How Does A Blind Person Smile?

This may be a question you’ve never asked yourself before, but take a moment to think about it. To be clear, I’m not talking about someone who has lost their sight at some given point in life. I’m referring to someone who was born blind and has never actually set eyes on another human being. How does this person know how to smile? And how do they know and acknowledge that this is a sign of happiness and/or contentment?

There’s a lot to be said for human instinct and we often take it for granted. Smiling is just one of those instinctive forms of expression that humans know, and it’s universally recognized around the world as a sign of positive emotion, even if it’s not necessarily taught. This like explains why my 1-year old son smiles his biggest smile, right around the time he’s filled his diaper for me. Kids.

What this teaches us is that humans have the ability to use aspects of themselves that are instinctive. Or in simpler terms, sometimes you gotta go with your gut. It takes a lot of effort to trust yourself enough to make tough decisions and hope for a positive outcome. And the truth is that your outcome may not always be positive. Sometimes, you may fail more often than you succeed. But you need to trust yourself and be comfortable n your choices. This is truly the only way you WILL succeed.

We all doubt ourselves, sometimes. But self-doubt is what usually leads to failure. Trust your instincts. They’ll bring you farther than you may think. And even if they sometimes lead you astray, always remember that failure also helps you to learn and grow. ☯

Dance Your Way Fit

You all know I enjoy writing about different fitness routines and how they came about. I especially enjoy trying these fitness routines, as it’s important to experience a healthy variety in order to keep yourself motivated. Sometimes, a good workout routine can be something completely unexpected and happen by accident. As long as you’re willing to keep an open mind, you might even find something you enjoy and would start doing regularly.

This is where Zumba comes into the picture. Zumba is a fitness program that combines dance and aerobics and was created in the late 1990’s when a Colombian fitness instructor forgot the music for the class he was teaching. He popped in some of the salsa music he had in his bag instead, and danced his way through the fitness class. It didn’t take long for the fitness craze to catch on and as of recent years, there are millions of videos, apps and classes all over the world.

I was first introduced to Zumba back on 2014. I owned an XBox 360 and had just purchased the Kinect adaptor, which is a sensor bar that allows you to play games using body movement as opposed to a controller. One of the games we got with the Kinect was called “Zumba Fitness.” Since we lived in a small town with effectively nothing to do at the time and I used to make my wife suffer through many of my workouts, she had me try the game out with her. Even if it was just a video game, it didn’t take me long to work up a sweat.

I love dance and I admire anyone who studies it for fitness or as a lifestyle. In fact, something that few people know about me is that I actually took professional dance lessons when I lived in Ottawa. Karate was definitely helpful in keeping my balance and remembering the structured routines required for some of the dances I was taught. Zumba is kind of up that alley, mixing dance with increase aerobic movements.

What I can appreciate about Zumba is its different approach to fitness and the fact that it keeps things interesting. It only took a few moments for me to be completely drenched in sweat when I tried Zumba, and I was taken aback by how challenging it was. The concept involves a set of specific core movements, but their combination and use can vary greatly with each class you participate in. You can do it in the privacy of your own home by purchasing DVD’s or enjoy the group dynamic by participating in classes. And classes have a crazy variety, as well. There are routines for all age groups, routines done in water or swimming pools, routines done WHILE performing HIIT or circuit exercises and even some programs to help with eating habits.

If you’re looking for something different to change up your routine, something that can get that heart rate up, burn calories and tone you up, Zumba may be for you. Listen to me, I sound like a damn infomercial! But in seriousness, variety is the spice of life so don’t be scared to try out different fitness routines. Hell, the creator of Zumba invented it by accident! So who knows what you might discover if you keep things varied? ☯

An Attack Is Only As Good As The Result

I’m a bit of a weird contradiction when it comes to action movies. The guy in me absolutely loves the action, the plots and the effects. But the martial artist in me usually hates how a fight is actually portrayed on shows and movies. You know how it is… The protagonist and the antagonist square off, maybe circle each other for several minutes minutes exchanging sarcastic quips about who will kick whose ass… Then they spend the last twenty minutes of the movie locked in a heated exchange of strike after strike to each other’s head and body, most of which would have crippled a normal human being after the first or second strike.

Yes, a good action movie is fun and all. But the reality is that a fight will not only NEVER last as long as they’re portrayed, but if someone spin kicks you to the head, it’s pretty unlikely that you’ll just whip your head to the side, wipe the dribble o blood off your chin and keep fighting! The safe bet is that you’ll drop like a bag of sand, unconscious or stunned beyond the ability to continue. THAT’S reality. But actual full-contact fighting will also cause injuries to the person doing the striking.

I’ve written about this before, but let’s take a good old fashion punch to the head as our example. If you strike someone to the head with your fist, you’ll injure your hand. Notice that I didn’t say “might.” You WILL injure your hand in some way, shape or form. On the milder side of it, your knuckles will get inflamed and possibly swell. At worst, you may sprain your wrist, fracture some carpals or flat out break your hand. And that’s if you’re lucky. Most people have a hard head. A fist is comparatively smaller. Maybe go for an elbow strike instead. Yes, you’ll have to get in closer but you’ll also increase your chances of preventing injury.

That’s just one example, but this concept applies to just about any attack you use on another person. Unlike the movies, getting punched to the head will put you down. But you’ll also get hurt in the process. Unless your wrists are wrapped and you’re wearing padded gloves, the chances are slim that you’ll get multiples hits in without injury. Throwing a proper strike takes technique and precision, which can only be achieved through drills and practice. This is why we do form and work out in a dojo, so that muscle memory kicks in and your strike will be effective.

True self-defence isn’t about a long, drawn out battle or fancy techniques that look like they belong on the big screen. This is one of the reasons why there are so many videos circulating about people exposing “why martial arts don’t work.” It’s not that they don’t work; it’s that people have a skewed misconception about how martial arts would actually be used in a real fight. Self-defence is about protecting yourself and others, and being the one who walks away. ☯

Vanity Is A Weakness

I’m selling my “bachelor-mobile.” Yes, that’s right! I’m selling my little two-door sports coupe with the manual transmission that’s kept me feeling like I’m still in my twenties when I’d rip around the streets of Regina, Saskatchewan. The reason is pretty simple: my wife works from home now and we really only have need of one vehicle. It’s financially unreasonable to keep two vehicles when a household only needs one. Right? Am I right?

What’s blown my mind in recent months is exactly HOW difficult it is to sell a premium vehicle in excellent condition. It seems that people are ridiculously hung up on the little details and as opposed to what I’ve done in the past, people assume that the work and the research will be done for them. I realized after a couple of weeks of dealing with people who were inquiring about the car that I’ve never actually SOLD a second-hand vehicle before. I’ve mostly dealt with dealerships.

The Bachelor-Mobile

Selling a personal vehicle as a private seller is extremely taxing and time-consuming. We’ve had a ton of interest in this car, and for every person who has an interest, I’ve had to subject myself to a lengthy plethora of questions about the vehicle and multiple photos beyond the adequate ones included in the selling post. It’s tiring, because I’m generally of the opinion that these questions could most easily be answered by setting up a viewing to simply come SEE the vehicle. Wouldn’t that be so much better than trying to ask questions about it?

For some, I can kinda understand the impulse to want to see more and ask further questions through a digital frontier. I’ve had some people who live two, all the way to eight hours away from Regina who have shown interest. But for those who reside right here in the city, it’s pretty disappointing to see the reactions and requirements of some of the people who have come to view the vehicle.

Just so everyone doesn’t think that I’m some sort of megalomaniacal douche-canoe (Google that, if you don’t know what it means), let me give you some examples. Some of this may seem perfectly normal and expected, but it struck me as a touch odd and left me with a bad taste in my mouth.

I had a young guy, probably 16 or 17 years old, come see the vehicle with his father. They spent well over half an hour with me, pushing every button, trying every feature and then taking a lengthy test drive, which included city AND highway speeds. The boy was totally enamoured with the vehicle and I could tell that he was definitely interested. His father asked the rough questions, although I was able to answer them without issue.

He said he would get back to me and he left quite happy. So imagine my surprise when I got a text from him a day later saying that he wanted me to bring my vehicle in for a mechanical inspection before he would put a offer in. Now, this struck me as a bit odd, especially since he spent more than half an hour test-driving the car. It would be one thing if he had no idea how the vehicle ran, but we ran it in every condition it could face, except off-road!

He said he had no concerns but wanted the inspection done as a precaution. Although I was a touch resistant, I would have gone through with it if he had simply agreed to pay the necessary expenses! One thing I definitely won’t do is put out money in order to sell something. That’s just flat out ridiculous. Therefore, ambitious hot-rod-seeking teen boy didn’t buy my car.

Another potential buyer reached me through text message after getting my number through my wife’s FaceBook market page. She requested “additional photos”… That always throws me for a loop. I had a half dozen photos of the car, inside and out, which showed every perspective of the vehicle. I wasn’t sure what she was looking for, so I asked. She specified she wanted a side shot of the vehicle. Okay, fair enough. I told her I’d get the photo as soon as possible.

Errands and parenthood got in the way and she texted aggressively, asking why I hadn’t gotten back to her yet. I told her that the time to take some photos would need to happen but that I would still get them as soon as I could. I asked her why she didn’t simply come over to take a look at the car herself, to which she replied that she lived in Saskatoon. This put her at just over two hours away from Regina. I kinda get it. But on the other side of the coin, why wouldn’t you just buy a car in Saskatoon? It’s a bigger city anyway!

I eventually got a free minute to take a full-on shot of all four sides of the car and sent them to her. Her exact words were, “Finally, those are MUCH better pictures… my son’s dad will texting you with questions.” Umm, what? There was nothing wrong with the advert’s photos, but “my son’s dad” sounds strange as compared to “my husband.” I let it go and moved on. The next day, a random dude called me, not texted but called, and identified himself as this buyer’s ex-husband. He asked a couple of cogent questions about the car, but ended up asking for specific photos of specific areas of the vehicle.

I’m definitely not lazy, but I explained to the gentleman that I had an adequate number of photos on the advert and that the extras I sent to his ex-wife were a courtesy. The next obvious step would be for one of them to come down to Regina for an in-person viewing and test drive. This would answer all the questions he had and would save the trouble of trying to work around my schedule to get added photos.

Apparently I had the “audacity” to suggest he come for a test drive and it was decided that he would pass on the vehicle. I understand that this is subjective since it’s my car and my blog, but am I being too sensitive? I find myself wondering what happened to the good ol’ days when you’d purchase a private vehicle by showing up in person and taking the damn thing for a test drive. Don’t even get me started on the folks that are either asking me if I’m willing to trade for another vehicle or are offering HALF MY ASKING PRICE…

It’s amazing how difficult it is to sell of a second vehicle in order to lower/eliminate some debt and try to get ahead. People are hung up on the small details, before they even see the damn vehicle. I have a guy who intends to buy the car without even test-driving, but won’t have the money for another week from this post going live. I’ll be curious to see if he comes through. Maybe I’ll get a chance to reduce more belongings in the long list of property I don’t want/need. ☯

Duty Is Heavier Than A Mountain…

I first heard the quote in today’s title all the way back in the early 1990’s when I started reading Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series for the first time. At the time, I thought it was just a cool quote, “Duty is heavier than a mountain, death is light as a feather.” It’s a quote that the main protagonist ends up carrying with him throughout the entire series. Since the release of the books, many people have been quick to point out that the quote actually comes from an old Japanese military text (myself included, since I wrote about it last year).

But by the time I had reached the end of the series, the expression had come to mean a great deal more to me than simply a line in a book. And in truth, there are a lot of values that are important to me; loyalty, honor, duty and obligation. These are things that are surprisingly not thought about in any great depth by most people. But the martial arts (at least traditional schools) are steeped in these values. And I’ve grown with these values ingrained as part of who I am.

“Loyalty Above All Else, Except Honor…”

– Lt. Vincent Hardy, Striking Distance

Doing the right thing should be easy. People think it’s hard to do the right thing, but it really isn’t. Unless you’re values are a bit shady, doing the right thing should come smoothly and easily and should be done without thinking. It shouldn’t be a chore, it should feel like what you’re SUPPOSED to do; because it is. It should be. Key word: should. Sometimes, it can be harmful to yourself to do the right thing because it can cost you.

Doing the right thing can sometimes take something from you that you endeavoured to obtain for yourself. So the important question becomes, if you know that being loyal and doing the right thing will take something important away from you, do you still do it? Yes. The answer you’re looking for is yes…

Duty is ever-present. There will always be things in your life that you have a bound duty to, so you should roll with that. Honor is always important. It helps you to do what’s right, even when it seems hard. Loyalty should be earned. But if someone in your life has become important enough to earn that loyalty, then you should be true to that loyalty to the best of your ability. ☯

The Changing Face Of The World

The world is an ever-changing place. Is this news? Absolutely not. It’s always been like this, whether you’ve been a stay-at-home parent or worker or have been doing the 9 to 5 grind for the past decade. But the past six months have certainly changed the world and how we get things done. I was having a conversation with my wife about this, just a few days ago. I had a couple of things planned for my evening and I pointed out how I was taking my time and was in no inherent hurry to get them completed, which would totally be the opposite if this were “pre-COVID.” It got me to thinking about the other things that will begin or have changed.

It’s been almost six months since we were told (here in Saskatchewan, anyway) to self-isolate and stay home. And things have only started to feel normal, despite all the changes in society. Out of all the things that have changed, here are some of the most prominent that I’ve noticed, which may permanently alter society as we know it:

People who work from home have slowed down. What I mean with this, is that many home workers are running on their own schedule, working around their children and taking breaks when they require them. The benefit of this is that you get to spend more time at home with your family and save a bit of money from less gas and vehicle usage, etc… The downside is that some employers are starting to realize they can cut costs by having employees work remotely (which many are fine with) but in some cases are even realizing that the positions in question have become irrelevant and the company can do without them. This will cause an employment paradox, where some jobs will be eliminated and many of the jobs that are usually filled by students and exchange workers may soon be sought by the working class as a whole.

Online schooling may become the new normal. My son is bored. And with good reason! He’s a five-year old boy, and there’s only so much stimulation that our backyard and my menial game skills can provide. He needs the structure and discipline that school provides, as well as the time out of the house to interact with children his own age. These interactions are integral to a child’s proper social development. So the last six months have been particularly rough on Nathan (especially since he ends up driving me crazy when I’m trying to do things) and the return to school can’t come soon enough. But with September closely approaching, people are waiting on bated breath to see if schools will actually re-open and if so, some are wondering if they really want to send their children back in, given that COVID-19 is still a real and active threat. Schools, colleges and universities are beginning to offer amended curriculums through online options in order to begin accommodating people. Although this has been a growing trend in recent decades (my college education was all done online, in fact) home-schooling and online learning may soon become the new normal.

Fitness and home improvement projects are booming. This one is 100% positive and it’s unfortunate that it took a pandemic for it to become a thing. In recent months, while cycling, jogging or even just being out and about for exercise, I’ve noticed an increase in people doing the same. Although public parks have only just started re-opening in Saskatchewan, I’ve been surprised at the number of people in my immediate neighbourhood who seem to have suddenly taken up jogging and cycling that I’d never seen doing so before. I think this goes to show that maybe Japan has the right idea in including an hour of “exercise time” for their corporate employees. If given the chance, many people will begin to increase their level of fitness. Home improvement is another great benefit. We’ve seen our next-door neighbours completely renovate their basement in the past two months, and improve aspects of their back yards. Even I’ve managed to turn my dirt patch into a lush lawn and grow some flowers.

Hospital waits are incredibly short, but rare. I think we can all admit that the wait at a doctor’s office can be long and painful, a point I covered in a post last August entitled Waiting It Out… But recent world events have forced doctors and hospitals to change how they deal with patients. Most things require an initial phone appointment from home. And only after speaking to the patient will a health professional decide if an in-person appointment is mandated. Although this is a good thing (and prevents long, unnecessary wait times in waiting rooms) it can be a problem for appointments for people such as infants or special needs folks who aren’t able to verbally communicate if there’s a problem. I’m not a doctor, so if there’s something wrong with my infant son and the doctor asks me, “Do you have any concerns?” I may be inclined to say no. But he may be able to see something in an actual examination. One benefit is that when you DO have an in-person appointment, they want you in and out of there as fast as possible. My last eye injection appointment was last Monday. I was fifteen minutes early, and this usually still results in finishing almost an hour beyond my scheduled appointment. To jab a needle into each eye! But they had me in and out of there from start to end within a half hour, including the early time. It makes me questions why this aspect wasn’t the norm to start with!

Masks and social distancing are becoming the new norm in Canada. I can easily say that this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It’s well-known that the wearing of face masks has been a prominent part of everyday life in many Asian countries for decades. But even as society starts to relax its grip a bit (which is NOT great idea at this point) face masks and maintaining social distancing is showing no signs of backing down. I’ve always felt that the asshole scrapping my heels in line at the grocery store could stand to give me a bit of space, and now it’s basically an expected requirement. Some people are okay with these requirements. Others like to do what people do and bitch, whine and complain every step of the way. “Oh, I can’t breathe with those masks on…,” “My face is getting all sweaty” and “It’s uncomfortable to wear for long periods.” Grow the hell up! It’s obvious that many of these people have never had to work while wearing military or police equipment, carry heavy fire-fighting equipment up flights of stairs and don’t even get me started on how long our first responders and hospital employees need to be bundled in personal protective equipment and the toll it takes on their bodies.

Online shopping, groceries and take out meals have increased and most people have become more reticent to wander throughout public places, making most locations much quieter and easy to navigate than before. Many people fear that the presence of a constant threat such as COVID-19 may be the new permanent state of the world. And so it may… Certainly there are other illnesses that have been around longer than we care to remember but as with those cases, the world will adapt. With a current death toll of almost 670,000 people world-wide (according to the World Health Organization website) this pandemic has certainly left its mark on the world. There will undoubtedly be more changes in the near future and it will be up to us as a combined population, to adapt to the change. ☯

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! ☯

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… ☯

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.”