It’s Not Me, It’s You…

Today marks my family’s second day on our epic journey across Canada and I’m clearly aware that I can’t spend fourteen straight days posting about the trip. I mean, I COULD… But the idea is to maintain a readership, not scare them all away. With that in mind, I’ve decided that I’ll be posting about the trip every few days, after photos and material have been gathered in order for share my thoughts on the trip. With that in mind, let’s get on with today’s post…

Sometimes, navigating society can be pretty difficult. You’re probably think “d-uh,” right? Beyond societal expectations and personal hopes of acceptance, there’s also the little detail that we’re all individuals. Although this should be hailed as a good thing, it also means that each and every one of us has our own thoughts, beliefs, perspective and personalities. The downside to THAT is that we don’t always mix well with those aspects in others, which ultimately leads to us not playing well with others.

Picture this; you’re working with an individual who has been tasked with a project. You’ve been asked to look into that project and determine its status as well as verify the quality of the work. During this verification, you notice that some aspects of the project aren’t quite up to snuff with how it was requested. In a casual and conversational setting, you mention this in passing to the individual working on it. You walk away happy that’s you’re able to clearly discuss this matter and look forward top seeing the updated project.

Some time goes by and you come to realize that you’ve received no updates. Curious and somewhat confused, you reach out to the individual in question and discover that not only have they not updated the project, they’re displeased with “how you addressed them” and don’t wish to communicate with you. You’re utterly confused. You run the scenario in your head and can’t understand what you might have said that could have been interpreted as offensive.

Here’s the thing; you likely didn’t! There’s an old saying that goes something like, “I only control my words, not how you react to them…” I have no idea where the saying stems from, but I’ve heard different versions at different points throughout my life. And it’s pretty accurate. With some people, you can be absolutely sweet as sugar and they’ll still get pissed off at you and think you’ve offended or disrespected them. In most instances, there isn’t much you can do about that. It’s not a “you” problem, it’s a “them” problem.

Now, I used a workplace example for this scenario but it can and does happen in one’s personal life, as well. Sometimes, it can be something as simple as missing a comma in a text message and it changes the tone, causing the recipient to take it offensively, regardless of whether it was intended that way or not. For most, this requires the ability to allow room for clarification of the interpretation rather than getting all snowflake-ish about it. But this isn’t always possible and if you’re the one overreacting about something, you may not be amenable to taking that step. Changing one’s perspective can be difficult.

And ultimately, one needs to ask oneself, even if you didn’t MEAN to offend or disrespect someone, does it genuinely make it any less offensive to the other person? If someone makes a joke or makes light of something they consider comedic but happens to be something personal and sensitive to the other, their feelings are genuine even if you didn’t mean to harm them. It’s pretty easy to sit behind a keyboard and say that one should apologize for the harm, even if it wasn’t intended as such. But this practice can become an exhausting and futile exercise, especially when dealing with individuals in one’s life who become offended and hurt at absolutely everything.

At the end of the day, there’s no easy answer to this scenario. It’s simply one of those things that a person needs to accept and recognize requires some give and take from both sides of the conversation. For the offended party, it’s important to recognize that allowing yourself to have an open perspective on what the intent of the message or action is, is important to proper communication and to prevent unnecessary misunderstandings. For the one relaying the message or performing the words or actions, be willing to view things through the recipients lens and accept that even though you may have done nothing wrong, it doesn’t eliminate the suffering that may have been cause. Food for thought… ☯️

Musical Chairs, But With Decades Instead Of Chairs…

One of my oldest and dearest friends proposed a game for our old high school gang to play, a few days ago… He challenged us to provide a list of ten songs from out high school years that we enjoyed. They didn’t have to be in order of importance or favour, but they had to have been released during our high school years. This was an interesting challenge, considering that in high school I was mostly a 70’s and 80’s kind of guy. But I met the challenge, and found ten songs I could provide. Then, the rest of the gang started providing their choices and it opened up my memories and tossed me back to 27 years ago…

Before I get to the lesson this game taught me, I think it would be interesting to provide y’all with the list i came up with. Without judging how old I am, bear in mind that all the songs listed below were released in 1996, which is when I graduated high school:

  1. Macarena – Los Del Rio
  2. Follow You Down – Gin Blossoms
  3. Name – Goo Goo Dolls
  4. The World I Know – Collective Soul
  5. Time – Hootie & The Blowfish
  6. Wonderwall – Oasis
  7. Santa Monica – Everclear
  8. Where It’s At – Beck
  9. That Thing You Do – The Wonders
  10. No Diggity – Blackstreet

The nice thing about this list is that it’s beautifully incomplete. there are so many other songs from my youth that I’ve gained an appreciation for and that I love listening to, even today. My friend Leon named Mr. Jones by Counting Crows, No Rain by Blind Melon, Let Her Cry by Hootie & The Blowfish and certainly not least… If I Had A Million Dollars by Barenaked Ladies. Just about everything by Green Day… So many great choices and so little time…

As with all things in life, there’s a lesson to be learned from this simple game. Much in the same way that I was listening to music from a decade or earlier when I was in the 90’s, I’ve only truly come to appreciate the music from the 90’s in recent years. The nostalgia adds a certain something to the whole equation. The thing of it is, I didn’t appreciate the music from my high school years WHILE I was in high school. It took a couple of decades before I truly started to enjoy the music. I have well over 3,000 songs on my iTunes and growing.

Music has a way of helping with everything. It can calm you when you’re worked up, motivate you when you exercise and soothe you while you meditate. When you add some memories into the bowl, it’s a sure recipe for happiness. In a chaotic world where happiness can be a fleeting thing, a little added boost can go a long, long way. And there’s also something in there about appreciating what you have when you have it. Maybe I could have appreciated some of that wonderful 90’s music, well… back in the 90’s! Instead, I get to enjoy it only through the lens of remembering my youth. Food for thought… ☯️

Polishing Your Horns Won’t Make You A Star

They say a little competition is a good thing. I believe the expression is “healthy competition.” Although this can be fine as long as that competition is for the purposes of fun and is only a game. The problem begins when one’s need for competition extends beyond fun and games and drips into everyday life. If you compete against others in life, you’ll find yourself walking a very lonely path; even if you’re not alone.

The goal of life should be to eliminate suffering; suffering in one’s own life and suffering in other peoples’ lives. If you compete against others for the purposes of personal advancement, comparing yourself to others or for gain, such as money, popularity or status, the only outcome will be suffering. Status in life means nothing. And let’s not mistake status for success; those are two very different things and success can be measured by the efforts and goals you set for oneself. Status is how outside people see you in relation to personal gain. Not so great.

Back in the 1990’s (yes, I’m old) I had my wisdom teeth removed. While I was laid up for a day or two on Tylenol 3’s, I rented a handful of movies to watch. Yes, this was back during a time when you had to actually walk into a retail location, provide your personal information and borrow a playable tape (not DVD) in order to watch it at home. Anyway, I decided to binge on a particular series and rented every Rocky movie I could find. I was a pretty big Sylvester Stallone fan, so it was a no-brainer. There were four movies out, at the time.

When I got to Rocky IV, one of the things I was most amazed with was the soundtrack. One would think that I would have been inspired by the lesson behind the movie, but you can only watch Stallone lose, train and make a comeback then finally defeat one’s enemy before the movies kind of all blend together. Anyway, there’s a song by Survivor called “Burning Heart.” The song was released in 1985, the same year as Rocky IV came out. The movie has some undertones that’s suggestive that the message relates to the Cold War and if I had to guess, I’d say that the song was written specifically for the soundtrack.

Anyway, there’s a particular line in the song that speaks to me and has done so ever since. It goes, “In the warrior’s code, there’s no surrender. Though his body says stop, his spirit cries NEVER! Deep in our soul a quiet ember knows it’s you against you; it’s the paradox that drives us on.” And that’s the message: the true competition is against yourself. Work to be a bit better than you were the day before. Set goals and fight to complete them. As long as you have moved one step closer today than you were yesterday, you’re competing the RIGHT way. But as soon as you compete while comparing yourself to anyone else, the only possible result will be suffering. And that doesn’t work for anybody. Food for thought… ☯️

Wisdom From The Most Unlikely Places…

There’s a lot going on in the world, these days… It sucks, because most of us would agree that we would prefer not to have these events happen in our lifetime. It reminds me of my grandfather… He fought on active front lines in Europe during World War II. Unlike many others, he wasn’t drafted, he enlisted. He left his family and his home to go fight oppression, thousands of kilometres from our Canadian shores. He was never nationally recognized, never provided with the honours he deserved but ever loved by his family.

In some ways, a lot of ways, I’m fortunate. Even with everything happening in the world, I won’t get drafted, I’ll never see war and I’ll never experience what my grandfather did. I have him to THANK for that. No one should have to live through any of that. We’ve suffered through a rough couple of years, with COVID-19 bringing the world to a halt, followed by creating a level of chaos my country has rarely seen on its own soil. Now, war rages in Europe and Asia. yes, Russia has a higher percentage of its land in Asia, though we don’t think of Russians as Asians. But I digress…

Before I delve too deeply into current world politics, my point is the image above. I’m one of the few, rare people who have actually read JRR Tolkien’s novels and have experienced the full story. The movies were fantastic but despite their length, they left out a lot of details from the book. One of my favourite is illustrated in the image above. And they do have a scene in Fellowship of the Ring that covers it. Frodo and Gandalf are resting on a landing inside Moria, when Frodo begins speaking about how he wishes the ring had never come to him and how he wishes none of it would have taken place in his lifetime. I can relate.

The scene is made memorable by Gandalf, iconically played by Sir Ian McKellen, explaining that it isn’t up to us to wish that things wouldn’t happen within our lifetime but to make the most of the time we have, regardless of what’s happening within the world. Wise words and from the least likely of sources. As I’ve often said, we most often find our destiny on the road we least thought to travel. Although it’s a weird place to find such wisdom, a fantasy book has provided it. Make the most of the time you have. Food for thought… ☯️

Rain, Rain, Come And Play…

People have this unfortunate tendency to dislike rain. And I get it. It makes the day greyer, brings one’s mood down and prevents doing anything outdoors. But a solid rain also does a number of positive things. For one thing, rain is an important part of plant growth without which, none of us would be here. Outside of that, there’s something therapeutic about hearing a steady drum of falling rain on the roof of the house or against the windows. If one has the time to sit and listen, rainfall can have a similar effect to white noise and can calm and soothe a person after a long day.

A saturated neighbourhood…

The past week has involved a certain level of heat that I usually have difficulty dealing with. I’m the kind of guy who prefers to sweat over freezing or shovelling snow but it’s like I always used to tell some of my co-workers, it’s easier to add on a sweater than do the opposite. You can only remove so many pieces of clothing before it becomes an HR issue. That’s why I’ve always been a bit more comfortable in cooler climates than during extreme heat. And this past week has seen the hottest weather of the summer. It’s made it hard to be outside for anything without having a hard time breathing and turning into a see-through, sweaty mess.

It’s also seen me sleeping in my basement, since our air conditioner can only do so much. But the rain kicked in a bit during the weekend and during the beginning of the week and it’s gone a long way towards cooling things down. It also helps in keeping my shitty lawn watered so I don’t have to do it. Granted, my lawn is only shitty because I have absolutely no ability to grow things and keep them alive, whatsoever. That sounds pretty bad, considering I have two small children. But I digress…

Hopefully the rain helps with that horrible bald patch I haven’t seeded yet

Falling rain is also an excellent aid when taking a nap. Since I’ll be travelling to Saskatoon for my eye injections today, I likely won’t get to indulge in that. Light knows I didn’t get the chance on the day I took these photos. But if one hears the falling rain while lying down and allowing oneself to relax and fall asleep, it can be incredibly centering and therapeutic. One could almost consider that a form of meditation.

Most people tend to dislike and avoid the rain. Having grown up in the Maritimes, right next to the open bay, have allowed me to sit through some AWESOME rain storms coming in from the ocean. That’s probably why I have a bit of a soft spot for the rain. It elicits good memories and calms me. And we all need a little more of that in our lives. And since it cooled the temperature, I was actually able to sleep in my own bed. That sounds like a win/win… ☯️

Better Days Are Not So Far Away…

Despite our efforts to avoid them, we all have bad days. Typically and for the most part, we suffer through them, deal with them and let them pass after a good night’s sleep. Remember I said that; it will apply later on in the post. But most people will actively do whatever they can to avoid bad days, despite the fact that they’re essentially unavoidable and a part of life.

Last week, I experience one of the worst “bad days” that I can recall in quite some time. What exactly happened to make it a bad day is not important (and I don’t need to come off like a snowflake for my woes) so much as how I dealt with it. Given everything I’ve been through in my life, I’ve prided myself on being able to maintain healthy tools to manage my emotions, more specifically anger. Please note that I said “manage” my anger and not control or suppress it.

Suppressing or bottling up one’s anger is a little like shaking a bottle of carbonated soda (something Nathan loves to do). Although the bottle will hold the soda, pressure will continue to build and gather until eventually the cap will pop and that pressure will explode outward, saturating everyone and everything near it. Anger is very much the same; if you don’t have a healthy outlet for it, it will eventually build up enough pressure to eventually burst and affect one’s entire environment.

Unless someone is close enough to me to have been told this fact, people believe I maintain my calm because I study the Buddha Dharma when in reality, I study to Buddha Dharma to help calm me. The difference is important because like any other living person, I feel and experience the entire spectrum of emotions and they affect me very much in the same way as anyone else. But it’s how I choose to deal with these negative emotions that’s important.

Just to be clear, anger, sadness and any other emotion labeled as “negative” still has a purpose, even if we dislike them and don’t assume so. Much like feeling fear let’s us known that we are potentially in danger, anger and disappointment tell us something about ourselves and the situation we’re facing that we may not have been aware of, otherwise. It doesn’t mean it isn’t normal to dislike being on those situations or that something shouldn’t be done about them. Cue the advice…

Meditation can be a fantastic way to help alleviate the effects of negative emotions. By entering oneself and allowing oneself to calm, breathe and focus on the lighter things, anger will often seem to lose its strength. This may not always be the case and may not work for everybody. But it’s definitely a good starting point. Finding the time and space to do this can be challenging, but never impossible.

Physical fitness is also an important aspect. Pushing yourself through a rigorous workout that can include martial arts or just hitting a good ol’ fashion punching bag can go a long way towards cooling the intense heat that your anger may have created within your soul. Even something that isn’t intense, like taking a walk, getting some fresh air and being alone with your own thoughts can be quite effective.

Sometimes there just isn’t anything that can be done and you have to just ride it out. This can be tough, especially if you’re already angry and you have to be in the same environment as loved ones and that anger become clear and obvious to them. An important step is not to bottle it up and isolate yourself. Letting those loved ones know WHY you’re angry is not only important towards making sure they know it isn’t directed at them but also pursues potential means of help as they could say or do something to provide relief from that anger.

Ultimately, sometimes all one can do is call it a day, hit the sack and get a solid night’s sleep in order to recharge one’s batteries and let one’s soul reset. This is what I did. Once I recognize I simply had no life left in me to deal with the day, I kissed my wife goodnight and let my head hit the pillow. In keeping with the mood I was in, a strong thunderstorm raged through most of the night. The next day was a new day with new challenges so I was grateful for having gotten the extra rest. Anger is a normal part of life. The idea isn’t to avoid it and the important thing is how you DEAL with it; and deal with it, you must. ☯️

What Binds Us…

Opening yourself up to others can be one of the most difficult things one can do. Especially in modern times, when people tend to try and get to know each other through virtual means before even meeting in person. When I was growing up, making a connection with someone meant actually meeting them face-to-face, introducing yourself and talking to them. Friends, associates and intimate relationships were forged this way.

These days, people meet dates online, join chat rooms and see each other for the first time through the digital frontier. Where spotting someone from across the room in a coffee shop and smiling at them would have been a first steps twenty years ago is basically considered creepy today, despite the fact that you genuinely never know who you’re meeting online until you see them in person, often with disappointment. In fact, there are entire shows about that very thing that you can watch.

Why am I bringing this up? Well, because as living creatures, there’s an energy that binds us all. That energy is called “connection,” and it’s something one can only truly accomplish by being physically present in the moment with another person. As one could no doubt agree, the problem with the online world is that you can be “connected” with thousands of people but still feel completely isolated and alone.

“Connection is the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard and valued; when they can give and receive without judgment; and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship.”

– Brene Brown

Being connection with someone else is more than physically being somewhere with them. There also has to be a trust, a comfort level, an ability to know that no matter what you say or do, that person won’t walk away from you or judge you. This isn’t an easy thing, especially in light of the modern world’s propensity to be overly sensitive and offended by everything. But a good baseline to know if you’ve made a solid connection with someone is to ask yourself if you would be comfortable doing something in front of them that you would usually only do alone. If the answer is yes, you can have confidence that some trust has been developed; at least to a certain degree.

Connections are important. Humans were never meant to be solitary, isolationist creatures. Even those who often claim they prefer to be alone still need others to one extent or another. And while that need is very real, making connections and building trust are integral parts of ensuring one’s wellbeing and health. Food for thought…☯️

“Roger” That…

Hey, I totally get it… It’s 2022 and everyone is tethered to their electronic conveniences on some way, shape or form… I’m no exception; I have my smart phone on me almost at all times and certainly never leave home without it. And there’s no denying that the advancement of technology has made Diabetes control far superior to what it was in 1982 when I was first diagnosed. But, do we take it too far? Are we too dependent? It all depends on who you ask…

As a father, I think the use of electronics has run rampant in society and it’s infiltrated my household. Getting my 7-year old through a full day without touching his device or his Nintendo Switch is a miracle akin to parting the Red Sea. Some of that is my bad, having introduced him to the colourful, moving pictures of an iPad when he was just an infant. And why not? It’s the way of the world, right? Unlike how it was when I was a kid, playing outside and occupying my mind solely on the strength of one’s imagination… Maybe I would have had more friends if I had been limited to social media as a kid. But I digress…

Having one’s nose buried in electronics has SO become the way of the world, it’s almost no longer considered a social taboo to have your smart device in front of your face when at a table with others. I’m reminded of a conference I recently attended, where the people at the table (there were about 8 of us) introduced ourselves and chatted for all of about a full minute. As I was looking around the room, I didn’t realize it right away but everyone at my table had retreated to their respective screens. It almost made me feel bad for leaving my phone in my pocket. Almost.

Canada recently suffered a telecommunications services disruption that rocked everyone’s respective world. If it weren’t for the inconvenience of no debit card use, I would have been mildly entertained by the state of people’s panic. I also would have been oblivious. It last a day, two at most, with all debit systems in the country inoperable for the time in question. Some areas were affected differently. For example, my mother claims that New Brunswick had no actual internet coverage during this time, which I think is hilarious since she doesn’t use the internet or even own a computer.

The effects were illuminating, from a societal standpoint. It was amazing to see how people were panicking and unable to function without the almighty invisible signal that governs their lives. I totally see the irony in the fact that I’m making light of this while drafting this post on a wireless device and if I were more committed to my imposed childhood school of faith, I might make comment about how people are hellbent on craving the comfort of an invisible force they can’t see, touch or feel but can’t live without. I think there was a book written about that once… Oh, the irony!

Don’t get me wrong; if I suddenly had absolutely no internet available to me, indefinitely, I’d likely piss and moan on a cosmic scale. What I get a kick out of is how society has become so utterly dependent on the need for our technology that we’re slowly forgetting what remains of our humanity. can’t watch your streaming service? Read a book, take a walk, sit outside in the sun. Play with your kids (considering they’re suffering the loss as well). I love me my games and daily challenges but there’s more to life than the digital frontier. Maybe it’s time some of us started remembering that. Food for thought… ☯️

You Can’t Please Everyone…

The world is a pretty big place, but it’s getting smaller by the decade. With a constantly growing population and a mingling of said population, there’s never been a more prominent mixing of cultural backgrounds, beliefs and ethnicities. And that’s a beautiful thing. One of my favourite things has always been getting to know and learning about different cultures from the people I’ve met and interacted with.

Interaction and understanding is not always an easy thing. After all, with a current world population of 7.9 billion people (roughly), there’s bound to be some difficulty when it comes to everyone getting along. And that makes a lot of sense, honestly. After all, there are so many barriers to effective communication and oftentimes very little appetite to acknowledge them, interaction and understanding can seem difficult.

It’s important to recognize that some people simply CHOOSE not to understand. After all, everyone has the same rights and responsibilities when it comes to good communication. One has the right to communicate. One also has the right to be acknowledged and heard. Being understood is an entirely different story. But one has the responsibility to make an effort. one can’t simply say, “Fuck ‘em, I don’t get it.” There has to be some effort on both sides to ensure proper communication and understanding.

An important thing to bear in mind is that you can only control what you say and mean; you can’t control what the other individual may understand or how they react to it. That’s where the saying comes from. You know the one, “I can only control my words, not how your react to them?” You can say something extrememly reasonable and in no way offensive but the person you’re speaking with may still take offence.

There’s not much you can do about that besides explaining that wasn’t your intention. Unless it’s a hill you wanna die on, you could even swallow your pride and apologize, whether you meant to offend or not. It takes more maturity to acknowledge that it isn’t the comment but whether the other person feels offended that makes the difference. Although it isn’t your job to fix their problems for them, recognizing that people who get hurt and take offence at everything are having a rough go of it.

The other aspect is that you’ll never be able to please or mesh well with everyone. Some consider themselves to be “people pleasers” but realistically, with almost 8 billion people on the planet, you’ll never please everyone and it isn’t your job to do so. Learning to be okay with the fact that some may not like what you say or do is an important step towards reducing suffering within your own life and moving forward with a smile on your face as opposed to a crease in your forehead.

All of these things being said, as long as you’re a good person and do good things, everything else will sort itself out. be honest but never hurtful. Be truthful but never intentionally insulting. So long as you do those things, how the other person perceives you or your communications becomes an aspect that THEY need to work on and it isn’t your job to fix any of it. Food for thought… ☯️

Loyalty Is Paper Thin…

Life rarely cares about one’s plans. I’ve said this often. Quiet waters also make for the dullest sails and your ship won’t go far without a little wind. But once in a while, you have to ask yourself, when do the choppy waters calm? It seems to me that I’ve been dealing with almost two decades of people leaving for various reasons. Depending on the arena they happen to be playing in, that departure can leave voids that make things all the more difficult.

It’s a phenomenon I’ve unfortunately seen in many arenas. In karate, I’ve had students that I’ve contributed months and years of training to, only to have them walk away to join a different style or dojo. One good example is a young guy I trained for several years. He started training with me when he was in his early teens and eventually stopped coming to class. He showed promise, but it wasn’t until years later that I found out he had joined Tae Kwon Do. If that wasn’t enough of a piss-off, he considered himself better off. He wasn’t a big fan of how long it took to promote or gain stripes on his belt and that seemed to be all that mattered to him. He certainly got that quickly enough, in Tae Kwon Do. Good for him.

I’ve experienced the same in some of the professional circles I’ve walked in. I’ve managed and trained staff for twenty five years. In those years, I’ve seen many people come and go. And with good reason; some of the industries I’ve worked in weren’t conducive to retaining staff. I’ve had to learn to make my peace with people taking my time and resources to learn and develop, only to leave me a short time later. One comes to expect it, especially when it involves the fact that some folks are simply expected to move on eventually. It hits a bit closer to home when it’s someone that you thought would stick with you for longer.

I had to experience this, recently. I took someone in, trained them, developed them and made them what they are. Although that loyalty should have bought me a longer and more substantial period of time with them in my inner circle, I found out recently that they would be moving on. Someone close to me commented that it seems as though everyone seems to leave me eventually. That definitely seems to be the case. Maybe this phenomenon will come to an end, eventually. Who knows? ☯️