The greatest gift

The greatest gift you can give another is a piece of your deepest self.

Not your time. Not your money; but something more precious still.

Is it understanding, or compassion, or attention that you offer? Is there a word bringing these together?

Love?

That piece you offer freely, that is the gift. You offer without reservation. You say ‘Do with it as you will’, though, of course, you hope and trust the other treads lightly.

And that’s the risk you take…

…and the pain you can inflict.

Aphorisms-4

There is little to build upon moving forward when the second time around is the same as the first. 

Quote #10

The ornaments look lovely but their pulling down the branches of the tree. – Cake, from ‘Love You Madly’

Aphorisms – 3

Woe the moment a material purchase becomes the highlight of your year.

Aphorisms – 2

Heed not too quickly the disapproving gaze, it may be the clearest proof yet you are on the correct way.

Aphorisms – 1

I’d rather fail a thousand times, before succeeding at something I despise. 

Quote #9

hope-national geographic

By showing up with hope to help others, I’m guaranteed that hope is present. Then my own hope increases. By creating hope for others, I end up awash in the stuff. – Anne Lamott

ILLUSTRATION BY ELEANOR DAVIS

Read her beautiful article in National Geographic’s October 2018 issue. 

Conversations with myself – #3

What did you want to be as a kid? I ask you – myself – what did you want to be as a kid?

Did you want to be a slave to your obsessions? To your insecurities? Did you want to feel trapped inside your own mind? Did you pine to be, just simply long to be, an outsider, misunderstood by others, misunderstanding them in turn? Did you wish to lose yourself?

If not these noble dreams, then what?

Maybe you didn’t formulate it. Maybe you failed to think it through. Think of it at all.

Youth was great. We were the lucky ones. I was a lucky one.

Strength of spirit and endless optimism and boundless hope. Enjoying life as it came, sharing experiences with friends and family.

Games.

Hikes and canoe trips and watching TV on Mom’s bed.

Oh, the antics and joyful shit devised with friends!

Christmas.

Shooting hoops outside and swimming in freezing pools. We didn’t need vacation. I didn’t need vacation. It was all – all – right there.


Well…

not all.

No. Not all.


I remember like yesterday walking my street alone, or with a buddy, in the early morn, on the way home. Sometimes drunk, yet always completely sober. And dreaming of nothing, and of everything. This, this whole world was mine, and I loved it, and it loved me.

The stars were so bright on these nights. And when not, then only for the light of the full moon, lighting the gray road and loose stones of the shoulder.

Yellow dashed and solid lines. Black threads of tar filling cracks. Can you feel it? The roughness of the asphalt and the gummy tar and the smooth paint of the dividing line as you slowly jog barefoot down the middle of the road?

This was my road, illuminated by my stars, and the moon, the moon was my deepest friend, my….confidant. And I was so aware, so very aware, of myself, and my feet on the solid ground.

Optimism.

Unbridled hope.

The houses housed guests asleep in my world. I was content they were there. Live and let live. And they let me live.

As did my mother. She let me live. And my father. He let me live.  Hell, they encouraged it…life…and me, in whom they had faith. And my sister too. Perhaps she came to see I was a viciously free spirit, stubborn, passionate. Arrogant. Oh so arrogant! Not with aggression, nor malice, nor sickening self-pride.

But arrogance in my optimism and self-confidence. And why not? For me, I was the king of my world, this sleeping, trodden street.

On my road. On my road. Arrogant happiness and naivety. Walking on my road. Ask me anything. ‘What would I like to be?’ HAHA. What a silly question. Can’t you see, I am content right here?


What did you want to be as a kid?

In all honesty: nothing precise. Nothing defined. The wind perhaps. Yes, that’ll do.

I wanted but to remain in that blissful state, forever.

It was all right there.

And yet…

it wasn’t.


And now the roads are all foreign. The stars, well they don’t shine as bright. And my feet don’t trust the shifting ground.

I say live and let live, but I don’t understand the rules of life.

And I have a family, kids, a wife. I have a job, a car, responsibilities.

Birthdays.

Graduations.

Report cards.

Football games and bush-craft.

Laughter.

Tears.

And I wouldn’t trade it for a thing.

Well, maybe one thing: to have it all as I have it now, but to have me included. Yes. Me included.

But who am I? I am here, in this form, behind these walls, writing these words. But a part of me is back there. On that road. Where it all made sense.

A part of me walks that road every single night.

A part of me has never left.

Optimism. Unbridled hope.

What do I want to be?

My answer: nothing. But to have that peace again, in whole. To see those stars again, as bright. To be guided by that moon again, back home. To find me again, barefoot, on solid ground.

The subtle art of persuasion

I am going to make you see the world as I do, even if that means beating it into you.

An introvert’s reminder

Arrogance is bad. Arrogance grounded in ignorance is even worse.

Independence may be a defense from the truth, a form of self-righteousness and silent arrogance.

Don’t seal yourself from the world, and claim superiority.

We may be our own worst (or forgiving) judges, yet removed from the tempering wisdom found only in human contact, our judgments lack facts.

A mind turned inward fails to recognize its reflection in the arena of social interaction.

The eye can’t see itself.

No one is an island.

The switch

The mind has made a switch,

From days inward searching spent,

To heed the call of assumed responsibilities,

And rejoin the careening wheels of society.

The mind has made a switch,

And slides sadly into this communal pit.

…rhyming Homer with Homer…

Insight my mind has not brought!

Endless loops with doubt fraught!

Infinite thoughts pitifully caught!

Stagnation has only wrought rot!

Quote #8 – Thoreau

Only that day dawns to which we are awake. There is more day to dawn. The sun is but a morning star. – Henry David Thoreau

Catharsis

I’m not reaching out. I’m not playing the victim. I’m not drowning in self-pity (though my knees are definitely wet).

I’m reaching inward. I am fighting. I may be drowning in tears of frustration, sadness, hope, joy. I am suffering, but I am not only suffering. I am healing. Slowly, methodically, not always patiently, always hopefully.

I am reaching deep within. There is a drain that needs unclogging, a blockage that needs removing. It doesn’t flow. It doesn’t flow.

What doesn’t?

It. My breath, my optimism, my confidence, my self-esteem, my thoughts, my life. In short: my essence. It is laboured, shallow, unclear, overgrown.

It doesn’t flow.

I reach inward to purge myself of the undergrowth, the overgrowth, the malignant growth. I pull out all the doubt, the fear, the regret, the neglect, the loathing, the contempt, the anger and hate and jealousy. I excise the insecurity, the arrogance, the apathy, the dregs of my soul.

I pull it all out and assess it honestly; laid out before me, splayed and dissected and arranged in subjective orders only my mind can fully comprehend, I reward myself the final judgment.

GUILTY!

For crimes against my person – death.

Now GET OUT! GET THE FUCK OUT!

And after the stinking fetid shit – the rotting carcasses of my demons – is carted away,  buried in pages and posts and amateur journals, covered in virtual soils of obscurity and indifference, I can finally breathe. In, out, in, out, free, with ease, the soothing airs of health and optimism.

An old soul

I am an old soul.

I weep at the beauty of woodland paths,

of slanted sunbeams breaking through autumn canopies,

and falling, twirling, dancing leaves of red, orange, yellow and brown.

I love this world.

And my existence.

The animals in the forest,

I know they are there. And that suffices.

The trees, the streams, the moss wreathing jutting rocks of granite.

Birds. Deer. Mice.

Insects and worms and peeping frogs.

Paths. Worn, fresh, or to be made.

Blue skies.

White clouds.

The breeze. Wind and rain and sleet.

Gently softly falling snow.

The cold.

Flowers and grass and reeds and the call of the blackbird in the swamp.

The distant ovenbird and piercing screech of the hawk.

Fences, new and broken. Barbed-wire tacked to ancient trees overgrown by gnarled trunks.

Time.

Passing days and months and years.

The ticking clock on lazy Sunday afternoons curled up warmly in the silent comfort of Grandma’s house.

Feeling safe. Secured. Loved. Complete.

I am an old soul.

Lyrics #6 – Beggars by Thrice

Check song and lyrics out here.

Beggars

All you great men of power, you who boast of your feats
Politicians and entrepreneurs
Can you safeguard your breath in the night while you sleep?
Keep your heart beating steady and sure?
As you lie in your bed does the thought haunt your head
That you’re really rather small?
If there’s one thing I know in this life, we are beggars all.

All you champions of science and rulers of men
Can you summon the sun from it’s sleep?
Does the earth seek your counsel on how fast to spin?
Can you shut up the gates of the deep?
Don’t you know that all things hang as if by a string over darkness, poised to fall?
If there’s one thing I know in this life, we are beggars all.

All you big shots that swagger and stride with conceit
Did you devise how your frame would be formed?
If you’d be raised in a palace or left out on the streets?
Or choose the place or the hour you’d be born?
Tell me, what can you claim? Not a thing, not your name
Tell me if you can recall just one thing, not a gift, in this life.

Can you hear what’s been said?
Can you see now that everything’s grace after all?
If there’s one thing I know in this life
We are beggars all.

The fasting soul

There are words to capture how I feel,

I have lowered my caloric intake to zero

To discover what they are.

My mind and body are one,

Starving for nourishment,

Twisting into hungry knots.

What matters in this state?

This life is all I get,

And I fill it with emptiness;

Cardboard cutouts of complex carbohydrates,

And two-dimensional emotions.

In this hunger, there is clarity,

Moments and seconds filled with epiphany,

The animal, the rock, the clouded sky,

Atoms carrying wind whipping my shaven face,

Making it clean.

I have cried twenty kilos of thought and emotion and soaked the parched ground of my soul.

To bring me back into harmony with this universe,

To nurture and let grow the blissful blossoms of my heart,

Opening optimistic avenues awaiting exploration,

I carry lightness and vitality and strength and

Forgiveness.

Born into this world alone,

Alone I shall die.

I forgive.

I forgive you.

I forgive myself.

Conversations with myself – #2

Stop feeding off my pain. I cannot take it any longer. The burden, the weight, is far too great. I am no longer your scapegoat, your bearer of misfortune. My pain cannot heal you. I am not your savior.

Though I love you,

I need my strength for me. For me and for them.

(When my son hurts I care for him. I tend his wound, soothe his ailing body. How is it I know what to do?

What of his inner pain? How do I care for that?

When he cries out in pain, I hold him. When he can’t sleep for fear, I reassure him. When he looks down at his feet, reluctant to face the world, I cup his chin in my hand and lift his face toward mine. When he needs me, I am there for him. But even he…even he must someday care for himself.)

I avoid what should be done.

What must be done? What must be done?

(And by must I mean should, as should demands a moral choice: No other choices have meaning. To live with meaning, then, one must choose what should be chosen).

Care for myself as I would my son.

Not so deep within lives a little boy. And when he is afraid, he screams out so loud. A deafening, piercing wail. Screams to be saved.

Silent now. Do you hear him?

The fear of pain becomes the pain.

Fear of loss, of regret. Fear of mistakes. Fear of making an active, as opposed to a reactive, choice.

Through all this. Thirty-five years six months and four days later. That seems to be what I have learned. It all comes down to this: becoming a mature adult man, father and husband and citizen of this world, requires a choice.

Make a choice! Shoulder responsibility, or, rather, make responsibility my own.

I have avoided choices. Certain painful choices. Particularly risky choices. I fear an uncertain future. I sacrifice my present to the morning, but the morning never comes.

I fear an uncertain future, and the morning never comes.

Day in. Day out. Month after monotonous month.

The autumn breeze blows in winter’s chill. Melting ice reveals nodding snow bells, bowing to summer’s rising sun. Around, and around, and around this globe turns in its celestial ellipse. And I, my childlike existence, twirling and spinning and twisting limbs akimbo, orbiting my hard choices, year after bloody year.

(There are only so many seasons the flowers will bloom before these lights go out, and I feed the roots of next spring’s annuals).

I hover in childlike existence. I wait for someone to make the choice. To take it. To move the waltz along. I am not yet finished the dance, the high school wonder. I haven’t yet the courage to take her hand; or to turn my back. I haven’t the fortitude to say yes, to say no. Or anything much, at all.

Days into months, seasons into years; and there it is, nonchalant, uncaring, oblivious. Passing, turning, passing and turning.

Oh how the days pass me by, and the seasons turn their back on me.

And aging.

Thirty, Thirty-one, Thirty-two, Thirty-three. Now thirty-five. Now thirty-five and six months. Now thirty-five and six months and four days.

And it, nonchalant and uncaring, passing and turning. The seasons of my life, orbiting the hard choices, my choices, waiting for someone to make them.

Waiting for me to take them.

I only move if you push me

It is slowing down.

The letters, the words,

only now a trickle.

A sign of change.

Healing, optimism? Or the opposite:

resignation?

This….this is my life.

This is my life?

Resignation.


Someone, oh someone pick me up!

Bathe and clothe and nurture me.

Point the way, or better yet, take me there.

Oh, someone please pick me up!

(I scream into the Abyss and only I can hear).


I have shed a million tears. And I am still right here.

I only move if you push me.

I will shed a million more. Fill this room to overflowing.

And I will not swim.

And I will sink.

And I will be right here.

Lyrics #5 – Dear Coach’s Corner – Propagandhi

Check song and lyrics out here.

Dear Ron MacLean. Dear Coach’s Corner. I’m writing in order for someone to explain to my niece the distinction between these mandatory pre-game group rites of submission and the rallies at Nuremburg. Specifically the function the ritual serves in conjunction with what everybody knows is in the end a kid’s game. I’m just appealing to your sense of fair play when I say she’s puzzled by the incessant pressure for her to not defy the collective will, and yellow ribboned lapels, as the soldiers inexplicably rappel down from the arena rafters (which, if not so insane, would be grounds for screaming laughter). Dear Ron MacLean, I wouldn’t bother with these questions if I didn’t sense some spiritual connection. We may not be the same but it’s not like we’re from different planets: we both love this game so much we can hardly fucking stand it. Alberta-born and prairie-raised. Seems like there ain’t a sheet of ice north of Fargo I ain’t played. From Penhold to the Gatineau, every fond memory of childhood that I know is somehow connected to the culture of this game. I can’t just let it go. But I guess it comes down to what kind of world you want to live in, and if diversity is disagreement, and disagreement is treason, well don’t be surprised if we find ourselves reaping a strange and bitter fruit that sad old man beside you keeps feeding to young minds as virtue. It takes a village to raise a child but just a flag to raze the children until they’re nothing more than ballast for fulfilling a madman’s dream of a paradise where complexity is reduced to black and white. How do I protect her from this cult of death?