Let’s See You Suffer Through This Post…

I talk about suffering a lot in some of my posts, and I come by it honestly. As most Buddhists know, the acknowledgement and elimination of suffering are some of the basic concepts behind Buddhism. In fact, Buddhism at its core is based on something referred to as the Four Noble Truths. Those truths are: the existence of suffering, the cause of suffering, the end of suffering and the path required to END suffering. That last one ties into the Noble Eightfold Path, but I don’t want to delve too deeply into the religious or philosophical side of things. I wanna talk about suffering…

Dharma Wheel depicting the Noble Eightfold Path

When someone uses the word “suffering,” most people will associate it with terminal disease, war, poverty or extreme tragedy. But the reality is that suffering is a very common and everyday thing. But realistically, “suffering” is defined as “the state of undergoing pain, distress or hardship.” Tell me that there hasn’t been at least a BIT of that in your everyday life. Suffering comes in various forms and as it happens, we often don’t recognize it for what it is.

The elimination of suffering is the way to peace. Letting go of hate, stopping the propagation of aggression and allowing yourself to let go of the little things is what will ultimately lead to a happier life. This isn’t always an easy thing. In modern society, some people just want to watch the world burn. The unfortunate reality is that sometimes, you end up caught in the flames.

So when you’re reading my posts and I mention the “elimination of suffering,” this is usually what I’m referring to. No, I’m not depressed or in some deep stage of suffering, myself. I simply relate my writing to the everyday things that cause everyday hardships. And there are a lot of them. Hopefully, that answers some of the questions I’ve gotten on the subject. ☯

Fruit Juice Is Bad For You!

Wait, what??? How can juice be bad for you? It’s natural, made of fruit and contains all sorts of vitamins and stuff, which last time I checked, was SUPPOSED to be good for you. Right? Well, maybe those particular aspects are good for a person in general. But for someone with Diabetes, fruit juices can be less than ideal because of all the sugar they contain. And despite the fact that I titled this post in relation to juice, this applies to a number of different foods, sometimes without the consumer even realizing it.

I was recently caught by surprise when my mother decided to send me a couple of packages of “No Sugar Added” sugar wafers (yes, I still get care packages from my mommy, they’re mostly for my kids!) First and foremost, the fact that they’re called “sugar wafers” should have set off some alarm bells in my mother’s head. But bless her big heart, she’s still stuck in the 1980’s mindset where words like “sugar-free” actually mean, well… sugar-free!

When examining the wafers’ nutritional facts on the back of the package, I realized that three of these wafers, which is what they consider a “serving size” contained about 24 grams of carbohydrates. Somewhat significant when you have to take bolusing insulin into consideration. Since that’s about the same amount of carbs contained in most store-bought cream cookies, I found myself asking where the benefit was.

Out of curiosity, I purchased a couple of regular packages of sugar wafers from my local grocery store. These were run-of-the-mill and had no indications of being reduced sugar or “no sugar added.” To ensure I didn’t hit a fluke, I bought more than one package, in different flavours. To my surprise, the regular sugar wafers showed a portion size of 4 wafers at 22 grams of carbs. Yes, you read that right and it isn’t a typo.

According to new math, the “no sugar added” alternative sits at 8 grams of carbs per wafer, with the regular ones sitting at about 5.5 grams per wafer. I was somewhat taken aback to realize that the “no sugar added” wafers had a higher carb count than regular ones. The problem is that if they eliminate sugar from their recipe, most companies will need to find an alternative to replace the lost sweetness. And that alternative can sometimes add to the overall carb count.

Another issue I once ran into was something I thought was carb-free when it really wasn’t. I bet that most people who measure and monitor their carbohydrate intake would be of the opinion that vegetables are carb-free, right? I would certainly think so. Have all the carrots, broccoli and brussel sprouts that you can handle, my friend. Those will certainly be carb-free. But did you know that many vegetables are pretty carb-loaded?

Just one cup of corn kernels contains 36 grams of carbohydrates! I learned this the hard way when I decided to have a “carb-free” meal of vegetable soup, only to have a blood sugar spike soon after. There was corn in the soup. Frickin’ corn!!! I also recently purchased a bag of lentils to try out in some recipes, since they’re packed with protein AND the recipes were sitting on my Endocrinologist’s coffee table.

But the bag of green lentils I purchased show that only half a cup of lentils contain 35 grams of carbohydrate! That’s a pretty significant jump, just to sass up my burger patties or add a little something to my soup. And there are a number of foods that fall under this category that one would tend to assume would be low or carb-free. This is why it’s so important to check the nutritional information on everything you eat and keep a close eye out.

I tried explaining the issue to my mother when she asked me how I had enjoyed the wafers. Her response was, “That’s impossible. The package clearly says No Sugar Added!” My mother still lives with a mindset that all Diabetes means is “don’t eat sugar and take insulin,” and everything will be peachy. The concepts of carb counting and anything other than sugar causing an issue doesn’t compute. But it’s certainly something to keep an eye on, especially if you want to maintain reasonable blood sugar levels. ☯

Worth Its Weight In Platinum…

Do you have friends? Sure, you do. Most people do. The number of friends one has is relative to their stage in life, age, social status and personal beliefs. I’ve known some people who have claimed to have “no friends” but ultimately they still have people they hang out and associate with. And maybe one would be inclined to believe that this isn’t REALLY a friend, but a friend is defined as “a person whom one knows and with whom one has a bond of mutual affection, typically exclusive of sexual or family relations.” So basically, someone who isn’t your partner or a member of the family that you spend time with BECAUSE YOU WANT TO.

Friendship is an important aspect of any one person’s life, because it allows you to have someone you can share in the good times with, discuss and vent about the bad times and allows you some much-needed time outside the home (which everyone needs on occasion, whether they choose to admit it or not). As children, we usually have tons of friends. When I attend an event at my son’s school, EVERY kid he points at is one of his friends. And it’s usually just that easy for kids. Everyone within the same environment and basic age range can be a friend. Childhood is simple. Wish I’d had one. But I digress…

The point is, friendships are beneficial for both parties as they can help you to cope with the difficulties of life, traumas, illnesses, death in the family… They can also be there for the good times and share in your successes, your victories and your good times. And cracking a few cold ones while sharing some idle chatter? Don’t even get me started! Friends also help you develop a sense of belonging.

So how many friends does one have? And no, I’m not referring to social media followers… Well, depending on what source you consult, the average North American adult usually maintains four or five friendships. For the purposes of this post, I refer to a friendship as a relationship where you speak and/or hang out with the person in question at least once a week or more. Anything less than that falls under the category of casual acquaintance. As a young person, that number might have been significantly higher.

I bring this up because in a recent application, I was asked to provide twenty references who are not family or related. TWENTY! I don’t think I had that many friends even when I WAS a youth. I mean, whatever happened to the good ol’ days of two professional references and two personal references? I’m not sure why any employer would be of the opinion that they need twenty people as reference for one single applicant, but what do I know?

It got me to thinking… I keep a pretty tight social circle. I mean, REALLY tight. I don’t maintain many friendships, and even the long-term friendships that I’ve had for decades are on the other side of the country so we don’t exactly catch up over beers every week. I spend the majority of my free time with my wife and children, which if one consider the true meaning of wealth, makes me extremely rich. But I’m lucky enough to have two or three people that I call friend. And since real life isn’t a rom-com where people do cheesy things like telling each how how important they are to one another, I hope those couple of friends know how important they are to me. Friendship is a genuine gift, worth its weight in platinum! ☯

Blood, Sweat And Heat 🚲

Wednesday night, I did something stupid… If you know me, you may be thinking that this is nothing out of the ordinary and that I do stupid things all the time. If that’s what you’re thinking, shaddup! But you may be right. But the reason behind why this thing I did was so stupid isn’t because it was an inherently stupid act, but because the heat and humidity almost killed me in the process (not literally, but it felt like it!)

On Wednesday, my wife and I were prepping supper and I told her that I wanted to duck out to cycle a quick 10 kilometres before receiving a potential buyer for my car (yes, I’m selling my bachelor-mobile and I’m crying a bit. Something for a future post…) I told her that I needed to blow the cobwebs off as I haven’t done anything but forms and walking for the past two weeks.

This was mostly due to the flooding in our basement eliminating access to my karate area and punching pad and extreme heat making conditions unfavourable for long-distance cycling. I figured that a quick, 10-kilometre ride would only take me a little over thirty minutes anyway, so why not drop the hammer a bit. I think you know that I had to up the ante a bit. After all, this is me…

I told my wife that I intended to cycle my 10 kilometres in twenty minutes as opposed to my usual thirty. In reality, it takes me 3 minutes and 10 seconds for every kilometre when i’m cycling for distance, which means I reach 10 kilometres in about 32 to 33 minutes. I would have to shave 12 to 13 minutes off that time in order to achieve my boast (I mean my goal).

I put in my earbuds and hammered out of my parking lot like a bat out of hell… And promptly realized that the result of not doing any serious cardio in two weeks then pushing it in 32-degree weather was a stupid idea for a Type-1 Diabetic man of my age… And then I realized that this thought pissed me off and I should be ashamed of myself and pushed myself ridiculously.

And lo, I hammered through 10 kilometres of sweaty hell, my lungs on fire and my mind focused on trying to achieve that distance in 20 minutes. Every time the landscape sloped upwards, I felt as though my legs caught fire and spit the flames into my lungs. With every inspirational song on my phone, I pushed and peddled harder, despite the discomfort.

I managed to make my way home after hitting 10.38 kilometres in 27 minutes and 37 seconds. This meant an average of 2 minutes and 39 seconds per kilometre. A measurable reduction from 3 minutes and 10 seconds. However, I paid for it. I woke up the next morning with my legs killing me. I need to hammer out more of these explosive short rides. They have some benefit, despite the fact that I’m training for distance, not speed. But maybe I shouldn’t do it in high heat… ☯

Learning How To Share…

Authoring a blog is a strange combination of easy and difficult. If you’ve chosen your subject matter carefully, it’s easy because you’ll be familiar and comfortable with the material. It can be difficult when you start factoring in finding ENOUGH material to provide interesting content on a daily basis. And if you’re committed to your blog, you SHOULD be posting daily content, even if it’s a short post that contains nothing more than an inspirational quote you found online or something. In fact, there are days where I post nothing more than an inspirational poster with a short, four-line paragraph beneath it. I find this provides my readers with a break from some of the wordy, long-winded posts I’ve written.

Sometimes I find it difficult to get my ideas into words. By this, I mean that even if I have a great idea or concept for a post, finding the right words to put into print for others to read is often my biggest obstacle. I fully admit to researching most things I write about, including the martial arts and Diabetes. “But Shawn, you’ve been doing martial arts for over thirty years and you’ve had Type-1 Diabetes for almost forty… Shouldn’t you know everything there is to know, by now?” First of all, don’t be a smart-ass. Second, a wise person is only wise once they understand that they DON’T know everything.

And the idea behind this, is that sometimes you will use someone else’s information or draw on someone else’s expertise. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that, so long as you cite the source of your inspiration. Give credit where credit is due, if you will. Otherwise, it becomes good ol’ plagiarism, which if you’re unfamiliar with the term, is claiming someone else’s work or information as your own. Not only is this a major faux-pas in just about every academic, professional and even personal circle I can think of, it’s also downright inappropriate.

We live in a society where the world’s information is at our fingertips, what with smart phones, tablets and the general use of the internet. Knowing where your information is coming from and ensuring that it’s okay for you to share it are important aspects for any blogger. If you have the means to reach out to someone to discuss the use of their materials, then do so. They’ll definitely appreciate it. Follow this up with citing your sources and giving credit where credit is due, and you’re all set.

Lastly, what you write about should be part of who you are, something you’re intimately familiar with. I could easily start a blog about quilting. I’d probably find myself able to research the subject and even manage a number of posts about it. But ultimately it would lack a certain chemistry since I know NOTHING about quilting and wouldn’t exactly be passionate about it. So you need to make sure those elements are present in order for your writing to mean something. Happy writing! ☯

Concentration Goes A Long Way

It stands to reason that over the decades, I’ve been asked about karate and the martial arts on a number of occasions. Many people have made a point of saying that they could never do what I do, as they don’t feel as though they have the physical abilities or the patience to do so. I usually try to explain that there is no specific physical pattern one must have to study the way, and I’ve trained with people who have had debilitating conditions and they’ve still gone on to become skilled martial artists.

Despite this fact, most people are of the opinion that the martial arts is a level of fitness that they could never achieve. The truth is, my body was essentially giving out on me when I started karate. But I stuck with it and thirty-one years later, I have a better constitution than most non-Diabetics of my age group who haven’t studied martial arts. But the biggest question during these conversations is usually what does it take? It often goes a little something like this:

“So you do karate, huh? I could never do that…”

“Why Not?”

“I don’t really think I’ve got what it takes to train in karate…”

“And what, exactly, do you think it takes?”

“I don’t know, I assume you need to be physically fit?”

“Nope.”

“Do you need to be strong?”

“Nope.”

“Well, if you don’t need those things, then what does it take to study karate?”

“Commitment and concentration. With those two things, which anyone can have, you can be successful in the martial arts.”

Now, this is a generalized conversation, of course. But it’s usually the gist of it. I’ve had some colleagues and students watch me when I use a punching bag or practice my forms and I’ve even had some ask me how I put so much power into my strikes. In recent years, this would be where I would insert a Mark Ruffalo joke about how “that’s my secret, I’m always angry.” But I usually like to use the analogy of a bullet versus a fist.

A bullet is a minuscule thing. It usually weighs in at about 40 grams or more depending on the size and caliber, and doesn’t really seem all that intimidating when it’s sitting on a table. If I were to pick up that bullet and flick it at you, it would bounce harmlessly off your chest and fall to the floor. For the most part, a bullet in and of itself is pretty harmless.

But take that same bullet, wrap a bunch of gunpowder behind it and ignite that powder and that same 40 grams of lead will be propelled at about 1,400 feet per second. At that speed, the bullet will penetrate flesh, bone and even some solid structures. The “minuscule” object that was harmlessly flicked at your chest in the previous paragraph is now capable of serious bodily harm. Doesn’t seem so harmless now, does it?

The same can be said of any technique you train with in the martial arts. When you train constantly and consistently, focusing on your form, technique and speed, the size of your bicep really doesn’t matter in terms of what physical power you exert. It all comes down to physics and Newton’s Second Law (F = ma). That formula basically means that an object’s Force (F) is equal to its mass (m) multiplied by its acceleration (a). It doesn’t take a math whiz to acknowledge that the greater the acceleration, even if the mass doesn’t change, the greater the overall Force.

This is why I usually tell people that their current physical state is never a reason NOT to try the martial arts. I know that when you see martial arts’ movies with actors like Jean-Claude Van Damme, you tend to assume that the musculature is a necessary aspect, but it really isn’t. In fact, if you check out any footage of Shaolin monks, they’re generally of average musculature. So the harder and faster you throw the punch, the better and more effective it will become. Same with your kicks and any other striking technique.

I’ve seen people with terminal cancer, heart issues, colostomy bags and even artificial limbs train in the martial arts and even go on to achieve a black belt. One good example of this would be Shoham Das, a young boy I wrote about some time ago in a post entitled Half A Heart, All Of The Will who literally had a piece of his heart missing but trained consistently and has gained black belt level.

The bottom line is that anyone can train and achieve the level they want. All it takes is the commitment and concentration required to keep going, even when it gets tough. This is what martial artists are referring to when they say “mind and body.” If you think you don’t have what it takes to do martial arts but you’ve always wanted to, you should give it a try. You might just surprise yourself. ☯

No Use Getting Violent Over Spilled Coffee…

That title was supposed to say “spilled milk,” but I’m much more partial to coffee than milk, so there you have it. Trust is an important commodity. It’s something you definitely need to have in others, both in your professional and your private life. Without it, you’d never be able to work side-by-side with anyone or let anyone into your life. Just think: when was the last time you met someone new and just immediately trusted them?

Some people can definitely engender a sense of trust in you the first time you meet them but for the most part, trust has to be earned over time and through the words and actions of the other person. It’s almost always a difficult process, especially when it involves trusting the other person to do something in your stead. A good example would be watching my five-year old pull a carton of chocolate milk out of the fridge.

Nathan rarely gets chocolate milk. Yeah, I know… I’m a cruel daddy. But we have chocolate syrup that I use for him on occasion so a carton of actual chocolate milk is a rare treat that he gets when he’s been behaving well (so he rarely gets any). Recently he got a small glass from a 500mL carton, which left the remainder in the fridge for later consumption. During the following morning’s breakfast, he asked if he could have some, to which I replied that he could.

Then my genius son, in all his glory, chose to pull the carton out of the fridge by gripping the very top lip of carton, using nothing but his index and thumb. I could see his tiny wrist trembling from the weight and the visible struggle on his face, and my every instinct was to grab the carton from him and bring it to the counter myself before it inevitably fell and splash all over the kitchen floor. I was surprised when I took a breath (and held it) and allowed him to complete the task, thereby preserving his dignity and allowing me to trust him.

But it was forced and difficult, and I usually find that this is a difficult thing regardless of who or what I’m dealing with. For a lot of people, myself included, it’s a control thing. Most people dislike and/or are uncomfortable with the prospect of letting someone else do a particular thing when they know they can do it faster/better/more efficiently… For others, they’ve simply been doing things themselves for so long that it feels distinctly odd to have someone else do it for them.

Allowing yourself to trust can relieve a great deal of pressure in your own life. Nobody should be expected to carry the burden of life on their own, and we can all agree that any load is much easier to bear when it’s weight is shared. This is something that I feel I need to work on, for my own self-development. Had Nathan dropped that chocolate milk, sure it would have made a mess but it would have been a teachable moment (especially since I’d have made the booger clean it up himself). But it allowed me to let go a bit and trust that he could do it. And he did. What would happen if he’d ever spill my coffee is a conversation for another day… ☯

I Dream Of Nihon…

I had an interesting dream last night about Japan. It was reminiscent of my trip there in 2001. Although it’s been almost twenty years, I still remember getting on the road in the early hours of morning before the sun rose to drive from my home town of Dalhousie, New Brunswick to Mont-Joli, Quebec where my team and I would grab the first flight of many that would carry us all the way across the globe to Narita, Japan.

It was a long summer before we travelled out in October of 2001. The world had changed about a month prior and I was curious as to whether we would actually be making the trip. But as it turned out, we decided to live life for the sake of living and risk it out. Although the rest of the team took the summer off, I trained hard as I anticipated getting my black belt in Okinawa. I was at the tail end of my time as a brown belt and this trip would provide the final step I needed to finally begin my journey in the martial arts.

Performing Seisan kata for Sensei and Nakama-Sensei at his dojo in Ginowan

We had a total of four flights, starting from Mont-Joli to Quebec City, Quebec, followed by a flight to Montreal, Quebec, on to New York before finally flying to Narita, Japan. We stayed overnight in New York and did the tourist thing. It was nice, and we even climbed the Empire State building. We dined at some restaurants and embarked on the fourteen-hour flight that would take us to Narita.

During that fourteen hours, our flight arc took us across Alaska. I remember everyone being fast asleep and the plane was dark and quiet. I was gazing over the snow-covered landscape that was 35,000 feet below me. I remember leaning my face against the window and thinking about how the world looks so peaceful and beautiful and serene from that high up… Then my bowels almost evacuated. The plane rocked violently and shifted to the side. It felt as though the plane struck something solid and I saw the port-side wing flex upward at what I felt was an impossible angle before settling back to its original position.

I sat there shaking, thinking about how close I came to dying. I looked around the plane and realized that no one had woken. I realized that if the plane had crashed, I would have been the only poor bastard awake to experience it. When Sensei woke up, I told him what happened. He got a good laugh at my expense as he explained that we probably struck an air pocket and dropped a few feet. Once the plane hit normal air, the wings would flex to accommodate the stress. If only I had known, I could have prevented making a fool of myself. It would be the first of many of those situations on this trip…

Nakama-Sensei’s senior class posing with us in Ginowan

We landed in Narita, Japan and stayed at a traditional Japanese inn. The rooms had paper walls and tatami mats for beds. Honestly, the most comfortable sleep of my life with the exception of my memory foam mattress. There was a public bath and meals were served by the inn’s owner who was also the front counter person. We stayed there for three days and visited Tokyo Tower as well as the Budokan and Kodokan Judo Institute. Believe it or not, I had my very first beer at a Japanese dignitary’s home during my time in Narita. I was 23 years’ old.

We took a short flight across the Ryukyu islands to land in Naha, Okinawa. this is where we would be spending the following weeks of our stay. We checked in to the Oasis Hotel in Naha, where I would be sharing a room with the two other guys in my team while Sensei and his wife had the second room. As of the following morning, our schedule went a little something like this:

  • Wake up at 6:00 am;
  • Brief breakfast of whatever foods we purchased from a local grocery store and ate in our rooms;
  • Three to four hours of karate classes in the morning before breaking for lunch;
  • Afternoons to ourselves, which included laying on the beach, shopping at the local markets and visiting museums;
  • No supper, because heavy shit was coming;
  • Another three to four hours of karate with the senior class;
  • Beer and food at Nakama-Sensei’s home afterwards;
  • Ceremoniously pass out from exhaustion;
  • Wash, rinse and repeat.
Uechi-Ryu’s original dojo in Futenma City, Okinawa

It was a gruelling few weeks of training and running around. Although it was October and considered to be the onset of the colder season for Okinawans, it was 40 degrees and hotter than hell for us. All the beer and sake we drank never came out. I could include a lot of the incidents that took place during our trip. The fact that Sensei filmed one of the other male students applying sunblock on my shoulders while at the beach, getting drunk in front of that aforementioned dignitary since it was my first time drinking beer and accidentally screaming “I love you” in Japanese to a fifteen-year old girl… Yeah, I wasn’t proud of that one. Y’all can tell me in the comments which of those fuck-ups you’d like to hear more about!

Left to right: My Sensei, Nakama-Sensei and the head of the Okinawan Karate Association

Out of everything I experienced in Okinawa, watching Sensei receive his 6th Dan was by far the most rewarding. Combined with a couple of Okinawan elders trying to set me up to marry their daughters and bring them back to Canada, it was a memorable night. It was also a fantastic way to wrap up our trip. I even got the opportunity to visit some Buddhist temples.

I miss Japan and Okinawa greatly. It was mostly a month of good times and good memories. It only surprises me that it’s taken me this long to dream memories of the place. Sensei has returned to Okinawa every two to three years since then. He keeps going back and all I’ve done is dream about the memories I’ve made. Perhaps someday I’ll go back.

I didn’t get my black belt in Okinawa like I planned. In fact, I only got it the following year in Sensei’s private dojo in my hometown. In some ways, a lot of ways, that suited me better. Would it have been memorable to get it in Okinawa? Sure. But I wouldn’t trade the memories I gained in Okinawa or the experience of my black belt test for anything in the world. ☯

The Benefits And Perils of Water

“Be Like Water, My Friend…”

– Bruce Lee

Water is essential to life. There’s no question. But water has the potential to create or destroy. Of this, there is also no question. Bruce Lee is famously known for including the concept to “be like water” in his teachings. And for good reason. The concept behind this is an important one in the martial arts. Fluidity of movement and adapting any given scenario without necessarily being stuck to any one system or style is what I always felt Lee was getting at when he referred to this.

I think my favourite version of this, was said by Jason Scott Lee when he starred as Bruce Lee (believe it or not, there’s no relation) in Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story in 1993. Lee explains how in order to study the martial arts a practitioner has to “be like the nature of water.” He explains that water will take any form, fill any container. Water is the softest stuff on Earth, but it can penetrate rock… Yeah… About that last one…

Enter: last Thursday night. I was sitting in my small basement office, researching and typing away and searching for jobs. Sometime late in the evening, beyond the 10pm hour, a thunder storm rolled in and thunder was audible in the basement. For whatever reason, Nathan becomes skittish and frightened when there’s thunder so I went upstairs to find him standing on his bed looking out the window. I could tell he was apprehensive, so I offered to build him a blanket fort in the downstairs office so he could go to sleep and have me nearby. He eagerly agreed.

Torrential rain fell for well over an hour and just past the 11pm hour, my wife came down to check on us and confirm that I had closed up our garage (which I had). As we stepped out of the office together and walked towards the stairs, we could see a difference in colour on our basement floor and turned on some lights. We found that the floor at our west wall was soaked with water. Our baseboards had warped and at least a half dozen cardboard boxes we had in storage had soaked up a heavy amount of rain water.

Our foundation was very obviously leaking, and we worked quickly to try and move as many things out of the line of water as we could. Just to be clear, it wasn’t pouring water in like a sieve, but water was seeping in enough to have a visible wetness on the tile floor in the storage room and to soak about two feet of carpet from the wall, all along the western edge of our house. We emptied out our boxes and found that several books had been damaged/ruined in the incident and that many other items were in need of drying off.

It was late at night, and I had consumed a couple of glasses of red wine at this point and was ready for bed. Nothing snaps you out of it quite like a threatening incident against your home. I was at a loss. There was no way to stop the rain and certainly no way to repair the foundation in such a way that it would stop the further propagation of water during the night. We did the best we could in moving everything away from the damaged wall and called it a night.

I’ve often written that foundation is everything. Your foundation is basis for everything that it holds up and that if your foundation is weak, your structure can be the strongest in the world but will still falter, in time. In writing about that concept, I’ve usually been referring to the martial arts. But the joke is that I was now exposed to a real-life example of how this is true. The foundation of my home is now weakened and compromised and it threatens the safety of my home as a whole.

I contacted our insurance company the following day to report the incident. I was provided good, friendly service by the lady I was speaking to and was scheduled to have an adjuster/investigator come assess the damages to see if our insurance would cover costs of repairs. I asked several questions, one of which was whether or not the foundation would be repaired in order to prevent such a thing from happening again. The response was that all of the foundations in our city were subject to cracking and shifting because of the nature of our soil, and that insurance wouldn’t cover anything related to our foundation due to it being a “naturally occurring event that happens over time.”

I was understandably upset and asked her what, exactly, that she expected would be repaired for us if not the actual source of the problem. She explained that they would replace our baseboard and walls, as well as pull up the carpet, clean and replace the flooring as necessary. So basically, they’d be looking at replacing our 1969 orange carpet and wooden clapboard, which we were planning on renovating anyway. But they fully intended on leaving the foundation damaged.

It’s a prime example of how the almighty dollar rules modern society. When we purchased our home, we were forced to obtain home owner’s insurance in order to be approved for a mortgage. I don’t know if this is the same everywhere, but it was certainly the case through my bank. But despite being forced to get it and paying thousands a year in premiums, they don’t seem keen on covering the aspects of one’s home that can actually become an issue. Not to mention the $1,000 deductible that I would have to pay.

The lady also advised me that moving forward with a claim would eliminate my “claims-free” status and that my yearly premium would be increased by 15% for the next three years. I was polite enough not to swear at her over the phone, but I have to admit that I’ve never wanted to get rid of a home so badly in my life. I think we may be shopping around for a closer and better insurance company in the near future. In the meantime, my wife and I need to start the arduous task of taking our basement apart and starting repairs on our own. And we’ll likely have to repair our foundation at our own cost. Ah, home ownership…

Like I said, this is a real life example of how water can be just as destructive to us as it is necessary. Even if one were to assume that a concrete wall should be able to hold water at bay, my home is proof that water will eventually erode any surface and find its way through. This should be a good lesson for the importance of tenacity and commitment. But at the moment, it’s really just something that’s testing the upper limits of my calm. ☯

If Owning Problems Was Cash, I’d Be Bill Gates…

The world is a complicated place. There is no easy solution, when dealing with the day-to-day requirements of adult life and I’ll totally admit that there are days where I’d rather crawl into my blanket fort and colour than deal with those requirements. What’s more is that there will always be “battles” to be fought because, well… You’re an individual and your thoughts, opinions and methods won’t always match up to everyone else’s. You can’t expect to see eye-to-eye with everyone and this can become a problem, especially if that mismatch takes place between you and an employer.

One of the more important aspects of adulthood is being able to own up to your problems. As children (at least in my generation), our parents taught us to be honest about things and admit when we’ve done something wrong. Basically, the foundation for owning up to your problems has already been laid. But once childhood has melted away, a lot of us revert to blaming everything on others. And although other individuals will undoubtedly have some responsibility, it won’t be until you face up to your role in any specific issue that you can start to live with less stress.

One good example is an associate of mine that I’ve known for over twenty-five years. Good guy, good heart, he’d totally be one of those people who would drive an hour to spend the entire day helping you move your house. However… He’s one of those individuals who ALWAYS blames everything on everyone else. Even when the problem is a direct result of his actions, he still feels that he bears none of the responsibility.

Not everyone is that extreme. The person in question unfortunately butts heads with everyone in his environment; co-workers, supervisors and even the members of his household. And over just about everything! Someone took the parking spot he wants? Fight. There’s been a change in policy regarding something in his work? Refuses to do it and fights about it.

The main component of that last paragraph is to learn to pick your battles. Not everyone seems capable of this very simple thing, but some people go out of their way to try and ice-skate uphill! Honestly, when it comes to work, unless you’re the owner of your own company, sometimes it’s best to just clock in, do as you’re asked and clock out. There’s nothing wrong with voicing your opinion, but tempting faith by refusing to do things on the job is just ASKING for trouble. But I digress…

The point of today’s post isn’t necessarily about CAUSING the problems so much as it’s about taking responsibility for them. That seems to be an aspect that most people have issues with. And there are a batch of really good, yet complicated psychological and physiological reasons why most people do this. For the most part, people are programmed simply to never admit that they’re wrong. For others it can be things like having a fear of failure, appearing weak to others or being a total douche. I don’t know, I’m not a psychologist.

A had a conversation with a friend of mine named Marty, a little over a year ago when I was facing something difficult. Truth be told, I’m still neck-deep in that difficulty, but a theory he discussed got me thinking about who bears the responsibility behind the problems we face. There are always three sides to every problem in life: the part that’s your fault, the part that’s someone else’s fault and the part that’s random events outside your control.

The part that’s someone else’s fault. You don’t live on this planet alone. Because of that, things that you deal with will always have an outside component. Even when it seems as though it was something you did. The problem with this aspect, and the reason I listed it first, is because it’s the one most people tend to focus on. “How can I blame this on someone else?” is often the credo of the problem-solving millennial (I’m not limiting this concept to millennials, just to be clear)

Random events outside your control. There are elements of every problem that are simply the result of things you can’t change. A good example of this would be working on an important online project at home when a thunderstorm knocks out the power. This results in your project being lost to the ether due to the loss of internet. You can’t control the coming of a storm any more than you can control the tide or the phases of the moon… Sometimes you simply need to understand that there is LITERALLY nothing you can do to alter that aspect of the difficulty you face.

The part that’s your fault. This is the big one, the one people hate, the one people refuse to admit and deal with. See, no matter what the difficulty there are things you will have said and done that have gotten you to the here and now. This means that whether directly or indirectly, you bear some of the responsibility for where you’re at. This is where it becomes important to control one’s thoughts, words and actions in order to prevent causing and/or aggravating problems within your own life. This is not to say that you can’t offer up your opinion or voice your objections; it simply becomes a matter of picking your battles.

When you recognize the role you play in the events of your life and begin to be proactive in how you deal with, it can go a long way towards the elimination of suffering and the promotion of peace within your own life. There will always be an aspect of life that’s out of your control. And you can’t control others. You can only control yourself. I think it’s Epictetus who said, “It is not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters.”