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
I CROSSed MY HEART, but I STUTTER too
So TRUTH OR DARE, so GOOD TO YOU
HAVEN'T HAD ENOUGH of you ALL TO MYSELF
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.

OWNING YOUR SUCCESSES

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.

FACING YOUR FEARS

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:


  • FEAR OF NOT BEING GOOD ENOUGH
  • FEAR OF NOT BEING AS GOOD AS _____
  • FEAR OF FAILURE

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,

Ken









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.




20 October, 2015

Thou Shalt Not Gloat

I didn't expect a majority.

Nor did I particularly want one.

Canadian prime ministers with majority mandates have much more power, domestically, than U.S. presidents. We've seen that over the past electoral term: the only thing keeping Stephen Harper from near-dictator status was our Supreme Court.

He's gone now, and I am very happy for that. He is a petty, vindictive, and above all small-minded man, and my Canada is bigger than he is.

Enter Trudeau fils.

His dad was a brilliantly intelligent man--even his enemies (and Pierre had many) agreed on that. Justin doesn't have his dad's smarts. I've read his biography, and he admits as much. What he does have, in spades, is emotional intelligence. Empathy, in other words. I'll take that, and gladly, because pace the past nine years, it's not called "The Harper Government" or "The Trudeau Government" but rather The Canadian Government. If Justin is truly as emotionally intelligent as he is said to be, he will recognize his weak areas and seek out those who are strong to guide him. If he's really smart, he'll take ideas from all over the political spectrum when he does this.

I wouldn't hold my breath, for two reasons. The first is because he's a Liberal. I can only hope that all traces of entitlement have been washed out of that party, but I think I'm wrong because of the second, which is that damned majority government.

I hate majorities. They say absolute power corrupts absolutely. That's not true--if your power is truly absolute, there's nothing to corrupt you with. It's really the perception of inadequate power that corrupts. And power being like money, the more of it you've got, the less of it you really think you have.
Majorities grant too much power. They negate the need for consensus, which is the defining characteristic of a true leader.

Trudeau absolutely needs to understand -- and take to heart -- that his resounding victory tonight is much more a repudiation of Stephen Harper than it is a wholesale endorsement of his platform or personality. The majority he's been granted can evaporate just as quickly as it coalesced, likely in favour of a Conservative party led by someone who doesn't hate everyone else.

In the meantime, I will be watching for the following promises to be made reality.


  • Legalization of marijuana. I put this first not because I am a pothead, but because Colorado has shown this to be an extremely lucrative and harmless way to raise tax money--money that currently goes to organized crime. Also because pot has numerous benefits for those who do partake. And if pleasure is one of them, why is that my business? Alcohol is legal and tobacco is legal and pot is basically alcohol you smoke. Except nobody high on pot ever beat the shit out of anything other than a bag of chips.
  • Electoral reform. This is a big one. I highly doubt that Trudeau will move on this now, having been given a majority government. If he does, my respect for him will go through the roof and into the stratosphere. A different electoral system would mean that no vote (or at least dramatically fewer votes) would be wasted. We could actually get a government that reflects our vote...a government that would be forced to work together, the way government is supposed to.
  • Action on C-51. Trudeau supported this odious piece of Harper-dung because, he said, Harper would have eaten him alive if he hadn't. As I just wrote in a comment to my last blog, C-51, by virtue of Harper's majority, was going to pass anyway, so opposing it wouldn't have made a difference. Trudeau has said he will amend the ugly parts. There are a lot of ugly parts and he'd better get amending.
  • Open, honest government. The usual promise. Walk the damn walk, Justin. If there isn't an extremely pressing reason for something to be secret, it must not be. Do what you said you do. I respect Mike Harris for that reason, even though I hate what he did to my province. He said what he was going to do, won TWO majorities on it...and did it. 
  • Dedicating money and attention to the common good. This includes scientific research, effort on diversifying the economy beyond oil (preferably towards less environmentally damaging substances), public transit and infrastructure, and a whole host of other things that have gone largely by the wayside of late.
Congratulations Justin Trudeau. Now the hard part begins.



18 October, 2015

Endorsement

I fear many Canadians are embracing hatred as the prime mover in their choice this election. It seems left wing progressives love to promote hate; these progressives can't see their promotion of hatred as a disaster leading us to American style polarization.
--"Mike Kenny" (published online 10/17)

Embracing hatred? More like rejecting it.

The list of people Stephen Harper hates is exhaustive and exhausting. He hates the media, because he's under the mistaken impression that it has a left wing bias (exactly one paper, the Toronto Star, has consistently endorsed someone other than Harper over his tenure). He hates Parliament, because it has a pesky habit of trying to get in his way: that's why he's repeatedly prorogued it, why he was found in contempt of it, and why he's forever trying to bypass it.

Harper hates the Supreme Court of Canada, because it insists on interpreting the laws of the land rather than bowing to the Law of Harper. This despite the fact a majority of its judges were appointed by, you guessed it, Stephen Harper.  He hates environmentalists--he's gone so far as to call them terrorists. He hates Statistics Canada, the CBC, Sikhs, Muslims...really, anyone and everyone who disagrees with him on anything, ever.

Among a host of ugly qualities, the thing that defines our Prime Minister most in my mind is that it costs $78,000 to ask him a question. I find that repugnant. It proves that he lives in a bubble, deliberately isolating himself from dissent and conflicting opinions.

That's not a leader, whatever his job title may say.

Harper first came to power promising transparency and accountability, only to preside over the most secretive government in our nation's history. He touts his economic management: eight straight deficits before a fake, manufactured surplus; a higher unemployment rate now than when he took office; increased inequality; and most recently, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a trade deal negotiated in utter secrecy that will outsource Canadian jobs and cede our sovereignty to corporations. (Thanks, Wikileaks: without you, we'd still have no idea what's in there.) He's now saying the economy is too fragile to entrust it to anyone else. Who made it that way, Steve?

I can't vote for that record. that personality, that "leadership" style. Even if I agreed with everything Harper has done, I'm honour-bound to vote against the way he's done it.

Now, this is of course my opinion, and you are free to say I'm full of shit. I have friends and colleagues who think Harper is the best thing to happen to Canada in ever. Notably, they exist on a privately-schooled, monied plane I can scarcely imagine. For us plebes, I firmly maintain a vote for the Conservatives is a vote against our self-interests.

So who to vote for? Voting against is mandatory (NSFW link)  as far as I am concerned, but it's also dangerous if you don't closely examine the person and party you're voting for. Depending on your political proclivities, voting against landed us with Bob Rae. Or Mike Harris. Or Stephen Harper himself, for that matter.

If Jack Layton were still alive, it'd be no contest. That goes for my vote and also, I suspect, the wider election. But alas, he's not.

For much of this campaign, I was planning on voting NDP anyway. Mulcair initially impressed me: he seemed statesmanlike, principled and passionate on issues I believe in, and more centrist than any Dipper leader in history. Going in, too, I wasn't at all happy with Justin Trudeau, not least because the Liberals never bothered getting back to me about volunteering after I had expressed an interest in doing so back in February; their siding with Harper on that travesty of an "antiterrorism" bill (C-51) did nothing to endear them to me.

But as the campaign progressed, Trudeau started to win me over. He not only held his own in the debates (full disclosure: I read transcripts), he scored points against both his rivals. Call me perverse: his refusal to stick to a balanced budget really struck home for me. There are other deficits besides the financial: a social deficit, an infrastructure deficit, a research and development deficit, and so on--and given historically low interest rates which won't be increasing any time soon, modest budgetary deficits to address some of the other deficits strikes me as a very good idea.

Trudeau is campaigning on open, honest government. I've never known a politician to campaign on secretive, dishonest government...but somehow that's what we always end up with. The Liberals plan to make all government data open by default, digitally accessible to all Canadians. If they carry through with that, they'll go a long way towards ensuring my vote in perpetuity.

The economic plans do seem a little fuzzy, but I'll take fuzzy with its heart in the right place over clear rich-get-richer-poor-get-poorer policies every day and twice on Monday.

And I suppose I'd better address the thing many people are saying about Trudeau, that a vote for him means a vote for shari'a law in Canada.

Calm down. Have some dip.

Muslims currently make up 2% of our population, a figure Harper has gone out of his way to characterize as four percent too many. Trudeau's proposing to take in (screened) Syrian refugees that would raise that Muslim percentage all the way to...three percent. I have no problem with this. If you do, I'm sorry, but the problem is yours.

I could go on. There are other policies of theirs I agree with and a few I don't. My riding is slated to go overwhelmingly Liberal and a vote for any other party, under our first-past-the-post electoral system, is thus an utter and total waste. Trudeau is promising that the 2015 election will be the last one before meaningful electoral reform. I say: bring it on. I never want to see another majority government in this country ever again....especially one a majority of citizens voted against.

I will say this: I will be holding Justin accountable. You'll see it, here in the Breadbin. If and when his government goes stale, you can count on me to say so.

Whether you agree with me or not, and if you haven't already done so, PLEASE get out tomorrow and vote for your leader and party of choice. This election, more than any other in my lifetime, is absolutely critical for Canada's future. Thank you.




14 October, 2015

Happy 15th Anniversary, Eva and Ken

October 14, 2000: Embro, Ontario

"So what's the standard gift for your fifteenth anniversary?" I asked Eva the other morning.
She applied Google-fu, and within seconds replied: "Crystal".
"Oh, that's great!" I said, enthused. "Have you found her yet?"
...and that earned me a slap and a giggle. "Smartass," she said. "The other option is watches."
"Right...I get Crystal, and you watch."

Apparently I like getting slapped.

All kidding aside, fifteen is supposed to be a big one. They stop numbering individually after this and start counting by fives...I guess we're supposed to go to "China" on our 20th. I'd rather do Crystal again somewhere in Europe, but, hey, if it has to be China, so be it.

People have expressed--I don't know what it is. Surprise? Awe?--that we have been married so long. It baffles me, really. First of all, fifteen years is not a long time. My mom and stepdad have been married over twice as long; Eva's parents were married almost three times as long (it'd be more than three times as long by now had her father not passed away...I miss him.) We have friends in our generation with longer-lived marriages: you get the point.

And really, why do we even acknowledge these milestones? It seems strange to me, somehow. I'm just sharing my life with a woman I love. Isn't that...normal? Since when is "normal" worthy of congratulations?

 I had two 'starter' relationships before Eva. One of them even had (engagement) rings involved in it. Neither of them had the immediate depth, strength, and clarity of purpose that I found with Eva. Not even close. I thought I knew what love was long before I met my wife. I didn't.

We bought a bed on our second date, on the grounds that I wasn't going to subject her back or mine to that God-awful futon of hers ever again if I could help it. By the end of our third date we were discussing wedding plans. People say we moved fast. We didn't. We simply knew, and in the knowing, acted accordingly. Where there is Love, Time ceases to be.

"How long you been married?"
"Fifteen years, but it's 23 with the wind chill factor."

Not in this house. Marriage chills are few, far between, and very short-lived over the length of our relationship. (Guys: the key is to (a) realize you're wrong and (b) actually admit you're wrong. Even if (shhhh) you're not, sometimes. Pick your battles: if you've picked the right spouse you won't have many, and when you do put your foot down, she'll know you're serious.)

There was one instance when I felt a powerful urge to slap my wife. One. It was when she offered me a divorce after it became clear we wouldn't be able to have children. Kids *were* a part of our vows (they make no appearance in the standard set)...but kids don't make a marriage.

What does? What IS a marriage, to me, to us?

Not long before I met Eva,  I read the third volume of the Conversations with God trilogy, by Neale Donald Walsch. Practically everything in all three volumes resonated with me immediately--in much the same way Eva herself did, come to think of it. Within that volume, Neale reproduced his full wedding service. Over the years, I have repeatedly come back to this passage, each time with a deeper awareness and appreciation of its vision. This is an excerpt of the service, at the point just before the vows are exchanged.

...

Minister:  Now Nancy and Neale, you have told me it is your firm understanding that you are not entering into this marriage for reasons of security . . . . . . that the only real security is not in owning or possessing, nor in being owned or possessed . . . . . .not in demanding or expecting, and not even in hoping, that what you think you need in life will be supplied by the other . . . . . .but rather, in knowing that everything you need in life . . . all the love, all the wisdom, all the insight, all the power, all the knowledge, all the understanding, all the nurturing, all the compassion, and all the strength . . . resides within you . . . . . . and that you are not marrying the other in hopes of getting these things, but in hopes of giving these gifts, that the other might have them in even greater abundance. Is that your firm understanding tonight?

 (They say, "It is.") 

 And Nancy and Neale, you have told me it is your firm understanding you are not entering into this marriage as a means of in any way limiting, controlling, hindering, or restricting each other from any true expression and honest celebration of that which is the highest and best within you - including your love of God, your love of life, your love of people, your love of creativity, your love of work, or any aspect of your being which genuinely represents you, and brings you joy. Is that still your firm understanding tonight?

 (They say, "It is.") 

 Finally, Nancy and Neale, you have said to me that you do not see marriage as producing obligations but rather as providing opportunities . . . . . . opportunities for growth, for full Self-expression, for lifting your lives to their highest potential, for healing every false thought or small idea you ever had about yourself, and for ultimate reunion with God through the communion of your two souls . . . . . . that this is truly a Holy Communion . . . a journey through life with one you love as an equal partner, sharing equally both the authority and the responsibilities inherent in any partnership, bearing equally what burdens there be, basking equally in the glories. Is that the vision you wish to enter into now?

(They say, "It is.")

--from Conversations With God, Book 3 by Neale Donald Walsch

----

Knowing what you know of me, and knowing what you know of Eva and I, you can perhaps see how we have chosen to interpret and live this vision.

For us, it works.

It's worked for fifteen years...really a little more than sixteen, because we considered ourselves married on that third date; the actual ceremony eighteen months later was a formality (in no way "mere").

Life isn't always easy. Actually, I think it's fair to say that over the last year or two it hasn't been easy at all. But being married is easy. I can't imagine facing  the crap we've faced down together...alone. I just can't.

I have written Eva quite a few poems over the years, but as far as I'm concerned, I've never outdone or even matched the first one I wrote...on our second date.


And Every Day... 

I've never felt this way before
I miss you and I love you more
than I could ever hope to show,
and every day I'll tell you so. 

I'll tell in words, I'll tell in deeds
I'll tell you as we plant the seeds 
of life and love: they're ours to sow, 
and every day we both will know. 

We'll know that love is ours to share. 
We'll know it is forever there. 
And through the years our seeds will grow, 
and every day, my love, we'll go... 

We'll go to places yet undreamed. 
We'll go to places often deemed 
to be where streams of kisses flow,
and every day the breeze will blow. 

The breeze will blow us joy and cheer 
and laughter, and a fleeting tear 
and Life will lead both high and low 
and every day, new rows to hoe... 

I love you, Eva, don't forget
I haven't even started yet 
to demonstrate so that you'll know:
But every day, I'll tell you so.
--written by Ken Breadner, June 1999

Does that read like a second-date love note to you? Even I--a man who falls in love easily and deeply--knows that any other woman would read that on a second date and run far far away. But we just knew, and acted accordingly.

We've done a lot of living in fifteen years. It feels like four or five lifetimes--or four or five minutes. Where there is Love, Time ceases to be.

 Life has indeed led both high and low. Both of us have had to recognize, and rekindle, each other's light in times of darkness. Both of us have had to remind each other who we really are. Because that's what a partnership is for. Oh, yeah, and to scratch those damned infernal itches in the exact MIDDLE of your back. That too.

I love you, Eva Breadner. I always have and I always will.

06 October, 2015

Eva's political statement

I'm immensely proud of my wife.
She's fighting a lonely battle. No matter how much love you have in your support network--and Eva has more than most--fighting battles with your own mind is lonely work. But she is still engaging with the world as best she can, even on days when it's the last thing she feels like doing.

She's trying. She's trying very hard.

Obstacles keep getting thrown in our path. I won't gild any lilies; things are tougher right now than they have ever been, for either of us. But as we approach our fifteenth anniversary, I can say this: we are stronger by far as a couple than anything that has been thrown at us. You can only truly fight demons from without if you are strong within. Ken is, Eva is, and  the shared entity called KenEva is as well.

She made what so far as I know is the first public political statement of her life and put it up on our lawn today for all the world to see:


Although I wholeheartedly approve of the content of this statement, I'm mostly proud of her for having made any statement so boldly.

I do the politics in this house. It's not that Eva doesn't care: she cares too much. When it comes to bullshit, she has a much lower tolerance than I do. I'll sift through the bullshit and try to determine some cogent underlying message. She just rejects the bullshit, and let's face it, it comes from all parties left and right. So she pretty much ignores politics whenever possible. She doesn't read my political blogs. It's right up there with hockey as a trapdoor subject for her.

I have tried as best I can to be somewhat balanced in my political discussions with Eva. I've failed because quite frankly I can't get inside the head of our Prime Minister. I'm quick to ascribe the worst possible motives to his actions simply because I can't think of any others. Why would you muzzle scientists? Why would you burn their books and archives? And why wouldn't you accept questions from your citizens? I beg any Harper supporters reading this, if they know the answers to those questions, to leave them in my comment section. To educate me, if nothing else.

Evidently my wife agrees with my political assessment, which is always nice (though certainly not mandatory...we have voted differently in elections in the past and doubtless will again in the future). But the extent to which she agrees surprised me. It's not like her to be this passionate about bullshit politics.

Anyway.

I'm going to take a wee political break from here until just before the ballots are cast. I can't take the hatred that passes for political discourse online. I'm busily digesting the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement ahead of making a pronouncement on it. There's a lot of good in there, but there are also some very scary elements. Expect a post on that sometime in the next week. Until then, this is Ken Breadbin, signing off.

04 October, 2015

Advice For and By the Polyamorous

Virtually every person who walks the poly path runs into (problems/challenges/opportunities). Until fairly recently, we pretty much had to figure out solutions on our own...or have our partner(s) impose them on us, which may or may not be beneficial.

If you've ever wondered what kind of advice polyamorous people give and get, well, here you go. There was a thread in r/polyamory asking "what's the best piece of advice you've ever received?" and the replies are enlightening.

Emotions come from a very old part of your brain that's trying to motivate you towards a certain behavior. Jealousy = "Danger! Danger! Protect your stuff!" NRE ("new relationship energy") = "Hang around this person all the time and make babies!" Etc.
The rational, decision-making part of your brain is totally separate. So you can say "Hey, thanks for the warning emotions," and then choose what you want to do with that information. Your emotions aren't what you HAVE to do; they're just a suggestion. They're not bad or "less than" the rational part, but they have a job to do that's not always conducive to your true happiness. I like to think of them as an overly-sensitive smoke alarm!
--"silent_purple_sky"

One of the reasons I am well-equipped to handle polyamory, relatively speaking, is that I have always been self-reflective. When I feel an emotion, I can almost always tell you why (though sometimes I may not want to admit it). If I can't explain my emotions, I get very nervous, very quickly: I feel as if my mental ground has shifted from underneath me.
This allows me to process my emotions reasonably well, most of the time. Of course, there's the trademark Breadner knee-jerk reaction to change, which isn't pleasant to experience or behold, and in my case it's compounded by an overactive "what's the worst that can happen? gland. Thank Trintellix that last doesn't squawk quite as loudly as it once did.

At this point, a year in, it's hard to rattle me. Which I think is a good thing.

Relationships aren't owned, they are experienced. You don't own your friendships, your romances, your long term partnerships. They aren't possessions, and they aren't reduced or destroyed by other relationships. You don't own the connection between yourself and your partner, you create it every moment you are together.
--"boobytubes"

Put this one in the column of advice I've never needed. To me, this is the emotional equivalent of two plus two. If you believe you own your partner, that makes your partner a slave.

She/He didn't do that TO upset you. 
She/He did that AND upset you.
--"Kesshisan"

Now this, on the other hand, is advice I continue to require almost daily...and I have a woeful feeling that other people consider this to be kindergarten-level stuff.

I've actually been rejected in a poly context, and the pain from that lasted roughly forever. Maybe two forevers, I kind of lost track of time there for a bit.  I let it render me an emotional wreck. Had I the maturity to actually take the above to heart, I would have been much, much more resilient. We really do choose our emotions--or, given the first advice-nugget, our response to them--the same way we choose our loves. and I'm going to resolve never to forget that going forward.

"You were already in two relationships. Your relationship with her, and your relationship with yourself. You already know how to balance those two, how to keep one from being a negative on the other. She's the same way. She just knows how to balance three or four. You'll learn. You may never balance more than two... but you'll learn why she does."
--"Mono_Guy"

"Mono-Guy" is something of an r/polyamory celebrity. As you can infer from the above, he is the monogamous part of a "mono/poly" relationship. Such beasts do exist, though you'll trek far and wide to find one that works as well as his does.

I have a friend like him, a person who truly gets polyamory despite being monogamous. It's really humbling to always get solid and sound advice from such a person. You find yourself thinking geez, if monogamous people can saw right through this so easily than I certainly should be able to. Someday I'll actually meet another polyamorous person, for offline values of "meet", and I can onlt hope she'll have that mental toolkit.


Change is inevitable. You can hold on to feelings and let them fester or you can release those hang ups. Be okay with things not being what you thought they should be.
--"Uncaged_Rarity"

That's good advice for anyone, mono or poly, and it holds true for all of life, not just romantic relationships. It's also something that I once had a great deal of trouble with, something that, again, Trintellix has helped me banish. "Festering", great word. Derives from the Latin for "ulcer", and sure enough, if you let feelings fester that's something you might end up with.

And finally, because I can't resist quoting this song...

you love to hear me sing, even if you didn't write the note 
i love to hear you laugh, even if i didn't tell the joke 
you know i love to cuddle, love to pull your body close 
and i love it when you're happy even if i have to let you go
cuz if you need your space then baby you can let me know 
i'll you from afar you my star in a telescope 
i'm not a god, i'm not a fool but I would be both 
to think that love was something i could control

--"Can't Help But Fly (The Poly Song), 'naimainfinity'

Truer words were never sung.





02 October, 2015

The veiled threat: a longer thought.

ATTENTION CANADIAN VOTERS: YOU ARE BEING PLAYED.

Our Prime Minister hired an Australian political whiz named Lynton Crosby to  return him to power.

Mr. Crosby fights dirty. He has a history of exploiting latent racism in the electorate, and sure enough, he's doing that again here.

Harper et al have been very careful not to actually tell you how many Muslim women have tried to remain veiled as they took the oath of Canadian citizenship. (The law banning niqabs was found to contravene the Citizenship Act,  just another chapter in Harper's continuing war with the Supreme Court of Canada.) Just yesterday I had to refute somebody online who was convinced the number was "millions".  Obviously that's hyperbole, but surely there are hundreds, maybe thousands?

No.

There are two.

Two. Second source provided because I'm sure nobody believes me.

That's right, the whole country is frothing over two Muslim women who tried to exercise their right to wear a veil as they took an oath. (My cousin--the one I recently unfriended because I don't accept racist bigots in my family--tried to tell me that for all we know, those women were actually men. Nonsense--anyone taking the oath must prove their identity beforehand.

So here we all are, passionately arguing back and forth about whether or not two women (or, let's be honest, any of their co-religionists) ought or ought not to be allowed in this country, with or without veils, and nobody's talking about the Duffy trial anymore.

Or the Brazeau trial.

Or any of the other Senate trials and charges.

Or the election fraud, the bribing of a dying MP, the muzzling of scientists, the omnibus bills, the contempt of Parliament, the fact we had 2.5 million protected lakes and rivers ten years ago and now have 159... Shall I go on?


...The repeated proroguing of Parliament, the book burnings, the crazy fiscal mismanagement before this sudden fake surplus, income splitting that disproportionally benefits the people who least need the help, the killing of the long form census (because the government respects your privacy), Bill C-51 ((because the government doesn't give two shits about your privacy)....

The scariest thing is that I've barely scratched the surface of all the misdeeds Harper has perpetrated on a sleeping public. I haven't even brought up the warmongering -- Harper's got to be the only person who has ever celebrated the BEGINNING of the First World War! -- but soldiers only give him warm fuzzies while they're fighting and dying, not afterwards...

And even if...even if somehow you can look past all of this...do you really want a PM who only accepts questions from his citizens if they pay his party $78,000?

But he'll keep you safe from those two Muslim she-monsters.

I guess that's all that matters, right?