What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the word strong? Biceps. Calves. Chest. Speed, Power. Control. We are all surrounded by incredible feats of physical strength and we even pay big money to both achieve them and be entertained by them. As intoxicating as it is to watch Khabib Nurmagomedov dominate yet another opponent in the UFC and witness Connor McDavid fly by another elite defenseman and Mike Trout crush another home run and Tom Brady win yet another Super Bowl in his forties and James Harden get 60 pts even while taking the 4th quarter off… I can’t help but think, there’s gotta be more to strength than these guys.
It’s easy to be mesmerized by these and other incredible feats of physical strength, but at the end of the day, who really gives a shit? Ok, I do. And you do. And most people probably do. But surely there’s more to being strong then muscle fibers. Thankfully, there is.
These days, when I think of strength, these people come to mind.
Alyne– The woman who was diagnosed with cancer while pregnant yet still found joy in the process.
George – The 96-year-old War War II veteran who still travels to share his experiences.
Roman– The 11-year-old whiz kid who’s using his autism to help others struggling with their different abilities.
Wade – The former military vet who battled PTSD and personal demons and now coaches others on how to do the same.
Simon– The Brit who grew up being abused and believing he was weak and how he learned strength by living with no excuses (and deadlifting over 400lbs)
Paul – The business owner born with Cystic Fibrosis, who grew up struggling to breathe but is now creating a Rumble.
And then there’s Emily and Shauna, two powerful woman who once contemplated suicide but instead chose to give their lives to something bigger than themselves, Christine who was bedridden yet refused to give in to her chronic pain, D.M Ditson who learned how to become whole again even after her life was shattered by multiple sexual assaults and Heather, a single mother who is learning to live with grief after losing her 38-year-old husband to Cancer.
These and dozens more have discovered how strong they really are specifically because strong has been their only option. For these people, strong isn’t about entertainment or a bragging right. It isn’t a number or a personal best. It’s not even a metric. It’s a mindset. It’s who they became when they had nothing left to give.
You’re stronger than you think. We all are. Your rock bottom is not the end but a solid place in which to finally stand. So get up. You were made for this.
This! Is Obstacle Course.
Last night, as I tried to suppress another cough, Angie finally rolled over and said, “you’re definitely sick.” Apparently, my response was, “No, I’m not. Snot’s just leaking down my throat and making me cough.” I say ‘apparently’ because Angie texted this word for word to our Family group chat to which the kids responded – haha, classic Dad! A few minutes later I was sleeping on the couch -not because we fought but because I thought the recliner in the living room might slow my snot leak and allow Angie and I a few hrs of restful sleep. Yeah… didn’t happen.
As I sit here typing, my cough is down to like one an hour – so despite my coughy night, I’m fine. Ok sure, I stayed home from work today but that was more to do with the fact that I got no sleep and my crew is fine without me. What’s that? I seem to have some weird denial thing going on with sickness? No, I don’t!! You do. Times infinity!!
Snot leaks aside, I’ve never been a big fan of sickness. Growing up, even a tinge of nausea would initiate a -finger-down-the-throat-lets-just-get-this-over-with response. When I did puke I would call on the God of the Universe to help me in my plight. I know what you’re thinking and you’re right, I was super spiritual as a kid… Needles were a whole other thing. Even the sight of them made me turn white and look for a place to lie down. I’m happy to say I’ve left childish fears behind me but my sick denial has apparently followed me into adulthood. Part of me really believes this is why I never get sick. I expect not to and so even when I feel like I am, I’m not. This tactic has worked well for decades as I can count on one hand how many times I’ve stayed home sick. Plus I take FREEZING cold showers every day and even Science attests to the power of cold water and a stronger immune system. I’ve got a leg up on sickness.
As the snot leaked down my esophagus causing that familiar throat tingle last night, I did cough. And coughed again. And yes, I coughed a third time. If I’m not sick, I suppose I should get my throat looked at as something weird is happening.
Let’s say for argument sake, I am sick. I’m not but what if I am? What then?
I grew up singing and loved every minute of it. Sure I sang in the shower like everyone else but most of my singing was actually done in public, right next to other people. I even sang in a couple of acapella type groups and toured around singing for strangers. I know, crazy right? For someone whose a few bars above tone-deaf, it’s a pretty shocking admission. You probably have just so many questions, haha. 🙂
I should start by saying that most, if not all, of my singing, was done in the church and for other churches. My particular church didn’t allow us to sing with instruments because 2000 years ago someone said, “Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord.” For decades, I didn’t really question this “command” and besides, Acappella singing can be a transcendent experience when the harmonies are just right. That’s right, I learned how to sing harmonies. Bass, tenor, you name it. I can even read music. And as long as I’m standing next to someone who has a great ear for music, I can get by.
I haven’t really sung much since I left the Church. Sure there’s that time I had a couple drinks and sang Karaoke with my daughter on a cruise. And I do tend to try and harmonize with nearly everything including commercial jingles and whatever song happens to be playing in the car. But as far as singing with and for others, I’ve stayed away. If I’m honest, I’ve stayed away because of fear of rejection. What others might think. Or say. I love to sing but I’m not good at singing, so what’s one to do?
In her excellent book, The Gifts of Imperfection, Brene Brown talks about how she loves to dance but didn’t for years because she’s not particularly good at dancing. The problem with this is dancing gives her joy. In saying no to dancing, she was saying no to joy. And when we say no to joy, we say no to life. Gulp. Brene now dances with abandon and doesn’t give a shit what others say. Joy is too important.
What are you saying no to?
My Dad loved to sing. I can still hear his beautiful tenor voice effortlessly harmonizing with ‘Just As I am’ and other classic church hymns. Singing was worship for him because in doing it, he felt he touched the face of God.
Religion and spiritual woo woo aside, I think this is what joy is. Making contact with our higher self and that Spirit that unites us all. Singing transports us to a higher plane where all that matters is nothing else matters. We simply close our eyes, feel the music, and sing.
I’m going to start singing again. Starting with this. You might know Choir Choir Choir from such YouTube videos as this. And this. They take people like you and me and over the course of an evening teach us to sing again. This is their pitch. “No auditions or reading music required. All you have to do prior to coming is: LISTEN TO THE FUCKING SONGS!™ haha. Perfect. More importantly, though, they teach us to forget ourselves and in doing so, we experience joy.
If only for a moment.
No, this post isn’t about my middle of the night activities although it is annoying that I’m no longer able to make it until morning without stumbling to the toilet to empty my late night tea. Apparently, 43 is the new 90. I’m still not giving up my Dreamland Tea.
Speaking of a dreamland, next time you find yourself speeding along the Malahat in November, stop and smell the dead salmon at Goldstream. Rotten fish smell aside, it really is a Golden Stream (oh I get it now) as it’s one of those rare places where nature comes together in a frenzy of food, sex, freezing cold water and death. Here’s the quick story behind the Goldstream Salmon Run as I understand it. 😉
Once Upon a time a bunch of Salmon babies (mostly Chum) woke up in Goldstream. With the remnants of their parents lying dead beside them, they decided to hang out for awhile out of respect. After enough time had passed, they took off for the big blue to find themselves. After a few years of dodging nets and sharks, they decided to just keep swimming all the way back home for no apparent reason. Upon arriving back to Goldstream the memory of their dead parents suddenly appeared before them and they realized they were part of nature’s conspiracy whereupon they’d be forced to repeat their parent’s foolish/ noble mistake. While reflecting on the horror of their situation a big male chum with big teeth swam up. “You come here often?” They got their spawn on, guarded the eggs for days in a cold raging river protecting their little aelvins against rival salmon, birds, and terrible tourists and when the future was secure, they joined their parents in the after stream.
Why is this relevant? Well, for an evolved sentient being like myself, witnessing the annual Goldstream Salmon run reminds me that life can definitely be a lot worse and ultimately every living thing dies anyway so the onus is on me to make sure that the life I’m living is remarkable. I even have free will kinda, well, maybe not actually but I have the ability to think I do so I’ve decided to use that free will and live an extraordinary life! You should too!
Lest we be chum. (they are extraordinary, they just don’t know it)
P.S. Here’s the official version of the incredible Goldstream Salmon Run.
“My father is no different than any powerful man, any man with power, like a president or senator.” – Michael Corleone, The Godfather
If you know anything about the Italian mafia, and as a small-town boy from Saskatchewan, I’m basically an expert, Don means, “boss.” It’s an honorific, which is a verbal sign of respect, usually intended towards an older person with absolute authority or power over his family or organization. Essentially, what the Don says, goes. No questions asked unless you want to sleep with the fishes. The only way to silence the Don is a bullet to the head.
Fast forward several decades to the modern Dons. Trump and Cherry have been “likable” TV personalities who have been able to say whatever they wanted to their smirking followers without pushback or penalty. Trump’s tweets carry more racism per byte then the Klan but up until last week, Cherry was just Canada’s, “grouchy Grandpa telling it like it is.” Ironically, this is how many pre-election Americans described soon-to-be-impeached Trump.
After nearly 40 years of telling it like it is, Cherry was fired from Sportnet this week. On this particular occasion, Don said. “You people that come here … whatever it is, you love our way of life, you love our milk and honey, at least you could pay a couple of bucks for a poppy.” Many people were upset by his firing. I’ll be honest, I was initially disappointed. I grew up watching him every Saturday night and insensitive tendencies aside, Don really does love our country and our troops which is noble and absolutely appropriate. Not only that, he is great at his job! He helped hockey surge in popularity and continued to remind us why it’s the most exciting sport to watch. Although I knew deep down what Don said was despicable, I let it go. Convinced myself it was a one-off. And stayed silent. Just how The Dons like it.
This morning, my knowing wife sent me this. It’s an excerpt from a 1990 interview with the Fifth Estate where Don Cherry went on National TV and literally said, “vote me into politics and I guarantee you no foreign trawler will come into Canada and take our fish.” He goes on to talk about his love for Nationalism. Had Canada not been still reeling from the Gretzky trade we might have noticed this blatant racism. We may have even said something. But we didn’t. And Don’s power grew. Silence has always been the source of Don’s power.
Dons haven’t been kind to those outside the family. While they no longer kill outsiders Corleone style, the most powerful let laws do it for them. For Don Cherry, his followers are his power. Already, a quarter of a million people have signed a petition to “Bring Back Don Cherry.” Consider their telling rationale:
“He may be politically incorrect, and may not have been as careful as he should have in his remarks, but his offense does not warrant firing.”
In other words, he may have said something racist on National Television but that’s not enough to fire him. Historically, this has been true. The outsiders were powerless. But times have changed. We are evolving.
The end of Don is here.
The eyes are the window to the soul.
This is the kind of thing my Dad would say to me when I was growing up. On some level, I understood what he meant but for the most part, my eyes would glaze over. The annoying thing about our parents is their wisdom often stays with us and worse, we start to use it on our own kids. In this case, I’m glad. This really is a beautiful truth and one I fear has been forgotten by our culture. Yes, my kid’s eyes glaze over too.
If our eyes really do show what’s actually going on inside of us, is it any wonder so many of us look away? If we don’t like what we see in ourselves, it’s unlikely we’ll allow anyone else to take a look. Which is why we look down. Draw the shades. Close ourselves off. Thank god we have a phone or we’d look anti-social. Cough.
The great irony with all this is when we look down at our phones, we break the very connection we actually need. Feeling this disconnection, we scroll desperately on social media looking to re-connect. The problem is everyone else is scrolling disconnected too, making any real connection impossible. Besides, there will never be enough likes to fix a broken connection.
If we hope to connect with others, we must start by reconnecting with ourselves. When you look in the mirror, what do you see? What would it take for you to not look away? We’re in desperate need of some prolonged eye contact. Not necessarily in the Bo Burnham sense but as a habit of looking deep within and truly connecting with what’s going inside. Once we make peace with our imperfections we can look up and truly connect with another human being.
One of the many things I love about being a Podcaster is I can’t look away. For 2 hrs every week I lock eyes with our guest and my podcast partner and we truly connect. No phones. No distractions. No drawing down the shades. We share who we are. Warts and all. And we don’t look away.
“We need to sacrifice ourselves. Not just in big things but in little things every day.”
“I’m continually trying to become a better person and I intend to do so until the end of my days.”
“I’m just an ordinary man trying to do some things which are sometimes more than I’m capable of.”
“The ordinary people did extraordinary things. The heroism I saw all around me astonished me. It has lasted me a lifetime.”
Recently, I had the conversation of a lifetime when I sat down with George Brewster, a 96-year-old veteran of WWII. Andrew and I were interviewing him for a special Obstacle Course episode for Remembrance Day. George spoke with the passion and energy of a man half his age as he shared tales of combat, leadership, life, and death. His perspective was refreshing and it echoed values that have slipped in modern life.
Every Remembrance day we say things like, Lest we forget. What is it that we are not meant to forget? The sacrifice of the soldiers. The fight for our freedom. The end of Tyranny. These top the list and for good reason. While talking with George, it occurred to me that while remembering the soldiers’ sacrifice we have forgotten the values that allowed people like George to get in a plane and fight in the first place. Values of respect, self-sacrifice, brotherly kindness, courage, loyalty, honor, humility and perhaps most importantly, love. We live in a toxic time and we need these values now more than ever.
Lest we forget.