Posts Tagged ‘Life’

There’s a certain senseless joy that comes unexpectedly sometimes.  A sense that everything is ridiculously OK.  Better than OK.  Good.

Better than good – but precise words escape you.

Recently, this happened during what would have been an otherwise stressful time.

Mind you, part of the catalyst for this was planned.

Years ago, when I first moved from my parents place to an apartment for my bride and I, we didn’t deviate from the norm for youngsters who think they’re striking out on their own.  We called our friends, and someone had a truck, and between the lot of us, we moved our junk into the new place.

At that time, we didn’t have much, so it was pretty easy to do.  I remember the cardboard side table.  We didn’t have a coffee table – just this stupid wobbly table that had cardboard tabs that you stuck together.

I remember going down to Bell Canada to get a phone.  We opted for the most ostentatious piece of pretentious telephones in existence.  It was an enclosed within a wooden case.  And we so we brought it home and stuck it on the cardboard side table.  The ridiculous poor man’s placeholder.  A diamond carefully place on a platform of smelly dung.

Fortunately, the irony wasn’t lost on us, and we looked at it, sitting there in all its Miss Piggy glamour, and we laughed.

Years went by and we moved at least two more times.  Each time we prevailed on our friends, and each time they accommodated us, though with less and less fervour.  The last time was a nightmare, as a few who had promised to show up, didn’t.  Maybe the reward wasn’t all that great.  Being ultra-religious, we did not believe in The Drink.  Alcohol was Satan’s elixir, and so we eschewed it, as all Good Christians should.

Too bad.  Some of that elixir might have twisted our friends’ alcoholic arms.

When it came time to divorce, I was a pauper.  Even Gandhi would have shaken his head in horrified sympathy.  Yet, I had learned from history.  So, after weighing the options, between eating a good meal and moving, I chose to leave the steak uneaten.  Instead, the money was spent on movers.

In the midst of that agonizing time, the beauty of having someone paid to haul the junk was a pleasure that was too immoral to miss.  I watched them haul that crap up a long flight of stairs (being poor again meant that there was no elevator in my little apartment above the storefront).   I paid them gladly, and dreamt of peanut butter sandwiches.

A few years later, circumstances changed in my favour, and it came time to move to a proper apartment.  There was no question of calling on friends. I scouted around at a few grocery stores and accumulated a collection of empty boxes.  After filling them, I once again employed some movers to cart it 30 miles to my new place.

It was a wonderfully large, bright airy place.   I paid them gladly.  With thankfulness.

Sadly, the building management elected to relax some rules, and slowly some of the tenants to choose to tax the plumbing system beyond its designed capacity.  They brought in dishwashers and washing machines.  This served to suck the hot water away from my morning shower.  And then shoot it back again.  The evidence was a daily ritual of torture, where a five-minute shower turned into a 20 minute ordeal, with variations of extremely cold water trading places with scalding hot, all within 30 seconds, back and forth.  Entirely unpredictable.  Add to that the variance of the water pressure, from normal to elderly incontinent flows, and you have the seeds of madness.

Every single morning, I tried out new swear words.

Every single morning.

So, despite the beauty and spaciousness of the place (along with several impotent complaints to the uncaring superintendent), I realized it was time once again to move.

Past experience once again provoked some thought.  This time, it seemed a good idea to shoot for the least stress possible.

What would it take?

How about this?  How about – instead of trolling around town for cardboard storage boxes…..someone else was employed to do it?  And instead of just getting boxes, why not get them to also pack it all?  And hey – why not get them to move it all afterward AND unpack it?  How cool would that be?

Several months later, I can tell you, it’s *very* cool.  It fucking rocks, to be frank.

They came, they packed, they moved, they unpacked.

My stress involved watching them do it, and resisting the urge to lift a finger.

They were great.  I tipped them accordingly.

“So” you’re thinking ” this is why you’re joyful?”

That’s part of the picture, for sure.  Not all of it though.

As I was moving in, an elderly lady showed up at my open door, and timidly knocked.

“Hi – hope you don’t mind my being a nosy neighbour, but I thought i’d drop by and introduce myself.  My name is Pearl.”

Pearl.

Oh man.  How awesome is that?

I smiled and quickly crossed the living room.

“Pearl, I’m so glad you dropped by.  So good to meet you.”  And I shook her hand.

After a few pleasantries, the white-haired woman with the stooped shoulders shuffled slowly away.

I looked out the floor to ceiling living room windows at the trees outside, and basked in the climate controlled flow of air, and took a deep breath.

And realized that this – this was good.

So we’ve come through the weekend and no rapture has occurred.  No planes fell out of the sky, pilotless, no suddenly empty chairs at restaurants, no sets of clothes sitting on park benches, no empty operating tables, with nurses and doctors scratching their heads, wondering where the open heart surgery patient went.

For most of us, life goes on.  We never gave much credence to the 89-year old preacher who predicted this weekend would be IT anyway.  We made plans for Saturday and Sunday (today) and for next week, confident we’d see our way to getting them done.

Not so for a great number of other people though.  Many – and a great majority didn’t go to the same church as Rev. Camping – were truly disappointed.  One of my FB friends lamented this way of thinking, noting that many of her friends had offered up, without sarcasm, the sincere wish that the world would have ended this weekend.

I know for a fact that they mean it, because I used to wish the same thing.  If you’re ultra-religious, you dress up that wish in robes of sanctity, by expressing the belief that you just want to “be with Jesus” finally.   You lie to yourself and to others.

What you really mean though is that you’re trapped in a life that offers nothing but a grinding emotional, spiritual and intellectual poverty; a life married to a spouse whom you’re growing to despise, because the Bible says that once married you must stay that way; a life that negates your sexuality – if you enjoy it too much, you’re probably putting your soul in peril; a life in which the only promise of joy is one that is provided after you slip this mortal coil.

If you’re young, and living with a menacing, raging alcoholic father, in a family of six kids with the constant night-time sounds of him trying his best to beat the shit out of her, you’re miserable too.  God hasn’t answered your prayers and killed him, so you kind of wish the rapture would come.  And on a Saturday night when it’s really bad, and all you can hear is the bellowing, and the crying and the sounds of fist hitting flesh, you want the rapture to come now, damn it.

And later on, when you’ve married someone who has the same rage issues as your father (a psychiatrist’s money train condition, if ever there was one), and you’ve realized what you’ve done, you wish in those silent moments of thought, that she would maybe get hit by a car.   You gasp at your own thought, and immediately repent of it.  Then there are times when it’s bad, and you wish YOU were dead.

“Please God – take me home now” becomes a constant prayer.

And then later on, just because you’re morbidly curious, you begin googling ways to kill yourself.  And then there’s that time when you were driving down the road, late at night, and there’s a little voice in your head, suggesting that it wouldn’t take much, at the speed your car is going.   Just a little twitch to the right, and it would be all over.  There’s a whole forest of trees there.  Just need to smash hard into one of them, and you’re home-free.

What really makes me sad is knowing that the above is true for so many people.  Mostly those who’ve never quite matured in their thinking, who don’t know that they can author their own changes.  People who’ve never taken the time to examine themselves, and find out who they are.  People who are *still* wrapped up in the cling-wrap of religious dogma, or in the expectations of others.

People who have never learned what it means to LIVE.

My process started the night I almost ran the car off of the road.  The force of that impulse was so strong, that I realized I was in trouble.  So I sought help.  The family physician – who, though not a psychiatrist, happened to specialize in cognitive therapy – helped me through it.   It took a bit of time to realize that those “little voices” didn’t just get there.  We talk to ourselves all the time.  She told me how to figure out what I was telling myself, to pay attention, and even to write it down.  At first, I was skeptical.

“No way, Doc.  I don’t talk to myself.  I’m troubled but not crazy.”

“We all do” she said.  “Here’s how you figure it out:  the next time you feel a strong emotion – disgust, joy, sadness, anger, whatever – stop and look back to what you were thinking, or feeling just before that emotion arrived.  It’ll take time, because emotions don’t just suddenly happen: they build up over a stretch of thoughts.  Then, write it down.  Do this every time.”

I did it.  And discovered she was right.

Then I realized I’m not a captive victim.  That I have options and choices.

One of those choices was about my marriage, which was clearly on the rocks.   Self-illumination is great, but the slow build-up of confining dogma is a tough trap to crawl out of.  It means re-examining every single thing you’ve ever believed.   I had to start slow.

The particular dogma that kept me captive in a miserable marriage was this one:  God hates divorce.  And the way I finally saw my way around that one had to do with Jesus’ stance on sinning – which He described as an occurrence of the heart, long before the deed.

So I asked myself, honestly:  “when do you think divorce happens, in God’s eyes?  Does it happen when the judge brings the gavel down?”

And I answered myself, with relief:  “it happens in the heart, long before a lawyer learns of your intent.”

My wife and I agreed we needed to separate.   So I went looking for an apartment, knowing full well I couldn’t expect much, since as a result of the separation agreement, much of my income would be gone.

I found a place.  It was a little one-bedroom apartment above a store-front in the downtown section of the city.  I could live there, just existing really. I was worried though, because my credit rating was sucking mud at the time.

I remember the day I got the call and was told the apartment was mine.  I thanked the landlord and then went to a nearby diner to have breakfast.  Before the waitress brought my order, I sat and thought about it all.  And suddenly, in that very public place, I got a lump in my throat.  Nothing worse than being a big macho guy, suddenly realizing you’re going to have some unwanted tears.    But that’s what happened.  I was relieved, elated, joyous.   That vicious weight had resided in my chest for so long, I didn’t realize just how heavy it was until it finally lifted, the day I was told my apartment application was approved.

(I got around the sudden tears by fumbling around and grabbing my wrap-around sunglasses and shoving them quickly on my face)

The other tool of release from dogma came through a book I’ve spoken about many times:  Jitterbug Perfume.   If you want to read a book about *life*, that’s the book to read.  Unstopping full-force throttle with no reverse – that’s the author’s approach to it.   My stance on life was once again taken from a scripture that said that Jesus came so that we could have life, abundantly – and He didn’t mean “but only after the rapture” – He meant here and now.

So, with that scripture, and with “Jitterbug Perfume” in hand, I made a few important decisions.  Starting with “I’m going to fucking well LIVE, damn it.”  And I lost weight, started taking acting classes, and improvisation classes, going up on stage, going to Paris, skydiving.

Still, there are those out there who don’t realize that they have options too.  I meet them all the time.  Their common refrain is “oh I could never do that”.  Or there’s the equally troubling “must be nice to be able to do all that you’re doing.”

There’s the knowledge that they’re often that way because of a lifetime of conditioning.  I don’t know how to shake them out of it, and believe me, I’ve tried.  Many times.  Often, I’ve been exasperated, and in one case, ended up raising my voice a bit.  Not proud of that last one, because all it did to serve was to push that person away.

It’s people like that who say they wish the Rapture had occurred this weekend, and that they’re now disappointed.   Even though I have a life example to give them – my own – for them, it changes nothing.

I guess there’s wisdom sometimes in doing what you can, and then walking away.

Unless I’m missing something?  Anything?  If you have answers, I’d like to hear them, please.  Or just share your own experience.

The Gardener

Posted: April 10, 2011 in Life
Tags: ,

You need to understand:  she would not have approved this post.  It wasn’t her style.  She was not a braggart – about herself or any of her kids.  She preferred actions to speak for themselves.

She’s not here to stop me.   And it’s a post I’ve wanted to write for quite some time – since 2004 actually.

We only know bits of her childhood from what’s come out in passing.  We knew she was a little heavy as a child.  She lost the fat once she hit her teens.  Apparently she was an amazing baseball player.  She mentioned that she was always late for her games, so she had to scramble and ride her bike, often arriving covered in sweat.  It was said that she was an awesome figure skater too.

She was a devout Catholic and made sure her kids were washed and dressed and out the door every Sunday morning.  Sometimes she allowed them to attend the Saturday night mass.   She smiled to herself as she watched her brood all go through the requisite Catholic rituals:  First Communion, where the girls dressed in little wedding gowns, and the boys dressed in little dark suits, hair all slicked back;  then Confirmation, at which both girls and boys dressed in wine-coloured robes.   Her kids all remembered the heady smell of incense, and the dry drone of the old priest as he mumbled seemingly magical incantations over them all.

Not much is known of her interactions with her parents.   Her father was a happy drunk, which her mother tolerated with exasperation.   Psychiatrists and psychologists theorize that quite often, we marry people who are just like the person with whom we had the most conflict as children, in a vain attempt to “fix” that broken relationship.  “Maybe” they figure “if you marry someone like your dad or mom, and make a successful relationship out of it, you’ll realize you weren’t quite the failure you thought you were.”  Validation.

Whatever.

Anyway, the woman married someone who turned out to be a drunk.   We know he was much worse than her father though.  This particular drunk was angry, even when sober.  When he drank, he become a monster.  He often bellowed in rage at the least little thing.  Her kids recall many times when the bellowing stopped, and they could hear the scuffling sounds of him trying desperately to hit her.  He succeeded more often than not.

Her father died.  I guess she must have caught her husband at a time when he was in a good mood and not drinking, because for some reason he agreed to let her mom live with them.  Things were OK for a while.  The angry drunk times lessened for a time, and the beatings ceased.  We all know what familiarity breeds though, and this family was no different.  Eventually, the man’s true colours came out, and the dreaded nights of roaring and beatings began again.  This time, her mother tried many times to intervene – she yelled at him, and stepped between him and her daughter when he raised his fist.  More often than not, this caused him to stop.  At other times he shoved her out of the way and managed to land one or two good ones.

She suffered from migraines and so there were times when he saw an opportunity – it was those times he chose to hit her hard on the head.  There was a time when she was pregnant and he hit her in the stomach.

During all of these years, she managed to raise her kids.  She taught them all to do their best in school, and to be respectful.  She taught them humility.  She didn’t want to hear anyone boasting.  She taught them to survive their father, her husband.  She taught them to behave quietly, to not set him off.  They learned.  It was only later in life that they understood that abusive drunks will find excuses to lash out.  It doesn’t matter how well-behaved their spouses or kids are – there will always be a reason to be angry, and to hit them.

Her kids excelled at life, at social interactions, and in their schoolwork.   She never praised them directly, preferring instead to tell them what others said of them, how they were the most well-behaved, pleasant kids ever.  And they were.  They also developed a sense of humour, no doubt because of all of the drama.  She encouraged this, and laughed right along with them.   She made sure they expressed themselves.  She was all about openness, or so her kids thought.

One day, after the kids were grown and gone from the nest, the Beast died.  There was a palpable lightening of atmosphere in her house, now occupied only by her and her two cats.  Her six kids came around often.  Most of them did anyway.  The oldest boy didn’t visit as often as he could have –  a fact he often regrets.

They had all grown into respectable successful adults, a fact all of them attribute to her warm successful efforts at raising them during the midst of strife and upset.  She was happy about this.  Quite often she could be found dancing in her living room, her and her cats.  The fear was gone.  The anxiety was a thing of the past.  She lived about seven years with this newfound joy in life.  Her brother and in-laws often complained that she was never at home – she was apparently on the road all the time, visiting people, making the rounds.   Her oldest son couldn’t have been happier for her.

One day, she went to see the doctor about a pain in her leg.

Funny thing about cancer – the first symptoms show up in the oddest of places.  It wasn’t until about three months later that doctors discovered she was riddled with it.  Her lungs especially.   Her fierce independence asserted itself, and she was adamant that she would not go into a nursing home.  So her kids took turns staying with her, making sure she took all of her medication.  When the oldest son stayed with her, he noted that she often complained about being cold.  Not surprising, as she was all of ninety pounds to begin with.

During these final few weeks, she made a point of giving gifts to all of her kids – things she had wanted to give them, but knew had to be given long before their birthdays.  She seemed to have recognized an element in her oldest boy that he was just discovering, and gifted him with a warm blanket with an amazing picture of a wolf.

There were hospital visits.  She took to a wheelchair, an oxygen tank as her constant companion.  During her final hospital stay, some of her kids managed to smuggle her cats into her private room.  During all of the pain, this particular act brought the only smile to her face, if only for a short time.

She lasted about seven months, from first doctor visit to the morning she died.

It was only after she died that her kids realized that she hadn’t shared all of her life with them.  The woman had some thoughts she kept to herself.  They were so used to seeing her as “mom” that it never occurred to her that she was a woman with facets that didn’t necessarily include her family.  They found an old calendar from the year when her mother died.   Scrawled across the month were the words “Mom, why did you leave me?”   The pain she must have had at her mother’s passing was heart-breaking.

Her oldest boy provided the only final gift he could give her, and it was read at her funeral, seven years ago.  I wrote a poem for her, entitled

The Gardener

Through mists of rain and clump of thunder

Gasps of wind, midst whipping branches

Small group of seedlings cower low

Aware of nothing, with blinding future

A hand scoops down, grasping her prodigies

Almost motionless, with musical flourish

Looks fruitlessly for soil, unblemished and rich

Nettles abound, and dirt is scarce

Hands pricked and hurting, but children are planted

Nurtured and blessed, weeded and pruned

Plants flourish and grow, abundantly filled

With music and water, overflowing and fruitful

Her blossoms now strong, the gardener rises

Brushing her knees and wiping her face

Feet start to move, independent of thought

Nature’s music strums throughout the glade

And the gardener, the gardener

She dances

The sun overhead, beats rhythms with abandon

The gardener laughs, arms wide in delight

She moves through the thicket, the garden, the forest

Alive and aware, unfettered and strong

The sky darkens quickly and the music falters

The thorns of old now cripple her fingers

Her feet stomp angrily, but lose their focus

She lies down on the loam, while she catches her breath

Her heart beats slower, yet the music remains

Background only, nearly inaudible

Nature’s drums thrum softly

The work not yet done

A greater gardener scoops low

And gathers this jewel

With a smile on His face

He moves to His field

And plants her anew

Midst blossoms well loved

Her dream now renewed

More free than she imagined

She dances with Him

With her mother and brothers

Not chained to the sunlight

Dancing day, dancing night

Joy in her face

Laughter in her limbs

Gentle the gardener

She dances, she dances

I’ve tried to write about this before, and have never felt that I’ve been able to do it justice.  Now that it’s 3:00 a.m. and there’s a virus keeping me awake, maybe I can form the right thoughts a little better.  You can be the judge.

When you grow up in a fairly strict Roman Catholic household, you learn early on that every new minute is a new opportunity to sin.  As a child you learn to scramble and remember those multiple sins committed during the week so that you can vomit them all out to the priest at confession time on Saturday night.  As an adult, you wonder how the priest ever kept a straight face, as he listened to the tortured guilt of six, seven and eight year olds, as they detailed their nefarious deeds.  Those whispered confessions of stealing that cookie, or of sticking their tongues out at the teacher when her back was turned.

We learned guilt, and we learned it well.  I was of the opinion that, from the moment I left the confessional on Saturday night, absolved of all of my sins, I had only a short time before they began to accumulate again.  I did the math.  I knew that the most I could hope for, if I wanted to go directly to heaven at my death, was to be killed within ten minutes of my confession.  After that, there would be residual sin on my soul, and so, being baptized and confirmed, I could maybe expect to sit around, burning just a little bit in the cleansing fires of purgatory.  I hoped there would be loved ones who would continue to pray on my behalf so that I didn’t get too roasted for too long.   A few centuries maybe.

Death therefore had a more ominous meaning to me than merely the cessation of life.

Of course, the priest had a much harsher opinion of my destination, I think, when I became a Protestant.  He was angry and red-faced when I quoted scripture at him, refuting the idea that we need to go to confession at all.  “There is one mediator between man and God – Jesus Christ” I told him.  “It doesn’t say that we need to talk to a priest”.    Confident in my belief, I stared at him, daring him to contradict me.

“Who the hell are you to read the Bible?” he roared.  “You’re not qualified.  It takes years of seminary and study to understand it.”

The priest was not a nice man, often given over to rage, especially at the pulpit.  And now, at me.

I left his place that night, more confident than when I walked in, that I was right and he was a false teacher.

I learned, from that experience, and from many sermons from the Baptist pulpit of the church I attended, that there is only black and white.  Either you’re for truth, or you’re listening and believing lies.  There was no in-between.

It was comfortable.  Safe.

The Catholic Church taught me guilt.  The Baptist Church taught me intolerance.  To be fair, maybe neither of them intended it, but that’s what I learned.

Now that I knew I could confess my sins directly to God, I no longer had to wait for a week to get free of sins.  I just had to remember to confess right away.   It seemed to me that God barely tolerated me, sometimes.

And then……

I don’t know how it happened, but someone invited me to a night time youth gathering in a large Anglican cathedral in Toronto.   The architecture of this place was immense, almost overwhelming.   You could get lost, trying to see the ceiling.

The first thing I noticed, I think, were the dancers.  Girls who flitted up and down the aisle dancing with wide open smiles of joy.  The next thing I noticed was the music and singing.  There were stringed instruments: guitars, violins, and a bass.  There were trumpets, and a saxophone, and a few others.  There were drums.  There was a pipe organ with a thousand pipes.   And there were some singers, and an amazing pianist. Not all of the instrumentalists were up at the front dais;  many of them were scattered among the congregations in the dark stained oak pews.

From my first visit, I was intrigued.  Maybe “intrigued” isn’t the right word.  “Hooked” might be closer.  Better yet:  it was like I had been eating only peas and carrots and lettuce all my life, and all of a sudden someone introduced me to steak and chocolate and wine.

The music, the singing, the dancing was rich.

And then there was the preaching.

Once the music stopped, I expected the normal session of discussion from the pulpit, where I’d probably learn a few more rules for living.  There were so many, it seemed.  I wondered what this guy – his name was Jim McCallister – would have to say.  In a way, I almost resented the fact that there was a sermon at all.  The music – by the way, almost of all of it was created by the singers and musicians there – was so welcoming and so different.  There was hardly anything particularly religious about any of it.  The styles were all over the map, and included even jazz.  I frankly could not believe it – and to this day, I have yet to find a gathering that has such freedom.

Still, when Jim spoke, everyone quieted down to listen to him.  His voice was mellow and rich, and it resonated.  His message was nothing I’d heard before.  He spoke of acceptance, of not just tolerance from God, but joyful enthusiastic involvement.  His sermons planted a seed in me that took years to nurture before anything obvious became evident.

I learned that mankind was not an aberration; that I was not a mistake.  That, if we are created in His image, then that must mean that our basic nature comes from him.  The desire to love our families and each other is our natural birthright.  That our needs: to eat, to read, to have sex, to laugh, to party, to be irreverent sometimes – comes from Him.

As years went by, I took that a few steps further.  Our penchant for seeing God as a brutal dictator who holds very little tolerance for us seems to me to be a construct of mankind’s need to codify our behaviours.   It’s not real, and it’s not true.

I remember seeing a few people around that amazing youth gathering, who I was pretty sure were gay.  And I remember being confused at how welcoming everyone was to everyone – including the gay folk.  It bothered me, on the legalist level, because it conflicted with much of what I’d been taught thus far.  It’s only in hindsight that I see that it was merely behaviour that was consistent with how they truly felt about God and about mankind’s relationship to Him in general.

In particular, it became evident to me that there was no “us” versus “them” at all.  There was no need to pick sides, because we – meaning all people, not just church goers – were in this together.  It was a revolutionary thought for me, and at the time, it was too much to process.

In looking back, I’m still kind of amazed at how forward thinking this group was.

Escape

Posted: February 23, 2011 in Life
Tags: , , , , ,

Imagine a thin little boy. Maybe he’s 60 pounds or so. And, as he hasn’t yet reached adolescence, he is still short.

Now, imagine a large black-haired man, who is roughly six feet tall. He usually walks around without a shirt on, so that you could see his massive belly stretched out over the belt of his pants. This mans weighs in at around 350 pounds.

Now…what if the little boy (being little) is naturally timid? It’s not that he’s fearful of life, exactly. It’s just that he hasn’t quite figured it all out yet. He still thinks that he is relatively safe and that life owes him a roof over his head and food. Most children think this way. It’s normal. It’s the way it should be.

And what if the big thick-waisted man happens to have a problem with anger? And what if this anger problem is augmented by a massive drinking problem?

Conflict.

The little boy (being little) has no where else to go, when the big guy loses his temper. Worse, the little boy (being little) has no idea what conditions need to be in place for the man to blow up. It could be a little thing: like a toy that wasn’t put away, that the man stepped on. It could be a glance that the little boy gave his father.

“Maybe” thinks the little boy “I’m just not good enough. Maybe I just need to try harder.”

At what, he has no idea. Still though – the nest is in an uproar, and it’s the responsibility of this little guy to take care of things. Make things right.

So he tries. He picks up his toys. He works hard at his schoolwork and brings home As and Bs.

Each weekend though, his father still drinks. And the boy watches, now in fear, as the ambience of the household grows dark with the imminent storm. Eventually, every weekend, the man lashes out in rage. Usually the boy finds a place to hide, while his mother, sometimes his grandmother, intervenes. Often, one or the other of them will be hit. Occasionally, the police are called. But they don’t take the man away. They just talk to him. Tell him to settle down.

The boy fails. He has no one to tell him that it’s impossible to win. There’s no counsellor who can point out that it doesn’t matter what he does, or doesn’t do – the man will get drunk and he will get angry. The boy is certain he has a part to play, and that if he just acts differently, maybe dad won’t bellow with rage.

The years go by. The weekend rage turns into daily storms. The man is drinking more.

The boy has grown into his teens. So he’s learned to stay away from home as much as possible. He hides out in the library, reading books.

Such wonderful books! It starts out with the Narnia series, and then moves to some of Mark Twain’s works. Then he discovers the worlds of J.R.R. Tolkien. Lord of the Rings.

The boy, now a teenager, is hooked. Fantasy and Science Fiction have wrapped their arms around him. For those few moments when he can enter those worlds, he can leave this one behind. The one with the anger, and chaos and the drinking. He doesn’t have to think about his behaviour and what’s going to set his father off.

He also discovers religion. Or it discovers him. He’s not sure. He only knows that once again, another world has opened up. One he wasn’t aware of, before. One that accepts him as he is; forgives him for his faults, unlike his dad. One that offers a Father who actually cares about him.

It’s all so wonderful. He has no inkling that any of it can be termed: “escape”.

Eventually the man stops drinking. He has to. His job was forfeit, otherwise.

The anger remains though. One of the things the man is angry about is why his oldest son doesn’t want to be around him. There comes a day when number one son cuts through his rage to tell him why he avoided him. “You were never a father to me”

It’s the one time when alcohol could not trump reality. That statement cuts through the man; stops him cold in his tracks. His rage seems to dwindle away as he stupidly stares at his son. Quizzical. Disappointed, perhaps with himself. The boy doesn’t know what his father thinks about what he said. He stands there, eyes wide, fully expecting to be beaten up for being so mouthy. He is surprised when his father looks down, turns away.

The years went by, and the father remains sober. There’s an awkwardness between them that remains, never to diminish.

The boy, now a man, continues with his escapism, not realizing that life is now better. He enjoys his books, and his religion, and adds to them, movies and TV. Anything that will give him a world different from the one he is in.

Eventually he adds prescription drugs. And wine. And other things.

It takes a while for him to realize some important things that the little boy was never told.

It wasn’t his fault that his dad was angry.

He could make his own decisions, and create his own reality. As much of it as he wanted.

Eventually, he sees what he is doing with the drugs, and the wine. And he stops. He stops drinking to escape, and now drinks for enjoyment only. He never gets drunk.

He still reads books, but now recognizes the difference between reality and the world of the book. He reads for enjoyment.

The hardest part was dropping religion. He still believes in God. He just doesn’t believe in the construct that religion put around Him. He holds his faith close to his heart, and doesn’t promote it to anyone. He believes in a Father who loves him. To believe anything less would be hurtful to himself. He knows this.

He wonders though.

How many other people are living lives of pure escape?

The Art of the Impossible

Posted: February 9, 2011 in Life
Tags: , , ,

The first time he tried, there was only frustration. Awareness tickled him, promising exhilarating possibilities, teasing him as he tried and tried, only to fail.

Months later, he tried again. And this time, his feet actually left the ground. A grin escaped him, as others around him watched in disbelief. It lasted only a few seconds before he became gravity-bound once again. Though he tried and tried, he wasn’t able to do a repeat performance. The momentary freedom proved the point: the potential existed, and it was real.

A few months went by, and then once again, it happened. He was in the place of possibility once again. This time, he *willed* himself into the air. The wind in that place was blowing strong, and he just simply…..lifted into it.

He didn’t go far. After all, his success was tied to the wind, and it was fickle at best. Yet, a few yards was all it took. He was delighted and amazed. He told his story to only one other person, certain that most others would think him a little crazy.

The other person shared his joy. One reason for that was because it happened to her as well.

The next time it happened, he was ready. This time, there was no wind. He realized he didn’t need it. He stood there, waiting.

And then it happened.

He…..rose. Almost straight up.

His rise was fast, and he felt his stomach drop.

He watched the buildings below get smaller as he lifted himself into the air. He looked and he saw others trying to rise as well. His ability provoked them. He smiled in absolute wonder.

And then, after going no where, he came down.

The next time it happened, there wasn’t any doubt. He lifted into the air, and this time, he flew. This time he had places to go, and he went. He willed himself to fly faster, and he could feel it in his back, as he pushed forward faster and faster. Others were with him, and together they flew in exhilaration and joy.

Each time this happened, he woke up, in bed, in wonder and thought. One dream about flying is good. Another is coincidence.

Multiple dreams about flying? He didn’t know what it was. “A blessing, I suppose” he thought.

A few weeks later, he wasn’t dreaming. He was in a large auditorium, and he was wide awake, when it happened. He had that feeling once again. Imminent possibility. A knowledge, an ability about something utterly impossible.

He felt it in his back. A sensation that was too unreal to be believed. Yet there was a kernel of belief, a sense that if he tried, he could do it.

So he tried. With all of his might, he attempted to lift.

He didn’t move. But that didn’t stop the belief.

He believed he could; and that it was only a matter of time.

He also believed that if he told anyone, they would think he was crazy.

Passion and Hope

Posted: January 15, 2011 in dating, Life
Tags: , , , ,

He was interested in her sister Angelica, really.

She was interesting.  Vibrant, laughing all the time.  Angelica always had something outrageous to say.  And he, being the quiet introvert, was attracted to her.  And they were in the same class together.

He was trying to figure out his approach when one day she whispered in his ear, during class.  “Guess what?”

“What?”

“I’ve got a boyfriend.”  Her excited whisper was actually quite loud, and he was sure they’d be caught.  Fortunately, they were at the back of the room, and the long-haired teacher seemed more interested in the sound of his own voice.

“Oh”, he said.

“Yeah, and he’s got this black Camaro that really rumbles loud, too.”  She blathered on, oblivious to the damage he was feeling.  “And it’s got a spoiler on the back, and oh boy does it ever go fast.”   She sat back in her chair, bum slightly forward and her legs splayed beneath the desk.  She glanced over at him.  “You know him.  It’s Rick.”

Rick. Yeah, he knew Rick all right.  Kind of a wild guy.  Didn’t talk much.  Smoked.  Definitely the black sheep of the church group.  Rick seemed a little tense all the time.  Like he was going to explode.  Only he never did.

“Well” she said.  “Whaddya think?”

He thought for a moment.  “He’s ok.  I guess.”

She frowned.  “OK?  He’s more than that!  He’s got a job.”  She leaned into him.  “We have to sneak away to be together.  My parents have no idea we’re dating.”

He shuffled in his chair and looked over at her.  “Are you sure he’s a Christian?”

She shook her head.  “Of course he’s a Christian!  He comes to Young Peoples’ with us, doesn’t he?”

He didn’t know what to say. He knew Christians didn’t smoke.  He didn’t want to argue with her.  He decided to say nothing.

And she looked over at him again, this time with a slight calculation in her glance.   She opened her textbook and said nothing more.  He let out a breath.

***

Angelica’s sister Mercedes was one year younger.  She wasn’t nearly as outgoing, and she wore dark rimmed glasses.   Her dirty blonde hair was wild, unruly.  The only thing he noticed during Young People’s bible meetings was her laugh.  It was musical and infectious.  And she burped her laughter out at inappropriate times, often startling him.  He always grinned though – he couldn’t help it.

One bright sunny afternoon, she took the initiative.  They had been walking and holding hands, but still, his painful shyness shackled him.  So she stopped on the corner, and looked up at him.  With a sigh of exasperation she pulled his head down and planted a first kiss on him.  His heart pounded in amazement, and he felt his face go red.  It felt surreal.

And oh so great.

From that moment on, they were inseparable.

One afternoon after classes, he went to the amphitheatre, to practice the piano.  She joined him, and sat on the piano bench next to him, facing away from the piano.  And as he played, she leaned over, breaking his line of sight to the music and leaned in to kiss him.  He thought she was worse than his cat and that thought kept him grinning through the kiss.

He pulled away, smiling.  “Stop.  I have to get this done.”

“OK” she said.   And as he started playing, she again interrupted his line of sight, and leaned in for another kiss.

So he gave up and spent the rest of the time making out with her, there in the empty amphitheatre.

***

As young, passionate loves go, they eventually split up.  She wasn’t allowed to date anyone, and so the Christian ethic “honour thy father and mother” came into play.  Mercedes was nothing if not devoted, so she reluctantly broke things off with him.  He was young and kind of stupid, and this was his first real romance with anyone, so it took him a while to understand that things were over.

By the time they broke up, Angelica had also broken up with her boyfriend.  She had suffered a possible pregnancy scare and this had sobered her intensely.  It had also scared her boyfriend.

He was still holding out hope that Mercedes would rebel against her parents and go out with him again, when one day Angelica decided to talk with him.   She said to him “let’s go for a walk, OK?”

It was sunny out, and warm, and he was miserable, so he said “OK”

As they walked along the dusty street, she started talking.  “You know, you guys aren’t going to get back together, right?  It’s not going to happen.”

He looked down, thinking.  “Yeah, I guess you’re right.    But….”

“It’s hard, I know.  I’ve just gone through the same thing.”

“I guess.”

“Look.  You’re good looking and sweet.  There’s no reason to feel so bad.  There are all kinds of girls out there who want to go out with you.”

He looked at her, shocked.   “There are?”

“Yeah”, she said.  “There are.”

He couldn’t believe it.  Didn’t believe it.  “Oh yeah?  Like who?”

“Girls!” she said.   “Just girls.   OK?”

“How do you know?  Did they tell you?”

She ground her teeth.   “Look.  Forget I said anything OK?”

“I don’t understand.”

She rounded on him, her face red.  “Can’t you just take my word for it?  God!  You’re amazing.”

His eyes were wide, as he looked her.

She shook her head and began walking again.  He caught up to her.

“Look” he said.  “I don’t understand….”

“Can we just stop talking about it?  OK?”  she barked at him.

“OK”

And it wasn’t until a few years later, when he replayed all of this in his mind, that he finally understood.

***

Over the years, he never forgot the passion of that first romance with Mercedes.   Eventually he married someone, and she married someone else, and they remained friends.   They both remained church-going people, albeit in different denominations.  Both remained zealous though.  And their families occasionally got together for church outings.

He was sure she knew he carried a fondness for her, though neither of them ever said anything.

One day, a few years after he divorced his wife, he learned that her husband died.

And a few years after that, he swallowed his trepidation, and asked her out.  And to his surprise, she accepted.

They met at a coffee shop near his home, and they ended up talking for hours.     They compared notes about their families, and he explained why he no longer went to church, while she talked about nothing except her church.

At one point, after their third coffee, she sat back and looked at him.   “Man” she said.  “Back in high school, we were crazy about each other, weren’t we?”

He smiled at her.  “Yeah, we really were.”

And they sat there, just smiling.

Eventually it was time to go, and so they walked out of the coffee shop toward her car.

“You know – it was really good to see you again” he said.

“I think so too.  Maybe we can get together again.   What do you think?”

He looked down at her.  “I’d like that a lot.”

And then it happened.

After all of those years of occasionally thinking about her, he finally did it.

He kissed her.  And she kissed him back.

She turned around, and got into her car.  And then she drove away.

His thoughts were in turmoil, racing at a million miles an hour.

It wasn’t until later that night that he finally realized it.

Sometimes, the dreams and anticipation do not match the reality.

Sometimes, a time of passion is meant for that time only.

Sometimes, you just can’t go back.

 

There would be dark moments, and each one seemed logical.  As far as he knew, everyone had moments like these.  Everyone.  So what if others managed those moments better than he did?  It just meant he had to try a little harder, that’s all.

Like the time he stood at the entrance of a shopping mall, frowning.  He watched the shoppers all scurrying to get their shopping done.  They seemed frantic, out of control.  There was little joy in their hungry demand for merchandise – or at least, that’s what he saw, perceived.  He felt a rage bubbling up deep inside.  He wanted to bellow at them in anger.  Tell them to stop and remember the reason for Christmas.  He was beyond frustrated.  Shaking his head, he turned around and left the mall.  He would do his shopping another day.  And from that point onward, for a period of five years, he decided he would not celebrate Christmas.  He wouldn’t put up lights or a tree.  He no longer believed in it.   His mind told him this was reasonable.  He couldn’t reconcile his distaste for commercialism with the celebration.  Not at all. He believed fully in his own cynicism.

The depths of darkness weren’t always as radical.  Sometimes, he sensed a slow slide into them, grateful that there seemed a limit.  Always, his mind found logical reasons for them.   He was bored with his job, so it seemed only right that he should interpret some of the darkness as depression over the job.

At other times – rare occasions – he couldn’t quite see a safe boundary.   Like the time he was driving home and felt a strong impulse to drive the car off of the road and into a tree.  He managed to curb the thought, but it scared him so much that he wisely sought out counselling.  This time, he was entirely convinced this destructive impulse stemmed from his faltering marriage.  They stayed together because of religion.  The bonds of dogma – specifically the stricture against divorce – felt more like emotional slavery.  So of course it was logical that he should feel such despair.  The thing that bothered him about it was that he hadn’t told anyone about it before having the impulse.  He knew, from everything he read, that this was dangerous.  People who talk about this sort of thing rarely do it – they talk because they want help.  He knew he wasn’t crying out for assistance.

So he sought out therapy, and in so doing, discovered much about himself that he never knew before.

Like the fact that, though he was so agreeable to people in general, and so pleasant to be around, in fact he was masking a great deal.  Hiding in plain sight.  He genuinely thought he enjoyed being around people, even though he knew there was a limit and he had on occasion just needed to be away from them.

This included his wife.  There were many days when he worked late into the night when he didn’t need to.  Long enough to miss the last train back to his home in the next town.  So many nights he called his wife and told her he needed to stay in a hotel in town.

“But why you?  Why can’t some of your employees take on some of the work?  Why do you have to work so late all the time?”

“I just do”, he said.   “It’s my job, and no one else can do it.”

He was lying through his teeth, and he didn’t care.  The idea of going home to her was so abhorrent that he felt physically repulsed by the thought.  He didn’t hate her; he just couldn’t be around her.  The constant questions ate him like slow burning acid.   “Do you love me?  Why don’t we do things together?  Why?  Why? Why?”

It was so weird.  There were times when he felt like he was on top of the world, and everything would be fine.  He was right with his God so what could hold him back?

And there were other times when he was adamant that it was all shit.  There was nothing that could be salvaged.

It was in those dark times when he knew he had to get away.  So he would take impromptu vacations.  He would book a cottage on a lake during the summer, and he would take off.  He determined to go there, rent a boat, and go row out in the lake to somewhere where he could have solitude, away from the maddening horde.  He did all that, and then was surprised when he got there, and realized he still wasn’t at peace.  He was almost shocked by that realization.  And disappointed.  He had brought the darkness with him.

It never occurred to him that the “maddening horde” might be his own thoughts.

One of those amazing light times happened when his marriage was finally over and he moved out.   He got the call from his new landlord, who said “your credit check passed.  You can move in on Monday.”

The day he got the keys and moved in, he looked around at his new oasis and wept in joy. He knew finally he had done the right thing with his marriage.  All of his life he had been the chameleon, changing emotional colour to make everyone, including his bride-to-be, happy.  He listened for clues to their desires, and then did his level best to match them.

It never occurred to him that he was damaging himself in the process.  He truly thought he had no real desires of his own.   Occasionally a slightly selfish thought would occur, which he discounted as un-Christian.  So he would mostly ignore them, and secretly chastised himself for having them.

One such thought happened six months before his marriage, when he suggested to his fiancé that they postpone the wedding for a little bit.

She, an eighteen-year-old girl, immediately (and correctly) interpreted this as rejection.   She burst into tears, and all of her insecurities rose to the surface.  She accused him:  “you don’t love me; you don’t want to get married.   No one loves me”.

He felt like the lowest rat.  Even though she was right about his feelings, the religious-shaped chameleon exerted itself.  He changed colour and assured her he did love her and wanted to get married.

So, despite some deep warning feelings in his gut, he bit the Christian bullet and got married.

It took him many years before he discovered the value and necessity of being true to one’s self.

He blamed almost all of his dark moments on this one rather major bad decision.  This farce of a marriage.  And those moments were exacerbated by his continual attempts to love her as she deserved to be loved.  A piece of his heart held back though.  It took him a long time to acknowledge it.  To be fair, she too had a lot of issues to deal with; reasons she latched onto him.  He was her emotional life raft.

But this story isn’t about her.  It’s about him.

It was only a few years after they had exited the marriage that he realized those intermittent dark occasions had nothing to do with her, or with his bad decision.  It had nothing to do with commercialism at Christmas.

Sometimes the darkness crowded him at almost predictable times.  So many times when he was flying high, he remembered saying to himself “I wonder when the dark time will come again”.  Because he knew it would.  That this high wasn’t sustainable.

There are times when he enjoys being around people and he becomes the life of the party.  He can joke and make people laugh, and they shine and open up to him.  He has learned not to be the chameleon anymore, and this is something that has liberated him; allowed him to be the person he truly is.  He has dropped the chains of religious dogma as well.  This helps, too.

There are other times though, dark times, when he can’t wait to get away from people.  Times when he feels ugly, when he truly wonders how anyone can stand to be around him.

He knows there’s hope though.  He’s counting on it, and is seeking it out.

And he knows there are others rowing their boats in the same waters as he is.

Which is why he’s talking about it, I suppose.

There is something a little satisfying about meeting a group of people who have something in common with you.  I realized the joy of that when I attended an ADD support group recently.

Having been formerly diagnosed as having Attention Deficit Disorder a few weeks ago, I’ve made up my mind to do something about it.  Contrary to popular belief, the answer is *not* drugs.  Or rather not *just* drugs.  No, the psychiatrist who gave me the diagnosis said “wolf, you need to get to the point where you have more control over your impulses and focus.”

He grabbed a pen and pretended he was writing something.  “Basically, when you do anything at all, you’ll want to be in the moment.  When you pick up the pen like this, you’ll want to be aware of how it feels in your hand.  What part of your fingers are touching it?  Is it rough or smooth?  And when you put it to the paper, you’ll want to be aware of the pressure your hand has to exert to write anything at all.”

I nodded, even as I acknowledged that, with the exception of the rent cheque each month, I NEVER write anything.  And that got me thinking about what day it was and whether the rent was due soon.

The doc brought me back on track.  “So…you won’t be able to do that right out of the gate.  So you’ll need meds initially to get you to that point.  But, the goal is to come to the place where you won’t need the meds anymore.”

I nodded.  This sounded just about, oh I don’t know, pretty much perfect to me.

“You told me you long suspected you had ADD.  What have you done about it so far?”

I looked at him.  “Well, I’ve attended a couple of workshops and….”  I thought for a moment.  “Oh yes!  I joined a support group.”

“You did?  What is it?”

“It’s a group that meets at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health every couple of weeks.”

“Oh yes.  I’m aware of that group.  Good.  Keep going.  And see your family doctor for the meds.”

With that, I thanked him and left.

The other night I met with the support group, and a few of us “newbies” split off into a separate group, where we were encouraged to tell our stories.   When it got around to me, I had so many different things to say, and I wanted to say them all at once, that I got stuck.

“Sorry – there’s about a million thoughts going on right now.”

They all nodded knowingly.  Every last one of them.  They knew.   They knew exactly what it was all about.

Awesome.

Earlier, we had discussed Executive Function – that process in everyone’s brain that allows you to consider several things, categorize them, and put them on various shelves in your mind, so that you can pick them up at will and work with each one individually, until completion.   The classic ADDer doesn’t have a fully functioning system.  We take all of those things and we want to process them all at the same time.   Executive function allows you to start and stop actions, anticipate stuff and adapt to changing situations.   The lack of it can really mess you up.

Here’s the thing:  when you grow up in this state, you have no idea anything’s wrong.  You watch other people complete projects fairly easily, and you think that maybe you’re just not smart enough (because you know you’re *lousy* at doing projects).  I used to truly truly HATE it when the teacher assigned projects to us.

Then, later on you realize that you really do “get” a lot of concepts, and often you’re leaps and bounds beyond others.  So you know you’re not stupid.  So you conclude maybe you’re just too lazy.  Input from others (teachers, parents, friends) seems to confirm this self-analysis.

You discover you have a penchant for seeing “the big picture” in any situation.  You realize that you’re well suited to managing conflicts, mostly because you can simultaneously see various viewpoints at once.  You understand how they got there – and you understand almost instantaneously.  Seems like a wonderful trait to have.  And by God you’ll accept that one, since you’re such a miserable failure at other things.

You often do hilarious things too.  Like turning on the tap to fill up the sink so you can do the dishes, then sitting down at the computer to work on something, only to realize twenty minutes later (if you’re lucky) that you left the tap running.  This unfortunate circumstance is confirmed as you walked out into the hallway, straight into a mini-lake.

Or you come home from buying groceries, some of which are frozen foods.   You put them down to get the key out of the door.  You realize there’s a program on TV that you wanted to see, so you put the keys down and go turn the TV on.  Then you remember an email that you wanted to send, so you go into your office and bang it out.   Then something else, then something else and then it’s time for bed so you brush your teeth and hit the sack.

The next morning you come out the kitchen and you see the now-smelly “frozen food” that you left out the day before.

This is my life, folks.

There are a lot of positives about the ADD life:  there’s an incredible creativity that comes with the “gift”.  A lot of actors and comedians get into the entertainment business because of this knack they have.  I’ve done improv comedy and I have to tell you:  that was one of the highlights of my adult existence.  It takes you back to the time when you were a kid, and anything was possible.  “What if I was an old man, with a young trophy wife who wanted me dead?  Or what if I was a pimp, with a stripper girlfriend and a four year old child?”

You get to play all these parts (the stripper/pimp thing was played out in real life on a crowded bus one day, to an unsuspecting audience.), and you have so much FUN.

The downside:  you take on projects and never complete them.  Not without some prompting.  Also – you can barely stand linear conversations.  You get so *bored*.  So easily bored.  It’s one reason I hate telephones.

There’s one personal project I’ve had on the back burner for quite some time.  There’s a book I want to write.  I have several concepts that I really want to share in it.  When I say “quite some time” – we’re talking a few years here.  And I’ve started it several times.  Each time I got distracted and lost momentum.

A good friend of mine mentioned a once a year event, called NaNoWriMo.  That’s a kind of awkward acronym for “National Novel Writing Month”.  It’s a trans-continental event that takes place mostly on the net.  The shared goal of writers everywhere is this:  we have to write 50,000 words in thirty days.  Entirely do-able – and this is evident by the fact that so many writers manage to do it every year.  It’s been in existence for I think twelve years, and each year there’s an exponentially larger list of participants.

The other night I attended the local Toronto NaNoWriMo kick-off party.  We had a ball!   There’s going to be an all-night event where some of the participants get together at a large house, specifically to write as much as possible during the night.  I frankly can’t wait for that one.

There’s another event, where we get on the subway at one end of the system, and we ride it for as long as possible, just writing away.

This is the aspiring writer’s ADD dream:  to have input and a goad to get this particular goal accomplished.

I am *so* grateful to my friend Katy for having introduced this to me.   She’s done NaNoWriMo herself, with great success.

I will too.  Part of the method for getting this done involves making myself accountable to others.  Telling as many people as possible about it.  Potential embarrassment is a killer motivator.

So….this begins tomorrow.  November 1.

You likely won’t see much of me during the month.   I get emails when you leave comments on my blog though.

So here’s the deal:  if you’re so inclined, please drop me a comment here at the bottom of this blog, now and then.  Ask me how I’m doing.

I promise to answer.  And I will tell you the truth.

Oh man.  This is going to be good.

pretzel.jpg

My luck with massages has been inconsistent.

The first time was when my then-wife and I went on holiday to Montreal.  She was going back to the hotel room for a nap and I was too wired to sleep.  So, having seen a sign in the elevator advertising their massage service, I said “you know what?  I’m going to have a massage.”

She shrugged her shoulders.  “OK”

And so off I went.

Not knowing a thing about massage, I expected it would be a relaxing experience.   “I’ll probably end up falling asleep and missing the whole thing” I thought.

I truly didn’t think I had any expectations as to what the masseuse would look like, but I have to tell you:  I was totally unprepared for what showed up.

An older gentleman of suspicious girth greeted me at the door.

Well, grunted, more like.

He had hair growing out of his nostrils and ears.  All grey.

None on his head, of course.  Hey, all of that orifice hair had to come from somewhere, right?

And I noticed that his freakishly muscular arms hung much lower than normal folks’ arms.  Well past his humongous belly.  A belly that jiggled this way and that as he moved around.

It was a fascinating belly, really. It moved about a half second after he did, every time.  And it scared the hell out of me.

There was no doubt.  This was the legendary Missing Link.

I briefly thought about fleeing.  But I realized I was being ridiculous.  And besides – I figured, “in for a penny, in for a pound.”  I was here.  Might as well make the best of it.

“Take clothes off” he growled.

“Um, ok” I muttered.

“Hmph” he replied.

So I did.  And then I crawled up onto the table.

“Face down!” he ordered.

So I faced down.

“Leaving underpants on.”

(I didn’t know if that was an observation or a question.  So I treated it like a rhetorical question and said nothing)

(Oh, and I left them on.)

He started in on me.  Quick and painfully.  He pushed and pulled and prodded and pressed in hard.  He found muscles that weren’t there before.  And they all cried “uncle”

Relaxing?

Yeah, I suppose if you’re a masochist.  In which case it was as relaxing as hell.  I felt like that guy at the top of this post – a human pretzel.

I couldn’t wait to get out of there.

Part of me – the part that had compartmentalized itself away from the pain and the welling tears – laughed.  This was so far removed from what I thought massage would be about that it was just hilarious.

When he was done, and after I paid for the torture session, I slowly hobbled back to our room.

“What happened to you? asked my wife.

“Massage”

“Well you don’t look anymore relaxed.”

I stared at her.   “No.  No, I suppose not” I said.

******

There have been many massages since then.  Most of them were good.

You learn a few things along the way.  A “relaxing massage” isn’t worth much if the goal is to get rid of aching muscles.  For that, you need a deep tissue massage, provided by a qualified therapist.  Anything less than that and you’re going to get tickled – and that’s just irritating.

I don’t mean you need to go through torture either.

Some massages were provided by people who just didn’t know how to do it, and I found those were a waste of money.

I woke up this morning with my shoulder in spasm.  Try as I might – there was no amount of stretching that would get the kink out.  So, after attending a seminar in town, I walked past a hotel and noticed the word “Spa” in the window.  Being an intuitive sort, I surmised this meant they provided services such as facials, manicures, pedicures, mud wraps and oh yes oh yes – MASSAGE.  I went inside.

“How much for an hour” I asked the cheerful receptionist.

In her cheerful way, she replied “oh it’s only $140.00” blinky-blink.

I looked at her.

She looked back at me, all smiles.

My muscles spasm nudged me in annoyance.

“I’ll take it” I said.

“Of course sir”

She gave me a medical form to fill out and then showed me the way to the locker room.

“Here’s your key.  There’s a robe in the locker and some sandals.  Put those on, and go down to the waiting area, and your massage therapist will greet you there”, she said, still smiling.

I did all of that.

A gay gentleman greeted me and took the medical form.  (At least, I think he was gay.  He smiled at me too.  Much too much.  Maybe he was just being friendly though.  He might not have been gay, now that I think about it.  He may have been high.)

“How are you today sir?”

“Fine thanks.  My girlfriend insisted I get a massage today”  (I don’t have a girlfriend.  He might not have been gay.   I wasn’t taking any chances)

“That’s great, sir.  Can I get you a glass of water while you wait?”

“Sure.” I said.

“Would you like lemon or lime with that?”

(Really?)

“I’ll take lemon, please”

“It would be my pleasure”

(Sure it would)

He gave it to me.  I relaxed as much as possible in my robe.

This was nice.

The treatment so far was so far above what I was used to, that I thought there was no way I was going to leave that place with aching muscles.

This tiny woman showed up, smiling.

“Pleased to meet you, Wolf.  My name is Glenna” she said, putting her hand forward.

I shook it.  “Same here, Glenna.”

“Shall we go in?

“After you” I said.

After outlining the massage plan, she left me to disrobe and crawl beneath the blanket and sheet.   The music was soft and relaxing.  I could smell aromatherapy scents.

I heard a slight hesitant knock at the door.   “Can I come in?”

“I’m all set” I replied.

She said “I know we agreed that you wanted a deep massage.  Just let me know if I need to go deeper or lighter OK?”

“OK” I said.

She pressed all the way down my back through the sheet.  Hard.

“I’m going to go deeper” she said.  “This is just to get the muscles loosened up”

Right.  OK.

Then she pulled the sheet back, oiled up my back and her hands and she started in on me.

Flashback.

Mean, old guy with too-long arms, grinding away at my back.

This tiny therapist was doing exactly the same.  Only this time, I had experience as a reference.

Instead of tensing up this time, I relaxed as much as possible.

She found every single out-of-place muscle.  And each time she did, she stayed on that spot, pushing her dagger-like elbow right into it.  I knew this was necessary in order for the offending muscle to loosen.

Still, it hurt like hell.

I did not grimace.

I did not yell.  And in fact I barely grunted.   All there was, was a huff of breath when she hit those spots, elbows a-blazing.

Then she got to my shoulders.  She kneaded and ground the muscles around my shoulders like so much hamburger.  She grabbed my shoulders like they were trying to get away from her.  She pinched them hard each time.

My face went all shades of red.  I could feel it.  I briefly clenched my fists, but then loosened them.

When she moved down my back I sighed in relief.

But then she came back up and hit those spots again.

This tiny woman was beating the holy living hell out of me.   And I was saying nothing.  I was paying for the privilege.

The music played on.

“Should I go deeper?” she asked, so sweetly.

“NO!!”   I heard the panic in my voice.  “I mean, no.  This is fine”

(It wasn’t.  But there were appearances to maintain, so I wasn’t going to ask her to go lighter)

Finally, after an hour of this, she was done.  As was I.

I paid, and thanked her and left.

And when I got home, I started noticing multiple bruises on my shoulders and neck.

War wounds.

I believe I counted about five bruises.

Which roughly works out to $28.00 per bruise.

In todays’ economy, that’s not too bad.

I guess.

Fickle Butterflies

Posted: June 28, 2010 in ADHD, Life
Tags: , , ,

“My thoughts are like butterflies”, he said.  “They’re beautiful.  But they fly away.”

It was a lament offered up a little boy, and quoted in the book “Delivered from Distraction”.

I nodded furiously.

Kind of stupid isn’t it?  Nodding at something you read in a book.  Sort of like clapping at the end of a movie, when you know none of the production folk or actors are there to appreciate it.

All of my life I’ve heard about ADD and the favourite companion topic: Ritalin.  Usually, Ritalin is said with a slight hesitation, or in some circles, a gasp.  It was the go-to drug for every unruly child (or so the legend goes).  It became the excuse drug, the alternative to discipline as an answer to bad behaviour.

ADD has been relegated to the annals of mental illness.  A disorder if you will.  Something We Don’t Talk About.

Not surprising, then, given its history, that some people get annoyed by the topic.

I was aware of this ambience around ADD all my life.  Aware but disinterested, really.  I couldn’t have cared less.  I know my sisters were on Ritalin for a while, but didn’t know why.  I knew they didn’t exhibit bad behaviour.  Being a kid myself at the time, I just didn’t pay attention. (Did you know that ADD only affects about 4% of the population, on average?  Not quite the catch-all most people have assumed over the years).

I was not an unruly kid either.  I mean, well I was at first, before hitting kindergarten.  I ran away a lot.  Not because I was angry at Mom.  It was because, like most little boys, I was curious.  Probably a little more curious than most, because I wasn’t really running AWAY so much as running TO – whatever it was that caught my eye.  One of the earliest memories was of riding my tricycle down the street and into a construction zone.  I remember my Mom being so very angry (read: worried), and I recall getting a spanking out of that deal.  The first of many, actually.

They say that ADD is the comedian/actor’s disorder.  There’s a reason for that.  The same condition that provides a lack of concentration in so many of us actually promotes creativity.  It’s not that we can’t focus, it’s that we focus only on bright spots.  For many of us (me included) it’s actually a plus, in so many ways.  A lot of ADD folk don’t like the idea of taking any kind of meds for it, because they’re worried they won’t get those bright ideas anymore.  Rick Green, who is a producer and comedian and an actor – said that the meds actually don’t stifle his creativity at all.  It allows him to corral those same ideas and follow them to completion.

Another myth:  people who have ADD can never focus.  In fact, the opposite is true.  We either lose focus easily, or we hyperfocus, to the exclusion of all else.  We can be so heavily focused on something that we won’t notice that there’s a fire in the house.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been late for an appointment, or forgot something really important, mostly because I was hyperfocused on something.

There’s another aspect of ADD that you may find to be of interest (and we’ll make this the last one for this blog).

Over the years, both here and on MySpace, I’ve spoken about my various forays into activities that turned out to be suspiciously addictive.

The other day, when I sold my doctor on the idea of buying an iPad (mentioned in the last blog), I asked for a refill of a narcotic prescription to alleviate migraines.

She said (as she tends to say every time this prescription is refilled):  “when’s the last time I gave you this?  Don’t want you getting addicted to them again.”   

Every time she says this, it irritates me.   She makes it sound like I could so easily become addicted and need to go into rehab or something.   So, this time I addressed it.

“Doctor, I wonder if we could spend a few minutes talking about addictions and ADD?”

She leaned back, and peered at me over her glasses.  “Sure.”

“Years ago, I developed a dependency on this medication….”

She interrupted with “yes you did.”

I continued.  “But I weaned myself off of it, gradually.”  I wanted her to know that back then, that *I* took control of the addictive behaviour and did something about it.  That the change in behaviour wasn’t forced on me; it was something I chose to do, on my own.

“I then got into drinking wine, actually quite a bit.  So much that it scared me, so I stopped drinking it at all for quite a while, just to make sure I wasn’t an alcoholic.”

She gave me her rapt attention, and I could tell she was actually listening.

“I got into pot, with the same results, and with the same concerns, and took myself off of it, just to make sure I didn’t actually need it.   And I’ve done the same with fatty foods and chocolate.”

“So” I said “I’m aware that people with ADD have a tendency towards addictions and addictive behaviour….”

“That’s right” she said.  “And it’s good that you’re able to recognize it and do something about it.”

I nodded, satisfied that I’d made my point, and so we sat there, silent for a while.

“Doc I really don’t know what I’m asking, here.”  In truth, I wasn’t asking anything. I just wanted her to acknowledge that I’m fully aware of all the dangers of narcotic medicines and am therefore armed against abusing them.

She said “maybe you’re wondering about the science of it all?”

I nodded.

“Well, people with ADD are lacking stimulation, so they tend to self-medicate where possible.  That’s what that’s all about.”

She was silent for a moment.  “In fact,” she said “for all the talk about alcoholism and drug addictions being an illness, I don’t buy it at all.  If it was truly an illness, you wouldn’t be able to control yourself.”

I agreed with her.  “Yes, even when I was heavily into wine, I can tell you that I wouldn’t have sat in front of my boss with a bottle in my hand.   So there has to be some measure of control.”

She nodded, and we finished the appointment.

The bottom line is that addictive behaviour, while not in itself indicative of ADD, it is one of the many factors.  In fact, when a person displays any of the individual factors, it doesn’t necessarily mean that person has ADD.   It’s the combination of those factors in overwhelming numbers that may indicate it.

And it’s not always a bad thing.  In fact, with a bit of control (read: cognitive therapy and meds), ADD can be the best thing in the world.  I certainly see it that way and am looking forward to exercising some of my creative ideas to completion.

I mean – I really like the shiny butterflies, and would rather see them stick around a little longer than they typically do.

Wolf Sales

Posted: June 25, 2010 in Life
Tags: , ,

For once, the office was quiet.  Me and my iPad came in and found a seat among the multitude of empty chairs.

The doctor, who was standing by the reception desk looking through medical charts, glanced at me over her glasses and smiled.  I smiled back.

I like her. 

But then, I have a predisposition of goodwill to people who smile at me.

A few minutes later she finished with the file and then motioned me in.  I closed my iPad and followed her into her small office.

The first thing I did was show her my latest toy, like some 10-year old boy, at show-and-tell.  “Check this out, doc!”

And with that, I opened up the iPad and started showing her some of the cool applications.  Like the weather application that shows videos of weather, depending upon the city that you choose. 

I don’t mean videos of news reporters, giving weather reports.  No, these are videos taken of clouds, at cloud-level as the plane races through them.  Or overhead straight-down videos of rain hitting the ground.  Or amazing videos of a full moon, as it gazes over a field, while the wind ruffles the grass.

Most people humour me when I give this demonstration.  I know this (remember my last blog?  I read people, right?  How could you forget so quickly?  Geeze, people.) and I show them the device anyway.  Their patient reactions don’t matter.  I love this thing.  My iPad and I are coming up on our third week anniversary.  I may have to buy something for it, in appreciation.  Or just send it an email.  Maybe a poem. 

Oh my iPad
How ever much  I love thee.
Playing with you always and for too long
Even when I have to pee

(Yeah.  I’ll work on it.)

The doctor didn’t humour me though.  I saw a spark of true appreciation in her eyes.

“Can I use it?”

I beamed.  “Sure!  Go ahead.”  And with that, I turned it completely to her and watched as she smiled and began playing with it.

She tried out different applications, all the time asking me questions.  “How much did you pay?  Are you keeping your iPhone data plan?  Can I use this for my recipes?  I love to cook.”

This appointment had turned a direction that was much more interesting than I had anticipated.

“Well doc, they start out at around $500.  This one has the most storage and has internet access so I paid about $1000.00.  How many songs do you have?”

She looked at me thoughtfully.   “Not many.  Only a couple of hundred.  I don’t do the music thing that much.  I’ll probably only use it in the kitchen.   Wait – do I need a data plan or can I just use it on wi-fi?”

“Well you probably won’t need one with large storage, and yes you can get one that just has wi-fi.”

“Hmmm” she said.  “We don’t have wi-fi in the office but we will have internet soon.”

I could see the wheels turning, as we both sat there in silence.

Her eyes focused back and she looked at me.    Then she smiled again.   “I’m going to treat myself to one of these.”

I couldn’t help grinning back.  “You won’t be sorry.  I promise.”

“And I think I’ll get the large one.”   Her eyes fairly glowed.  “You know – I can get one of my friends to fill it with all of his songs.  He has a massive collection.”

Her excitement was infectious.

My first bona fide convert.   As Barney Stinson would say:  “This is awe…….(wait for it)…..SOME!”

Her normally serious face dimpled in actual pleasure.  It was great to see.

“Now, what did you want to see me about?”

I told her, while thinking the whole time that…..

I’m pretty sure Apple owes me some money now.

Hot E-Book

Posted: June 21, 2010 in humor, Life
Tags: ,

Sitting near the back of the bus, I had a clear view of the girl, as she sat at the front.  Her face was as busy as it gets, as she thought through various possibilities, reactions, memories and events.  It was hard not to smile.  She was doing what I do – her mind was processing at a mile a minute and the results were clear on her face, as she frowned, smiled slightly, turned her eyebrows into questions.

It was disappointing to see her get off of the bus early.  I would have loved to have had a chance to chat with her.

The ability to read people is both a blessing and a curse.

The curse involves knowing all the possible responses to a suggestion or idea ahead of time, and knowing that you have to incorporate all that knowledge to mitigate those responses.  It’s trying, and tiresome.  Once you read someone, you can’t unread them.  It doesn’t work that way.

You have an idea for a project, but it’s going to cost money.   The people you have to sell this to are your colleagues.  People you’ve read over the last few months.  So you know going into it that Alex won’t commit unless he knows every last little detail.  He is uncomfortable with surprises, and is the one person in the group who is least risk-tolerant.

Jamie will enthusiastically endorse your idea, until someone else disagrees, and then she’ll back down and reconsider.  She just wants to be loved, validated.  She’s protective of her self-esteem that way.

Eric will reserve judgement until upper management has spoken, and then he’ll go for whatever they think.  If they approve, then he’ll approve and he’ll step in, willing to lend a hand to make it a success.  If they don’t approve, he’ll provide a white paper, outlining the pros and cons – while making sure the latter outweigh the former – and then conclude it was a great idea, but not to be.  Eric is upwardly mobile.  His agenda isn’t yours.  It’s not even his bosses’ agenda.  He only knows one word: up.

Pamela is there to work.  And anything that can make the job easier or more fun is something she’ll get on board with.  She has no room for boring people, or people who will bog down the process.  She and Alex are passive-aggressive mortal enemies.  She’s also your best supporter.

So you have to form your idea carefully, making sure there’s something in there that will cater to all personalities.  You believe in your idea, so you’re willing to spend the effort.  You don’t have all the details but you bow to Jim’s need by offering to set up a working group to iron out the nitty-gritty stuff.   You ignore Jamie for the moment.  You make sure your idea has enough buzzwords to satisfy management (thereby satisfying Eric) and you bring Pamela onside as a co-sponsor.  And you do this in a short meeting so that she won’t lose interest too quickly.

It’s a tough deal, but fun once you understand it.

The blessing is that you get an instinct for what will resonate with people in real life (in the blogging world, not so much).   You know what that girl you’re into really likes, and you find inventive ways to show her your appreciation.   And then she rewards you in a brilliant way. 

It’s an ability, this being able to read people, that you know can be misused.  It can be used to manipulate, and you’re so completely aware of this that you take steps to be as transparent and as sincere as you can be.  After all, you have to look at yourself in the mirror every day.

Sometimes, the gift can make you a little crazy.

Like the other day, when I read an email response from someone on Craigslist who wanted to buy my e-reader.  We had dickered back and forth, finally agreeing on a price.  In one of her emails, she had said “but I can buy it quickly, and take it off of your hands” – a ploy she used to ask me to lower the price.  Or so I thought.

Once we agreed, she replied back “Ok I shall ask a friend of mine to meet you at a coffee shop.  He’ll be wearing an old black cap”.

“Shall”

No one in Canada uses “shall” unless they’re old-school British patriots.   So I made the (correct) assumption that for this person, English was not her first language.

I replied back.  “Ok done deal.  What’s your friend’s first name?”   I really didn’t want to go with “hey you”.   And I understand the valid paranoia of the internet, which is why I didn’t ask for his last name.

Her response:  “oh you won’t miss him.”

I shrugged.  She was paranoid.

Later that day at the coffee shop, an Asian gentleman walked up to me, tentatively, and said “e-book?”

I started to rise from my seat.  “Yes.  I have it here.”

He said “ok I’ll get the money” and with that he scurried off to another section of the coffee shop.

Then he brought out the cash and quickly laid it all out on the table, instead of into my hand.   I started to explain about the attachments, and the website you could go to, to download the software for it, but his nervousness grew.  I could tell in reading him that he wasn’t interested in any of the details.  He just wanted the transaction over and done with.

“It works, yes?”

I nodded.  “It works.”

He nodded, grabbed the e-book reader and scurried away again.

This behaviour puzzled me until later that night, when I finally had my “A-HA!” moment.

He wasn’t being anti-social, and neither was his girlfriend.

They thought they were dealing with a black-market guy; a guy who sold stuff from off the back of his truck; stuff that had fallen off of *other* trucks.  He thought the e-book I was selling him was “hot”.

If I wasn’t working for The Family, then maybe I was a narc, and that’s why I wanted the guy’s first name.  Start there, and work out exactly who I was dealing with.

I laughed.

It was entertaining, if nothing else. 

And in the end, it didn’t matter.  He got what he wanted, as did I.

In Search of Logic

Posted: June 9, 2010 in ADHD, Life
Tags: , , ,

They finally caught up to me.

It feels like months ago that I learned that the ADHD doc who was supposed to see me in July died.  At least a month ago.  I wondered back when I heard the news whether I would show up on the scheduled date, only to be met at the door by a clerk, dabbing her tearful eyes as she informed me the doctor was OUT and would, barring a miraculous resurrection, never quite be back in.

It was with some surprise that I picked up the ringing phone today to hear the subdued voice of that same clerk, who was finally getting around to letting me know the good doctor had joined the howling chorus of angels.   That he had shuffled off his uncaring mortal coil, and that he had slithered into eternity with his bright aviator sunglasses on.    That he had pondered his last thought, and had instead pushed his soul past the clamouring ants and worms, on his way to the Ultimate Zenith.

“He’s dead”

“I know.”

“Oh”

*silence*

“Well, we have another doctor who might be able to see you.  Would it be OK if we got back to you before the end of the month with an appointment?”

Such a weird question.  Would it be all right?

All right….. what?  All right that they would get back to me?

Or all right that I had to wait until the end of the month?

How the FUCK does any office run that way?  Where they have to consult with each other to figure out an appointment time?  Or figure out if they really want to see you at all?

What office do you know takes the time to call up prospective clients or patients, to ask them if it’s OK that they get back to you later on this century with an appointment time?  They took the time to call you this time – why not save on time and make the appointment right now?

I don’t get it.

Maybe it’s an elaborate screening process.  Maybe you gotta REALLY want an appointment.  Maybe only the whiners will get to see the good doctor.  Maybe the nice ones will get left out, deemed “not really in need” by virtue of their kind niceness.

You know what?

I made a mistake.

I said “sure”.

I should have said “FUCK NO!  It’s not all right!  I’ve been waiting for months to see someone, and now you’re taking the time to give me a fucking phone call asking me if it’s fucking ok for me to get a call from you later?  What the FUCK is this?  Romper Room?   Do you see me through your magic tennis racket?”

Yeah.  I know.

I didn’t want to be “that guy”.  You know the one – makes everyone uncomfortable with his anger and his disgustingly bad language.

*sighs*

Well…..this time I was nice.

I’ll give them two weeks and when I call back……

I won’t even remember what “nice” feels like.  And neither will they.

Fuckers.

Accommodation

Posted: May 27, 2010 in Life
Tags: , , ,

Yesterday’s blog was such a resounding success it seems the only way to celebrate is to write another one.

I’m at a three-day conference this week, all IT-related (that’s Information Technology for those of you scratching your heads), and much of it is boring.

The food is good though.  Not that Jenny Craig (the filthy-rich bitch) will allow anyone on her program to indulge themselves.  Not that I listen to the harpy, mind you – not when there’s some well-dressed chocolate just sitting there batting its romantic eyes at me in a clearly indulgent invitation.  It’s not the chocolate’s fault that I dove in, head first and salivating like the mangiest slop-jowled dog.  No, I had a choice.

I just made the wrong one.

Oh well.  There’s always tomorrow.   (Come to think of it, that’s what I said yesterday, after making a startlingly similar choice.)  But there’s *just* tomorrow.  After that it’s the weekend.

Years ago, I would have obediently sat through a large number of boring lectures, because it was the expected thing to do.  Looking at those past days with new eyes leaves me a little amazed, really.  How can anyone stand to waste time, spending those minutes accommodating predictable speeches?   Yet, in looking at one of the audience at one spectacularly death-enhancing lecture yesterday, it is clear that many people do.  You have to think that perhaps it’s expected of them, and that’s why they do it.

During that speech, I finally realized the speaker wasn’t going to get any better.  After the 150th time he uttered the word “um” as he tried in vain to find a word he was looking for “THE WORD IS BLACKBERRY, YOU STUMBLEBUM!!”, I finally had enough, and so I got up and left.

How refreshing, this freedom. Oh, there was still some residual feelings of guilt.  The younger guy would have stayed ’till the bitter end, enduring the torment of an ADD brain.  It was that same younger guy who put up with an awful lot of shit that no one should really stand for.

Accommodation and tolerance for boredom are for losers.

(Hmm.  Now there’s a broad-based statement.  Feel free to rip it apart if you like.)

I’ll concede that sometimes accommodation is merely a sign of respect.  Instead of getting up and leaving the conference, misplaced respect kept many delegate asses in their seats yesterday.  Accommodation also demands that you sit and listen to Aunt Mildred’s 945th retelling of her lumbago ordeal.

Intolerance for intolerable situations and people is a sign of respect for yourself.    Also known as “selfish”.  Whatever. One of my friends from Facebook put it so eloquently yesterday:   “life is short …. We are here for a blink. A BLINK! and we’re done.”    Way too short to put up with accommodating others in their self-indulgent behaviour.

Uh oh.  Potential irony alert.    If you’re indulging yourself by not accommodating others, that makes you self-indulgent.  Maybe.   Here’s the thing (which reminds me, in a different context entirely about ignorance and apathy):  I don’t know and I don’t care.

Sorry (he said, exercising his God-given Canadian right to apologize his face off), I didn’t mean for this to be a preachy blog.  But what the hell.  It’s on my mind and so now, maybe, if you’ve read this far, it’s on yours as well.

So, rather than sit through another humdrum speech, I took a decidedly anti-Canadian stance and avoided them altogether, just so that I could sit in my hotel room and write this blog.  Just before I head out into the unbelievably hot Ottawa sun, for a 10-block walk to the downtown section of the city.

Got my shades, and my iPhone music, and my awesome green shorts and running shoes and I’m outta here.

Hope your day is just as pleasing to you as mine will be, starting……..NOW.

Miracle Wolf

Posted: May 11, 2010 in Life
Tags: , , ,

It was to be a regular checkup, three weeks after breaking the fibula in my leg.   The date I was first diagnosed, they set up the appointment for yesterday.

So, yesterday, I grabbed my cane and hobbled my way to the hospital.  I didn’t see the point of favouring my leg.  It seemed fine.  A week earlier I had asked my regular doctor about it.

“Doc, how long did you say bones heal?  I mean, it doesn’t hurt that much.”

She can be forgiven for glaring at me as this wasn’t the first time or even second time I’d asked her this question.

“It takes a minimum of six weeks for bones to heal.”   She stressed the word “minimum” in hopes that I would stop bugging her.

My face fell at the news.   Took me about a half hour to find it and place it back on my head, what with all the stumbling around with my cane.

“Ok doc.”

Yesterday I congregated with the rest of the gimps in the fracture room at the hospital.

“Mason” mumbled the medical assistant.   “Wolf”, he added.   I perked up my ears.

“Please follow me to x-ray”.  So we did.

Mason was hobbling just as I was.  I didn’t want to hobble.  Didn’t feel like it.  But my good doctor had told me I must.  That I had to favour the leg, and not put weight on it.  I’m an obedient wolf.

I looked at Mason.  “Hey.  I’ll race you to x-ray”

He looked over and smirked.   “Maybe later.”   Then:  “so what did you do?”

I shrugged.  “Well I was assembling my sex swing and…”  I grinned as he laughed.  “Actually I broke my leg while getting on a bus.”   Then: “…while trying to read my iPhone.”

We hobbled on for a few moments.

I looked at the medical assistant.  (Let’s call him “Joe.”  “Medical assistant” is too much and I’m lazy).    “Hey bud.  We have a problem with our legs here.   How much further is the x-ray?  Do we have time to stop for a coffee or picnic or something?”

Joe didn’t look back.   “Not much further.”

I looked over at Mason “so how did you mess yourself up?”

His face was a mask of pain.  “I twisted my ankle playing soccer.”

“Oh.”

“I guess that will get you a lot more of the female vote than someone who hurt himself using his iPhone”

Mason grinned.  “I guess so.   I’m getting my fair share of attention, for sure.”

We walked for another half and hour and finally Joe said “Mason, you go here and sit down.”   Mason, obedient to a fault (and probably tired of hobbling in pain) did just that, while Joe and I continued on.

Three days later we made it to the x-ray department.  Joe said “Wolf, you sit here.  Sit.  Stay.  Good boy”

I sat.

A very pretty little Japanese girl came out and said something to the hallway.

I looked at her. “I’m sorry.  Were you talking to me?”

She smiled shyly.  “Yes sir.  You’re Wolf?”

“Yes, I am.”  I gave her my best Hank Moody grin.

“Hi Wolf.  I’m Michelle and I’m an x-ray technician in training.”

“You are?  Where are your wheels?”

Her blank look confirmed what they all say about my humour.  “Never mind.  Sorry.  Am I up?”

“Up?”

“Is it my turn?”

“Sorry.  Yes it is.  Could you come this way please?”

I followed her into the x-ray theatre.   I don’t know if they call it that.  Theatre.  It’s a place where people view someone and someone is there to be viewed.

There was a heavyset woman in there who was coaching her.  “Sir, you’ll need to remove your pants and sock so we can get a good picture.”  Then she said to Michelle “you can get him a gown over there.”

I shrugged.  “I don’t think I need one.  I’m wearing boxers.”

The heavyset woman (let’s call her Jane) said “oh good.  That’s fine.  That’ll work.”

I began unbuckling my pants.   It was a fairly dim room but I’m pretty sure Michelle blushed.  She ducked her head and mumbled  “I don’t know where to look”.  Jane ignored her.

After crawling up on to the x-ray altar, Michelle came over and started moving the x-ray machine around.  It looked heavy.  An ironic thought pushed its way into the thoughts crowding my head.  What if that thing came crashing down on my legs?   How painful would that be?

Michelle did her thing.  Under micro-direction from Jane, she placed a triangular cushion on the altar, and had me turn onto my side and launch my good leg over top of it.  Despite wearing boxers I worried briefly (ha!) about stuff falling out.    Maybe I should have taken the offer of a peekaboo gown, for safety’s sake.

After they had bathed my body in x-ray radiation they shooed me back to the fracture clinic, there to be seen by the doctor.

“Wolf? ”

I nodded.

“Did you hurt your leg a while ago?  Like maybe a few months ago or something?”

I sifted through the flotsam of my brain.  Nothing.    “Not that I can recall”

Of course I’m always hurting myself on something or falling down.   I’m not an entirely graceful wolf.   It comes from just not paying attention.  (Man.  Childhood memories start to crowd in, with teachers and parents parroting the same phrase.  “Wolf you just need to pay attention.   You never pay attention.”)

“No I’m pretty sure I didn’t”.   I’m always aware when I hurt myself because usually there’s a big old bruise to go with it.  Although there were a few bruises I can’t to this day explain.  Maybe I’m a self-wolf-beater who goes to town on himself during the sleepy-time hours.  Oh God.  That didn’t sound right at all.

“Well I just don’t get it” said the doc.   “You obviously did break your fibula.  The x-ray confirms it.  But the thing is:  it’s completely healed.”

I looked at him.   “It is?”

“Come look at the x-ray”

We walked over to the x-ray viewer thing on the wall.

“See here?” He pointed at the white on black picture.  “That’s where new bone has grown in and overlapped.”

I looked at it and took his word for it.  “So tell me:  did I break it all the way through?”

He seemed excited.  “No!  You didn’t.  See here?” and he pointed to some obscure line on the picture.  “The fracture happened but it didn’t make it over to this side.”   I looked at the blur.  The blur looked back.

“OK”

“Right then.  So I guess that’s that.”

I picked up my cane.  “So I guess I don’t need to use this anymore?”

He shook his head.  “But,” he said “you can’t go running for a while.  Just ease into it.”

I almost laughed.  I never run.

“How about the elliptical machine?  How soon can I get back on that?”

He thought for a second.  “You could probably start that this week.”

Slowly a feeling of joy, the joy of movement dawned in my heart.  Either that or it was gas.

“I suppose trampolining is out”

“Yes, you can’t do that.”

“What about having a three-legged race?   Line-dancing?  Pogo-sticking?  Kick-boxing?”

He chuckled.  “No, you can’t do any of that for at least another three or four weeks.

It would be a lot longer before I did any of that.  I’d never done any of it before and had no intention of starting.

“Well thanks doctor.”

“You’re welcome.  Take care.”  Having said that, he rushed off.

So that’s it.  I’m healed.  Don’t have to look for elevators when I want to go anywhere.  Don’t have to hobble slowly while the rest of Toronto steps around me on its way to the store, or the theatre.

I can kick ass.

Well maybe not kick ass.

I am so jazzed right now.

Obstinate Ignorance

Posted: May 5, 2010 in Life
Tags: , , , ,

I guess all of us at one point exercise this trait about something or other.    How many times have you picked up a TV remote that refused to work, likely because the battery was dead, and kept pressing buttons harder and harder in an effort to squeeze that last bit of juice out of it?  (Raises hand)

How many of you in coming up to an elevator where the call light is clearly lit, and yet you’ve pressed the button anyway, confident that the extra push will get the elevator down to you more quickly?  (Looks around in annoyance at all the raised hands)

I call that obstinate ignorance.   The performing of an action or the verbalizing of a point of view that is completely divorced from logic, coupled with the determination to stay the course, despite any compelling arguments that might come our way.

Lately I’ve noticed a seeming plethora of such instances, on a more global scale.

Take this one:

9/11 was an action undertaken by Jews/the Pentagon.

Muslim extremists were the first to pounce on the idea that Jews deliberately set up the scenario for 9/11 and are quick to point out that Jews either didn’t show up for work that day at the Twin Towers, or else they left the buildings before they crumbled to the ground.  It didn’t take long for that piece of filthy nonsense to make the rounds of the conspiracy circuit.

Others think that the warmongers in the Pentagon set it all up.  They will tell you that the buildings were so structurally sound that it was impossible for them to come down the way they did, short of the prior existence of strategically placed explosives, and oh my God – the doors to the rooftops were closed AND locked as well, which just proves conclusively that it was an inside job.

I have words to say about this, but am trying my level best to keep this blog as clean as possible.   I will tell you however that my digestive system is reacting quite badly right now.  I think I may have broken some internal organ.

Or there’s this one:

If we just dialogued with Muslim nations, listened to what they had to say and took them seriously, they wouldn’t hate us.

Some people actually believe this.  They think that no one in the Christian west will give Muslims the time of day, and that Muslims resent this and are just “acting out” by indiscriminately killing innocents, all in an effort to be heard.  They really believe the problem is one of lack of dialogue.

This last one however really gets my heart racing:

If we’re not careful, we’ll end up with health care just like Canada’s, where you have to wait a year to get cancer treatment.

Usually this is first opined by a health care lobbyist, who in turn influences a senator who repeats it, whose comment then gets picked up by a newspaper or two, after which people at large will tell you their opinion of “socialized medicine”.  Ultimately Sarah Palin will tell you about her worries about death panels.

So what do these conspiracy theories have in common?

1) Laziness.   Those who repeat these theories have not taken the time to actually do research.  Instead, they have listened to one side of the argument only, and in some cases have hoarded the “proofs” in order to seem halfway intelligent when talking about it.

2)  Wrong order of argument.   Any researcher or scientist will tell you that when you approach an issue, you must do your level best not to come at it with preconceptions.  They will tell you to look at all the facts, gather all the evidence, form a hypothesis based upon your evidence, TEST IT, and when you’re sure your hypothesis holds true, adopt your argument as a valid theory.   And you should probably hold that theory at arm’s length, in case more data comes to light that tests your theory.

Let’s go back to the first example: 9/11

The illogic here just blows me away.   Yes, the doors on the rooftops may well have been closed and locked, preventing folk from escaping by helicopter.    I work in a large building too, containing thousands of employees.  I frigging guarantee you those rooftop doors are closed and locked.   You know why?   Because building management doesn’t want to pay extra insurance premiums.  It’s a safety issue.  Can’t let people climb to the roof where they may ultimately decided to jump off.  Not in a corporate building anyway.  Not in my apartment building either.

Conspiracists forget the visions of Palestinians shooting their guns off in celebration of 9/11 too.   They completely ignore the fact that there are records of the terrorists who went to flight school.  There are paper trails everywhere.   They don’t want to know the names of Jewish people who died when the buildings collapsed.    That would blow their argument wide open.

Conspiracists will point to the damage done at the Pentagon, and will  opine that it’s impossible for an airplane to do that.    Their illogic won’t even look at the victims of that damage – the people in the Pentagon, some of whom were killed.

Conspiracists will flip the argument around.  They will start with their idea, and then they will try to accumulate observations to support their claim.  It’s classic.  And it stinks.

Let’s go the second example: the idea that we “just need to talk to” Muslim extremists.

Once again, there’s an issue of laziness.   A close look at the dogma they espouse will inform the inquiring mind that they’re not the least bit in discussing anything with the Kaffir (which is us).  They refer to us as pigs and monkeys, and really – why would anyone in their right minds talk about anything with pigs and monkeys?    Also, it’s ok to kill us, because we’re not humans.  We’re pigs and monkeys.

No, the only way they’ll stop hating us, is a:) we convert; or b) we die.   It’s really as simple as that.   And oh by the way:  it’s ok for them to tell us whatever we need to hear, if it advances their cause.  How is Allah going to blame them for lying to pigs and monkeys?

Don’t take my word for it though.  Look it up – the information is everywhere.  Keyword:  Wahhabism.

And finally we come to the last example:   Canadian Health Care.   If you think you saw a bee in my bonnet before, just trot this one out in front of me and watch what happens.

The easiest way to learn about Canadian Health Care is to ask a Canadian.  Friends of mine on another forum have done just that, and have been mildly surprised at our answers and reactions.    Let me state it bluntly:  the senators and other politicians who sound  warnings about our health care are lying.  Some are doing so knowingly but my guess is that most are doing so in obstinate ignorance.  Once again, their point is made:  Canadian health care is abysmal.  And then the lobbyists (two guesses who forms the bulk of the lobbying majority here) will try to round up some facts to support their absurd conclusion.

They will ignore the fact that when I broke my leg recently, I saw a doctor within a half hour on the same day.  That I then went to my family doctor the next morning (no waiting for three weeks to see her), received a requisition for an ultrasound and an x-ray which were done in record time.

They will also hide their faces from the facts around my mother’s cancer.   The fact that she was diagnosed and received treatment in record time, despite the fact that she lived out in a rural area of the province.

They will also ignore the fact that there are U.S. hospitals where the emergency wait times are roughly five hours, and that Canadian hospitals have comparable wait times.   The last time I went to the emergency department, my total stay from the time I went into the hospital to the time I left, was something like three hours.

******

The reasons all three of the conspiracy theories above have so much traction can be summed up in two words:  obstinate ignorance.  Too many people are happy to believe what they’re being told; they don’t want to change their mind, and so they have chosen to ignore all contrary data.

Thus the lies grow.

Grateful

Posted: May 4, 2010 in Life
Tags: ,

When you’re doing something you’re not supposed to be doing, they’re the last people you want to see.

When you’re in trouble and afraid for your life, they’re the first people you want to see.

Twice in my childhood I was doing something I wasn’t supposed to, and got caught.  Both on the same day.  The day that  my friend and I – both around twelve years old – had decided to take a long hike.  

On that sunny warm day, the first thing we did was walk down the railroad tracks, as far as we could go.  Then we got off of the tracks and started walking down the road when we felt the dust of the road reach up and wrap around us as a police car drove past us and parked in front of us.  The cop got out and asked us to step into his parlour. 

My buddy and I looked at each other.   We complied.

“Do you boys know why I stopped you?”

Neither of us said anything.  We just looked at him.

“Well you’re not supposed to be on those train tracks.”

We just looked at him.  As adolescents do.

He wasn’t getting through to us.   He knew it.

“You know you broke the law here, right?”

I spoke up.  “No, I didn’t know that.”

“Did you see the sign that said ‘no trespassing’?”

Mike, my buddy, said “no”.

“Well it’s there.  And it’s there for a reason.  You can get killed by walking on the tracks.”

Mike said “no way.  We would have heard the train coming.”

The cop looked at him.  “That’s what everyone says, son.  And yet every year, lots of people get killed on train tracks.”

He could tell we weren’t buying it.

“There’s another reason you’re not allowed on the tracks.     There’s lots of vandalism on the train cars.”

We sat there, as the warm sunlight burned the backs of our necks.

“In fact,” he continued.  “I found some damage to one of the train cars just a while ago.  Did you do that?   Did you break anything?  Steal anything?  Should I check your pockets?”

He could tell looking at us we weren’t the type.  Still, he got our attention with that one.  Ever see innocent youngsters look guilty for no reason?  That was us.  We were in trouble.  We couldn’t prove we hadn’t done anything wrong.  But his gruff voice told us he thought we were criminals.

“Honest!  We didn’t do anything officer!”

He stared at us sternly.  “Why should I believe you?”

Now we were silent.  But the tension was terrific.

“You see why it’s a bad idea to go on the train tracks?”

“Yessir!”

“Are you going to go there ever again?”

Mike and I both shook our heads.

“What?”

“No sir!”

“Good.  Now get out of the car and stay from the tracks.  You hear me?”

“Yes sir!”

And that was that.

Well, except that the next thing we did was hitchhike down the provincial highway.

This time another cop picked us up.

Once again, Mike and I were invited for a little talk.   After we were done, he advised us to hop the fence at the side of the busy highway, which we did.

At that point, we cut our adventure short.

There have been at least two times when I’ve called the police because I was sure my family and I were in physical danger from The Beast.  Both times, officers showed up, not having any idea of what they were getting into, but coming anyway.   Both times they manage to defuse my angry drunk father.

Some may stop and count and think “well that makes you even, right?  Getting picked up twice, and twice calling them for help”

Not quite.  That makes four times that I owe them.  Every interaction with them was about keeping me safe.

I’m amazed at the work they do.  I have cop friends who’ve related some pretty hairy stories.   Though I once considered going into police work, I’m grateful now that I didn’t.   My friends talk about only having to deal so much with the criminals and dregs in our society.  Doesn’t sound like much of a picnic to me.    And instead of society thanking them for the dangerous work they do, cops find themselves on the business end of uninformed opinion instead.  It’s got to be frustrating, being told by armchair critics about how they should take down a criminal.  (Gently and with many apologies about hurt feelings, of course)

Check out the blog at the right side in my blogroll entitled “The Boogie Man Is My Friend” for yet more funny and hairy stories from a police woman.

Paranoia

Posted: May 3, 2010 in Life
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A school principal in New Jersey sent a note home to parents, asking them to ban their children from social networking sites like MySpace and Facebook, noting “there is absolutely, positively no reason for any middle school student to be a part of a social networking site!  None!”

He was alarmed at the nature of places like Facebook, and the fact that predators can easily can make their way to children quite easily.  

I pride myself on being socially aware and forward-thinking, yet….I can get behind his paranoia quite easily.   Having learned recently the lengths to which Facebook will advance its earnings – by opening up its patrons’ profiles just a little bit more, so that vendors can use meta-data to brag about their products…well the fact is, Facebook isn’t safe anymore.  Not for adults who value their privacy and certainly not for children who may or may not have mad linking skills.

A friend of mine recently got a computer for the first time in his life.  He sent me a message from within a video site.  In other words, he used the site’s mechanism for sending emails, instead of just copying the link from the browser bar and pasting it in as a link to a message to me directly.  

I went immediately into paranoid overdrive.   What he did, unknowingly, is give the owners of the website my email address.  They provided a link on the site:  “Want a friend to see this video? Put his email address here and a note will go out to invite him to look at it.”  What could be more helpful than that?

Right.  So now they have my email address and they can combine it with all the other email addresses they have on file, and now they can sell those addresses to other third-party vendors, some of whom are kosher and OK, and others of whom are scam artists.

I felt the need to educate him but frankly didn’t know where to begin.  As an internet neophyte there is so very much to learn. 

Like:  when you forward funny emails directly to a group of people – AND WHEN YOU LEAVE THEIR ADDRESSES IN THE TO: FIELD INSTEAD OF USING THE BCC: FIELD – you have to know that the email is going to go viral.  As friends in the inital group of recipients forward the funny email to their groups of friends….well, eventually thousands of people who you never knew and to whom you never intended the email to go to will suddenly find your email in their inboxes.  And while most of them might be just as normal as you and me there’s going to be a percentage of folk who are just not trustworthy at all.  And that percentage will suddenly have your email address, which they can use as they see fit.

People join up with Facebook, which warns you to use your real first and last name.   That’ s their rule.  And you know what gets me?  EVERYONE DOES IT.  We are such a trusting people.  

Those same people also join Twitter and some decide to play it safe by using a pseudonym.  Then they link their Twitter account to their Facebook and voilà!  Their real name shows up in the stream.   And some use Twitter to talk about, oh, well absolutely everything. 

Like:  “I bought a new laptop computer.” 

Followed by:  “I’m just heading out for a night on the town.  Hope my little cat can stand to be alone.”

And they wonder why, when they get home, their new laptop is gone and how the thieves knew when to break in.

Back to the principal of that school:  he worries that some gossip about a kid down the hall will make it out to the wide net.  Before the internet, the gossip stayed within a small group of friends.  No longer.  Bullying and preying has been taken to new heights. 

When I first read the article I thought he was being a bit of a boob.   Having read the entire email though (found here: http://wcbstv.com/technology/facebook.social.networking.2.1662565.html ), and upon further reflection,  I’ve changed my mind.

I think he’s right to be paranoid.

(P.S.  I’m on Facebook and I don’t use my real name.  I’ve got a really freaky name on there.  Facebook’s rules can kiss my native-American ass.)   :)

Night

Posted: April 26, 2010 in ADHD, Life
Tags: , , ,

“Night time…is the right time….to be….with the one you love…..”

That Ray Charles song resonates.

There’s a life-beat to it, a drawing, a capture that won’t quit, won’t let go.

Night time.

Even the words amaze me.

Long before I figured out that ADD had a place in my life, I knew that the night-time was a friend.   She would glance at me through her long dark hair, her smiling eyes dancing, daring and ready to run.   And we would scamper around the dark city, curious about the next corner, not sure whether what was on the other side was dangerous or fun.  Or both.

There were so many failed mornings; mornings that would see my mother grow exasperated and angry as I struggled to get my act together so as to get to school on time.   Our school band had practice every single day for years at 8:00 in the morning.  And every single morning – every *single* one – I found myself running to school.  I never had enough time to merely walk it.

That should have told me something.

So many nights I became alive and alert.

There were many times after improv class when a few close friends and I got together, to sit under the stars at the top of an apartment building, listening to the sounds of the street.  We spoke of so many “what ifs” and laughed and drank.  It was under one of those night skies that my friend decided that next Hallowe’en he was going to dress as a priest.  My other friend figured that if he was going to do that, she was going to dress as a nun.  They both decided I should dress as an altar boy.  With a slave collar and chain.

We would walk down Yonge St. and scandalize society as best we could.

There was a time, when I was still in high school and didn’t live in the big city.  When I lived in Oshawa, a town that was about thirty miles away from The City.  The train was the only way to get here, and so that’s what I did on occasion.   I remember the first time I walked down Yonge St. too.  (That’s the longest street in Canada, or so it’s said).  It’s the main drag in Toronto, and it contains, per capita, the highest number of light bulbs on any given street you’d care to mention.   There are bars, next to record stores, next to strip clubs, next to department stores, tarot card readers, ice cream parlours and other restaurants.

The street was – and is – *alive*.

That first trek down Yonge St. evidently made an impression on me.  I remember a few hookers looking at my curiosity-filled, upturned, open-mouthed entirely naive teenage face, and laughing at me.

Where ever my feet would take me, that’s where I went.

I remember later trips, this time with friends, where we spent the entire night exploring the city, walking everywhere, laughing as the rain came down and we scooted from shelter to shelter.   The fresh smell of the wet air was invigorating.   We didn’t really *do* anything.  Yet we had such a great time.

It took me the longest time to realize that it wasn’t Yonge St., or the long lightbulbed corridor, or the smells, or the curiosity that affected me so much.

It was the night-time.

Yonge St. during the day is boring.  It’s filled with people, all scurrying from point A to B in the quickest way possible.  It’s what I imagine major streets in New York to be like on a busy day, albeit on a slightly lesser scale.

Night time brings clarity.  You notice things more at night.  Like smells. Glances.  Things.  People.  Lights.

There doesn’t seem to be an end to the night.  You can’t really believe morning will ever get here.   You revel in it, and you wonder how people can ever stand to be out there during the day.

Clubs, bars and curiosity shops each have their own characters that seem (to me) to only become apparent at night.  The light show and driving thump-thumping of dance music in clubs compete with the gaze of strangers, all of whom seem as curious as you.

Here’s the thing:  night-time captures my interest like nothing else does.  The ADD-enhanced frustration of day time business goes away at night.  That white noise buzzing of competing priorities fades away.  Everything – EVERYTHING – becomes so clear.  Like crystal.

I used to make a habit of walking the eight miles from my home to the south-most part of Yonge St..   I’d do this while listening to one of the extensive music playlists on my iPhone.   The  few times I did this last year was enjoyable, even though I found myself totally missing the scenery of that walk.  The music took my mind away on vast vistas of thought.  This happens every time I walk anywhere while the music is playing, and even when it’s not.

My leg is broken right now and I’m not walking anywhere.

But when it’s healed, one of the first things I’m going to do is walk from my place to the south end of Yonge St., again.

This time, I’ll do it at night.

I can’t wait.