Everyone Calm Down, I Got This!!!

I came to realize recently that people in general tend to overreact for the smallest things. Granted, I’ve been somewhat de-sensitized to emergencies, given my line of work. But it seems to me that one should be able to deal with some minor “non life-threatening” situations without losing their faculties…

I was faced with a good example this morning. I was walking the aisles of a local grocery store picking up some items by myself. My wife was at home working and my son was spending some time with his aunt, so I was able to saunter about and look for meal ideas while picking up some needed items. As I was wandering the dairy aisle looking for some parmesan (it was meatball sub night at home), everything suddenly went dark as the grocery store lost all power.

People started with the typical reactions; I heard heavy sighs and “aawwws” all throughout the store. I had a cart full of food, including fresh and frozen items. Therefore, I had no intention of stopping. I continued to look around and grab things I needed.

It only took a minute for staff to lock all the doors and start ushering all the customers out. It wasn’t until several of the customers started complaining and refusing to leave that I approached the staff and asked to speak with the manager. She approached and I had a five minute conversation with her that changed the tempo of the moment:

ME: Ma’am, have you contacted SaskPower? This may be temporary. Rather than boot out all these paying customers, maybe you can check if there’s an estimated time of repair…

MANAGER: No, I haven’t contact SaskPower. Our store’s policy is to escort all patrons out of the store during a power outage to prevent loss and theft.

ME: I understand that, but I have a cart full of frozen items. If I leave, this is staying here and will likely defrost. If you check to see if this will only last a few moments, you can rally everyone to the seating area until power restores. That way, you don’t piss everyone off AND you won’t lose all these sales.

MANAGER: (Walks away grumbling, clearly unhappy at being told what to do, comes back to me within two minutes) So, apparently the power is out across most of the city and they have no idea when it’ll come back on.

ME: And none of your tills are currently working?

MANAGER: Actually, the self-serve check outs have battery back-ups and could still take customers… (a look of the light bulb suddenly coming on)

ME: Maybe make an announcement and guide customers to the self-checkout while you still can.

MANAGER: (over intercom) Ladies and gentlemen, with the power having gone out, we need to escort everyone out of the store. Please make your way to the self-checkout where we should be able to complete a number of transactions before the battery back-ups die out…

I made it to the self-checkout and completed my purchase, along with EVERYONE ELSE IN THE STORE! Customers who were not done their shopping were a bit unhappy, but at least everyone left, having paid for their items. The weird thing is that the music over the PA system was still working…

Don’t get me wrong; my point wasn’t to try and tell this manager how to do her job. But it seemed as though the loss of power suddenly caused a light sense of anxiety and panic, and caused the store staff to go into a flurry, when there was a much simpler solution available right in front of them.

I wouldn’t say that a power outage would cause a fight or flight response, necessarily. But we, as people, need to learn to deal with situations as they evolve with cool heads and approach them rationally. We can’t allow ourselves to panic simply because we’ve grown too dependent on our technology and comforts.

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Happy Holidays… Everyday…

Today is National Cheddar Fries Day! As with most of these non-traditional holidays, it was created in the United States by a business called Snuffer’s Restaurant and Bar. How does one observe this holiday? Well, apparently all it takes is to go out to lunch with some friends and enjoy some cheddar fries. Then post photos of the fries on social media using #NationalCheddarFriesDay or #CheddarFriesNation. Wild, right?

With the advent of social media and the internet, the world seems to be celebrating more and more of these “National Days”. Although lots of fun, there are so many of these particular days that I feel they almost take away from traditional holidays. Don’t even get me started on how we recognize and acknowledge the traditional ones.

I had an interesting conversation this morning with a family member about the acknowledgement of the most basic holiday every person has: their birthday.

I’ve never been a “birthday” guy. In fact, if my birthday didn’t land on a date that is recognized the world over because of a disaster, I’d likely sleep through it and forget it. But some people are obsessed not only with remembering EVERYONE’s birthday, but they make a point of bringing it up and getting frustrated when that recognition isn’t reciprocated.

I have one of my friends back in New Brunswick who always makes a point of wishing me a happy birthday. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a very nice gesture and I always appreciated it. But when someone starts saying things like “I have a family with three kids and a full time job and I still remember your birthday. Why can’t you do the same?” it makes me wonder if perhaps it gets taken too far.

Is this just me? I love my friends and family. I love being able to wish them a happy birthday when I know it’s coming and I remember it. But as a society, are we responsible for remembering everyone’s birthday? And are we terrible if we forget?

And yes, before anyone brings it up, my wife and my son’s birthday are permanently burned into my hippocampus so there’s no issue there. I’m just wondering about the ones outside the immediate household.

What are your thoughts? I would enjoy hearing from some of you in the comments.

Every Dream Begins With A Dreamer…

So I’ve often mentioned that it’s important to have goals. Goals are what drive us. We use them to define who we are, what we do and what steps we take in life. But an important part of having goals is to dream. Dreaming is essential.

Dreaming about future goals will help you to achieve them. We learn this from an early age, when we gaze longingly at the picture of the item you asked your parents for Christmas in the Sears catalogue. The last instance I had of this was when the Nintendo GameBoy came out in 1989. (For you younger buggers who aren’t aware of “Sears” or why one would use a catalogue, Google it! I don’t need to age myself further…)

But this concept applies to adult goals as well. Think about something you really want out of life… I don’t mean the extravagant goals that most people have, like being famous or getting rich; although this concept could apply to that as well. After all, where there’s a will, there’s a way.

There can be a number of benefits if you daydream. Thinking and daydreaming about your goals can help you relax, helps to release stress and as you focus on goals you’ll think of things that will help you achieve said goals. As long as your daydreaming time doesn’t interfere with your work or your home obligations, you’re golden. Picture sitting at your desk, leaning on one hand with your eyes cast off into the distance with a small trickle of drool hanging down… You know who you are!

Working on goals and accomplishing them has been linked to happier overall lives and better moods, which tends to help a person be more successful. It’s important to keep building goals. Sometimes, when we reach a certain point in our lives, we have a job and/or career and we get settled into a routine, our motivation gets stagnant. And that’s where life grinds to a stand still.

So keep those goals coming! Life won’t get you anywhere unless you keep trying, dreaming and planning. There’ll always be something else to accomplish.

Silence Is Not Always The Way…

One of the biggest struggles I face when trying to adhere to certain Buddhist habits is noise. The modern world is loaded with noise. Even when you try to sit in silence, in your own home, you can and will often hear a lot of background noise from the environment around you.

Ever try to meditate with an excited four year old running circles around you? (I ask this as my son Nathan is violently bouncing a rubber ball against the walls next to me as I type, despite asking him several times to quiet down!)

The point is that modern life doesn’t allow for a lot of the serenity you would get from more traditional locations. When I visited the Buddhist temples in Narita and Tokyo, one of the first things I noticed was how quiet the environment was, despite being in the midst of a heavy urban centre. Now, these temples have walls, structures and trees that we obviously don’t have the benefit of having here!

The important point I’m making tonight is that you need to find some quiet time for yourself. This doesn’t just apply to Buddhists and people who meditate, but for everyone in general. Even if it means putting time aside when the kids are at school, or taking a quiet walk outside the city, or whatever you can manage. We often allow life in general to get in the way of our well-being; a big part of which requires some quiet time to ourselves (and no, sleep doesn’t count).

And now, my son is having a spa out tantrum in his bed because he refused to put on his pyjamas! I’m in the basement and I can hear him yelling through the floor! Definitely not the serene environment of the Shinsho-ji Temple! But as with all things in life, where there’s a will, there’s a way! Be certain to find that way, and help maintain your mental and emotional well being.

Morte Prima Di Dishonore…

Where does humanity’s honour lie…? And where does friendship end and obligation and duty begin? Sometimes it’s a fine line and we can’t be sure which choice is the most correct. Sometimes, the subject of our friendship doesn’t leave us with much choice…

In 1990, Robert Jordan wrote “Death is lighter than a feather, but duty is heavier than a mountain.” The quote always stuck with me, as I’ve read the Eye of the World a number of times. It’s Book One out of Fourteen of the Wheel of Time series. Fantastic read. I highly recommend it, if you have a few years to contribute to such a long series. But absolutely fantastic.

It wouldn’t be until years later, during my studies of the Japanese culture through the martial arts, that I would come to realize that the quote was actually part of a document issued by the Imperial Japanese Army in the early 1880’s.

But what does it mean? I always took it to mean that the duties and obligations of life provided a burden to one’s shoulders akin to Atlas holding up the world; I’ve never contemplated the second part of the quote… Certainly, death comes to us all, but not until we’ve accomplished what we’re here for. But enough of the philosophical…

When a person swears an oath, it has to mean something. One can’t simply swear an oath for the sake of getting what one wants. An oath carries an obligation along with it. In its very definition, an oath states that you are making a solemn promise regarding your future behaviour or actions.

What happens when you’ve sworn oaths that are being violated by a friend? Do you side with the friend? Cast aside your oath in exchange of a moment’s favour? Does it make it easier when you know that the friend was aware of the oath and its violation and chose to proceed anyway?

We live in a society of self service. It has become much easier to do what feels right instead of what IS right. And that sometimes puts those who are your friend in an awkward position. We don’t always get to chose how we deal with these situations. Always remember that you should respect your oaths and do what’s right.

Years ago, I was working in a small rural Saskatchewan town that had a quote by Suzy Kassem painted onto a mural in the local school. It read: Stand up for what’s right, even if you stand alone. Yet another quote that has always stuck with me. Sometimes, it’s hard for us to recognize what’s right. It becomes even harder for us to DO what’s right even when we do. But ultimately, what’s right exists despite our associations. And one should always do what’s right.

Going With The Flow Doesn’t Always Bring You To Calm Waters…

As humans, we are pack creatures. No matter how much of a loner you may think you are, inherently you are designed to run with the pack and be among your own. This is why people have often used the expression “go with the flow”… Because it’s much easier to follow the pack than to stand alone.

Some good examples I can provide include that at some point in humanity’s history, the population believe that Earth was the centre of the universe and that the Sun revolved around us. This was eventually opposed in the 3rd century BC when the notion of the planets orbiting the sun was introduced. The population rejected the notion and fought against it, as a whole. It wasn’t until the 16th century, when Nicolas Copernicus revived the notion and helped to prove it as the established standard. (This is known as Heliocentrism, you can Google it!)

Another good example is how people used to believe the Earth was flat! (I know that some people still believe this concept, despite all the scientific evidence to the contrary. But I’m not here to argue against the Flat Earth Society!) The concept of a spherical Earth was proposed as early as 6th century BC by the Greeks, although it wasn’t accepted as a given until the 3rd century BC and only started to gain leverage as the standard after Ferdinand Magellan’s circumnavigation expedition in the 1500’s.

For the longest time, the world’s greatest scientific minds believed that everything in the universe was made up of molecules and atoms and that these were the smallest particles! It wasn’t until the late 1800’s when they examined atoms up close and discovered the distinct particles that composed them. They found even smaller and weirder stuff once they cracked those suckers open and discovered sub-atomic particles, quarks and all that jazz… But enough of the physics lesson!

Even in modern society, certain histories and beliefs have been proven wrong or incorrect because of newfound evidence, lending to the premise that some histories need to be rewritten.

My point is, in order for humanity to continue to advance and become more than what we are, we need to keep our minds open to new ideas. Just because something has always been “the standard”, doesn’t mean that it will always be so. (Insert something here about teaching an old dog new tricks…) It is important that we be able to hear new ideas, acknowledge them and examine them, even though they may never be proven right. The concept of brainstorming is fast becoming a lost art in modern society, due to the availability of the world’s knowledge at our literal fingertips. But it’s up to us to continue to allow our minds to come up with, and share, new ideas and information.

Aches and Pains, They Don’t just Happen To Old Guys Like Me!

People who practice a sport or martial art for any length of time will likely suffer from some level of sports injury at some point. Although I’m not a doctor, I’ve suffered my fair share and they tend to keep on coming as I accumulate a larger number to my age (insert “old dog” jokes here).

I think it’s important to understand the difference between an ache, which one might feel after a particularly intense workout, and pain, which can be the result of an injury. If you’re uncertain as to which you’re feeling, you just might have an injury.

Today’s modern lifestyle helps to encourage unfortunate injuries. Most people work a sedentary or desk position from Monday to Friday, then try to become weekend warriors by sliding into home base on the company softball team or laser tag! When we sit idle for long periods of time, our muscles tend to atrophy and tighten up, making it easier to get hurt once you DO engage in physical activity.

The most common injuries are sprains, which is the pulling of the elastic tendons connecting the joints and bones. But there are some common injuries that occur, such as ACL tears or strains, groin pulls, concussions, shin splints and Tennis Elbow. Those all sound pleasant, right? I’ve experienced all of those, on one level or another, EXCEPT an ACL tear.

If you wake up the following morning and your body and muscles in general just kinda seem to hurt, you’ve probably just gotten the ache of a deep workout. However, if you notice swelling, discolouration or excessive pain that feels as though lightning is shooting through the affected area, it signifies an actual injury.

According to an article on WebMD written by Matthew Hoffman, MD, mild injuries can be treated at home by following the PRICE method:

P – Protect From Further Injury: For more severe injuries, protect the injured area with splints or bandages. Obviously this would involve an open wound. Torn muscles or dislocations may simply require splinting or elastic bandaging until you can get to a doctor;

R – Restrict Activity: Stop doing what you’re doing! Continuing to work out when you have an injury will worsen or aggravate it. It’s one thing to “work through the pain”, but continuing to push yourself when you’re genuinely hurt can lead to permanent injury;

I – Apply Ice: Apply ice to the injury immediately. This will help reduce the swelling, which is common with sports injuries. Ice is considered a natural anti-inflammatory without any side effects. Health professionals recommend icing for 20 minutes every 2 hours for the first two days. Contrary to some opinion, professionals don’t recommend heat as it can encourage further swelling;

C – Apply Compression: applying an elastic bandage will help to reduce swelling;

E – Elevate the Injured Area: Raising the injured appendage above the heart will also help to reduce swelling.

If you have aches and mildly pulled muscles, analgesic creams and warming blankets can help alleviate the pain. Over the counter pain killers such as Ibuprofen can also be useful in small doses, and only in the short term. Anything that persists for more than a few days should be examined by a health practitioner.

One of the best preventative measures is, of course to work out regularly. By maintaining a regular exercise regiment, you’re less likely to injure yourself. When you do work out, ensure to perform a light warm-up before starting. Once your muscles and joints are warm, they can be worked and developed with less risk of you hurting yourself.