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.

30-day Writing Challenge – Day 7

List 10 songs that you’re loving right now.

This one is pretty easy. I’m forever surrounded by music, and one of my greatest joys (and sometimes frustrations) is that the music doesn’t stop. Again, in no particular order:

  • Lynchpin – Dan Mangan
  • Lost Without You – Will Sessions & Amp Fiddlers (feat. Dames Brown)
  • Half of the Way – Vulfpeck
  • Never Will – Terra Lightfoot
  • Tints – Anderson .Paak (feat. Kendrick Lamar)
  • All Ashore – Punch Brothers
  • Obvious Bicycle – Vampire Weekend
  • Multiply – Jamie Lidell
  • So There – Ben Folds
  • Bad Bad News – Leon Bridges

Each of these tunes has a different place/space in my life right now, though many can be found on my running playlist. I’m a late-comer to the Dan Mangan party (although I’ve appreciated several of his tunes in the past, and my friend Gord has toured with him extensively over the past several years). Kristy and I are going to see him at the Alix Goolden for Valentines this year.

Will Sessions was a surprise catch from our recent trip to Windsor. WDET was a find that John led me to, and in turn we spent a couple of hours with the radio on listening to some of the great sounds coming from across the river.

Vulfpeck has been a favourite for a couple of years now, and Theo Katzmann has really climbed up my charts in terms of being an amazing musician and songwriter. I love the tight vocals in the chorus on this one.

Terra Lightfoot came to consciousness through listening to the CBC. More and more I realize that there’s some pretty great music coming out of Hamilton, and she is definitely no exception. Her 2015 record was a late find for me, and it has such a great feel. Her vocals are terrific.

Oh, Anderson .Paak. I learned about him through his NPR Tiny Desk concert, and promptly went and found everything I could from him. Tints is one of the lead-off singles from his new record, Oxnard. I may be planning my Spring Break trip with the kids around going to all three cities listed in his record titles…

Punch Brothers was a NPR find through All Songs Considered. I was listening to the podcast and was immediately hooked. This song was my earworm for most of the duration of our Olympic National Park trip in August 2018. I’ve gone on to find so much other great stuff from Chris Thile as well, but this was the one that got things moving for me.

Vampire Weekend was one that I’d casually heard, again, on CBC, but didn’t do a deep dive until I discovered that Kristy was an uber-fan. Modern Vampires of the Weekend became an instant classic, and I love the spacious quality to this tune.

Sometimes a song just feels good. That’s the case with Multiply, by Jamie Lidell. It’s written in one of my favourite keys (D-flat), so you know that there’s a good possibility that the stringed instruments are tuned down a half-step and making some extra-chunky noises. Feel is everything in a track like this.

Ben Folds’ latest release was one that just arrived out of nowhere but became my unofficial soundtrack to 2015 (that just kept hanging on). This track tells the tale of a breakup, something that was germane to my existence around that time, and got me through some rough patches. His work with Y-music Ensemble is pretty spectacular and inventive.

Bad Bad News…Oh, Leon. The lead-off single from your new album was terrific, but the rest… It took me a while to get into the entire record, but this single hit me right away. I love the George Benson feel on this track, and it just motors along, which is why it’s spent so long on my running playlist.

30-day Writing Challenge – Day 6

Five ways to win your heart

I’m finding as these posts go along that it’s giving me great cause for reflection and looking at ways to be open and honest with myself.

I’ve plodded through this life generally ending up as self-reliant. Those who I have truly loved are the ones who won me over by being awesome humans. There are certain characteristics among each of these dear, cherished souls that get me every. damn. time.

  1. Thinking fast. Someone who can challenge me intellectually will definitely pique my curiosity.
  2. A sense of play and adventure. Especially in conjunction with #1, it’s a guarantee to win me over.
  3. Compassion. None of us can do this alone, and having someone you can ugly cry with is necessary, even if it’s over the phone or text.
  4. Reciprocal challenge. Finding ways to keep reinventing yourself and to challenge the other to do the same.
  5. Acceptance. This one was tough, because the first four really do it for me, but acceptance is huge. It’s the scariest for me as well, because it relies on a level of vulnerability that shakes me deeply, but at the same time, is critical. The more I examine who I am, the more I see how much fear exists within me (despite displays to the contrary). To be accepted is incredible.

30-day Writing Challenge – Day 5

List five places you want to visit

Timely, this is, as I’ve discovered the pleasure travel bug in the last four years. Prior to that, vacations always seemed unattainable due to financial or family pressures – it was always felt that a return to the motherland was necessary in order to visit with people, but the reality is that pairs are cheaper to transport than fives, and eventually, the military would sort me out so I’m working closer to my hometown.

I’ve been lucky to have some great travel experiences for work, but they’re usually work-oriented and, again, it’s only been the last couple of years where I’ve started to explore places a little more in depth. I’m a creature of habit, after all.

As with previous lists, these aren’t in any given order.

  1. Croatia – something about the terrain and the beaches are calling me.
  2. Iceland – the place just looks cool, and I’m drawn to it.
  3. New Zealand – really, this place looks like a spot I could sink my teeth into (hello CANZEX?)
  4. New York City – I’m one of the few who still hasn’t been. I’m afraid of NYC in that I may love it a little much and never want to leave
  5. Patagonia – after my last trek to South America, I’m ever-more intrigued by this beautiful land.