28 November, 2015

All Things in Moderation, Except Moderation

Diets don't work.

Eating healthy, tasteless foods in minuscule quantities while sweating, panting and pulling muscles WILL make you lose weight, of course. But many of us decide fairly quickly that the cure is worse than the disease. Whether it's because we actually enjoy eating food that tastes like, you know, food...or because we dislike pain and shortness of breath (or both)...we choose to remain corpulent. "I have the body of a God...the Buddha." "I'm in shape...round is a shape." "A waist is a terrible thing to mind." And so on and so forth.
The only way a diet will work is if you make it a permanent lifestyle change...stop calling it a diet and start referring to it, if you have to at all, as "the way I eat."
I've never managed to do this, simply because I've never managed to convince my brain that "food" is actually medicine. Contrary to every commercial for food you ever saw, nourishment is not supposed to taste good. You know how Buckley's Mixture "tastes awful...and it works"? The same can be said for tofu, flax, and whatever else you masochists are pushing as health food these days.

Also, like medicine, you're only supposed to eat a teaspoon of food at a time.

Okay, I know I'm exaggerating. A little. But seriously, folks, tasty food is a function of four things:


Do you ever find yourself craving some nice, unseasoned iceberg lettuce? I rest my case.

You can deprive yourself of all the good things in life for a while, but you'll get to missing them, and sooner or later you'll invite them back. Unless you're really committed. Some of you people should be committed, is my view, but I keep that view quiet and only write it here where nobody will see it.)

So, yeah, diets, fitness regimes, whole new ways of living...none of that really gets along with me. I'm a creature of habit and routine. I find it comforting.


Lately, though, a significant part of my everyday routine has turned toxic. I hadn't really noticed how toxic until the real world stress ramped up considerably. When the important stuff comes calling, it has a way of throwing all the crap you thought was important into sharp relief, and the picture it reveals isn't pretty.

(I don't mean to be cryptic, truly I don't. Some of the stress you can guess at, some you probably can't. Most of it should be resolved relatively soon, at which point I will spill what can be spilled, okay?)

Behold, the Social Media Diet. Which isn't actually a diet, but a whole new (to me) way of acting and interacting on  social media.

I've been on Facebook since 2008 and on Reddit almost as long. Both places are giant buffets with nearly unlimited options. Any particular click can send you down the rabbit hole, where you may learn wondrous and sundry things...or dark and dirty things. More of the latter, latterly, it seems to me.

I've never been one to slow down and look at the accident in real life...yet another of the many effects of my overactive empathy gland. Gaze too long at carnage and it produces a kind of malignant psychic echo in me.
But somehow I found myself doing that more and more in my virtual life. I'd venture into forums where the prevailing point of view was different from my own, and try to engage. I'd tell myself it was to better understand opposing viewpoints. Maybe that was even true, a little.  I'd tell myself it was to help center both myself and these nameless strangers. That, too, was marginally true.

The thing is, though, more and more people are absolutely wedded, or perhaps I should say WELDED, to their ideas on an increasing number of topics. You can't dislodge them with facts. You can't influence them with rhetoric. You can't even budge them with bullshit, because they are quite simply not interested in changing their minds. Mention a different point of view, no matter how gently, and they'll treat it as a personal attack.

I can, of course, be guilty of this myself, although I try not to be. There are certain triggers that cause me to dig in my heels...and lately those triggers are everywhere.

It's amazing how many topics nowadays  turn out to be all about Syrian refugees. You may think you're in a thread about music, or something to do with health care or education, and sure as hell somebody's going to bring up the regiments of ISIS soldiers masquerading as refugees. and there goes the neighbourhood (and the country, and the discussion, and my sanity.)

But Syrian refugees aren't the only hot button. Our Prime Minister is another: the same online forums where the ISIS hordes are on the march are the places where Justin Trudeau will singlehandedly be responsible for the apocalypse. (To be fair, there were times I felt that way about the last Prime Minister, and all of us except him are still here.) I get that you may disagree with political policies. I do it all the time. But the personal attacks, the name-calling, the ranting and raving...is it really necessary? Apparently it is: that's how the game is played, now.

Well, I'm not playing any more.

I've reconfigured my subreddits to avoid  unfiltered political crap,  and I'm unfollowed most of the media I had subscribed to on Facebook. I've also cut down, and will continue to cut down, on my own Facebook posts. Really, at this point, my Facebook friends know what I'm about. I don't have to repost every meme I see and agree with  to drive home the point.

It's meant losing a few friends. Two of them abruptly cut contact with me earlier this year: I obviously offended them so grievously that they choose not to speak to me again rather than bother to tell me what I did. Six or twelve months ago this would have really bothered me. Now I find I don't care. I am who I am. I certain don't mean to hurt anyone, ever, but I guess sometimes it's unavoidable. So be it.
I've been offended myself, just that grievously, by some others. I checked first to see if they really were welded to their hate; they were; click click "unfriend". 

I don't need hate in my life. Simple like that.

So many people seem to be capable of going days, weeks or months without posting to Facebook. I don't know if I'm one of them. But I can moderate my activity, in frequency and importance. I already have. And I've noticed a difference in my mental well-being just cutting back the little I have already.

22 November, 2015

My final word on refugees (I hope)

The Breadbin has gone cold these last two weeks out of respect for my mother, and also because grieving is hard work that doesn't leave much room for extraneous feelings. What feelings do break through are strong enough to overpower rational thought, and pervasive enough that sometimes it's hard to tell what's grief and what really is a reaction to the situation at hand. Pile on the kind of unthinking, unfeeling hatred that has infected our media, especially the social variety of late...and it's just too much.

It has led me to unfollow almost all the media I'd subscribed to on Facebook, and it's also led to a few unfriendings of family members, on the grounds that I don't need that kind of poison in my world, just now especially.

It's been shifting into (what I fervently hope is) high gear for about a month now, and at the risk of invoking Godwin...it reminds me of nothing so much as the period leading up to Kristillnacht. The sentiment is there in spades: all it would take is a demagogue Trumping up the hatred that already exists. Go here and note the hate crimes that have already occurred. It doesn't take much to fan flames. A saving grace is that there are many people, less vocal than the haters but more numerous, who refuse to be manipulated by the turbulent tides of frothy bile sloshing around.

What really astounds me is that people go out of their way to make things up. Of course they all spread like wildfire--I've been duped myself into unwittingly spreading false information more than once--most recently that Steve Jobs was the son of an Syrian refugee. (He was the son of a Syrian immigrant who fled BEIRUT... but that's not quite the same thing, is it?)

All of the Paris terrorists were either French or Belgian. You don't hear people clamouring to ban immigration from France or Belgium, do you?

While we can quibble over semantics, the fact remains that very few refugees intend to harm us, and those that do are almost invariably found out in the vetting process.

Which brings us to Canada's pledge to resettle 25,000 Syrian refugees by the end of the year.

This is only fourteen percent more than Harper, to his credit, intended to accommodate. What's different is the timeline. Harper intended a two year process; Trudeau promised two and a half months. It sounds drastic, chaotic, certain to fail.

It isn't.

The vast majority of the refugees Canada is proposing to take in are currently living in camps in Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey. These are not the people tramping across Europe, the ones dismissed as "economic migrants" (as if there's something wrong with that).  They have been pre-screened by the UN. They will be screened again by Canada prior to resettlement. In the coming days, you will hear Trudeau try to allay fears that these people are all ISIS shadow agents coming to behead us.

He won't succeed, any more than this blog will succeed at allaying fear. Fear is an emotion; it resists sober analysis. John Michael Greer, linked in my sidebar, has an exceptional article on how this works (in a completely different context). Put facts in front of fear, and they will be mocked, denigrated, and if all else fails, utterly ignored.

Given that these fears exist and are fuelling an ugly anti-Muslim backlash (and not just anti-Muslim: a Hindu temple was vandalized in my city recently...come on, bigoted troglodytes, at least get the religion you hate right)...it would be politically prudent for Trudeau to slow down.

I doubt he will: he's caught up in first-year political zeal and feels he can't break a single election promise; he also probably figures, and probably correctly, that an unpopular measure like this will be all but forgotten by the time re-election rolls around.

Hopefully the hate will be all but forgotten too.

07 November, 2015

Dear Mom,

Dear Mom,

Just checking in. I figure you must be getting used to your new digs by now. I bet it feels wonderful to be so free, after so long trapped in a body that was trapped in a chair that was trapped in a  house that was trapped in a world with limits in it. So many layers discarded, like peeling an onion. Maybe that's why I'm crying right now. Yes, that's it, onions. 

I miss you. I have missed you for a long time; I REALLY miss you now. I hope you’re not offended when I say I hope it’s a long time yet (by my measure of time) before I do get to see you again. I feel like I have a lot of unfinished business over here just yet. You were the first one to teach me about reminding People Who They Are and Mom, I gotta tell you, there are so many People over here Who have forgotten. 

As you’ve probably discovered by now, time, just like space, is a relative thing, and since you’re no longer in the realm of the relative, it doesn’t have any meaning for you any more. What a relief that must be. So of course I’m with you now, because you never left, and neither did I, and “now” is all there is. But please forgive me when I get stuck in the illusion of time and space. It’s kind of pervasive. When I get to thinking you're nowhere, please remind me to split that word up properly: now/here.

I'm going to be writing you letters for a while. Some of them, like this one, are going to go into the blog for other people to see, while others will be just between you and I. I think you know me, especially now, well enough to know my intentions are pure and I will not disturb the trust of your privacy. 

That said, Mom, I think you should know that a lot of us over here are pressuring for some sort of service to memorialize you. I know this isn't something you wanted--you were never one to take to the spotlight--but we kind of need it. There are so many walls in our family, Mom. They were built with many motives, and they have served their purposes, but some of them need to be scaled. Or torn down. Even if for just a day. The walls are what's making this grieving process very hard for me. I have been steeling myself against your passing for years now, and I've largely come to terms with it, but the walls and moats and such--I never even spared them a thought, and now I find they're everywhere.

I hope you understand, and that you set your celestial alarm for the day it happens. You'll see how much you are loved. But you know that, right? So many energies mingling with yours, both those who have gone "before" you and those who will come "after", all of which you have touched. You know all this, but we still want to experience it ourselves. Love is like that, isn't it?

I don't want to dwell on your last moments here. I've chosen to concentrate on the knowledge that we are all at cause, on some level, for everything that happens in our lives, and that includes our deaths. Where you are now is much more important. I'll be one of the people gently transmitting that message to those who still fear death. I want you to know we understand.

I never got a chance to thank you properly for your role in shaping me. I tried, but as much as you taught me about words, some things are beyond the power of words. You taught me that. You taught me to revel in words--we wrote some damn fine resumes and cover letters together, didn't we?--but you also taught me love is sometimes where the words end. So...



Your son,


04 November, 2015


I’m just glad I got a chance to talk to her before she died.

 The obituary will probably read “after a long illness”. There’s so much left unsaid in those four words, so much pain only hinted at. And you’d never know, reading such an obituary, that my mother actually died in a fire.

I don’t know how to feel. The overwhelming emotion is a species of relief: Mom had been battling an array of diseases for years, and I know for a fact she wanted to go. I know this because Eva and I have had at least four conversations with her in which she begged for permission to die. The first time was nearly three years ago. I wrote her a short letter, using a first-grader’s vocabulary, telling her everything was okay and I loved her, signing it ‘Kenny’.

I hope she kept that letter.

I feel so much guilt, too. Not for feeling relief: as far as I’m concerned, death was a great relief to Mom and so it should be to me as well. I feel guilty because I wasn’t as close to her as a son should be. That the distance was largely imposed and maintained by her seems like a poor excuse. I feel guilty for knowing this day was coming, preparing for it for years, only to be bushwhacked when it arrived.

My mother was a fighter. All her life she fought demons within and without. She left a highly toxic home environment at sixteen and made a life for herself, by herself, in the big city three hundred miles to the south. Her first husband died in a car accident; she lost her firstborn son, my twin brother, after two days (and nearly lost me). Her second marriage, to my father, was a fair approximation of hell for both of them; it dissolved in 1977, when I was five years old. For three years it was Mommy and I against the world. She met my stepdad, John McCallum, in 1980 and intensely disliked him on sight. It was one of the few times in her life that her first impression was a hundred percent dead wrong. And I’m forever grateful she overcame it: all John did was marry her, rescue and raise me, and remain devoted to her for 34 years. He was her primary caregiver as her illnesses progressed: in that he has borne, and continues to bear, a great burden, the same way he does everything: privately, with quiet grace and strength.

We had a falling out, my mother and I, not long after I met Eva. It was a silly thing that snowballed into anything but silly: both of us felt very much disrespected by the other, and some very hurtful things were said on both sides. She did not attend our wedding, which had its intended effect of wounding us deeply.  For roughly five years, there was no real contact between us.

John called me at one point and told me Mom’s health was starting to slip, and I realized neither of us was getting any younger: it was time to put away my bitterness. She had her reasons for acting as she did: to her they were damned good reasons, whatever I may have felt myself.

Our relationship reset, but it was not the same. Entire wings of her life’s mansion remained politely but firmly closed to me, the largest being her health. This was only to be expected: my mother was an intensely private woman, used to guarding her heart against betrayals, and while being weak didn't faze her, appearing weak certainly did.  And as her diseases — COPD and a form of dementia among them — progressed, taking away her independence and eventually most of her sanity, she was adamant that she didn’t want ANYONE seeing her. Almost totally housebound, shrunken and shrivelled to a seemingly impossible 67 pounds, and often incoherent, I could certainly understand her direction. But I resented it all the same: I wouldn’t be going to see her so I could look at her, if you understand my meaning. My resentment was at least partially founded in my own feelings of guilt for not being a proper son, not to mention my bewilderment in no longer knowing how to be.

She had her good days and bad days that ever so gradually became good hours and bad weeks. I’d never know which Mom I was calling: if I caught her in a lucid period, she sounded footloose and fancy free, as if she was about to get up and go gallivanting. Those were rewarding, if increasingly rare conversations. Through them I learned that she, raised deeply Catholic and terrified of hell, had cast off the shackles of her religion and embraced a spirituality that, strangely enough, wasn’t all that different from my own.

Then  there were the bad calls, when each sentence she uttered was an adventure, seemingly devoid of context, impossible to parse or respond to. What a horrid feeling: so many words  said, all of them doubtless meaningful as they’re spoken, all sense of meaning utterly stripped between mouth and ear. How do you talk to someone for whom each utterance takes place in a different era, years apart?

No matter how confused she got, she always remembered my wife’s name. Considering the tumult that accompanied the first year of that relationship, and the five years of radio silence afterwards, that meant the world to me.

I did get to see Mom in the hospital a few months ago — a place she had sworn up and down she’d never go to again. She sounded, when I saw her, quite remarkably well: God alone knows what effort that took, or how much it took out of her. What struck me more than anything else was the sheer vitality in her eyes….her body may have been most of the way to dead, but her eyes fairly burned with life. I’d long since given up any pretence of prognosis for her, but my sense then was that she had a good long while left yet.

And indeed, she got out soon after, returned home, and seemed better. Not well, but better. For a while.

On November 3, just before 11:00 a.m., I called her. She picked up on the fourth ring, and we talked for about five minutes. It was definitely a bad call: her confusion was a palpable thing. She asked me three times if I kept my cats at home, apropos of nothing at all; seemed convinced I was going to see my dad the next day; was inordinately happy that I was working night shifts. One of the few things she said that made sense was that she was “pissed off” that she couldn’t breathe. And this time she must have said she loved us both six or seven times. It felt final. I hung up thinking how final it felt, and then immediately chastising myself for having thought that so many times before.

About two hours later, the fire department attended her property and discovered her dead body. A volunteer firefighter was first on scene and was overcome by smoke trying to rescue her; he was treated and released.

The fire seems to have started in her chair, but she was not burned. As far as we know, she died of smoke inhalation. With her lungs in the state they were, it would have taken her quickly. The fire itself is still under investigation, so I couldn't say more now if I wanted to. What I can tell you is that she is free from pain, free from indignity, free from suffering.

Everyone tells me I’m a lot like my mom. It horrified me when I was a teenager. I hotly denied it every time. She was so damn stubborn, I would stubbornly insist. Moody, too, I brooded. Endlessly loving, curious about people, passionate but reserved. Complicated mind, largely self-taught; simple heart, ENTIRELY self-taught. Many insecurities that sometimes manifested irrationally; many securities that made you look past them. A love of music, a love of words, a deep, deep desire for and appreciation of truth and sincerity. Cared so much for those who couldn’t or wouldn’t care for themselves. No, we aren’t alike AT ALL.

In her time she was an RPN, a patient advocate at a psychiatric hospital, an auxiliary police woman, an ambulance dispatcher. A devoted wife. A loving mother.

So many regrets. I regret I have no children to pass the mother in me on to. I regret that I ever said bad things about her, and to her. I regret so much the stolen years, both those long gone and those that will never come. She was 67 years old: an age when people are just settling down into no longer punching a clock and wanting to punch a boss. Too early. Far too early.

So many memories. Being a ‘momma’s boy’ for so many years, and proud to be THAT momma’s boy. Cookies and cupcakes baked for every school occasion. The satisfaction of knowing home was an oasis of peace and love, a priceless gift to a child for whom it wasn’t always. Teaching me how to write cursive…endless pages of capital K’s for me to butcher. Songs sung, stories read, laughter and love shared. A life.

My mother was a good woman, a strong woman, a true woman, and I love her.

I love you, Mom.

ARLENE JEANETTE McCALLUM June 10, 1948-November 3, 2015

27 October, 2015

Musical Interlude: Into The Trench Again

I have a new favourite album.

I'm writing this blog on my second listen-through to an album called Astoria. If this blog suddenly dissolves into bebop, you'll have to forgive me: this music is  tremendous,  and tremendously distracting.

Seven years ago I wrote a gushy blog about a Canadian group I had just discovered called Marianas Trench. I wrote then,

This Vancouver group is, at heart, a pop-punk band, like so many ho-hum pop-punk bands infesting the scene today. Unlike pretty much all of them, Marianas Trench has musical ability out the wazoo. Couple that with an utterly fearless eclecticism (this album has everything from doo-wop to an almost Broadway sensibility in places), sprinkle with infectious hooks, and stir in a three-octave-plus range from lead singer Josh Ramsay...and you have an album with staying power.

I'm glad to report the group has staying power. They released an album called Ever After in 2011 that was just as good as the Masterpiece Theatre. This Astoria outdoes both of them. Handily.

American readers, you probably haven't heard of Josh Ramsay, though you've almost certainly heard the song he wrote for Carly Rae Jepsen,  "Call Me, Maybe". His own output is considerably more eclectic: in the course of any one song, he's apt to veer wildly from Motown to Queen to Fall Out Boy to Maroon 5, and he somehow welds all that and sweeping orchestral soundscapes together into cohesive and catchy power anthems and love ballads. Though he's not averse to going slumming, as he shows in "Pop 101".  Caution: look out for the hooks or you'll be hung up for days. I've been composing since I was four years old: take it from me, this guy's got it.

Astoria is a tribute to the eighties in general and The Goonies in particular (that movie takes place in Astoria, Oregon). That's a whole layer of this I remain ignorant of: I saw The Goonies, but...c'mon, thirty years ago. My wife has that kind of encyclopaedic movie memory; I don't. But I can tell you this album quotes about a dozen eighties hits, from "Money for Nothing" to "Cruel Summer" to the theme from Footloose", and then there's the Marianas Trench tracks. In the space of thirty seconds of "Dearly Departed", Ramsay recites no fewer than eleven titles off his older albums, makes it scan and rhyme, and it fits the sad, sad song he's telling. I'm picturing him sitting beside a dear friend as she lays dying:

Every MASTERPIECE I'd write again
You'll always be my PORCELAIN
Still right BESIDE YOU, in sickness and health
And EVER AFTER you will be my own
...and there's NO PLACE LIKE HOME.

And the lyrics aren't even this group's strong suit. Musically, there's not a weak track on this album, and that especially includes the orchestral interludes interspersed throughout. The final track, "End of an Era",  starts off with a cheeky nod to the symphonic rock suite that closed a previous album, "Masterpiece Theatre Part III", this time with an 80's new-wave vibe, before it pounds off into into a something that flirts with progressive metal..then back down into coruscating chorales of theatrical power pop

There are layers upon layers here. I feel like I could listen to this thing a dozen times and just scratch the surface. Most impressive is their a cappella work: it's absolutely gorgeous.

If you like good music, listen to this album. Here's a link to the full album on YouTube. When I have money--just like the last two MT albums--this one's getting bought.

24 October, 2015

For My "Fraudulent" Friends Who Aren't Frauds At All

Ken - I have a secret fear that people will discover I am a fraud!

...said a friend of mine, who isn't.

I have to say, I was nonplussed. How do you answer something like that? Agree and you're saying your friend is a fraud. Disagree and you are minimizing her feelings.

I'm not allowed to disclose this friend's identity. Suffice it to say that if you know her, you know she's not a fraud: genuine through and through, exceptionally talented, beautiful...I know, it probably seems like I say this about all my friends. What can I say? I have genuine, exceptionally talented and beautiful friends.

Looking into this, I discover something called impostor syndrome. It's especially common among high-achieving women. Neither a mental illness nor a personality trait, it is instead a reaction to certain situations. The list of people who live with impostor syndrome is long and impressive. Kate Winslet. Maya Angelou. Margaret Chan, the chief of the World Health Organization. Tina Fey, Jodie Foster, RenĂ©e Zellweger. Meryl Streep. Michelle Pfeiffer. And countless more women: about two in five successful ones.

Since I have so many successful female friends (roughly, um, all of them, in one way or another), I'd venture to guess I don't have to address this solely to the one friend who confessed her "secret".

The damnedest thing about impostor syndrome is that there is no evidence you can bring forward that the "impostor" won't twist into proof of her fraudulence. Any achievement is a matter of good luck, timing, or someone else's contribution, never something she earned through her own grit, talent and determination. If you point out something incredible she's done, she'll tell you it's nothing, and besides, there's so much more she hasn't done.  It's like a conspiracy: the more you try to rebut a conspiracy, the more the True Believer will tell you that you just don't understand what's really going on.

The psychiatrists say that banishing impostor syndrome is a matter of (a) owning your successes and (b) facing your fears.


Consider the possibility you didn't get shit lucky with that promotion...that you actually earned it. Why consider this? Because to say otherwise heavily implies the person who promoted you is, in fact, an idiot. Give her a little credit: she doesn't promote people just "cuz". Likewise that big sale--most people don't throw their money way on crap. You certainly don't, right?

Owning your successes isn't being cocky. Don't let your mind tell you it is. You're allowed to own your success and be modest at the same time: really, all it takes is not crowing about it. "Thank you, I put a lot of work into that", whatever "that" is, and then walk away, knowing someone has appreciated your effort.


This one's harder, because one of those fears is the impostor syndrome itself: the fear that you're going to be found out.

Put that one aside for the moment and look at what other fears you have. I guarantee you there's at least one big one, and more likely a few of them:


None of these are worthy fears to have. NONE OF THEM. 

Fear of not being good enough. This one probably comes to you direct from childhood, when one parent or another, perhaps both, didn't take the time to celebrate your achievements because they thought you might rest on your laurels. Crappy parenting, that: also once ridiculously common. Nowadays, of course, it's more common to celebrate every last niggling "achievement", even the things that aren't achievements at all. That won't end well, either, trust me. As with so much else in life, the key is that bubbly woman who talks to the dead. The happy medium, I mean.
Strive to discard that mother-voice (it's usually a mother-voice, though it doesn't have to be) in your head that tells you you're not good enough and can never be good enough. How do you discard that voice? Engage it! Ask it "for what?"

I'm not good enough FOR WHAT?
I'll "never be" good enough FOR WHAT?

It'll rant and rave at you: mother-voices don't like backtalk. Since it's a mother-voice and not your actual mother, feel free to give it a suggestion involving sex and travel. Do this unfailingly, every single time the mother-voice tries to sabotage you, and eventually it'll shut up and go away.

Fear of not being as good as somebody else. Being polyamorous, this is one I am intimately familiar with in another context. You know what worked for me, and might for you? ADMITTING IT! AGREEING WITH IT! "Nope, I'm not as good as he is at thus and such." That's undoubtedly true for a whole series of thus-and-suches, BUT NOT FOR ALL OF THEM. Simple logic dictates that: you just can't be worse than your metamour (or your sister, or your colleague at work) at everything. Believe it or not, your metamour/sister/colleague is almost certainly thinking the same thing--she'll never be as good as you are! Both of you...are right!

NOTE WELL that admitting this will only work if you do so to get past it, rather than to fixate on it. To quote A Course In Miracles, "what you resist persists". So accept that you're not as good as she is, and resolve that this does not matter. Why doesn't it matter? Because it's (sorry, I love this)...what's that thing that's not a pachyderm?....that's right, it's irrelephant. STOP COMPARING, it'll get you nowhere.

The goal is NEVER to be better than anyone else: the goal is to be better than you were yesterday. 

Fear of failure: the hardest fear for most of us to conquer. I know I haven't done it. But "you teach what you have to learn", and so...

Everybody fails. Everybody is humiliated; everyone falls flat on his face. Repeatedly. That's called "life". Being the high achiever that you are--trust me, people who set the bar low don't suffer from impostor syndrome--you're probably quite familiar with the feeling of failure. Now listen closely and realize that you know this already: failure is integral to success. You know this because you weren't and aren't content with failure: you're driven to succeed. It's likely that you just haven't framed the relationship between failure and success properly in your mind.

Don't feel bad about this, because very few people have.

FAILURE IS NOT THE OPPOSITE OF SUCCESS the same way "hot" is not the opposite of "cold".

(What, you thought "hot" was the opposite of "cold"?)

It isn't, though.  We seem predisposed to think in binary terms: hot/cold, black/white, success/failure. Reality isn't like that. Reality is a whole bunch of continuums. Cold is a lesser degree of heat (or, for that matter, heat is a lesser degree of cold). There's a whole world of greys between black and white. And even the most utter failure contains, at the very least, an element of success called "effort".

Seen in that light, failure is nothing to be afraid of. It is, in fact, something to welcome: now you know that doesn't work. You didn't know that didn't work before it didn't work, ergo, you learned something. Congratulations, that's a degree of success. There's two ingredients for success you've assembled: effort, and knowledge. Keep going!

And while you keep going, recognize that it's YOU doing the keeping going. In other words, own your success!

Trust me, dear friends: you are not frauds. I wouldn't bother being your friend if you were.

Lots of love,


23 October, 2015

"Oh, he's so dreamy...."

If I was to refer to a female politician using anything remotely like the terms I'm seeing women use to describe our Prime Minister, I'd be drawn and quartered.

And that's too bad.

(Didn't expect that, did you?)

Look....anybody who knows me beyond the most superficial level knows that superficial levels barely register with me. Until I know something of your personality, empathy and level of intelligence, I will treat you exactly the same regardless of your physical appearance. I do appreciate beauty...I tend to see it in (many) places many others don't, is all.

This does not make me better or worse than most people, only different. I'm just as prone to prejudice and irrational instant dislike as other people, I just tend to base mine on different grounds.

Justin Trudeau has been dismissed as a pretty boy with nice hair for years. It rose to a fever pitch this past election campaign...perpetrated by a woman named Jenni Byrne and helped along by a gaggle of men desperate to discredit Trudeau any way they could. It turns out that women aren't the only ones who can be objectified, nor are men the only ones who objectify. Whodathunkit?

Anyone who's ever been to a bachelorette party, for starters. Anyone who's heard how women talk about each other (you think men are vicious?)  Anyone who has met a sexually aggressive woman (they're out there, and they do things that would get a man thrown in jail).

There is nothing wrong with objectifying a person, provided that person consents to being objectified. There is everything wrong with objectifying strangers, be they nursemaids or Prime Ministers.

Problem: how to distinguish a sincere compliment on someone's physical attractiveness from an all-encompassing, dismissive judgment call on their ability or intelligence? It should be clear from context. All too often, it isn't. This has made me very hesitant to compliment women on their beauty, and anything that reduces the amount of genuine appreciation of beauty in the world is a bad thing, as far as I'm concerned.

The angle of Justin's dangle is all wrong for me, so I'll have to take the ladies' word that he's a fine specimen of Prime Minister. (Cue Jeremy Hotz: "it even SOUNDS like a cut of meat!") He's certainly not averse to showing off the six-pack and his insanely hairy arms --

--women, do those arms turn you on? I find them gorilla-like, myself (ewwww!), but then, I'm the guy who can't understand both genders' fascination with asses (really, people? The part the poop comes out of? Could you fixate on something, anything else? No? *sigh*)

Let's assume that Justin Trudeau *is* some kind of gorgeous. How is that relevant to his policies and practices? Don't you dare say he's "just a pretty boy with nice hair" unless you're fine with me saying "she's just a  hottie with a nice bod".  I've said before that the word 'just' really ought to be scrubbed from the language...it would go some distance towards making both the above statements more socially acceptable. What's wrong with being a hottie, or a hunk? Nothing...so long as people recognize there's a lot more to you.