Stay In Your Lane…

The World Wide Web is an amazing thing, allowing the general population to have immediate and almost uncensored access to the world’s information. It’s a truly wondrous thing and I have to admit, it would have made high school projects a lot easier for me, had I access to it in the early 1990’s. But as with all things in life, a balance is required and there are negative aspects to having this immediate access at all times.

One of the bigger problems is that we’re constantly exposed to the world’s negativity. When I was younger, we only heard about pertinent crimes and issues that took place in our little corner of the Province. Anything beyond that didn’t matter because it didn’t relate to us. Although this might seem like a bit of a “head in the sand,” it certainly allowed for a more peaceful life. Anything of pertinence or from outside our little circle would be broadcast on the news or the radio, so we were never truly left in the dark.

The online world has become the primary means of communication in the world, alerting everyone to everything at all times. People are often shocked and awed at the things happening in the world, ignorantly unaware that these things have been happening all along; we simply weren’t aware of it. But the big change has been social media. Good ol’ social media… The unwanted step-child of the internet. I have a distinct love/hate relationship with social media, having stepped away and cancelled my accounts on more than one occasion. If it weren’t for the sheer convenience of communicating with friends and family, I likely STILL wouldn’t have any social media accounts.

Friends and family, as it relates to social media, is actually the point of today’s post. Social media unfortunately allows most people to become armchair warriors, arguing on matters that they would otherwise have no knowledge about. Or basically just complaining. And that’s where things get difficult, for me. I don’t have many genuine friendships and the associations I maintain online are often more for nostalgic purposes than anything else. The friendships I maintain involve a more traditional “in person” component. Call me old fashioned.

This is why, when someone becomes an aforementioned armchair warrior, especially on a topic that shouldn’t elicit such a response, it becomes difficult for me to maintain that association. A big part of my beliefs is the elimination of suffering from my own life as well as the life of others. No easy task, to be sure but it’s made all the more difficult by the fact that I sometimes see people I know and respect letting the cheese slide off their crackers for trivial matters that should simply have them scroll on by as opposed to commenting.

The irony is that one might take the view that by writing this post, I’m doing the very thing that I’m writing against. I guess the difference, in my view, is that this is a phenomenon that DOES directly affect me, my relationships and how I view and associate with said people who follow this practice. Unlike others, however, I won’t engage in the matters that I don’t agree with, I’ll simply scroll on by. Or in extreme cases, I’ll unfollow/block the offending party. I hate to admit that I’ve taken this step on occasion, even with family members.

I had a cousin, with whom I had minimal contact for decades. About ten years ago, we made contact and began communicating again when his mother, my aunt, passed away from cancer. An extremely intelligent and well-educated man, we had some reasonable conversations and I was happy with the concept of having a close family contact only a few hours away in Western Canada. And then, something funny happened. He got a speeding ticket and began publicly bashing law enforcement for giving him said speeding ticket.

Now, I’m pretty thick-skinned and this kind of thing has been happening throughout my entire career. I’ve sat in my mother’s kitchen while some of my uncles have literally bad-mouthed police and government for how they deal with things but that was usually i the spirit of discussion. In my cousin’s case, he was just angry about getting a ticket and it was everyone else’s fault. Had it been just a one-time thing, I likely would have left it alone, having scrolled on by. But when he got a total of three tickets within a two-month period and failed to see that perhaps his driving was the issue at hand, I had had enough.

All in all, the internet is a great resource for people and has joined the world in many amazing ways. Lost friends and family and now easily connect and communicate, people can learn and gain knowledge in ways they never have before and the world’s news is at one’s immediate fingertips. There is a lot of positive that can come from these things but as with all things in life, there is some negative as well. Instead of complaining about things online, take the time to ask yourself if it’s worth your time to do so. Ask yourself, will this help me or others? Will this contribute to the betterment of the world? If the answer to either of those is no, then perhaps scroll on by is what one should do. Food for thought…☯️

The Only Way Is Forward…

I have often written that it’s very important to live without regrets. The reason for this is simple; every decision and life choice, good or bad, has led to who you are, right now. And who you are is pretty fantastic. Self-love and self-image are important factors to a person’s wellbeing and existence. Sometimes, life will seem rough and difficult but as the old saying goes, this too shall pass. I found the above image online somewhere and it spoke to me. I think it represents an important lesson that we all too soon forget.

I remember myself, when I was younger. A skinny, sick little bastard who got sick with every little illness that came past. I had a rough go of it, when I was younger. I was severely bullied and not the modern, snowflake version of bullying everyone complains about today. I mean four guys surrounding me in a locker room and beating the living shit out of me. But I survived. I wouldn’t wish many aspects of my childhood on anyone. But t be honest, i had a loving family who did their best, a roof over my head and food in my stomach. I was well-off in many ways that I didn’t know to appreciate, back then.

Don’t regret who you were before. That person contributed to who you are now. And the important lesson is twofold; if you’re unhappy with who you are, recognize what you want to change and work for it. If you’re happy with who you are, roll with it. The person you were paved the way for the person you are. And all that matters is who you’ve become. Food for thought… ☯️

From The Least Likely Sources…

I kinda like this. Sometimes, it’s easy to forget that Robert Downey Jr. has been involved in movies for decades before the MCU “made him famous.” Personally, I thought he was great in Sherlock Holmes and Tropic Thunder. But from an 80’s standpoint, Johnny Be Good, Weird Science and The Pick-up Artist comes to mind. A great actor. But the thought provided above does get one thinking. Depending on who you’re dealing with, sometimes there’s no winning and you’ll just have to forge your own path regardless of what others think. ☯️

If You Can’t Block The Noise, Cancel It…

I’ve often written about how hard it can be to find moments of silence within one’s day to meditate or even just to let one’s head cool after a long day’s work. This is especially true if one has a family with small children who want your attention once you finally walk through the door. That’s where noise-cancelling headphones come in. Just to be clear, I don’t mean earbuds. Earbuds have got to be the stupidest damn thing I’ve ever used. At least headphones from the 80’s and 90’s would muffle some noise but earbuds don’t do much (at least for me) other than get jammed inio one’s ears and push earwax further. But I digress…

On my last birthday (which was September 11th, thanks for remembering), I decided to do the responsible thing and look for something that could count towards a birthday gift from my family that I could use for work, at home and for fitness. I landed on wireless headphones made by JBL, their Live model 660NC. I didn’t land on these easily. In fact, I looked up a number of different headphones from a number of different locations in order to land on a set that I felt would provide me with what I needed. After travelling the city and searching online, I landed on JBL, which ironically, is the same brand of Bluetooth speaker I’ve been dragging around with me for years.

I finally landed on purchasing from a local retail outlet and found the set I wanted. I was lucky enough to find them on special. According to BestBuy’s website, “Featuring adaptive noise cancelling technology, they avoid the interference of unwanted ambient noise to deliver loud and clear audio. Easily customize the settings and features of the headphones in the My JBL Headphones app.” Although a bit pricey (I paid a couple of hundred for mine), they would prove to be a life saver in terms of daily life and bring some much-needed peace in a chaotic and noisy world.

When purchasing this product, you get a USB-C charging cable for easy recharging, an audio cable for those devices you can’t connect through Bluetooth, and a nifty carrying case. The cushioned ear pads fit comfortably over the ears and block out all ambient noise, with multiple settings available through the JBL app, which I also downloaded and seems to work great. I use the headphones at work when trying to concentrate, I use them for workouts (some routines require some alcohol-based cleaning afterwards) and I even use them when doing dishes or chores around the house to block out noise and allow my head to cool.

Sometimes I listen to green or pink noise to allow my head to cool. Sometimes I listen to music or even binge-watch my favourite shows on my favourite streaming service. The benefit of having wireless headphones is I can wander and get things done without worrying that the cord will pull my phone or device off whatever surface it’s laying on. It’s definitely a good alternative for those who live in an environment where blocking out the noise is necessary or needed. Although the JBL LIVE660NC works well for me, the important thing is to find a set that fit well over YOUR ears and provide the benefits and features that you want. ☯️

Learn To Slow Down…

My father would get a great laugh out this, if he could read it… Or maybe he wouldn’t, since he laughs about very little these days but when I was younger, I used to comment to him about how we needed to do more stuff and be more active. Although he didn’t disagree, he often told me that sometimes ones just needs to slow down and appreciate the calmness of life as opposed to constantly burning energy trying to hammer through one’s day. Even though I didn’t agree with him at the time, I have to admit that the old man was on to something and it’s a lesson I am now trying to impart on my own children.

I used to be a slave of the rat race; waking at extreme early hours and usually lacking sleep, hammering through a day and doing more than my fair share just to be considered as “doing my job,” only to return home at night, exhausted and spent with no energy to enjoy the down time that I was earning money to live. My perspective has changed significantly in recent years, especially with time and age beginning to take hold.

For the most part and even once we moved to Regina and I took an administrative role within the RCMP, I would wake at the crack of dawn, prepare lunches for myself and Nathan, shave, shower and bolt out the door in order to get to work early so I could enjoy that first coffee and get through my emails uninterrupted. Then, I would work whatever assigned duties I had for the day. If I was lucky, I would head home at the end of the day. If I had work books or reports to complete, I wouldn’t allow myself to leave until I did so. I would get home in time to shower once again, if I hadn’t done so at work, before letting my head hit the pillow and doing it all over again the next day.

Bearing in mind that this didn’t even include the karate classes I was attending a few nights a week, Sure, I had weekends off but I would usually be so spent and cranky that I would barely get enough rest to be recovered before having to face the follow week and going through all of it again. Not exactly conducive to family life either. Considering I had my children a bit later in life, finding the energy to keep up with them is challenging at the best of times. Trying to do so when exhausted from a full work week is even worse.

Nowadays, my perception of how my day starts has been changed, mainly through personal choices. I still wake at about 6 am but I don’t rush out of bed like a fool. I walk to the kitchen, grab that first gulp of caffeine and diligently prepare Nathan’s lunch. Then, I’ll look through the fridge for leftovers that I can use for my own lunch and prepare that. If she’s up, I’ll say good morning to my wife and we may chat about a thing or two. If I didn’t do so the night before, I’ll grab a hot shower and get dressed for the day. This still sounds like a routine but the difference is I do it over a much longer period of time than I would have before. And that’s okay.

I still get to work somewhat early, but I don’t stress over doing so. If I get there early, great. If not, I don’t worry about it as long as I start my day on time, which I always do. I put in an honest day’s work for the salary I draw, then I go home. Unlike most people, I reserve my evenings and down time for myself, my wife and children. I focus on my fitness and I allow myself to go to bed when I want to sleep as opposed to fighting to stay awake due to some clouded opinion that there isn’t enough time in the day.

The result of these changes has been a calmer self, lower blood pressure and a better overall control of my Diabetes. Life won’t slow down. We all know that. But YOU can still slow yourself down. Take time to stop and smell the flowers. You’ve done yourself and your family a disservice if you die of a heart attack trying to keep up with everything. Or like Ferris Bueller said on his infamous day off, life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it. Food for thought…☯️

Walking Off Into The Sunset…

When people think of quitting something, they usually associate it with giving up. On the extremes side, people associate quitting with cowardice or abandoning something they should keep hammering at. That’s why we always see little quips like “winners never quitting” and such. And while I can agree that one should never quit something if it will compromise one’s goals, there are circumstances under which walking away from something is not only acceptable, but ideal.

When one decides to undertake something important in their life, it can become all-consuming. For example, if you decide to work on your fitness and get into shape, there’s a lot of perseverance and sacrifice that needs to happen. Quitting will prevent you from reaching your goals and it’s important to work through the obstacles and difficult aspects of that particular goal if you expect to achieve it. This can be the same with work goals, dietary goals and any achievement-based art, such as karate.

When I joined karate in the late 1980’s (Yes, I’m old as time. Moving on!) I did so with the intention and motivation to save my own life. Type-1 Diabetes was consuming me and I had complications that put me in very real danger of losing my life. My goal in joining the martial arts was two-fold: increase my overall health and learn to defend myself. I can admit that over the past 34 years, I have not only accomplished those goals but I’ve exceeded them in ways that I never would have expected.

What’s important with something like karate is that you CAN’T quit if you expect to progress and learn the art. But you should only be doing the art if it lights a fire inside you and you’re passionate about it. If that fire goes out and the passion dwindles, it becomes tedious and almost onerous to try and continue, and it can lead to being more of a hindrance to the overall art than contributing to it. It is at that point where one needs to take a serious look at oneself and consider that walking away may be the viable solution.

At some point in life, and I’m specifically referring to myself, one reaches an age and state of physical being that also no longer accommodates the stresses and rigours on the body required to actively participate in the martial arts. Granted, I never assumed I would reach that point in my 40’s but Diabetes is a hell of an inhibitor. Recent injuries and health matters have brought me full circle to where I understand that maybe fighting people half my age in the dojo is no longer a goal of mine. I’m still passionate about the martial arts but I fear the fire inside may have gone out.

At some point, this happens to all martial artists. Even Sensei, decades ago, had a point where he simply stopped coming to class. The dojo was managed by a couple of the senior belts in his absence. It was a scary time, since none of us knew if he’d come back. Eventually, he found his perspective and renewed sense of purpose and came back. In my early 20’s, I gave up and quit karate for several months as a result of my body no longer keeping up with the same speed as I had in my teens. I went back, of course. But if that was in my 20’s, can you imagine what my body feels like now?

I guess the point is that nothing in this life is ever truly over until one chooses it to be so. I may be walking away right now, but I will never truly QUIT karate. I can’t. I’ve been doing it for so long, it’s in my blood and part of my DNA. This is proven by watching how my 3-year old throws a punch without ever having been taught. So, who knows? Maybe after a period of reflection and contemplation, I will see fit to return to the dojo and train with others. I’ve been walking this journey alone for so long now that maybe the dojo is no longer a suitable environment for me to train. Time will tell.

A person’s reasons are their own. If you feel the need to quit something, whether it’s that job you hate or a sport or hobby you no longer wish to participate in, be true to what you need for yourself. My karate training will continue. The arena in which I participate will simply be different. I’m not fading away, I’m simply walking away; potentially to start a new chapter. ☯️

Friendships To Last…

As I’ve often written before, humans are inherently pack animals. Why else would we all gather in large groups to build towns and cities? There’s no denying there’s safety in numbers, which is why animals tend to travel in packs, as well. There’s also a social component to it, where most people crave time with others of their own kind. This isn’t to say that there aren’t issues with that concept.

That very same gathering of people can lead to significant issues such as criminal activity, exhaustion of resources and less availability of services due to the amount of people taking advantage at once. But there’s no denying that at our core, we seek out other people and this becomes evident through a firmer connection with others that we refer to as friendships. Loosely defined, because I haven’t defined something in my posts in FOREVER, friendship can be described as a state of mutual trust and support between two parties who wish to enjoy mutual interests.

That definition is quite loose indeed and is more my perspective on what a friendship is, rather than an actual dictionary definition. Do people use dictionaries anymore? Probably not, with the internet available… But I digress… Friendships are important and an integral part of a healthy lifestyle, even to those who prefer to be alone. Solitude eventually has a significant impact on one’s overall mental well-being and growth. This is why we seek out like-minded people from a young age.

During childhood, friendships follow a come-and-go model where you’ll usually be friends with the same kid of the roughly the same age that you have available. For example, my son Nathan used to be great friends with the boy who lived next door. When that family moved away, he started playing with the boy and girl across the street and forgot all about the boy next door. Kids are flexible that way and are more about the social interaction than who they’re having it with.

As we get older, however, friendships become more about connections and retaining the person, more so than the interaction. The best friendships are the ones that although you may not have spoken in weeks or months, you still value your time with them when you DO get the chance to get together. I have many of those. That’s certainly preferable to people who have constant contact with you but are in a constant state of conflict. Conflict is never a good thing and will always contribute to one’s own suffering as well as theirs.

The big problem with said conflict is that it usually leads to negative feelings and emotions and damages the friendship. Although I’m a huge proponent of “it’s never too late,” willingness to repair a rift will only carry you so far, especially if the other person is unwilling or incapable of communicating or compromising. To be clear, even though conflict isn’t good, it is normal and it will happen in any long-lasting friendship, whether we want it or not.

As we grow into adulthood and maintain those limited relationships, these issues become more dominant. This makes sense, since adults are more prone to their own opinions and feelings, which may not always reflect with yours. This doesn’t mean that there shouldn’t be a continued communication between those two parties. But that’s the funny thing about communication; it can’t be one-sided. Both people need to be involved in the conversation for it to, well… BE a conversation.

All of this wordy bullshit is to say that if you find yourself in conflict with a friend because they have a differing opinion than yours, remember that while you have no obligation or expectation of explaining yourself, a little explanation and clarification can go a long way. Especially if your goal is to retain and maintain the friendship. And if someone has cut you out and stopped communicating as a result of a misunderstanding, you really only have two options: take the initiative and try to repair the rift or, and especially if it’s happened frequently, let them go. Much like the old saying, if they were meant to be in your life, they’ll make their way back. Food for thought… ☯️

Just Read It…

I found this online a few days ago and I just had to share it. I forget where, it might have been on my facebook feed from one of my friends. There’s no branding to it and I honestly can’t remember, so let’s just enjoy the moment. Peace is important and in fact, integral to a happy life. Whether it’s world peace, peace in one’s own life or peace in others. ☯️

Unexpected Teachable Moments…

Studying martial arts is not only a life-long journey, it’s complicated, twisted road that usually includes multiple obstacles and issues along the way. One of the biggest obstacles, is when one gets a teacher who pays no attention and doesn’t help their students. This can be discouraging and may result in the loss of many students who may have gone on to be skilled and capable martial artists. Not only is that not a good look for any dojo, it also contributes to the dilution of the style, as those capable students could have gone on to eventually pass on their teachings.

If you’re a student, new or experienced, an important thing to watch out for is a lack of teaching or instruction. This can be a sign that perhaps that dojo isn’t for you. Or maybe it’s a McDojo and all one is looking for is the monthly tuition payments. There are unfortunately a lot of those out there and they can be tricky to spot. Sometimes, the dojo in question just happens to be a stagnant environment. One good example I can give is a dojo I studied with for about four years. When I signed on with them, considering they were of a different style, I expected to start over at the white belt level.

However, it was agreed that since I had reached and earned the rank of black belt, I should continue to wear the rank and we’d fill in the gps as I got tested at each individual level. After four years, I was barely ever taught anything beyond the very bare minimum and even then, there was never a focus on any ONE thing. There was always a general sprinkling of a dozen different topics during one class, making it very difficult to learn and develop. Being as that I am an unusual hybrid, too advanced to train easily with the beginners and too new to the style to train with the advanced ones, it was a difficult few years.

The workouts were decent but I was never given any one-on-one coaching, instruction or learned anything beyond techniques that I’ve already been using for decades. Despite dropping subtle reminders (one does not DEMAND testing in karate), I was never taught anything or progressed within the style. It led to my departure, even when I got word that classes were continuing on. That’s me as a student. If you’re an instructor, you have even MORE responsibility. Although there are certain aspects that can be taught by some senior belts to help out the Sensei, a head instructor ultimately has the responsibility of ensuring that all students advance and learn in due course.

The success of each student, and ultimately the entire dojo, depends on the proper teaching and passing on of the knowledge. Unlike some classic kung fu movies, masters don’t hold back that one technique that gives them an advantage over everyone else. A proper Sensei dedicated to the art will not hold anything back and will teach everything they know in hopes that the art will continue to live on and be taught to others. That’s why, if you go to a dojo where they won’t give you any time, ever, you should probably go. Find a different school and pursue your martial arts elsewhere. It’s important to find a school where you not only feel comfortable but accommodates your journey. Food for thought…☯️