The Ocean of Affirmation

We all have things that keep us from our higher self. By higher self, I mean true self, the real ‘us’ that is not influenced, distracted or changed by the world – especially the world of social media. I can count on one hand the number of times I have logged on and experienced something meaningful and life-giving. It’s taken me a decade to realize why but the reason is simple. When I log on I do so with my lower self in order to brag, sound off or try to impress. I venture into the ocean’s abyss in search of affirmation and acceptance. Upon seeing the bell has turned red, I click and drink of the ocean only to feel even more parched than before. The more I drink, the worse I feel. I am adrift. And dying of thirst. I have learned this is the time to head back to shore – back to that place of solid ground and freshwater – where I find my true self waiting. And slightly annoyed.

Unsurprisingly, I have decided to change my relationship with social media. While it’s easy to make such grand announcements and resolutions, especially this time of year, my decision has been a long time coming. I can no longer afford to jump into the boat and head out to sea….what people are saying about me. I no longer have time for random scrolling/ rowing. But what’s one to do? We live in an ocean of social media. Logging out feels like drowning. Which is why I believe social media is at it’s best when it points us back to the shore. Back to that place of solid ground where we are meant to drink deeply, create, connect and most importantly, contribute. Rather than delete our Facebook again, perhaps we just need to repurpose it for a cause greater than ourselves? If we think in terms of contribution and only post those things that make for a better world, we won’t have to drown or die of thirst.

While we’re on the topic of change, I also plan to participate in something I’ve called the Becka Challenge. Inspired by my recently pregnant sister in law who had to give up drinking, I will be taking the next 9 months off from drinking in hopes of giving birth to a new life – which Becka just did btw. His name is Oliver, and he’s adorable 🙂 While drinking has never been a problem for me I find it zaps my motivation and brings unwelcome dullness and fatigue. I believe it dilutes my higher self and keeps me from achieving my full potential. So I’m learning to drink more tea.

2020 is synonymous with perfect vision. As I look ahead to next year, my 44th on this great planet, I have high hopes. There’s so much I want to feel and experience but there’s even more I want you to feel and experience. I feel a tremendous responsibility to be wonderful in this world for you, for us, and I can no longer afford to have anything negative or superficial distracting me. I probably should stop cheering for the Oilers too… 😉

On an upcoming podcast episode, we speak with the great Jim Gardiner. We talk about how Jim had it all yet found himself miserable. Comfortably miserable. When I asked Jim somewhat jokingly, “How could you be miserable if you were that successful?” Jim paused, then looked Andrew and I in the eye and said, “Because there was no contribution.” Jim’s amazing rock star life had begun and ended with himself. The truth of his words penetrated my higher self and I knew at that moment, I needed to be better.

Every Christmas Eve, I am reminded that It’s a Wonderful Life. As I drink from this great movie my tears come from a place of deep knowing. Our Life is Wonderful not because of what we know but because of what we don’t know -specifically, we don’t know how valuable our contributions to others really are. While our lesser self would love nothing more than to log on and try to see how valuable we actually are, real life doesn’t work that way.  While we can’t know we must continue to contribute…yes, even when the likes remain hidden.

In the movie, there’s a sign that hangs in George Bailey’s office:

“All that you can take with you is that which you’ve given away.”

One day, perhaps sooner than we think, we will die. All that will remain of our lives is that which we have contributed. Our legacy will be that which we’ve given to others.

Let’s make 2020 the year we finally saw things clearly.

 

 

 

 

 

Kindness pets the cat

I’ve seldom been called mean and called kind even less. Kindness doesn’t come naturally to me. We all know those beautiful souls who empathize first, ask questions later. I tend to do the exact opposite -imparting kindness only when I feel the person is deserving. “That’s not really kindness John.” Agreed. So what is? Goodwill maybe. Being sensitive? Generosity? I don’t know, petting a cat? All I know is I really need to up my kindness game.

I’ve had a legalistic relationship with kindness, ever since I can remember. It’s my parent’s fault. Sorry, that was unkind. And untrue. I mean it’s God’s fault. I was raised super religious. While I seldom wore a cape, I wasn’t clothed in kindness either. I was taught to obey first and don’t ask why later. I learned to play the kindness game and got God points every time I did a good deed. Later, when I turned Pro and became a Youth Pastor -I made a career out of loving-kindness teaching others how to do kindness too. I taught teens to love and accept everyone. I taught their parents to give money to the poor. I taught my kids to give their toys to their friends. I taught people overseas to give their hearts to Jesus. Come to think of it, I was a kindness machine, yet, was seldom called kind.

Kindness is not an act. I’ve done kind things my entire life and still been an asshole. It’s also not a feeling. Moodiness has prevented more kindness than the devil himself. It could be a belief. It’s probably a mindset. Most likely a decision. As an ambitious Type A, self-focused person, kindness doesn’t come naturally to me. How could it? I’ve always been kind because I’ve had to be. Even when I left Christianity I was kind because I had to start over. Meet new people. Get shit done. Make money. As an entrepreneur, kindness is key. People don’t want to spend money with an asshole.

Angie is always trying to get me to notice Benny. “Look at him, he’s so smart. Awww hon, just look. He’s sweet. He loves you, you know.” Sometimes I oblige as I love my wife but just between you and me I think Benny is a demon sent to annoy the hell out of me (which I guess makes the joke on the demon). But seriously, what kind of sentient being maintains eye contact while slowly pushing your glass of water off the nightstand? Who demands cuddles then violently scratches you when they’ve had enough? Who bangs on your door at 3am because they’re bored and lonely?? Who runs outside as your bringing in groceries then immediately cries at the door to be let in? Who pees in the guest room because the door was left open? Who hides in your room at night so you’re forced to look for him – of course, I don’t let him sleep in my room, he’d probably try and smother me in my sleep or piss on my pajamas. Who demands so much yet gives so little? “Oh John stop it, he’s just a cat, you’re acting like he’s a person or something.” I wish he was a person. At least then I could punish him when he acted like an asshole. Gulp.

I think I’ve discovered the problem here. As a kindness machine, I’ve been a tool in the hands of many operators. My Parents. God. Bosses. Clients. Angie. My kids. My friends. You. Them. I’ve been kind because others have needed me to be kind and so as a Son, Preacher, Business Owner, Husband, Father, Friend, and Role Model, I’ve allowed myself to be used for good. The result is, I’ve equated kindness with responsibility and obligation and acted accordingly.  No wonder I’ve remained an asshole.

Kindness isn’t an act or a responsibility. It isn’t the “right thing to do.” It is without strings or expectations. It is a gift freely given from one sentient being to another not because the giver should do it or because the receiver deserves it but because the gift itself creates joy. In short, kindness pets the cat.

 

Strong

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.

For instance, what about these women? And this kid? And this beetle? The strongest of them all.

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.

Terry and Trevor – The former drug addicts who are saving others caught up in addiction and homelessness.

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.

I’m not sick

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!!

Sigh.

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.

Yet…

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?

God!!!

Can you do what you love if you suck at it?

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.

 

 

 

 

 

The Golden Stream

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.

The End

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.

 

 

 

The End of Don

“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.