Feb 12, 2012
The mechanical sound of a pump startles me from a blank stare. I turn around quickly to see an elderly man with a breathing tube inserted up his nostrils. He carries his oxygen tank in tow, his weathered wife pushes him along. Behind them is a pair of very loud, somewhat rude teens speaking some very animated spanish. They seem to be passionate about something. They spatter their conversation with a few distinct english swear words.
I regain my focus on… On, something. I have no real challenging thoughts this early Sunday morning. I look up to stark contrast. To my right is a young couple in love, giggling, touching and in a playful mood. They make me smile. Remind of the excitement of new love. Always so hopeful and innocent.
“STOP IT!” breaks my somewhat inappropriate stare.
“Sit down! Now!” Screams a young mom at her 3 or 4 year old little girl. Perfectly done pigtails, a cute plaid dress and the still reddish tinged cheeks from either the cold wind or perhaps a recently finished crying fit.
Many of us in line focus our attention on this obviously stressed mother. I think to myself how hard it must be for a mom to travel alone with a child. To have to balance everything. The tickets, the carry on bags, the stroller and the continuously dropped ratty old teddy bear. Did I mention that she had a new born baby strapped to her in one of those organic baby slings.
“Will you please help, for god sakes!” She finally says in frustration.
She’s not alone, the father of the little girls I assume. Maybe the husband, maybe the boyfriend. He turns away from his unabashed stare of the very attractive young girl just ahead of him.
“What?” he says with a roll of his eyes and a clear level of disinterest in his voice. Reluctantly he tells the older child to sit down in her stroller, playing his father roll that is “expected” of him.
My eyes wander back to the young couple, still very much in love. How long ago was that married couple with children like that? In love, excited about their future?
I am nudged from behind. Shaken from my work of fiction that I am creating in my head.
“Buddy, can you move up?” suggests a guy in business suit, obviously numb to the world around him. Horse blinders on, blackberry in his hand, nothing maters to him except, well, him.
While in my few moments of deep observation I had stopped paying attention to the people ahead of me. The line had moved up, maybe 10 feet. Better be more aware of the number of grey spotted tiles between me and shoes in front of me.
A hacking cough again steals my focus. An elderly woman coughs into her wrinkled hands. She looks tired, worn and not at all excited about the prospect of going through the lengthy line.
“Why do I have to take off my shoes? They take forever to put back on. You know they’re orthopaedic” She says with a real sense of disapproval.
“When I was young flying was magical. You knew you were bound for adventure. You were treated like royalty. Not today, not anymore.”
There’s a pause. Then I realize she is speaking to me. I look down at her. Her face quickly tells a tale of a long and full life. Full of carved lines created by laughter and sunken eyes perhaps attributed to sadness or loss. I am sure she could fill up a week of my time with stories, lessons and wisdom.
“Yes, yes you’re right.” I reply. “It’s much more of an inconvenience today. Although, I guess this is the world we live in now. Can’t do much about it.”
She grunts back at me. An agreeable grunt, but a grunt none-the-less. We stand quietly, shuffling along. I am mindful of my ‘buddy’ behind me. Don’t want to slow him down.
We stand side-by-side now, like I am traveling with her. I look around me. Heads down. Almost all of them. The whole line. Fully connected to the mini-computers in their hand. Updating their profile status, tweeting their departure times, reading the “news feed”, texting a friend who is still asleep. It seems they are all unaware of the life going on all around them in this line. Like part of the herd, I glance at my iPhone, blank. no messages. No one wishing me well on my flight. Still to early to text anyone.
I place my phone back in my pocket. I look down at my line-mate.
“Dorothy.” She puts her hand on my arm and gives it a little squeeze. “My name is Dorothy. My friends call me Dot. Where are you off to?”
Life happens all around us. Usually we think our life is the most important. I guess it should be in many respects. We get caught up in our problems, our celebrations. We rarely seem to see the other stuff. We don’t pay attention to the people who are beside us. Look up from the iPhone, blink and break our stares. Participate in the world.
“Prince Edward Island. PEI.”
“What are you doing there? Going home? Work? Vacation?” she pushes the conversation further.
“I’m going for work. Just a few days.” I reply.
“What do you do dear?”
“It’s a bit of long story” I quickly say with a smile.
“Well it looks as if we have some time.” We both look down the long snake like line leading to security. She winks and grins a warm grin.
“Well Dorothy…” she stops me quickly. “My friends call me Dot I told you.”
“Right! Well Dot I am a speaker and a bit of an author…”
Life is beautiful.
Feb 8, 2012
Early morning, coffee in my hand. Sun breaking the horizon. My trusty dog sitting at my feet, counting the hours until he gets to eat the same meal he had for dinner and breakfast the day before. The house is silent, Really silent. No cars on the street, the birds are sleeping deeply in their nests on a frosty morning. My slippers are on, my robe is tied tightly around my waist. This is the holy hour, before the world stirs. Before the cattle begrudgingly awaken and complain about their upcoming day, lack of sleep, unhappy marriage, sketchy co-workers or their disengaged children.
I take a sip from my coffee. I stare at the screen in front of me, the blink of the curser waiting for me to type something. To share my thoughts. To write. I wonder to myself quietly “Do I have the right to share my thoughts?” Have I learned enough to share what I think. I type two words…
The damn curser flashes. It’s wanting more. It’s not satisfied with the effort. What do I remember. What is it I am trying to say?
I sat in the car alone. There were no other travellers around me. The officer escorted me from the car into a small room told me to sit in the corner.
“We are going to search your vehicle.”
It’s a rental, there’s nothing in it. What’s happening. I didn’t mean to do anything wrong. I just wanted to help. I should of just told the truth. I wanted…
That’s not it. That’s not where I want to take this. I take a sip of coffee and hold the delete key down.
I am back to the same point again.
I was 8 or maybe 9. It was a typical unexciting family dinner. Rouladen, a german dish of wrapped beef filled with pickles, onions and mustard. Not a 9 years old’s favourite. There wasn’t a discussion about other menu options. You ate what was in front of you. I pushed the meat around my plate like an uninterested city worker shovelling sand into an already full pot hole. Somewhere between the chewing and struggled swallows food flew past my eyes. Then my brother made some sort of stupid comment. I was grabbed by the back of my shirt and tossed to the corner of the kitchen.
“Hit him! If you want to show your a big man, hit him!” My father screamed at my brother.
Is that honestly what my dad wanted my brother to do?
My mom jumped up and covered me like the invisibility cloak in Harry Potter. Hoping to God that I could really disappear. Go away. Never be seen again.
The disbelief in my nine year old mind was overflowing. This is what dinner was in my household. This was a tuesday or a wednesday. This is why…
I can’t begin this way. I need to start when it all became clear, when it hit me like a ton of bricks. This time I just highlight it all and hit delete. It’s quicker.
The ripple that I felt for weeks. The pain that ripped through my heart. My wife had left a year earlier, the following year I discovered that my good friend had been having an affair with her. I had found out that this had taken place through his wife, not mine. There was other revelations as well. Some that would change lots of peoples lives. Forever.
I spent a week in disbelief. I couldn’t figure it out. I wasn’t trying to answer any specific questions. Just the ones that hurt.
As I walked through the door, the smell of freshly ground coffee in the Starbucks filled me with a sense of familiarity that warmed me. The smile from that Barista that I had seen so many times before reflected on my face. I ordered my Chai and proceeded to wander the book store attached to the coffee shop. Maybe a good “self help” book would be able to answer my questions and give me some perspective, some peace. I found it. There in the discount bin it was. A small grey paperweight. One quote.
“If you tell the truth you don’t have to remember anything”
A simple quote from Mark Twain written in 1894. Almost 120 years ago. I picked it up. 75% off. So it was about $2.50. I held it in my hand. It was like a lightning rod of reality. My life had been made up of lies. Made up of moments that weren’t real. Had we as a society discounted honesty so much that we took seventy five percent off it’s value? Had I?
I’m not sure if this is the starting point either.
I open a new page. I type two words on the page.
It’s what the book is about. It’s about the lies that should have been truths, the stories that were just that stories. It’s the struggle we all face. The lies we tell others to protect them or to avoid them. It’s the dishonesty that we show to our co-workers or to our family. It’s the lie you tell yourself when you can’t face the truth. It’s a story. One of fact and one of fiction.
My father was a compulsive liar. Dishonest and un-trust worthy. He told me stories of adventure that never happened. He was like Albert Finney in the movie Big Fish. How many stories were true and how many were lies. Have we discounted the value of honesty to the point it’s 75% off? Do some of us feel a need to share our story on facebook to make others feel less or jealous? Do some people no longer care enough to worry about the ripple that comes from a lie or what they say?
I’m not sure. I’m not sure why I am writing this book. I think it’s therapy.
If I learned anything at 21 it was how silly I was at 11 and how mature I had become. If I learned anything at 31 it was that I was so very naive at 21 and really learned what I now wanted in life. If I learned anything at 41 it’s that I didn’t realize how much I had yet to learn at 31 and how I missed the wisdom of the 11 year old. If I am learning anything today it’s that I honestly have so much more growth to embrace.
That’s the truth.
Feb 3, 2012
I have to be honest with you. Like right up front. I never wanted another dog. I had two others. Bailey and Dakota. They didn’t work out at all. They were aggressive and I wasn’t a good owner.
So when it was suggested to me that I bring a new dog in my life, I was reluctant. Not openly, more to myself. In fact I just bit my tongue and went and saw the little of cute little Lab pups. Once there you can’t help but say, “Ahhhhhhhhhh”. They are cute, tiny, like little plush toys that interact with you. We picked one out, named it Duke, I wanted Tiberious, and began the adventure of owning another dog.
There wasn’t a lot of time before the we became me and I was now the sole caretaker of the dog. At first I resented Duke. He tied you down, costed me hundreds and hundreds of dollars. In fact in the last two years including buying him I have spent close to 5000 dollars. Owning a dog seems cute and fun to most but it’s a huge commitment to the actual caretaker. It’s like a job or a relationship. Quite often they seem like an amazing idea or like they will be whimsical at the beginning, then when the reality of life slips in, there a lot of work. You can end a relationship, quit a job or a team. But I was stuck with Duke.
As Duke and I grew older together we grew closer. We had our share of fights. He ate slippers, sandals and stuffed animals. He didn’t come when he was called… most times. He licked everyone to the point of discomfort earning him the nickname “Sir Licks-A-Lot” by my son.
This fall I was at camp alone. First time in 8 years. Just me mostly. I started to walk everyday and I took Duke with me. We would do 5k or 8k every day. It was great because I lost over 20 pounds. It gave me a chance to be alone with my thoughts. If there is one thing I miss about living at camp it is the beauty of walking along the lake and the quiet of the Moon Point Beach Dr. I talked to the Universe every day and would often look down at Duke as cars past by. It looked like I was talking to him rather than to myself. I think he listened to me though. As we walked along he would look up at me with those big eyes and if I stopped he had an expression of “Go, on….”
We became close. He was my friend. My confidant. My partner. When I moved to Aylmer (in the GLA) I made sure that my new home had a BIG back yard. I wanted Duke to be able to just go out. He loves it. He is happy.
This past week, I had a very long, sad and sometimes angry time. I was down and Duke knew it. He would come to me and rest his head on my knee and sigh. I would pet him and he would lick my hand, just once. Like a way of hugging me or kissing me on the forehead to say, “It’s going to be ok.”
He won’t leave my side now. We talk at length and he knows more about me then most people. Last night I was sitting in my living room with a new friend and he kept putting his paws on me. Resting it like he was wanting to hold me. This usually means he wants to go out or have dinner. I got up and walked to the back door and he stopped. He didn’t want to go out. He looked at me and started to walk back to the living room. We sat back down and he placed his paw again on my knee then his head and let out a deep sigh. He just wanted to say he loved me. That we are a team. He wasn’t going to leave me.
We went out for a long walk to clear my head and get us both some exercise. As we walked down the main street of town a nice older couple stopped me and said, “He’s beautiful! What’s his name?”
I said smiled and said “This is Duke.” They pet him, he of course gave them a lick.
I am finally settling into this little town. I am finally excepting my new adventure and my solitude. As I walked away from that couple I looked down at him and said “Yes you are beautiful dog, you are a Duke, the Duke of Aylmer.”
I had been looking for something or someone to cheer me up or come in or come back into my life. The whole time I forgot that I had the best friend I could ask for.
Thanks Universe for reminding me and thank you for Duke.
Jan 31, 2012
I love setting goals, I don’t always complete them. Sometimes I completely fail. Sometimes I simply write them down and forget about them. The shocking thing is that MOST people do nothing at all, in fact in a Harvard study of their graduates, only three percent of the graduates had written goals and plans; 13 percent had goals, but they were not in writing; and a whopping 84 percent had no specific goals at all. This is Harvard, not some community college like I went to. This is supposed to be the best and the brightest.
I really love that goals, if you choose, can motivate you to do more than you ever expected. I am currently writing a new book called, “I’m Not With the Herd”, it’s a book about the 2% (or less) of the planet that out-perform the rest of the 98%. It’s not because they are blessed with any super human powers or strength. Yes there are those of us that may be a bit quicker with numbers or more agile with a basketball or hockey stick in their hands. Please know they aren’t better as a person then you or I.
Here’s an amazing thought to chew on; there are no extra people on the planet! Everyone is supposed to be here. Why? I don’t know. I know that you are though and so am I. So, why not set goals to do BE, DO and HAVE the life you want. You can create an amazing life. Why do you have to do the same thing every day for 365 and call it a year and then do that for 60 or 70 years and call it a life.
I had a great friend visit last night and I hadn’t seen her in about 3 years. We shared a drink and got on the topic of why marriages don’t work. How most of our friends are either divorced, separated or hating their long term relationships. I think it’s because when you get married you fall into the trap of doing the same thing year after year. You don’t want to do it. You never plan on it happening. There aren’t many people that get married saying, “this will suck in a few years” or start a job and say, “I will hate this in 6 months”. It happens because once you “settle”, most of us stop. We forget the joy we had when it started. When you start most things they are always awesome. The goals are set every day. Sometimes without even trying! It’s exciting to do all the firsts. Same as a job or when you volunteer for a club or cause. It’s the thrill of the pursuit, the build up to the program or the creation of the cause.
I had a chat with someone over the holiday’s and they proclaimed that the organization they volunteered for didn’t appreciate them enough, didn’t recognize them enough or properly. Who cares, that’s not what it’s about. It’s about doing something for bigger reason than ourselves. It should be the goal we set when we joined. We should set our goals in life, relationships, jobs and community service every day. Once you stop you join the herd.
I am writing new lists tomorrow for February. I am also righting a few OUTRAGEOUS goals for myself to. Things I want to accomplish before I am 50. They are awesome. They are grand and that’s the best part. I realized I have already accomplished a ton but I want to do so much more. I have had the opportunity to bring other along with me and my goal 20 years ago has changed so many lives. The ripple effect of a little goal setting about 20 years ago this month created many new lives now.
The goal, I think, is to be more by challenging yourself to do, be and have more. Write a list of goals today. Set three to accomplish in the next 30 days. It may not only change your world but many more for years to come. Some people you haven’t even met yet!
Jan 30, 2012
I am writing this to talk about a day. One day. Today, tomorrow, next thursday, March 11th and December 6th.
Any day, not yesterday, The day now and the day coming up. It’s really amazing. What happens in a day. Your day.
Today, 378,000 iPhones will be sold and 371,000 babies will be born. Today, 21,000 children will die and 121 (in the US) people will die in a car accident. In the next 24 hours there will 115,000 marriages and about 50,000 divorces filed. On this day 1500 people will die of cancer in the US alone and over 38 million dollars is spent on coffee which is more than five times what is spent on researching cures for disease.
Lots happens every day. Today someone will come home and find out they are dying at the same second another will find out they are pregnant. There are some today that will meet someone that will change their loves forever and some you will say goodbye to for the last time.
Today you will make a choice to act or a choice to wait. Those choices will have good and bad effects on your future. This day may be the first of many or the beginning of the end.
How do you spend a day? Do you watch TV or do you read a book? Do you kiss someone goodnight or do you tell someone off and slam the door? Will you spend time with your children, ask about their day and share yours or will you put them to bed during a commercial break? Today may be a first or it may be a last. It could be something you create or something you let go of.
Each day however is a gift. It’s also for some a curse. One more day with pain or anguish. A day wondering if a child will live or die. Today someone will propose and someone will disappear. Today is amazing. Today is terrifying.
What it should never be though is taken for granted. Nor should the people in it. May the ripple you create today wash over those in your life like a warm current. May you take a moment and stop. Breathe to yourself and say thank you. This is your chance to be amazed and be amazing. To play, to run, to walk, to help, to cry, to embrace, to lead, to learn, to change, to sit or to stand.
On this day, live. Fully. Completely. With passion, forgiveness, care and carefree abandonment. Be the you that you can be. Thank who you should thanked and say sorry to who you need to. Apologize, forgive, hold and be. Here. Now.
Death is right there. So is the beginning of Life… on this day.
Jan 28, 2012
If you are lucky, you will meet someone special. I am not talking about a life partner. I mean that would be nice. Although, I think Life Partner is a daunting title. I mean to say you will have a partner for life is truly a long time. Most relationships (romantic ones) end eventually. It is sad and never intended but it happens. In fact in Canada the divorce and separation rate is closing in 60%. The average marriage last about 14.5 years (Stats Can).
This isn’t what this blog is about though. I am talking about someone special. Someone who really loves you. Not in an intimate way. Most people consider relationships to be dating and then marriage. I mean friendship. Real hard core friendship. Over the last few days as I struggled with the reminder of loss and tragedy I found I had a few really good friends. People that were here for me and were willing to forget what ever it was they were doing to listen and help. Better yet, make me laugh and challenge me to think.
Today, my dearest and most cherished friend proved to me that she was just that. She had just flown back less then 24 hours ago from a remote country (19 hour flight) and had no sleep. She braved a mini winter storm and showed up on my door way to hug me. To talk, to listen, to tell me stories of her adventures in a far off land, to talk about social issues, love, loss and we debated what everything really means. We laughed, we both talked and we both listened.
There was no expectations. It wasn’t about talking endlessly about loss, lost loves or lost lives. It was about celebrating this moment right now. With us.
She left, but before she did we hugged for a long time. We didn’t say anything at all. Then we broke our embrace and she said, “I love you Stu, you ARE awesome.”
Partners come and go. Some stay as friends some disappear as ex’s. If you’re lucky they will stay part of your life and you will celebrate together. But, if you’re really lucky you will find a friend that makes you feel like the world is on your side and you are beautiful or handsome, smart, amazing and valuable. I am blessed by her. I am also blessed that in one conversation my entire perspective changed, my energy shifted and I became wiser. Much wiser.
Take an inventory of your relationships. If they aren’t helping you grow, it may be time to weed the garden.
“You are who you have coffee with.” - Robin Sharma
Jan 9, 2012
I remember going through the buildings at our Pigeon Lake camp the first time we actually owned it. I remember seeing so much junk in every building. We ended up throwing out over 30 tons of “stuff”. Yes, over 30 tons. Although, amongst that junk there was something that really struck me when I entered Cabin 17, one of our larger cabins. It was an old plastic sign made to look like wood. It had a monkey holding onto a vine with a determined look on his face. There was a quote underneath that said, “When you come to the end of your rope, tie a knot and hang on.” It made me laugh. I thought I really agree with that mantra. In fact it was perfect for that moment. We had bought Pigeon Lake as a back up plan because we thought we were going to lose the Orillia (Lake Simcoe) camp. This new camp was kind of like the knot and we were holding on for dear life.
I can tell you that I have lived by that saying throughout my adult life. Since I was 21 and started speaking and created the camps there have been a hundred knots I have tied and held on for dear life. Sometimes, despite my best grip, I slip off the rope and fall. It hurts sometimes really bad. I would even say it stings. The key of course is to find a new rope and start climbing again.
But what if you untie the knot and jump off? You intentionally let go of the rope. You might say that goes against everything I teach and the exact story of our success. That’s true and it’s false. Here’s where maturity and experience come in. Sometimes in life you have to recognize when the knot needs to be untied. Even if we want something really bad or believe in an idea or want someone so much it hurts. There are signs the Universe will give you. Signs that say look again, try again and begin again. It’s the ability to have the wisdom to know the difference that matters most. Untying the knot doesn’t mean you fail, it means you know you need to move forward.
I remember a program I had created to help transition students into high school. I really believed in it. People doubted me and told me why it would fail. I believed in the potential so much that I stuck with it. Ignoring the comments and the reality of how poorly it was going. In the end the rope broke, I fell and I fell hard. We lost over $80,000 and I was terrified I would get the “I told you so’s”. I thought for sure it was going to work. The students that went through the program loved it. I just needed to hold on! Right? Tie another knot!
In the end when the dust settled we were still in business and what was most important we learned. We learned what we were good at. We also found a new rope and began climbing again. The Universe (friends, colleagues, family and even strangers) wants you to succeed. Don’t live your life to prove people wrong, live your life to prove yourself right. If that means untying the knot, so be it. Learn. Grow. There are lots of ropes to climb.
Jan 2, 2012
I have less than a year to live.
Shocking statement isn’t it. If you are to believe a large amount of people that statement is true. Books have been written about it and a really bad movie made over 200 million dollars promoting the idea. Many believe that the world will end this December 21st on the Winter Solstice. This is a Mayan prophecy. It has also been said it’s not the end just the beginning of a new shift in the Universe. Still others have said the date has been misread and it won’t happen until the following year in 2013. Who really knows?
Bottom line is, if it were true what would you do? Would you be proud of the life you have lived to date? Have you contributed to the world in a positive way? What have you accomplished and what have you put off?
Perhaps a good idea would be to pretend that this is it. Your last year. If you knew for sure wouldn’t you live your days differently? If you can say no then good for you! If not, why not start to carve out a year you could be proud of. Look at how you spend your time. Who you surround yourself with and how you fill your soul. Do you read the great works and the biographies of amazing people or do fill your head with pages of gossip rags? Are you wishing you were living someone else’s life or are you creating a life you will be proud of?
If this was the end, perhaps you should make this year a great start!
“To make an end is to make a beginning.” - T.S. Eliot
Dec 31, 2011
Remember that Disney movie Mulan? There is a scene that where Mulan sings about her reflection showing who she really is and who she dreams of being. I remember my oldest daughter Kristina being 6 or 7 and singing that song at one of our camp fires. She was amazing. I cried a little.
The question though, is so relevant? We often try and model ourselves in the image of a sports star, some cool school “friend”, a celebrity or someone who is on the cover of a gossip rag. We get frustrated with ourselves when we don’t measure up or more likely bring ourselves down to that level.
In 2012 why not focus on being the best YOU. Why not figure out how you can be a better person, son or daughter, friend, teammate or colleague. People come and go in our lives, celebrities rise and fall, but you will always be there staring straight back in the mirror. One of kind. Full of potential and yet to discover adventure.
Make this year a year where you start discovering the person you CAN be.
You are truly STUpendous! Happy New Year.
PS You can join the 22 Days of Change starting on the 3rd of December by clicking on this link http://on.fb.me/uvaEaM
Dec 28, 2011
You just gotta shake it.
I remember years ago I did the Tony Robbins personal power program. 30 days to a new life. It’s a lot of common sense stuff.
One of the things that I remember is the idea of shifting yourself when you are tired, down or sad.
If you just do the simple action of getting up, going for a walk, have a little stretch, making a call to a friend that you know is upbeat, writing in a journal, making your bed, starting a new book or making a cup of tea. These very, very simple actions can change your entire mood and direction.
I always have said “I believe you can change your life in an instant.” This really is true and it does work.
I was feeling down yesterday, we all feel down and that’s ok. It’s important to look at why your down. Is it something you’re avoiding, something you don’t want to deal with, is it winter blues or are you just riding the bitter bus? Sometimes it’s a BIG thing and sometimes it’s just you need some fresh air and sunshine, a long strong hug or a good healthy meal!
Whatever it is don’t avoid it, embrace it and make a simple 1% action step to change. The journey of a 1000 miles begins with a single step!
I have to make a tea and you just need to START!
Happy New Year!
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