30-day Writing Challenge – Day 17

Post about your zodiac sign and whether or not it fits you.

I will admit I’m not big on zodiac at all, but this could be fun.

If you read the tea leaves at face value, I fit the bill pretty close. The first website I pulled up contained the following traits:

  • Strengths: Creative, passionate, generous, warm-hearted, cheerful, humourous
  • Weaknesses: Arrogant, stubborn, self-centered, lazy, inflexible
  • Likes: Theater, taking holidays, being admired, expensive things, bright colours, fun with friends
  • Dislikes: Being ignored, facing difficult reality, not being treated like a king or queen

So at first glance, this particular assessment is fairly bang-on. Those strengths resonate in me in varying ways. I’m making a conscious effort to work more on creative work (hence why I am writing every day), and the remainder definitely apply in how I generally roll in life.

I can identify with those weaknesses (although my self-centeredness waxes and wanes as I’ve had difficulties in identifying my centre, who I am, and what I need), and Kristy would definitely agree that I can be inflexible at times. Personally, I do feel I’m lazy a lot of the time, although my productivity would say otherwise.

All those likes and dislikes ring true as well. The admiration piece is a weird one, because I worked so long and hard to just be a wallflower, but for some reason I keep on getting tagged and being seen for what it is that I do. In some ways, on the dislikes side, facing difficult reality has been a struggle, and definitely squarely on that side. I’ve had a number of times (most especially in relationships) where I’ve fought to deal with the reality that I’ve been handed. I can be pretty meek a lot of the time, but also have a tendency to quietly subvert processes in order to get to where I want to be, and I’ve had good success at engineering things to where I like.

30-day Writing Challenge – Day 16

Something that you miss.

I have these occasional flashes where I really miss playing bass full-time.

My job is such that I’ve advanced up the ranks and gotten myself into a command team position. Historically, people in my position have been able to continue playing, but occasionally it comes down to not being able to keep that up. Right now, my boss is on maternity leave, therefore I’m doing her work and I’ve left my managerial responsibilities to someone else. This means that I’m primarily responsible to conduct the band, and it leaves me no opportunity (at work) to be a player.

This does, however, give rise to me pursuing work on the outside, and so far, 2019 is looking good in this regard, but it also places a challenge on my time in having to ensure that my chops are together to play at the level that’s expected of me.

I had a lengthy period there where, due to the deployment to Chile, I wasn’t applying hands to instrument on a regular basis. Once I got back from Christmas, it’s been slow and frustrating to get back into playing again, but it’s getting there. Making it a conscious, habitual thing to practice will help a lot.

30-day Writing Challenge – Day 15

Bullet-point your whole day.

I’m finding great interest in each of these writing prompts. This one is particular fun because my routine is in a state of flux. Here’s what a “normal” day looks like, if the kids are staying with me.

  • 6:15 – Out of bed, do 75 burpees
  • 6:30 – Have coffee, do some writing
  • 7:00 – Breakfast; wake the kids
  • 7:30 – Get dressed, continue to harangue the ones who aren’t yet out of bed
  • 8:00 – On my bike, headed to work
  • 8:15 – Get changed into uniform
  • 8:30 – Get the sick report from the duty musician; check email, put out fires
  • 9:00 – Full Band rehearsal
  • 10:00 – Coffee break, check emails, issue instructions as needed
  • 10:30 – Full Band rehearsal
  • 11:30 – Collect emails, prepare for announcements
  • 11:40 – Unit Announcements
  • 11:55 – Lunch/Hockey/Run
  • 13:00 – Back to my desk, shuffle some email, meetings, etc
  • 15:00 – Contemplate shutting down, getting changed, back on my bike, ride home
  • 15:30 – Home, tidy up, have a quick nap
  • 16:00 – Reading, practice, score study
  • 16:45 – Grocery shopping (if needed)
  • 17:15 – Dinner preparation
  • 18:00 – Dinner
  • 18:30 – Clean up, supervise kids’ making of lunches
  • 19:00 – Evening project (reading, laundry, helping the kids)
  • 20:30 – Kids heading for bed (2/3)
  • 21:00 – 2/3 kids in bed, prep my own lunch and breakfast, more relax time
  • 22:30 – Get ready for bed

Obviously, I do have some variability with the schedule. Hockey, in season, will sometimes affect my afternoon or evening, or if it’s just me, or just Kristy and I, or if I’m staying over at her place, etc, etc, etc. Planning has become essential for me in order to make sure that I’m getting things accomplished on my list.

30-day Writing Challenge – Day 14

Post your favourite movies that you never get tired of watching.

For this one, I have to say, I’ve got a bit of a gap. I’ve long loved movies, but did give up on them for a little while, and have all but sworn off of television since moving to Victoria. I wasn’t ever a really avid screen viewer in that regard, but I did enjoy the occasional film or TV show when it came around. Kristy is much more film and TV oriented, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have some favourites. Some of them are older, obviously, from when I worked at the theatre, some just because they’re films I’ve seen recently that really resonated with me.

Complicating today’s writing is that I’m in a hotel room in Ottawa, away from my usual resources. I’m lackadaisically following Mel Robbins’ Mindset Reset program for the month of January, and there is a lot of talk about the death of productivity through distraction. I’ve carved out time every morning to write (hence why I’ve gone 14/14 on this challenge so far), but one small destabilizing force can really derail a process.

Regardless, here are some of my favourite films!

  • Pulp Fiction
  • Star Wars (ep IV-VI)
  • Hunt for the Wilderpeople
  • Leave No Trace
  • Forrest Gump
  • Woodstock
  • Y Tu Mama Tambien

30-day Writing Challenge – Day 13

What are you excited about?

I’m mostly excited about the future. I have no idea what it holds, but I’m at a period and in a state of being where I’m constantly being challenged in a positive way by my surroundings. I’m in a much different place, musically, than I expected to be. I’m in a wonderful partnership that has providd me with such a sense of peace and wonder and opportunity for exploration. I’m tremendously excited to see my kids as they grow into themselves and for their paths going forward. I’m excited for what’s to come.

I always have to be careful with this level of excitement though, as it sometimes leads me to a place where I’m no longer living in the present. I’ve spent my life as a planner, always looking one or two bounds ahead for what’s coming down the pipe so I can be ready. I think, now, that as I’ve gained in wisdom and experience, that I’m able to react differently to outcomes because of the kinds of experiences I’ve had. Something needs to be fairly major in order for it to flatten me, and in doing so, I have to be less worried or focused on the future than I have been in the past. It’ll work out, no matter what.

30-day Writing Challenge – Day 12

Write about five blessings in your life.

These ones are oft-repeated as blessings, but they really are in my life. I’m lucky to have these riches, because I know so many aren’t so fortunate

Family – Many ways of looking at this one. I’m blessed because I have a family (both my own, and the one I came from). I’m blessed because we don’t face any huge challenges, and we’re able to be together, generally speaking.

Kristy – My life is made richer by her presence in my world. We love and laugh and experience joy together in so many ways.

Health – Like I posted about previously, I have my health. I got my usual aches and pains, but these are minor compared to what so many deal with on a routine basis.

Music – This is one of the biggest drivers in my life. It’s enriched my life and has allowed the lives of others to be enriched as well. To have this skill is a blessing indeed.

Friends – I’ve got a great group of people that have seen me through the good and the bad.

30-day Writing Challenge – Day 11

Something you always think “What if…” about.

One of my traits is that I tend to think things through. And by think things through, if I’m feeling anxious or stressed or nervous, I will think through possibilities until the end of time. It has been a major paralytic in my life, the way my brain will explore every possible course of action past its logical point of conclusion, and every sub-possibility along the way. In certain cases, like for planning contingencies when it comes down to a hike, it’s not always a bad thing. It can also really go sideways when dealing with matters of the heart and factors that are largely beyond my control, like other people’s feelings and actions in response to a given situation (see previous posts about fear, rejection, etc).

Even through all of that, I’ve long tried to live my life deliberately, and generally once I’ve set course, I let what happens happen. The universe abides, and I wouldn’t be who I am or where I am without things going down the way they are. At the end of the day, I’m happy. I am in a growing relationship with myself, I have a wonderful family, I love and am loved, and I wouldn’t be at this point on my journey unless I made the decisions I did and committed to what I’m doing now.

I do have a list of some split points in my life where things could have gone hugely different. I don’t dwell on them, but certainly I can identify them as the places where my life could have changed course dramatically. First of these adult ones was when I made the (snap) decision to attend college. I was at the Kelowna School of the Arts’ summer program, hanging out with my new pal Ben Van Slyke and receiving instruction from Brad Turner when I casually mentioned I was going to take some time off and go to Boston the following year. Brad offered that there was a seat for me at Capilano College, and Ben said there was an audition opening in Vancouver for the army band. The option on that one was to just stay the course, live in Vernon, and continue my job working for the North Okanagan Community Development Corporation, where I’d gone from being a co-op student to being an employee, and they were willing to turn me into an IT professional at a time where the rise of the IT department was an exponential-growth field. I chose music instead.

Next one is a relationship-related one which I won’t delve into for respect of privacy for those involved, but I had to consciously make a decision whether or not to pursue a relationship, and going the other direction would have a radical change on my life.

I decided to pursue certain aspects of my career, and another huge split point came in early January, 2006. The war in Afghanistan was just starting up, and I was working as a clerk with the reserve Combat Engineer squadron in North Vancouver. The Brigade Superintendent Clerk called me, offering me a no-pre-deployment-training tour to Kandahar on Rotation 0 (usually the “hot” tour), and that I had 90 minutes to get back to him. I ended up not going, and know that the effects of that were that we ended up having a third child and I got a winning crack at the job I have today.

More and more of these kinds of split points have come up. I don’t dwell on them, because I’d rather make it feel like I have a sense of ownership in my life. They’re curious to look back on, but I can honestly say that I’m quite alright with where I’ve ended up.

30-day Writing Challenge – Day 10

Write about something for which you feel strongly.

Why, oh why, do I challenge myself like this? I usually have such moderate views and let the extremes be taken by others that when I express myself on a given subject and set up camp, there’s always this doubt and fear (see my previous post on this one).

Discomfort creates growth, so here goes.

I feel strongly about leadership. I suppose I always have, and my dad was a great early example of a leader, even if the parent/child relationship didn’t allow for the best leader/follower relationship. I took the concepts he established, and made them my own, and learned a few more along the way.

I feel strongly about leadership in the corporate (or military) context because it’s largely how things get done. True collectives are hard to come by, and achieving consensus can be tough, especially when dealing with folks who are creatively minded. Having someone with a goal and a focus can give shape and direction to a project or a business or a unit. Having a shitty leader can derail everything.

A major part of this comes down to the people in an organization, from the bottom to the top. If people (leaders or otherwise) don’t take care of one another and they’re just punching it in (or phoning it in, depending on whose euphemisms you’re using), and there’s little corporate buy-in, that’s where the workplace darkness can start to fester. Like a mold, it breeds best when it’s a little funky out and left in the dark. Leaders need to shine a light on the dark spots and help to clean that up.

Am I the best leader? No, not a chance. Far better humans have gone before me, and far better will succeed me, too. The folks I work with help me to stay honest and on track, and they, too, help take care of me, to ensure that when the decisions need to get made that we’re all as whole as can be and to be reminded that we’re in this together.

30-day Writing Challenge – Day 8

Post some words of wisdom that speak to you.

My parting words on the last day of work for 2018 were these:

Be good to one another, but mostly, be good to yourself.

Every time we come up to a long weekend or extended break, I have a semi-default speech that I pass along to the men and women of my unit. Usual talks about taking time with family, slowing down, enjoying the time away from the job, etc.

I’ve been in and out of therapy for a few years now, dealing with a lifetime of issues that I hadn’t resolved (and am continuing to resolve to this day). One of the biggest things I’m guilty of is not taking time for me, and being good to myself. It has only been a few years since I started really paying attention to me, what I’m feeling, how I’m feeling, what I’m doing for myself, and these sorts of things, where I’ve been able to really do things that fill me up.

I’ve long found satisfaction from the work I do. I’ve found fulfilment in family life, too. I’ve often devoted all my energies to these two sources, and it’s recent times that have given rise to the greater importance of self, and making sure that I take care of me. So much of what I do is based on historical concepts, things I was shown or taught (or had my nose rubbed into) that calcified some of my thinking, and thusly I became rigid in my acts, unwilling to look at new ways of doing things. That has since changed, and now I don’t spend as much time trying to flit about making sure that everything is grand for everyone else. Other people have their own stuff that they need to take ownership of. I need to take ownership of me. And that means being good to myself.

Sometimes others remind me (unconsciously) that they need to take better care of themselves, too. Like my dear sister. Right now, she’s struggling. By consequence, she’s getting the gift of “nothing” for her birthday today – I’m sending her to a sensory deprivation tank in Kelowna. I got a float for my birthday two years ago and it was a wonderful experience. I hope she gets the same out of it as I did.

30-day Writing Challenge – Day 8

Share something you struggle with.

Fear.

I could leave that there and let it just be a thing, but I’ll take a minute and define some of the fears that have been allowed to fester in my life, and talk a little about how I’ve worked over the last few years to overcome these fears.

My fears tend to focus mainly on sense of self and sense of community, and sometimes the two of them are tied together. On the sense of self side, and it’s taken me decades to be able to define this, I’m a quiet, shy, introverted person. My work character and persona would say otherwise, but right from when I got into grade school, I either labeled myself or had someone else label me as different. Growing up in the 80s, this wasn’t the same kind of inclusive, permissive environment that exists today (and with the rear-view mirror well-installed, I can see just how many fucks were expensed on acceptance). I was the kid who had natural talent in class. I had the answers already, and things came easy. I was absolutely terrified of making mistakes. If I opened my mouth, got something wrong, and the kids laughed, that sound echoed with me for years to come. So I stopped opening my mouth. I withdrew in fear, and consequently denied myself a great number of growth opportunities for the future.

This also applies to the physical sense of self. I was always concerned with how I was seen by others, and more than anything, I just wanted to be *seen*. I was the kid who always got picked last or second-to-last, I only started to like my body in the last five years. I lived in fear of what others would think about how I dressed, how I talked, how I acted.

As an adult, I’ve been able to allay a lot of these fears, but a lot of them have come at what could be seen as a cost. I ended up joining the military as a means to get myself off to college and away from my hometown and my past and to establish myself as my own person, not as someone’s son or “that kid from school”. The military has proven to be an interesting place for me as I have risen through the ranks, often terrified of either the task at hand or for blundering (and trust me, I’ve seen some classic, epic blunders, and can only imagine what the psychological toll is on the person leading that particular piece of the puzzle). Again, timing is everything – as a young private in the mid-90s, especially post-Somalia, I fit in just nicely with a group of folks who were struggling to be considered professionals in matching suits, working hard to legitimize their work after dealing with a major corporate scandal. The army taught me to overcome fears about skill – I had the training, and later, the experience, that I needed to get by, and that was everything. Fake it till you make it. Confidence grew along with knowledge, to the point where I could feel that line where I was making decisions based on fact and judgement, and things were going well. I still make mistakes – the difference now is in the ownership. I own my mistakes, and I use my own mistakes to help people around me to learn how to make better decisions.

Now that I have kids, I also have fears related to them. Especially challenging right now is my eldest, who is suffering with depression, anxiety, ADHD, and a deep want to experiment with drugs. He, too, is a smart cookie, but he’s running out of time to get foundational experience through school that will allow him to go out and be an adult in the world. I was on a backpacking trip in the Olympic Mountains earlier this year in an area without cell service and with the way things were headed, I had this sinking feeling that I’d be turning my phone on and getting word that he was dead. That’s the level of fear that I’m getting out of the experience with him.

He’s a strong kid. He knows the differences between right and wrong. He just ignores them and hasn’t been caught in a meaningful way yet. My other fear is that this youthful rebellion will catch up with him and completely tank his plans to go explore the world.