be afraid of loaded guns and mama bears!) … like that fear of rejection when I didn’t ask a girl out on a date in my teens, or the fear of giving a botched presentation… is a barrier that holds us back from truly living, dying long before we take our last breath.

Fear be damned.

I don’t rely on luck…

I rely on chances popping up like Blue Jay batters… regular chances to spot and then walk through an open door and finding the inner strength to say YES when I see the opening.

I rely on the 1,000 hour rule to give me more and more opportunities to find open doors. Skills we hone are the building blocks to more doors.

I rely on Idea Sex… mixing and blending ideas makes my mind sharper, more creative. Sharpness means more chance and opportunity to progress and grow and feel an enthusiastic glow from the new things I try …

Of course, my amalgamated thoughts on luck and opportunity and a life lived more fully could be as untrue and as false as “moon snow” in the middle of the night.

The good thing is I don’t mind looking silly if I’m wrong anymore. Luck is on my side.

amy-poehler-silly

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!!!!

 

I know I KNOW!! Seeking Answers? … Life is …

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Questions

Put your hand back down, or do you need to visit the bathroom? Can you wait just a minute? Thanks …

I don’t have the answer to your question.

Actually, I do have the answer, but you won’t want to hear it.

I’ve always found it funny that we expect definitive responses to all of our uncertainties.

Most of us seem to believe that humanity has solved the majority of life’s big hairy questions.

I beg to differ.

We’re not even close.

I know I’ll feebly inhale my last breath with innumerably more questions about everything I’ve seen and done than I’ll have answers. And this is in a GOOGLE world where “apparent” answers are instantly available.

A hundred years from now, hell, maybe in 10 years, I’ll bet dollars-to-donuts that we look back and juice our jeans in laughter at many of the things we swear to be true today.

You want an example? Sure …

We know with confidence now what causes heart attacks and all forms of cancer, right?

Of course NOT!! That was a trick question and you knew it.

The level of knowledge in the medical field is such that we believe our “experts” know the answer to every issue, every disease, every ache and pain-in-the-ass concern that comes running after us or our loved ones. Or they should know.

Doctors, trained to believe in their God-like abilities, often try to explain something, anything! to give their patients an answer. We all want answers. “Just tell me what I have and I can move on…”.

But so many questions ooze as seeping slickness out of the probing grasp of blood tests and MRI machines.

doctors god

Thirty years ago we believed that stomach ulcers were solely related to mental stress. WRONG!

Forty years ago we believed that homosexuality was an individual’s lifestyle choice. WRONG AGAIN!

Fifty minutes ago we believed that global warming brought on by human activity was ludicrous. WRONG! WRONG! WRONG!

But here is the BIG answer, the definitive response to life’s most difficult quandaries…

Are you ready? Brace yourself …

The answer to so many of life’s biggest questions?

… “WE DON’T KNOW”

don't know

WTF?? Beat’s me….

 

We really don’t know…

Life is mysterious. 

  • We don’t know if there’s a God … faith isn’t the same as fact …
  • We don’t know why some of us live to 100 and others sadly succumb before their 10th birthday… fairness has never entered the mathematical equation of life.
  • We don’t know why your friend has dramatic bipolar episodes … the brain is beyond Einstein’s or Elon Musk’s level of understanding …
  • We don’t know why some people with high cholesterol never suffer a heart attack… while others with rock bottom LDL levels who run marathons succumb to a life-ending myocardial infarction.
  • And, especially, we don’t know where you set your car keys down or where your reading glasses have disappeared to.

… there is no end ever to the creative magic we all contain within ourselves…

… there is no end ever to the riches we can create (both literally and metaphorically),

… there is no end ever to the questions we’ll face and not understand.

Life is mysterious and messy.

Because we don’t know all the answers, we can torture ourselves, constantly questioning, constantly worrying. Unanswered questions can be a necrotizing fasciitis, an internal flesh-eating disease in our minds.

For me, it comes down to the old Serenity Prayer, or at least my variation of its wisdom…

Grant me the serenity to acknowledge the things I know, The courage and determination to seek answers to the things I don’t know… And the wisdom to realize that not EVERY question I have WILL have an answer.

Mysteries will always overwhelm us if we allow them to.

Life is mysterious and messy and joyful.

Survival is about not expecting answers to every question. We can drive ourselves crazy if we believe we’ll truly know the who what where why when and how to everything.

Once we accept that mystery and shitty messes are a part of the human condition, the sooner we can return ourselves to a state of contentment and the pursuit of happiness … or … just like the Johnson & Johnson commercials say… whatever your State of Happiness is.

Now, what was I sa … Oh yeah, you had your hand up… Did that answer your question?

Fine… you may go to the bathroom … Dismissed!

bathroom break?

 

 

Another AULD LANG SYNE … 2016 Bring It On!!

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Mt Everest SummerGH Everest

 

Above – the BEST (May) and WORST (December) times to run up Giant’s Head Mountain!

……………………….

I asked a person I’ve come to loath recently if he had any goals for 2016.

He said,

When you set goals you limit yourself.

To goals.”

I used to like that guy.

But his brilliant answer was too blue-chip for me to have even a modicum of respect for him after he outshone my thought process. A-hole!!!! (OK, a good 2016 goal would be to elevate my level of respectfulness, would you agree?)

A goal is supposed to be something to reach towards. A challenge. An achingly satisfying stretch that requires mental or physical effort.

Sometimes my goals even scare me because I fear I won’t make it or I’m not up to it. I hate to disappoint myself almost as much as I hate to disappoint others.

Most of us find it a struggle to reach our goals. I do that too.

But it’s a limit.

Sometimes, I realize, a goal holds me back from what I’m really capable of.

When I reach it, or gaze out towards the time horizon and see it well within my myopic sights, I relax and take my foot off the pedal. I coast until I find myself a whole new goal, which may not come until another New Year begins … or worse still, never.

An example? I took a lengthy breather this year from climbing my local Giant’s Head mountain… so-named for its gigantic facial profile when viewed from the southeast.

IMG_0769

Snowy Giant’s Head in December … so much easier to run up in April …

Last January I set a goal to summit the 300m-in-height-extinct-volcano –  30 times in 2015, the equivalent of scaling Mount Everest.

Back then, it looked to me like a stretch goal, but I really miscalculated the “challenge” of the challenge. A mere 3 climbs each month (a 1 hour per “there and back” running time) was a simple task really.

Coasting along like a tortoise, I grew complacent, growing more and more plump and relaxed in my La-Z-Boy and found myself having to capture the last 10 ascents in the final 31 days of 2015. How do you spell PROCRASTINATION?

I know I procrastinate… BADLY. Trudging through deeper snows and bitter winds at year-end was a nasty reminder that knowing thyself is an important consideration.

When my two fellow challengees (Pam and Jennifer) finished their goal of 30 climbs within 3 months and 10 months respectively, it became readily apparent to this slacker that doing only 2/3’s of the task prior to December was foolhardy.

In 2016, I promise to work more diligently in opposition to procrastination and finish challenging projects and goals in a more timely way.

Briefly, these were some of my 2015 goals and how I fared in capturing some of those ideals:

PHYSICAL

  • 30 times running up Giant’s Head aka the Mount Everest Challenge? Yup, eventually with only 2 days to spare. CHECK!
  • 2 half marathons – I completed the BMO Vancouver Half Marathon in May and began a second half marathon in Kelowna in October (I dropped out at the 10k marker because of a dumb but significant self-inflicted injury 2 weeks prior to the race) … I say good enough. CHECK!

CHARITABLE

  • 10% Charitable Donation boost? Both UNICEF and PLAN International received their 10% boosted payouts this year.  CHECK!
  • SOUP KITCHEN and Salvation Army hamper fill? I continued my twice a month volunteer shifts at the SOUPATERIA in Penticton and then assisted the Salvation Army crew pack and distribute 800+ food hampers before Christmas… CHECK!

WRITING

  • Write 50 blog posts, one per week … I’ve been doing this for 3 1/2 years now and in 2015 I wrote you 51 of these weekly missives. YOU should be the one congratulated for this… THANK YOU for reading my mental droppings and keeping me motivated and inspired … CHECK!
  • Aim for 75 blog views daily on my MAN ON THE FRINGE site. Although I didn’t reach my daily goal of 75 visits per day… I did have a 17% increase to an average of 63 views daily versus 54 per day in 2014 … No CHECK here, but I’m content that I have quality readers over quantity … wouldn’t you agree?

MUSIC

  • 12 String Guitar – this one just taunts and teases me and like a slippery eel, seems to keep eluding me. I play my 6-string guitar more than ever now and have chosen my ideal 12 string purchase (Taylor 356 CE). Dropping a few thousand dollars on a would-love-to-have but don’t-need-to-have item has proven more difficult than I envisioned. Stick with me and we’ll see if 2016 is THE 12-String Guitar Breakout Year! No CHECK.
  • Build a Guitar… I’m still very intrigued by the notion of constructing my own musical instrument. There are a number of different LUTHIER (guitar-building) schools to choose from. I’m gonna keep trying here. No CHECK yet … NOPE.
  • Write more Songs and perform original songs publicly. This one I happily give a HALF-CHECK because even though I haven’t developed the discipline to consistently write songs that I’m happy with, I have begun to get out there and perform. I participated in 3 public sessions (1 funeral and 2 open mic evenings) where I played cover songs as well as a bit of my own music.

 

TRAVEL

  • Visit New-To-Me Central American country. In January we visited and toured along the western coast of Nicaragua in Central America. I learned to roll my own cigar and took a cooking course from an engaging Nicaraguan woman who showed us how to prepare Indio Viejo.

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    Rolling my own cigar has me prepared for the legalization of marijuana in Canada …

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Street dining in Leon, Nicaragua …

  • American States? My lifetime goal is to visit all 50 U.S. States. I’m stuck at 26 so far and added no new ones to my list in 2016. No CHECK!

FINANCIAL

  • 15% average annual return. My long-term average of +12.2% wasn’t helped along at all this year as the Toronto Stock Exchange dropped 11%, the New York Exchange fell 3.5%. And my 2015 result?? Drumroll please … +8.3%. It’s not a bad return given the state of markets in general, but I’m hopeful that I can boost myself back well into the double digits this coming year. You can do your part to bolster my year-end results by purchasing an iWatch, visiting Disneyland, and buying a John Deere tractor with a loan from the Royal Bank. No CHECK!

FOOD AND EATING 

  • Study Cooking for One Day in any Travel Destination – as I said above, we spent a morning shopping the tiny fresh meat and vegetable stalls of San Juan del Sur in Nicaragua with a local lady, Teodora. We returned to her hostel where she instructed us in Spanish on the preparation of Indio Viejo (Old Indian), a traditional Nicaraguan beef stew. CHECK!
  • Develop a repertoire of Egg Recipes … we have lots of eggs but alas no new recipes (however, there is a recipe silver lining I’ll talk about below) … NOPE … No CHECK!

2015.

Done, deposited and secured in the Book of Life.

As a side note, it’s always fun to consider and embrace the unexpected.

Additional accomplishments? Unexpected Surprises. There were a few …

  • Tough Mudder – my daughter and her partner dragged me through the muck and bone-rattling chill of a Tough Mudder challenge in Whistler, B.C. Mucky, messy, difficult and yet, supremely satisfying.
  • Lake Swim – I actually do this 2.7 k swim across Okanagan Lake once each summer with my friend Jennifer. This year we did it in record time, shaving 9 minutes off our previous best.
  • Surf a Volcano – actually, it was Volcano tobogganing. Sliding speedily down a black-ash covered volcano-side in Nicaragua was exhilarating and total black-faced sooty fun.
  • Learned to Make Animal Balloons – a local artisan sale needed someone to produce balloon animals for the kidlets. I spent a couple of hours on YouTube learning the craft and pumped out blown-up puppies and ladybugs and swords. Maybe I’ll consider Cirque de Soleil next!
  • Bought and Raised Laying Chickens – after finishing coop construction this past spring, we purchased 11, day-old chicks that provide us nearly a carton of beautiful brown eggs every single day. Please drop by for a souffle! Would you, PLEASE!!!!
  • Took a week-long Bartender course in May, and then found myself a-mixin’ and a-pourin’ part time at a local Greek restaurant. My special Christmas Cocktail recipe? The SNOWFLAKE MARTINI… rim a martini glass with shredded coconut. Mix and shake some ice with 2 oz. vanilla vodka, 2 oz. Malibu Rum, 1/2 oz. blue Curacao, 1 tsp coconut cream… strain into the martini glass and a beautiful, but VERY strong ice-blue martini awaits your party sipping.

There you have it.

Was my year “Perfection”?? NOPE. I don’t expect perfection. I expect to try. I expect to feel a stretch. I expect to challenge myself.

Steve Jobs said something about challenging ourselves:
He said that you have to go out and expose yourself to the best of what others have done, and then bring some of it back and add it to what you’re doing.

This is why I look to others for inspiration. Inspiration isn’t naturally occurring.

I look to others. I listen to great harmony music. I read inspiring, positive books and articles.

I steal like crazy any and all things that make my heart beat rapidly.

And I try to stay constantly vigilant for the little – or big – things that happen in my vicinity that I can use in my own life.

My watchword of 2015 was SIMPLIFY.

Simple, right?

SIMPLIFY.

I needed to stop pushing for more and better to the point where I was beating myself up for not accomplishing something, or not doing it as quickly as I thought I should. Take the pressure off and SIMPLIFY (Of course, this excludes the procrastination point I made earlier).

Now, it’s time for looking outwards  and … forward into the future.

My Watchword for 2016?

OPPORTUNITY.

OPPORTUNITY.

OPPORTUNITY.

Rather than list a set of goals for 2016, I’m setting my sights on opportunities.

When something comes floating down the lazy river my way that I haven’t tried?

And it makes my pulse rate rise in anticipation?, excitement?, maybe just a touch of fear?

I want to try to take hold and enjoy it like smooth, creamy, delicious chocolate.

CHOCOLATE?

Yup … Eating chocolate triggers oxytocin in the brain, the same neurochemical triggered when we have sex (sorry, not you and I, but sex in general).

Opportunity. It makes me feel like king of the world. It makes me feel more bonded with the people around me. It makes me soar.

2016… the year of OPPORTUNITY.

I hope you have a wonderful year filled with adventure, love and opportunity.

Thank you for reading my blog and helping me live my life of opportunity, even if I am just a MAN ON THE FRINGE!

opportunity

 

 

 

Passions and Reflections …

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Ruby:  Every piece of this is man’s bullshit. They call this war “a cloud over the land” but they made the weather and then they stand in the rain and say “Shit, it’s rainin’!”

COLD MOUNTAIN (Movie)

cold mountain

Certain movies come to have extra meaning for us.

Stories of longing, or joy, or sorrow, or zany moments…

It’s because they reflect ourselves back to us as if we’re standing buck-naked in front of a mirror… we realize, “This is MY story” … sometimes we don’t even realize why we’re feeling this …

Or we watch longingly and tell ourselves, “I wish this was MY story“…

And of course there are many that we view and genuflect, “Thank God this ISN’T my story.”

I think this is why I’m not a big fan of sci-fi or horror movies (But of course I’ll be going to see the new Star Wars!). I don’t see my reflection anywhere in the picture.

And most times I definitely don’t want to see myself there. I don’t feel a personal connection to having a spaceship battle or slashing someone’s throat, spattering pools of hot crimson blood. They can be fine for an hour or two of escapism and entertainment, but they won’t find a place on my favourite flick list.

Movies – when I stop munching popcorn long enough to pay attention –  are often my mirror and where the reflection unearths my passions and what the future holds.

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Throughout life, passion is a result of struggle.

For the young, the struggle is to attain an identity and become a functioning adult.

For the middle-aged like myself, the struggle is to find meaning whilst a blanket of heightened sense of mortality envelopes us.

Meaning and purpose for these years should revolve around issues bigger than which buffet to patronize, or which toilet paper is softest on my bum.

…………………

There are light fluffy Christmas flakes, tiny little daytime shooting stars wafting from the grey sky outside my window as I write this.

Little pillows of cotton fluff adorn the tips of the towering Ponderosa Pines and I can hear chickadees chirping through the chilly air as they forage for seeds to keep their systems running warm and smooth.

December, with it’s shorter, colder days is a perfect month to reflect and take stock …

To me, a balanced, healthy person needs to look after a number of areas within their life to sustain what we might describe as happiness, a calm reflection of what is important to them.

We can wake up each morning and allow life to happen to us, wearing a blindfold while teetering on a cliff’s edge, waiting for a sharp breeze to send us plummeting …

… or we can arise with a determination to shape our direction with our eyes wide open and bright, skipping confidently along the rim of the Grand Canyon, seeking ideas and plans for a vigorous, well-lived life.

Life should be a little like doing core exercises at the gym. It’s not always obvious that as we pile on the crunches, strengthening the middle, it supports all of our other regions so they perform at their best.

In this life that is MY movie, my core … here are just a few of my miscellaneous December life reminders and reflections:

  • look after my own well-being – if you always give those around you the oxygen mask first, what good are you when you’re the first to die?
  • writing – helps me discover the inside me that hides away, even from myself. Life is filled with mysteries, none so great as who we ourselves are.
  • creativity – I have to nurture the seeds and persist in writing, music, cooking, anything that requires imagination and deeper thought. Not every moment, every attempt produces a work of fine art, but fine art will never appear unless my bum appears in the seat to make the attempt. Over and over.
  • investing – the life I live and person I choose to be is not going to come about unless I can sustain a livelihood. Taking time to read and digest, and then make good judgments about investments is critical.
  • physically – life itself is under threat if the physical body isn’t maintained. Our ability to function and thrive in daily life rests on a healthy, fit-based lifestyle.
  • finding growth – the mind needs its workout as much as the physical body. Learning and growing by experiencing new and unique challenges gives us verve and enthusiasm.
  • spiritual peace – a calm place to breathe and reflect – whether through religion or meditation or yoga or laughter – supports and cushions each difficulty we face. Life isn’t ever going to be easy no matter the amount of $$ in our bank accounts, so a steady base carries us past the trials we inevitably encounter
  • love – family and friends are the personal glue that holds our lives together. The Christmas spirit is alive in each of us when love is a part of our days.

Passion of many colours, textures and flavours is what makes my heart beat loudly in my chest.

If Cold Mountain‘s Ruby is right and “Every piece of this is man’s bullshit

… isn’t it reassuring to know it’s bullshit of our own making … finding our own joys in the days we have, choosing to be a true reflection of the person that looks back at us in the mirror?

rockwell_mirror

Reinventing Ourselves by Changing Underwear

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underwear men

PENIS PARAGRAPH!

Yup, that’s all. That’s what a friend said to me in response to “Vagina Monologue” in last week’s blog title.

Penis Paragraph … snicker snicker … funny … Ha Ha

Funny – not Ha Ha – is growing older, developing wrinkles and sagging skin but not being tuned in enough to see it.

It’s funny because inside myself I’m the same kid who jumped out of bed this morning (it is 1967, right?) when I smelled Mom cooking bacon in the kitchen. Thanks Mom, you’re the best!

After I eat the crispy delicious bacon I run to the bathroom before school starts and I look in the mirror.

OMG!

YIKES!

How the hell did my Dad hijack my face while I was sleeping? Back To The Future. Balding … hair sprouting from my ears and nose. Yup, it’s pretty clear that I’ve changed.

After absorbing the shock that I look different … I begin to realize that NO, I’m really NOT the same kid inside that I was back when JFK was shot … or JR was shot … or Reagan was shot … I’ve changed and my label has changed.

I used to deliver newspapers and flip burgers as a youngster, then migrated onwards to growing smelly bacteria in a lab. All different labels.

Now I pour shots in my new job as a bartender. That’s putting on a new label.

old time bartender

When you retire or quit a job, or are fired or downsized, you peel off all the labels …

I’m an architect, I’m a chef, I’m a doctor, I’m a plumber.

Labels get peeled off like dirty old underwear.

You shower and all the remnants of who you once were are washed away, ready to pull on a clean new pair of whatever.

The old way of retiring meant you went commando, no fresh underwear, no changes, just sitting on the front porch waiting for the Grim Reaper to waltz up your driveway in the twilight of your day …

Nowadays, most retirees put on some sort of crisp, fresh underwear. My latest pair says BARTENDER on the front.

I’ve been alive for 21,265 days… at this point, I’m a dim spaceship travelling through the galaxy and one day my light will be extinguished.

One of the great things about modern medicine is that our light can burn dimly much longer than it could 100 years ago… we have better telescopes so we can extend our reach. Most of us want our light to burn a bit longer so we can try on a new pair of underwear.

Re-invention, whether at my age, or much younger, is about extending our reach from inside ourselves.

... Adapt and you might get a fresh pair of underwear

… Adapt and you might get a fresh pair of underwear

A hundred years ago, you were born to a farmer, or a butcher.

And if you were a boy you lived your life as a farmer or a butcher and your obituary was a short one. One pair of underwear.

If you were a girl? Well, you awoke each day as a homemaker/farm wife, looking after your husband farmer or husband butcher, making all the decisions that mattered without him every realizing it. One pair of underwear.

Today is different and exciting and scary because we’re not only choosing to change our underwear but in many cases, we have no choice.

Job security is spinning wildly out of our galaxy and we can’t bring it back. Reinvention is happening, like it or not.

I began my lab technology career sticking needles in peoples’ arms, sucking out tubes of blood and then testing it in an Auto-Analyzer machine that took up half a large room. I finished my career 37 years later sitting in front of a powerful computer, sucking data out of a machine that was smaller than my desk.

CH-CH-Changes! We all adapt in one form or another, like it or not.

And if we want the most from our lives… the most contentment, the most satisfaction, the most happiness … we need to be adaptable enough to accept and embrace (most) change … none of us is so strong as to hold back the surging tsunami of technology.

Wrinkled crows-feet eyes or smooth as a baby’s bottom forehead, change in each of our lives is perennial as the sun rising.

Attitude is the distinction.

A fresh change of underwear always feels good… like crisp, clean sheets. Mmmmmmmmm.

Everything and anything seems possible.

And that my friend is this week’s PENIS PARAGRAPH!

Penis costume

The Orgasm of Doing … 15 To-Do’s

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Sally Orgasm

Sally’s Orgasm of Doing …

He didn’t spend his life surfing TV channels.

She ran a business. Or built a robot. Or made love in a canoe. Or discovered DNA or walked the edge of the CN Tower.

He or She DID something.

Something that changed lives. Something that changed their own life. Something that inspired others to change their lives. Something that went from inside his or her head out into the real world.

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Shakespeare said, “To Be or Not to Be”

I say, “To Do or Not to Do” …

Are you a consumer or a creator?

Why not be your own god?

Create a life. Create something you’re proud of even if it only impacts yourself or a few lives of those you love and treasure.

I slap myself silly sometimes when I realize how fortunate I am to live on this blue ball in infinite space where I can sample so many wonderful, different things, taste so many amazing foods, experience so many different cultures. And I live this life of a minor king without having to mount a Crusade to defend it all.

I consume. I do. I’ll sit for 3 hours and watch my Hamilton Tiger Cats doing their football He-Man stuff while I lay back and drink light beer and eat popcorn.

But then I do. I read. I write. I sing. I cook. I clean. I build. I run. I grow. I sweat. I live.

It’s important to get outside of yourself and do things that not only make you feel good but have a positive feel-good impact on others too. I’m no saint (although I could be a Hell’s Angel!), but I feel great after I’ve worked a morning shift at my local soup kitchen.

Of course, not everyone can do everything.

And for sure, I’m not the sharpest knife in the drawer … there are even rumours that my shit stinks. They’re true.

But I’ve made a few good moves in my life like building a financial base of savings in my 20’s and 30’s so that by my investments, I now have self-government in many ways to choose and do the things that interest me.

I don’t have a million dollar house filled with designer furniture but I do have an inordinate freedom to choose what I want to do and when I want to do it.

And because I’m so favoured, I need to take advantage of all these wonders and touch down on a tiny fraction of what’s available. To do less seems to be a phenomenal waste of my tiny droplet of time in an enormous ocean.

drop in the ocean

So … I need to think and plan and be deliberate in living this life.

Otherwise, I’ll be adrift in the breeze, lost without a sail.

For me this means making lists and charting a direction of enthusiastic living.

Today’s list of To-Do’s and Not To-Be’s goes as follows:

15 Things I Still Want To Do Before I Die

  1. Build A Guitar
  2. Make Love on a Beach
  3. Drink a Glass of Dom Perignon
  4. Write A Song That Is So Good It’s a Classic
  5. Save Someone From Drowning – Literally or Figuratively
  6. Jump Out Of An Airplane
  7. Play A Song On Stage at a Summer Music Festival
  8. See All 50 U.S. States and Walk on Every Continent
  9. Attend An Olympics Opening Ceremony
  10. Learn a New Profession Every Year
  11. Reach $2 Million Net Worth from Investing
  12. Run Up the Empire State Building
  13. Learn to Dance Better
  14. Do A Freestyle Road Trip Each Year – No Itinerary
  15. Become A Vegetarian For A Week

You just never know… I might do all of these things or I may not. I might change my mind next week and decide to do a bunch of different things that excite me.

Doesn’t matter. I’ll be experiencing the Orgasm of Doing … for today, this is my course.

What matters is that I feel an life-affirming enthusiasm for something, anything. Otherwise I feel dead inside. Why die prematurely?

I don’t want to be dead until I’m … well … dead – and frankly, I’d rather not have that experience either …

Maybe like Woody Allen says, “I’m not afraid of death; I just don’t want to be there when it happens.”

Woody allen death

Shake It Off … Set The Expectations Free

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horse leaving barn

Spring the horse from the barn.

Let the dog out of the house.

Scoop the shit out of the henhouse.

What are we waiting for…?

I spent a whole lot of my years trying to be something … to be someone and do things that my parents and the neighbours would have approved of.

I was always secretly watching from the corner of my eye to see if they were clapping their hands or frowning. Even after they were long dead.

Expectations weigh on us like concrete boots strapped onto our feet by the Mafia. We just stand still with a silly grin on our faces as they pour the concrete to send us to sleep with the fishes. DUMB.

cement shoes

I’m trying to live my life now like I have feathers instead of concrete attached to me.

I used to blame my father for being cold and uncaring and perhaps making my life more difficult than it really should have been.

I was young. It was useless energy expended on being negative and finding a scapegoat for my sorrows.

We all have sorrows. We all have tribulations. We all have miracles.

Hell, I was born into a rich, peaceful society with limitless possibilities. Billions don’t have that luxury.

My Dad wasn’t perfect and neither am I, nor will I ever be. But that doesn’t give me any reason to dwell on the negative when I can use that energy and forge onwards doing things I enjoy, hopefully helping others who are struggling.

As a parent, I imposed the same sorts of ideas and values on my kids that I grew up with, forcing the sweet little round critters into square holes where they didn’t want to go. It’s a shame that we learn so many lessons about ourselves by inflicting our raw character on our innocent little offspring.

Perhaps we should live our lives backwards and emerge into the world as elderly grandparents filled with knowledge and wisdom of what makes people tick. Maybe there’d be less violence, fewer wars. More love. More kindness. I don’t know.

life lived backwards

I’m working more hours as a bartender this month than I’d like to. I want to work one or two shifts each week for the pleasure of being around people and doing something totally different than what I’ve done before.

Putting in four or five stints a week is like taking mind-blowing sex and making it a chore. Orgasms are always better when there’s some waiting and delicious anticipating space between.

A paycheque and tips at the end of the night are kind of nice, but that’s not the reason I chose to do this.

I have to remind myself that I made this choice.

If others try to slap concrete shoes on me because that’s what they have on their feet, then I have to step away before the concrete sets.

I’m choosing to work where I want to work because I love it, to play at what I love to play. The expectations of others should have no control over me. My expectations shouldn’t control you.

As always, I’m a work in progress.

I have my own expectations.

I want to be creative in all areas of my life, and live large, or at least larger than I have for many years. There should be luscious internal music meandering like a river through the days of our lives.

That’s my expectation for me. Just me, not you or anyone else.

Not my parents’ expectations. Not the neighbours’ expectations.

And when people look at me and my expectations, that’s what I hope people see.

No lectures. No finger wagging. No disappointed looks. No fretful expectations.

Just me shaking it off, letting that horse run free out of the barn.

horse-shaking

 

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