Don’t miss the Signs…

My inner reflection took place this past summer after another successful championship Lakers season, giving more proof to the What is Next strategy of the team, sweeping the visitors from the Canadian West coast in four games thanks to our focus on the small details of each shift.  I took some time with my dad to stay a couple nights at a remote cottage on beautiful Faraday lake just outside of Bancroft Ontario.  For those that don’t know where this is, Bancroft is the “Mineral Capital of Canada”, a small town between Peterborough and nowhere, about an hour and a half North of my little home town.  The cottage belongs to long time family friends, Ken and Debbie Fraser.  Absolutely beautiful and inspiring people who have run The Main Ingredient, a successful bulk food store in Peterborough tha tjust celebrated their fortieth year in business.   Heated by a wood stove and over looking a serene, tranquil lake, the cabin we were staying in sat a top a small hill, so the view of the water was a simple glance out the screened in porch.  Although occluded a by a few evergreens, the view was still exactly what my soul needed.  It was a chance for me to turnoff for a change.  To recharge my empty battery, to fill my empty and dry tank. Spending time with my dad is also time I would never trade.  As we get older it becomes harder to find the time to have that father-son connection that I desperately need and only hope to have with my boys. 

Ever since I was a young, dapper eight-year-old, my dad and I would go back woods camping, progressing further and further into the brush each year.  We started in Long Lake, just outside of Apsley Ontario.  The older I got, the further we went, the more challenging the voyage would become.  Long Lake turned into Loucks Lake, with a portage to Cox Lake, portage to Triangle and the final portage to Cherry Lake[1]. Our years of woodland excursions had culminated in our preparation for one last epic journey to Cherry Lake when I was eighteen years old.  A decade of preparation, a decade of surviving in natures unpredictability, eating a substitute meat product from a can, suffering from wounds inflicted from improper hatchet handling, punching the earth on a throne made of splintering wood, aptly called a Thunder Box, sleeping under the beautiful night sky lit with millions of stars,so incredibly visible without the iridescent glow of city lights.  This, to me is the most beautiful of God’s creation.  One can spend hours having a euphoric ocular experience finding new designs and countless expressions of stunning and mesmerizing glows from these million burning suns.  It is hypnotic and seems to cause time to stop entirely.  As long as there is a small breeze in the air to push away the dreadful Canadian vampire insects that pray on any exposed flesh,then it can seem as though the world and its problems become meaningless to the grandeur and splendor of the sight million of miles away.  I become insignificant and trouble just goes away.  Obviously, I am not as oblivious and am not insinuating that all problems literally vanish from our lives when we gaze upon the stars while camping during the summer months.  If that was the case, I would never leave,and the cost of admission to these parks of personal freedom would be astronomical.  In the moment however, not much else matters.  When searching the sky for answers to life’s quandaries, there is something that seems to magically take my mind from distress to distance; from worry to wonder. 

Of all the years we challenged the wilderness, one trip in particular remains seared in my memory.  It was our last trip.  After a decade of summers, this would mark our finale.  I was eighteen, about to enter college and begin the next season of my life as an “adult”.  So I suppose it was only fitting that this summer in particular would be the most memorable, and have the most to teach me about the challenges of life.    It still amazes me that these experiences we have in our younger lives reveal their depth of meaning later when we most need it.   

We had been in the canoe for several hours at the point we reached our third and final portage of the day.  Already exhausted from the long paddle and the burning sun that only increased the heat of the late July summer,we made it to the edge of our portage which was the path to our destination only to be met with a serious obstacle.   Upon close inspection of our new-found conundrum we quickly realized the difficulty we would be facing.  For about the next two hundred yards we had to navigate and traverse several beaver dams, make our way cautiously through a shallow boggy summer stream that smelt rather putrid, like a rancid combination of decay, rot and depression.  Due to the shallow nature of the stream we had to pass through, we found ourselves becoming wedged on the bottom and unable to dislodge the canoe simply using a synchronized forward rocking motion.  I believe I drew the short straw that day, as I was in the bow of the canoe (the front for the non-nautical readers), so it was my unfortunate duty to carefully exit the craft and pull the canoe until we were at an acceptable depth that I could re-entre and continue the trek.  However, due to the murkiness and dark sewage coloured water I lost sight of my feet and with each step simply prayed that I would have a solid footing with the next step.  It was the fourth or fifth step that I quickly realized that God has a sense of humour and didn’t answer my previous prayer.  In an instant I found myself neck deep in the foulest stench and vomit inducing liquid that to this day I have thankfully not had the privilege of experiencing again.  

Somehow managing to bring myself from out of the depth of this predicament, all the while fully certain I will experience the dreaded Canadian “Beaver Fever” in a few short hours, hoping that I did not have any open wounds on my person that would succumb to infection, we struggled forward, continuing to push through the uncomfortable circumstances.  Drenched, tired and absolutely foul, we finally made it to our site on Cherry Lake. We arrived, exhausted but alive ready to finally enjoy our hard-earned travels.  What this journey will teach me later, I certainly did not know at the time. The treacherous and humorous in hindsight has served a completely different purpose than that of the moment.    

I sat with my dad the other day at the Starbucks where I’ve written most of these pages, and remembered together this experience.  The moment that makes this journey somewhat laughable, was that as our trip came to a close and our time on our retreat in the summer of 2000 came to its inevitable end, we began our paddle back and upon reaching our first portage, which would have the same treacherous obstacles we had faced several days earlier, we both began to hysterically laugh.  With tears of joy and embarrassment, we gazed upon a bright yellow sign pointing to a slightly overgrown path leading around the shores of the creek with which we had taken hours to navigate.  When we reached the shore of Triangle Lake, we turned to find the sign we missed.  A weathered, cracked and covered in foliage sign was barely visible, but was there.   We missed it.  As hard as we both thought we had looked when we first arrived, we couldn’t see it through the thick green leaves and branches that covered it. 

As a writer, I can pull many learned lessons from this one trip and could likely write another book about these four days almost twenty years ago.  We can talk about the stars, and how that beautiful canvas of white lights are the same today as they were twenty years ago. We can talk about how those we count on for direction, if they have not navigated that path, may also miss the obvious. I would rather not discuss the trauma of being near drowning in nature’s septic system, but for the purposes of my current journey and struggles through ‘What is Next’, I will focus on the sign. That even though it was there, we missed it.  We had never been this far before, and as much as the previous years had prepared us, we still missed what would have taken us around the creek of odor and sadness and would have saved us time,energy, and possible infection. 

When asked why I’m writing this book or what it is about, this is it.  Making sure that with every step in our journey we are able to see the signs, we can navigate around what will cause us the most difficulty along our path to our destination.  That when we finally reached the goal we set,we can lay on the rocks looking up at the beautiful bright, endless stars and know we made it.  There is always work to be done and struggle will find us along the way, but my hope is that these pages provide a sign for you that will save you from diving neck deep in nature’s sewage!! 


[1] https://2kwwt01tmsz8wecag1qkitx1-wpengine.netdna-ssl.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/Long_Lake1.pdf

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Tattoos and Redemption

I got my first tattoo when I was twenty years old.  I waited until I was newly married and along with my wife, we did what most couples in the early parts of the new millennium were doing and got matching Chinese symbol ankle tattoos.  My tattoo stands for God is Truth, it is the Chinese symbol for the word truth inside a Jesus fish.  Very minimal, small, but the beginning of my ink addiction.  Since then, I added a small cross to the inside of my right forearm, and outside of their personal meanings of faith for me, they were simple in design and again left me craving more.   Of course, as a massage therapist in a service-based industry where, let’s be honest, first impressions are significant to maintaining a clientele, especially as a male in a female dominated industry,the thought of a tattooed arm may be a slight deterrent to some.  However, being in business for fourteen years, over ten as the owner of the clinic, I felt it was acceptable to pursue further skin art.  The issue was always what imagery I wanted to adorn my overly thick and rather solid forearm with (I’m a massage therapist don’t forget, so unfortunately my forearms are about twice the size they should be, which isn’t always a good thing for circulation to my hands).  The plan was always to have a sleeve tattoo.  To be honest, part of the desire may have been my passive and sensitive nature and wanting to subconsciously feel a little more edgy and tough, for lack of a better word.    

 When my life began to fall apart and business was suffering, my marriage was beginning to slip through my hands,I soon began to rely more on my faith to simply survive each day.   Just the simple action of getting out of bed was incredibly difficult, yet there were so many people who needed me to be present.  My kids, my clients, my coworkers, my team.  Most days I survived on medication and caffeine, simply trying to get through each day only to lay awake each night dreading “What is Next”.  The idea of my tattoo came through the words of a song by MuteMath, my favorite band,presently on heavy Spotify rotation.  Their song Remain off the Vitals album, struck a huge chord the first time I heard it.  As I struggled with deep depression and anxiety,among thoughts of suicide and self harm, the words were a mantra that literally helped me off a bridge in the early parts of the summer in 2017:

Just keep trying; Just keep fighting; Just keep going; Just keep surviving

Just keep walking; Just keep breathing;Just keep holding; Just keep believing

MuteMath – Remain (Vitals 2015)

These words resonated so strong with my situation that I made sure to have them inked permanently on my arm.  Luckily and much to my amazement, thanks to the social media gods, I was actually able to have the lead singer and incredibly talented and generous Paul Meany pen the words to paper and send it to me via Instagram.  So not only do I have the lyrics on my arm, but they are actually in the penmanship of the writer.    

Taking account of my life and where I was at the present, It was the beginning of my new focus on the What is Next.   I decided on a few key elements that I wanted to display on my skin.  A dove to represent my faith, a compass to show that I don’t know where my life is going to go, a pen and a blank page to represent my unfinished story, a clock with no hands because I don’t know the timing of things to come, and a tree with the birth dates of my five children to represent the strong roots and that they are always and will always be a huge part of my life.   

The beautiful thing about a good tattoo artist is their ability to take a mixed bag of components and within a few days, have the perfect design, placement and vision for exactly what the piece will be.  Luckily the artist I had put ink to skin is a good friend of mine from public school days some twenty-five years ago.  I don’t think Ian knew just how his design would absolutely perfect.  The attention to detail, the small nuances that only a keen eye can see literally brough tears to my eyes. 

My tattoo sessions became like therapy. It is a constant and visible reminder of the journey I am on, and how important my faith and children are in this journey.  I think the discomfort of a tattoo is also a little therapeutic to be honest.  A way of numbing the internal pain with an external stimulus.  Its also great to catch up with an old friend!

So what does this have to do with the concept of What is Next and how it applies to life and business?  For me, I needed the visible reminder, I needed to have something that I can look at each day and know my story isn’t finished yet, my choices and my mistakes can be redeemed.  It is not the same for everyone, I’m not suggesting everyone go get a tattoo on your forearm, so you can have a reminder of life’s journey.  If that is what you want to do, I can suggest a great guy to go see!!  This was my therapy, my reminder, my coping,and it has worked.  Everyday I can look at my arm and know this is a permanent reminder of the hope I have and a faith I carry that life will work out, it’s not over, and in time I can begin to ask What is Next and focus with intent on the next steps to begin my own healing process and recoup the sense of self lost in the past.      

My suggestion to start the process of thinking positively What is Next, is to find a reminder; something you can see, touch, feel, read, everyday that will act as a constant reminder that choices and consequences can be redeemed.  We are not a simple product of our past and life will continue to move forward and so must we.  As beaten and broken we may become and how close to the literal edge we might find ourselves, there is always hope in the journey.  Our story isn’t finished yet.  So let’s journey together and focus on What is Next, looking at the past for guidance and encouragement.  

Problem with Productivity

Hustle is for Hipsters and Lunch

Since the dawn of mainstream internet self help (sometime in the late 90’s), the word Hustle has been on the forefront of most social media platforms and the pocket ammo of most self-proclaimed business gurus and life coaches.  It’s the concept that to achieve your goals, you need to put your head down, ignore the ‘haters’, close your eyes and plow forward like an angry rhino.  Like a hungry, wild four-ton, bus like creature with a giant dagger for a nose teased by one of those African safari trucks full of tourists trying to catch the next viral video.

Recently however, that word has become like a nagging toothache in my soul.  Its been used without caution or regard for life’s situation.  Too many times I have heard stories of pain and lose from individuals who ‘hustled’ or thought they ‘hustled’ and ended up loosing it all.  I too fell victim to the hustle mentality as it has been presented to the masses.  And let’s be honest, those self-help or motivational geniuses don’t care too much about you, your family or the life you currently have.  They want your hard-earned money and will sell you on the concept that “nothing but hard work and hustle will get you to your life’s goals and dreams”.

Although I can certainly agree that in order to achieve your goals in business or personal life, there is certainly some hard work that needs to happen.  Very rarely do incredible, life changing, thunder-punch to the solar-plexus opportunities simply fall into one’s lap.   I’m not saying that those will never happen and maybe you will be one of the lucky ones (and I will envy you and likely have a little resentfulness). Is it possible for me to be so bold as to propose a different perspective?  One that involves a constant observation of your surroundings and involves s little more discipline and effort?  That hustle alone is not healthy, but a healthy amount of hustle that involves more focused intent, grit and a sensitivity to what is around you may in fact breed a much more significant return to your time and effort.  That searching for the small daily opportunities and making daily choices that effect our progress towards our goals in small but meaningful ways.

Let’s keep the “Hustle” for the hipsters, gym t-shirts and social hashtags, for those who might not have the heavy responsibility on the day as those self-employed parents with bills to pay and mouths to feed and not much else to worry about in life but their own forward progress.  I personally have a few more responsibilities in this time of my life, so a blind “hustle” simply will not be beneficial for anyone.  Please don’t get me wrong, more power to those that don’t have significant responsibilities, who don’t have a spouse or partner, no kids, who simply go to work or school and have plenty of time for self.  There is an incredible number of books available for these individuals, but these chapters are more intended for those that want to see their dreams come to reality without risking the happiness, safety, security and contentment of their other responsibilities.  They are intended as a guide to avoiding the problematic flaws in pursuing your passions and goals when the hustle and life balance becomes out of control.

These are the hard lessons I learned when I started my business and my journey as an entrepreneur.  It has taken me years of struggle and many sleepless nights, and a massive caffeine addiction to start the process of trying to refocus my hustle and intention.     Stick with me, we will revisit this idea in a few pages…. here’s a teaser, it’s the main concept!


As some of you are aware, I have begun the process of trying to become an author, to pen words to paper (or push keys on my laptop) to form what I hope will inspire and potential help others in their business and personal ventures.  The above is a small section of my pages so far.  My goal for 2019…to finish.  I even purchased a “Finish Calendar” from my favorite author Jon Acuff.

Why?? Why would I purchase a calendar based off one of my favorite books “Finish” by Jon Acuff??

I need to be productive.  I need to feel that no time is wasted.  That when I’m not in my treatment room with a client or with my kids or busy with an adulting responsibility, I’m working on something….my book, a blog, looking for the next opportunity, advertising, marketing, ect… being still is not in my vocabulary.  Even if I happen to be fortunate enough to have some social time with friends, unfortunately my phone is on, my calendar is open or my Evernote app is filling up with thoughts or ideas.

This is a problem….it’s a crutch or a vise.  It’s what I need to keep from facing the reality of life or to feel validated or important to the world I know.  Being an entrepreneur is fantastic.  I love the ability to create my own schedule, to make the choices that will push my business further, to take the risks and to see the eventual rewards.  It hasn’t always been an easy road, in fact, its been a long, hard, discouraging, painful, joyful, frustrating, glorious, happy and difficult road.  A mixed bag of emotions…sometimes a daily mixture of assorted mental feelings that can confuse a NASA scientist.  The problem with productivity is that there is no rock bottom to being productive.  There really isn’t a place you can hit that feels like the world is crashing in.  Being productive can be tiring and burn out can happen, there can be an oversight of others or neglect of family and friends, however, it is often looked at in a positive light.   The more productive we are, the more we feel affirmed and validated.  We can be praised for being motivational or inspiring leaders in our fields and sometimes we look up to those that are over-achievers, like they have it all.   However, if this trap is not recognized, this can become a serious problem and can lead to other negative, more destructive problems.

Unfortunately for myself, I fell into another vise that was a little more damaging than being over-productive.  For a couple of years, I became addicted to online gambling.  It was a vice that I clung to as it gave me a mental jolt that I hadn’t had in years.  For those that know my story this may not be a surprise.  For those that don’t, my life wasn’t all roses and butterflies when I made the choice to venture into the vortex of online gambling, and being in a state of clinical depression and high anxiety, certainly made the addiction that much harder to break.  The already altered brain chemistry changes and the addiction takes over.  I am most certainly not proud of this part of my story, and am rather embarrassed and feel extremely guilty when writing about it.  I have five kids, a home and a business to think about, how could I be so stupid?!?  It will be a stain on the pages of my story that I can’t remove and will always be a source of shame.

This was my vice…. it became my crutch and my mistake.  Obviously it was my ultimate choice to do what I did and there really is no good excuse for that decision, however, through extensive counseling, I have come to realize the influences that may have led to that moment.  Self realization is sometimes difficult to experience.  The chance to discover some of the external influences that led to the decision to begin relying on my vise was certainly eye opening and began to effect my overall perspective.  Thinking I always had to hustle and do everything for others all the time without a break for myself led to a cascading self destruction.

So I challenge the Hustle concept.  I challenge those that feel like they are never enough and never feel productive enough.  I challenge you to stop and take note of your vises.  Do you have a crutch you rely on because you have hustled for too long?  You haven’t taken time to regroup and refocus?   I challenge you to take some “You” time.  Some time to stop being productive and look after yourself.  It is hard to do and for those of us that struggle with the constant need to be productive or feel important or validated by the work we do, I challenge you to Hustle towards time for yourself.  To breath, observe, recoup and refocus.  Please don’t fall into the same trap that I did.  Whether its gambling or alcohol or drugs… it is so easy to fall into a crutch and to lean into a vise that will ultimately lead to self destruction.   I hit rock bottom, and I’m making my way out, trying to take life as it comes, a day at a time… looking towards What’s Next (title of my book, which is meant to leave you in a little suspense about what the rest of the book is about…did it work??).

So I bought a calendar; to schedule my year in 2019, to make sure that I have time for my book, my blog and for me!  My hope is that you will take some time for you throughout your week to breath and let go of the vise of feeling like you always have to be over-productive.

Until next time, Be Well

Reflections on the Water

For the fist time in years, I took some time for me… it was one of the most difficult and mentally grueling tasks I have accomplished in a while. Being in the middle of a very stressful personal situation, trying to maintain a business and have some time for self care is an impossible task. So the latter usually takes a back seat to my busyness, my personal battles and my anxieties and panics throughout the day. As every personality test and every therapist tells me, my sense of self is non-existent and my self care techniques are comparable to a T-Rex making a bed (picture it, it’s a good laugh).

Lucky for me, I have a dad who understands the necessity for time for ones self and also sees the damage I have sustained over the past several years. It was hard taking a day off work. It was difficult trying to close my mind to the noise of my days. It was so incredibly hard to sit and do nothing! The overwhelming sense of guilt hovered over me like a dark cloud. I wasn’t being productive and it bothered me.

Ever since I was about eight years old, my dad would take me camping for a few days every summer, until I was about sixteen. This was back woods roughing it. Canoeing, portaging, eating meat from a can, hanging food in trees away from bears, building fires, pulling shards of glass from my foot, hatchet accidents, and enjoying every single moment because I got to spend it with my dad. It also taught me a new appreciation for God’s great design and His creation. Now I completely understand that there are several people that will read this that may not have the best relationship with their fathers. I consider myself extremely blessed to have had a dad as influential and positive in my life. So I don’t wish to conjure up any negative emotions related to this topic, and I apologize if this is the case for you. However, this post is not about having a relationship with your earthly father. It is simply about my recognition that there is a higher power or a God in control of life’s darkest situations, and for me, this became even more present to me during my recent time away. I should also note that I understand some of you may not share the same belief, and that is ok, these are my thoughts, my words, my views. They are meant to hopefully share some light into your dark situations or give you some hope for a brighter tomorrow… that we all struggle, even those of us that do believe.

I love the water. It brings back so many comforting memories of years spent with my dad. Sitting on the dock, in a Muskoka chair lightly kissed by the dew of the morning, coffee in hand and a good book in the other (‘You Rise Glorious‘ by Mike Foster) was, in fact, glorious. My dad spoke up and asked “what is it about being on the water that is good for the soul?” It took me a minute, but I closed my eyes, took a few deep breaths of the crisp, refreshing morning air, as a soft breeze caressed my two-day unshaven baby face scruff, then opening my chilled eyes, I gazed upon the clearest, calmest reflection of evergreens, mixed with coloured maples and pines, with the bluest of skies and white clouds. When my eyes adjusted to the scenery and the beauty before me…my answer was simple… “calm”

When the water is calm the reflection is clean and clear. I can see the beauty of God’s creation… twice. All the colours, all the details, all the beauty that is nature; His nature. Yet as we sat in silence for a little while, sipping a gorgeous cup of black, beautiful, french-pressed nectar of the god’s, the wind began to change and slowly pick up some speed, and storm clouds began to stir in the sky, rain was in the forecast and was moving in fast, the water began to change from a calm and clear reflection, to a rough, distorted view of the image that was being cast into the water. The trees and sky didn’t change, only the reflection in the now disturbed water . Okay, so being the son of a preacher man, sitting next to the preacher man himself, I couldn’t help let my words sway toward the spiritual. That we as the water, our lives are true reflections of God’s image and grace. When life seems to be still, we tend to feel Him closer, that comfort and peace of a loving God who created the beauty of nature itself.  Or for some, that peace that they feel from whatever source that brings them comfort and joy.  But when the waves and winds start, the water becomes rough, we begin to doubt, the image we once saw as clear and vivid, becomes a distorted picture, hard to fully see its beauty. It’s now messy, dark, disturbed and unclear. Much like the difficult situations that will inevitably plague our existence. Whatever it might be, these times will distort our views of God and his grace, making it hard to comprehend or make us turn and walk away from the reflection.  Anger, doubt, frustration and blame become the language of our misery.

However, even though the water was rough, the reflection distorted, the wind cold, violent and unpredictable, there was still an image in the water. God doesn’t simply disappear, no matter the turmoil we are in, He is still there, we just might find it hard to see.  It may not look like what we desire or what we have imagined or come to expect, but it is still there.

So what is my point in all of this imagery? There is still hope in our struggles, whether you have faith in a higher power or not, there is hope that eventually the waters will be calm again, and whatever makes you feel at peace, fills you with hope, love and courage to continue another day, will become visible in all its grand detail again.  Storms don’t last forever, there will eventually be peace in the water.

I hope you can find your calm again friends. I know how difficult it can be, as my water is rough right now and most days I find it near impossible to feel hope or to feel like there is a God that cares for me.  I’ve been starring at a blurred and distorted image of what I had come to believe would always be calm and serene.  Beyond frustrated, full of guilt, shame and doubt, but I do know one day the waters will calm, because the winds will settle and His reflection will be there to greet a new day.


You are not alone in your struggles, there is hope, there are those who will listen, those who care.  If you do feel alone, please know you can text 7058682616 anytime.

Be Well

 

Fear of the (un)known

Its no surprise to you by now that I am a little bit of a coffee addict.  I tend to relate my life story to the process of making the most glorious nectar of the gods from bean to cup and how there is a strange parallel that can be drawn from this highly complicated and creatively ingenious process.  My second office is the local Starbucks that is across the road from my clinic, which is currently where I am composing this post.

However, this isn’t really about coffee… more about conversations I’ve had over said beverage and just how important they are.  Over the past few years I’ve learned a LOT….that might actually be an understatement.  I’ve always had a small interest in the field of psychology, in particular sports psych, simply because of the clientele I see on a daily basis.  It wasn’t until my recent life implosions that truly birthed this new desire to explore more into the way we are wired as humans; why we think the way we do, why we are so different in our personalities, how we interact with others etc…

To be honest, it wasn’t until I was completely vulnerable with a good friend that I really became aware of this new train of thought.

I love watching my kids swim.  The way jumping into a pool or lake can immediately put a perma-smile on their faces.  The laughter, the fun, the opportunity to simply enjoy quality time with them or just observe the beauty of their young innocence is overwhelming!  Personally, I’m not a huge fan of swimming, but that’s my own lack of self confidence that even at thirty-six years old, the slight embarrassment of my rocking ‘Dad-Bod’ seems to still cause a hesitation to go shirtless in public…don’t judge, I’m a work in progress!

In conversation with a client, who is a swimming instructor, we were discussing the difference between teaching kids versus teaching adults how to swim.  In her experience,  instructing her adult clients was much more of a challenge then teaching kids.  The difference comes down to fear.

Fear of the consequences

Fear of the lack of confidence

Fear of the known

I’ve witnessed this with my own kids.  Having five of them, I am acutely aware of the liberties a child with no fear can have around water, when fun is the only thought that their innocent and still developing brain comprehends at the moment.  Only until they begin to experience the consequences of an inability to float or remain head above water  does the fear begin to cause hesitation.

It’s the fear of the known or the possibility that something bad can happen that causes a crippling anxiety and paralysis.

So back to coffee and conversation…

I’ve learned there are three possible reactions to the art of being vulnerable an sharing our story with others.

  1. Our struggles, hurts, anxieties, worries etc, will be too much and push others away
  2. Our vulnerability will strengthen and deepen a relationship
  3. You will learn more about yourself then you might want to!

Unfortunately I’ve been on the receiving end (a few times) of relationships gone sour thanks to being vulnerable and open with those I thought might understand or be able to help.  There are individuals in our lives that only see skin deep, who can’t get to the heart of our experiences and won’t have the ability to or the desire to jump in the deep end with us for fear that we will pull them under.  This could be because they are not good swimmers themselves and have a fear of drowning or have had their own past experience of jumping in to help save someone and being dragged to the bottom.  Although sometimes not their fault directly, in most cases (in my cases), people were only willing to step in the shallow end and try to encourage from a distance, or felt I was a lost cause or too far gone already.  Based on my experiences in the past few years, this doesn’t help… when in full panic, drowning, hopeless, hurt and unable to catch a breath.

For those reading, who may not be suffering, could I encourage you to not be afraid to get wet?!?  It might be uncomfortable and seem dangerous, however, I can tell you with absolute truth, that those you are supporting (whether it feels that way or not), do appreciate your willingness to jump in.  And if they don’t, that is their own choice and is not on you to bear that responsibility.

For those reading, who may be suffering, could I encourage you to not allow those experiences of lose and despair to discourage you from continuing to call for help?!? Will you be so bold to attempt another conversation? To continue to seek out those who can help, who although may not understand, will be empathetic and lend an ear and the friendship you so desperately need!  There is the very real possibility of finding deep meaningful friendships and relationships with others when we are vulnerable and transparent.  We are truly able to determine true friendship when they are willing to jump in the deep with us and be exactly what is necessary in our time of need.

I will be honest, I have found that the act of vulnerability has become easier with time.  In fact, I just met with a friend tonight over coffee to just be real and open.  And the more I talk to friends about my struggles, the more I write them down, the more people reach back.  We all need each other, we all experience times where life becomes overwhelming and we feel like its impossible to keep our head above the water.

So be open, be real, be vulnerable.  Trust that there are others out there that will come along when you need them.  Reach out, don’t lose hope and trust the journey.  If you feel you have no one, if you’ve lost all hope….please remember you can text 7058682616 – even if we don’t know each other, I’ll be happy to lend an ear.  Coffee and conversation are two of my favorite things.  I may not have all the answers, I may not be a psychologist or life coach, but I can be a friend.  We all struggle, don’t do it alone!

Until next time…be well

Going for a spin

Driving by the Peterborough Exhibition after work today conjured up memories of a time I would prefer to let go from my vast collection of childhood stories.  The contraption of certain horror that caught my attention was the spiraling death trap with lights that starts horizontal than proceeds to propel itself in a vertical fashion whilst spinning at mock 900.

I was once a young innocent boy who traveled to an amusement park with his family for fun, music and terrible carney food.  Six Flags Darien Lake, had one of those terrifying rides that I was taunted for not wishing to ride.  I believe it was aptly named “UFO”, which if it had become unhinged, would certainly mimic said description!  I eventually succumbed to the pressures of my youth and made my way to the line….which in hindsight was terribly short, and should have instantly thrown the proverbial red flag, however, I did not make that connection.  As I chose my standing post (yes it was a standup ride), I secured my shoulder harness, adjusted my seat, began to recite the Lord’s prayer and observed my surroundings.  Standing in the cage directly across from me, stood a rather hefty women, whom I can only assume was a lovely lady with a beautiful personality, yet after our experience on the UFO, our paths did not cross again, for eye contact may have been difficult and rather awkwardly embarrassing.

With a hellish noise like a pack of a thousand ravenous hyenas on the scent of a limp gazelle on the plains of the Serengeti, the nightmare of a ride began to spin.  Slow at first, to accommodate it’s occupants and tease the weakest of riders, the speed, volume and my seat began to elevate….yes, my seat began to elevate, the locking mechanism was somehow faulty, causing the seat to steadily rise and encroach on my most sensitive of man parts, eventually causing such pressure that my heels involuntarily began to lift.  As you can imagine, this was only complicated by the eventual progression to a vertical state, to which each rotation summons the immovable, hard plastic seat ever so tightly against my loins.  If this experience was not bad enough, remember the lovely lady across from me?!?  As the rotation of the UFO crept towards an unimaginable and unthinkable pace, I caught the eye of the above mentioned women…the eye is singular as her other was sealed shut by the contents of the stomach of the individual beside her.  Her calm, sensible and feminine demeanor changed to a grotesque, nauseous Ursula the Sea Witch from Little Mermaid.  At this point it seemed that although our velocity was that of the Apollo shuttles, time suddenly came to a halt, and all my fears were realized in one moment.  Pain, suffering, fear, doubt…questioning all my current life choices in that moment.

However, as quick as it started, the UFO began to slow… The cycle of certain tragedy and sadness had begun its decent back to a horizontal state, with speeds steadily decreasing, nauseous green faces returning to a lighter shade of normal, and the volume decreasing to a soft hum of breaks gripping tighter to halt the spinning beast of the apocalypse.     At this point my lower torso and legs were completely numb, I can only imagine similar to the effects of a spinal epidural.  As I gingerly and awkwardly made my way toward the exit like a newborn giraffe taking its first steps, I realized this experience will forever be etched in the deep parts of my psyche and will cause anxiety whenever I encounter a ride of such demonic manifestation.  The physical, emotional and mental discomfort of that ride clearly has lasting effects to this day!

So what is my point with this story?  other than the entertaining value of my unfortunate circumstances I have found myself in?  Well as you are now well aware at this point (if you have been reading my previous blogs), I tend to be able to pull analogies out of ridiculous scenarios.  It may be the product of being the son of a preacher man (thanks Dad)…I think I might start a side business selling sermon ideas to preachers who are stuck for their Sunday sermon (idea patent pending)?!?

Life seems to flow in cycles.  I have found myself stuck in some vicious circles of poor choices, of negative thought patterns, and unhealthy habits of poor nutrition, terrible sleep patterns and poor self talk.  But what is worse, is being stuck in situations, relationships or big life cycles that cause perpetual pain and suffering.  Save You, a song by one of my favorite artists (yes I have a few), Matthew Perryman Jones, has the line

“Something’s gotta Break, you gotta swing the bat  Too many years of dying, Why is that?” – Save You – video https://youtu.be/PnGNWFV6Rak

The song is called “Save You”, about broken relationships and what should be done to save someone from hurt and pain.  It hits pretty hard, as with most relationships (friends, family, business, etc), sometimes difficult choices have to be made to break cycles of destruction.  How long do we stay in destructive, painful, exhausting, negative relationships before something has to give?!?   There does come a time that these negative cycles need to be broken.  We may try for years to mend a relationship, to keep a job because we feel its needed, to hold on tight to someone who just wants to hurt us.  There may be times that we have caused someone pain by our choices, whether intentional or not, and sometimes reasoning, debating and trying to explain may simply fall on deaf ears.  So as much as it hurts, we might have to swing a bat and destroy something that has meant so much to us with the intent of putting an eventual end to the immediate pain.

Obviously this will not bring ultimate relief, as there is terrible sadness, grief, and loss for a long time.   We always bear the emotional and mental scars of past hurts and past negative cycles, but I truly believe there is hope to move past the hurt; learning, growing and eventually becoming better versions of what we are.  So maybe to save someone, or to save yourself, the cycle has to be broken for the future to be better, brighter, slower, and to eventually get off the ride that has been so painful for what seems so long.

 

 

Finding Joy in the Mediocre

I’m not sure if I’m the only one on the Lacrosse bench that takes some of the coaches words as deep life lessons that make for great blog posts?!?  In the midst of a few expletives (that shouldn’t be repeated), were scattered the words “focus on what is in front of you”.  In the context of the game, it was referring to the quick ball movement the opposing team was using to distract our defense from the pics and slides that were taking place inside.  Now I’m not a lacrosse player, I have actually never played the game, but I have been the Head Athletic Trainer for the Peterborough Lakers for the past seven seasons.  I have been a part of  two Mann Cup Canadian Championships and have the rings to prove it!  So even though my eight year old son can cradle me under the table, I’ve picked up a couple of things along the way!

Focusing on what is in front of you allows you to see the plays develop, gives confidence to your teammates around you that you will pick up your assignment and can also provide clear direction when communicating with your defensive team.  When players buy into that mentality, they are unstoppable.  It is quite amazing to watch from the bench when things come together and a team begins to listen to the wise words of the coach.  Sure there will be the occasional time when a player looses focus and the defense falls apart, goals are scored, players are ticked…but with a simple regroup and reminder, one can refocus for the next shift.

I have this cycle that I go through that is incredibly hard to break.  Lately I have struggled finding any joy in my world. When I think I’ve found it, something happens and I loose it, blame myself and cycle into my depression and panic.  I have a massive amount of guilt that I feel about this lack of joy as I have five beautiful kids, a great job and amazing coworkers and great friends.

I just can’t seem to focus long enough on those things that should bring me joy and am distracted by the negative, destructive and hurtful things that happen or that I feel daily.  Or I get myself entangled in my past mistakes, become discouraged and feel like I should be kicked out of the game because I’m just not good enough to compete with what this life is throwing my way.  The guilt I feel is the hardest emotion to deal with.

My kids mean the world to me, when I am with them I feel so much contentment, then I begin my negative cycle because I realize that I have let myself loose focus and distracted away from them, and this is a crushing feeling that I’ve let my kids down somehow and am not a good dad, so on, and so on…  I do this with my job, friends, relationships…. and much like the defense on the team, need to take time to settle, regroup, refocus and try again.   Just like at the end of a game, I know how exhausting it can be…blood, sweat and many tears later, either we’ve won the game or we’ve lost it.  If you win, celebrate and try and do it again the next day….but if you loose (and this is where I find myself now), we still have a chance the next time to do it again.  To regroup, refocus, maybe watch some game tape, learn from the mistakes the game before, talk to a coach and focus on what is in front of you.

So why the title of this blog…

I think we sometimes get lost in the excitement of the destruction.  If you’ve ever watched the collapse of a team when the opposition begins to exploit the weaknesses and goes on a goal scoring run that deflates even a powerhouse team…you’ll know what I’m talking about.  But that doesn’t mean positives can’t be drawn from the horrendous defeats.  Joy can be found in the mediocre, in our daily seemingly mundane or difficult situations.  The difficult part is being able to focus on what could bring us joy in the midst of these struggles.   A good coach will always be able to point out where things went right, even in the midst of a blowout lose.  They won’t focus all the attention on the mistakes of the previous game, but will take the opportunity to educate on what went wrong, what can be learned, and move forward focusing on what went right, fixing the small or large details.  And when things start to turn around, that’s where we can focus on the joy of the win, even the small mediocre victories of each day.  Maybe its as simple as a good night sleep, waking up in the morning, the cup of coffee crafted and beginning the day.  Remind yourself of the little things that can bring joy in the midst of collapse, it doesn’t make a lose easier but it might not hurt as much….its a long season, there is a lot of game left, so take some time to regroup, remind yourself of what should bring you joy, focus and get back to the game…Your next shift is about to begin!


I’ll be the first one to admit this is easier said then done….I spend a lot of time at Starbucks…..not only because I am highly addicted to coffee, but it is my place to come, write, refocus, regroup and try to find the joy again.  I am here today because I feel like I lost it this week…. and I know I’m not alone!

if you need someone, don’t forget to text 7058682616….I’m no life coach, but maybe an ear or an outside view can help!

Also, I’m almost ready to release a snippet of the book I’m working on…hopefully soon!  keep an eye out for “The 30,000ft View” or ” What is Next”….still working on titles!