Saturday, 26 September 2015

Getting Engaged

I knew that would get your attention.
No, I am not shoving an errant-sized ring on anyone's finger. Nor am I seeking a finger attached to a curvy homo-sapiens to do so. I'm pretty happy where I'm at. Thanks for your thoughts and concerns though. They are duly noted.
For the record, I'm currently in advanced ninja type training to be a dirty old man with a permanent, lecherous grin anyway and that's an endeavour best done alone.
Vaguely along that line of rationale, I've been to two beautiful weddings this year. Neither one was what one might call traditional. The first was done in a manner which was reversed from the usual order of things and an officiant who might do well in stand-up. But then, my friend J has never been much for doing things by societal rote which is why we get along as well as we do. The second wedding was outdoors surrounded by burgeoning farmers fields with a friend of the bride and groom officiating. My friend V isn't much for strict tradition either. (I sense a pattern here.) The vows at both weddings were intimate love letters spoken aloud for all to hear.
Yup... a tear came to my eye. Anyone who knows me well enough wouldn't see that as a surprise.
I was talking with a friend the other night... on the phone. Can you imagine such an antiquated thing? Actually talking and hearing a voice? Wonder of wonders, neither of us died from the experience. During the call, they said, “Isn't it odd we talk so easily to one another about anything?”
Personally, I don't find it odd we can become engaged with another person. It's what we seek because it's in our DNA. In today's world of impersonal communication, is it any wonder we cling to a rare real voice? When we find someone who has a lot in common with us, whether they are next door or across the planet, our psyche will latch on somehow knowing we have unwittingly (or perhaps wittingly) found a member of our tribe. It doesn't matter what gender or race or creed or sexual orientation. It matters if they think and feel about the world and people and the universe the same way we do.
For the record, I choose to believe our tribe will find us... or vice versa... if we're open to it. Just sayin'.
Here's where I can only speak from personal experience. When I become engaged in conversation with another person at a fundamental level, it doesn't matter what we talk about. It could be a discussion about fixing the car or if the planet really is going to hell in a hand-basket. I hear and feel what they are saying. It's called empathy.
I know I'm not connecting if I'm thinking about my next response without hearing what they are saying.
I know I'm not connecting if I'm babbling just to hear my own voice.
I know I'm not connecting if I'm surfing channels or the net while the conversation is going on.
I know I'm not connecting if the other person is doing the surfing.
I know I'm not connecting if all we have is a few notes back and forth on social media.
Engaging with another person is personal. A voice at the end of a phone is always better than a text message... and a lot less misunderstood. At the same time, texting or e-mailing or a note through social media isn't a bad thing when starting off a conversation. It's a great way to send a grocery list or schedule a time to pick up the kids. It's a great way to reconnect after long absences before a phone call.
Personal conversation where the topic is important and voice inflection means something should always be done by phone or face to face.
It seems to me society as a whole has become so disengaged we can't see the trail back. It also seems to me the trail might start with a text message or an email... and end by hearing a voice and seeing a face.
The love letters at the weddings read face to face were probably the most meaningful engagement I have seen in a long while. I can't imagine how dispassionate the ceremonies would be if those love letters were sent by text.
Perhaps that's the secret to re-engaging... writing a letter and reading our heartfelt feelings aloud... face to face.


Wednesday, 16 September 2015

Phone Calls From the Edge

I was on my own.
I was hiking along the Niagara Escarpment the other day. I'm a pretty capable hiker and comfortable in the woods. While I'm no adrenaline junky, there isn't much that gives me the willies. Just don't ask me to jump off a bridge with an oversized rubber band hog-tied to my ankles. A few photos I wished to snap were best taken along the rim. I stood at the edge looking downward along cold grey cliffs, shattered boulders strewn along the jagged base five hundred feet below from millenniums of erosion carving away unfortunate pieces of bluff, wind rustling the trees around me and a light rain dampening my footing and thought, “Huh. Bet that could hurt.”
I got the photos.
Risky, yes. Unconscionable, no. I trust myself and my ability to know where to draw the risk line; that place where calculated risk turns into asinine.
That same night I was on the phone with a friend. My conversations tend to wander all over the place, close to the cliff, if you will, as they found out soon enough. Like my life in general, there seldom seems to be a straight line to anywhere. People who can stick with me and my esoteric mind are treasured. My friend is one such person. They seem to be able to wait me out knowing, somehow, I'll circle around to the previous topic in due course. That takes trust on their part understanding I haven't lost sight of the subject... or them for that matter.
It also takes trust on my part that the person I'm talking with isn't going to get lost somewhere along my roundabout journey. The way I communicate, wandering around like a verbal drunkard spilling mixed metaphors along a quiet midnight street, is not an easy trail to follow. I seldom leave bread crumbs. Finding someone who communicates in the same abstruse manner I do... priceless. (And, I'm told, funny as hell to sit back and watch from a safe distance.)
It seems I write in a similar style to how I speak... or vise versa. I'm not sure which acme first... the chicken or the barbecue. Trust, and not becoming frustrated, is a big deal in such a conversation, largely due to what seems a lack of direction.
It occurred to me as the back and forth went on if I wish to understand my trust level with someone a few of things may occur. Firstly, when I'm asked a difficult question (the ones that make me glance around for a ticking nuclear device), how do I react. If I tense up getting ready for an explosion or retaliation, I'm probably getting defensive and not trusting. If I'm all loosey goosey and not too worried about what might be coming back, odds are pretty good I trust them.
Secondly, if I feel comfortable talking about virtually anything without feeling there may be retribution, then my trust level is high. When I start measuring my responses, it's the first indication I'm not trusting the other person to be able to handle what I really want to say (or how I wish to say it). I'm afraid of hurting them, waiting for the other shoe to drop or having them freak out... so I temper my responses.
It seems to me many intimate couple's relationships disappear into the vast, echo-less void this way... trust eroding piece by piece tinkling onto the ceramic kitchen floor.
Trust slips away slowly, chipped away by tiny comments, overly amplified responses, misinterpretation or trying to “fix” something undesirable in the other person. When the trust slips away, intimacy fritters away with it. Intimacy, (not physical intimacy, though that can be a victim as well) is only meted out when there is trust. Plain and simple. Oddly enough, the only way to gain trust back is... you guessed it... to become vulnerable which requires intimacy. It's the human paradox we call relationship.
Life is so much easier when trust isn't lost in the first place. Particularly self trust. If I don't trust myself to do what is best for me, I'll never fully trust anyone else... and intimacy will remain floating away just beyond the tips of my outstretched fingers.
Self trust is measured by the conversations I have with myself.
For me, it seems trust is grown by stepping to the edge, looking over the cliff and knowing there is someone there who will catch me if I slip... even if that slip is some random line of thought during a phone call.
How's that for a metaphor?


Sunday, 13 September 2015

Between a Rock...

We're stuck
Inside our own machine
from Apparitions by the Mathew Goode Band

Warning... weird shit... just sayin'.
Have you ever wondered how much of this is real?
I often wonder about things like reality, relationships, world events and why bacon tastes better crispy. But then I'm a pathological wonderer anyway. And I invent words like “wonderer” while contemplating the meaning of Quantum Mechanics, distance, versions of reality and why I'm here and not there because I secretly think I'm some Byzantine, pureed version of Shakespeare, Einstein, George Carlin and burnt toast rolled into an electrified vat of luminescent green goo.
Sometimes I just wake up mentally messy.
So... I'm out minding my own business doing my work thing on a weekday afternoon surrounded by Hugo Boss, Ann Taylor and squeaking patent leather in the downtown area when I happen across a man about my age talking to a rock. Not just any rock, mind you. A big, honkin' boulder. Kind of a cute, greyish sweetheart as boulders go, if you're into that kind of thing. What do I know from rocks? This one could have been a real hottie. Who am I to judge, ya know?
And the conversation, though one sided, was quite lucid and passionate.
It occurred to me our brains are capable of almost anything. I know not why this man's brain has morphed itself into it's own internalized world. Somewhere, the circuits crossed and a world of his own making began creating itself. Or... are they crossed at all? Clinically, this man would likely be diagnosed, in simple terms, as insane though, in his brain, he is not insane at all.
Which begs the question, who's reality is real?
Insane people don't know they're insane. They have their own reality and that experience is as concrete to them as ours is to us.
Which brings me to me. How do I know my reality is the real reality? How do I know I'm not making this all up and what I think is real is simply an internalized movie running incessantly on a loop through alternately misfiring synapses while I'm wearing a lovely white coat with leather straps, buckles, extra long sleeves and arms bow-tied neatly in back? For all I know I, myself, could very well be talking to a padded wall in a brightly lit room while believing I'm watching some dude talk to a slightly balding rock and thinking he's insane.
Perhaps that person I met a while ago or that place I was or that feeling I experienced is no more than a figment of my overly fertile imagination. ~shrug~
I think I can be certain I am in “reality” because I have questions. Those who have created a world of their own likely have few questions. For any problem which may arise in their self-created world, the brain simply creates a solution. Done.
Somewhere along this exploration, Quantum Physics popped into my head.
If our brains are capable of inventing entire internalized world's of our own, why can we not do the same externally? Science has proven we can manipulate particles simply by observing them. Science has also proven particles can be in two places at once. When we dream (or daydream) it's our way of our psyche taking us places we are not but want to be. If Quantum Physics Theory is capable of putting one particle in two places and I am capable of manipulating the result, then I can be in two places at once. Further, if you happen to be dreaming the same thing at the same moment, then we could conceivably be hanging out together. Add in an emotional connection and all hell can break loose!
Which means, in some dual conceived dream, I could very well be sitting on the sofa next to you watching Big Bang Theory reruns. Pass the Doritos, will ya?
As weird as all this seems, there is quite a lot of empirical evidence we can create our own reality. Have you chosen happiness? Have you chosen someone to be with (even if only in your mind)? Have you chosen serenity? Have you chosen your life or simply hoped it would work out? Have you chosen to stay in reality?
Are you where you want to be or are you daydreaming of being somewhere else... with someone else... doing something else? Have you chosen ordinary... or extraordinary?
I suspect those questions may well be between you and a slightly balding rock.

Gotta ask yourself the question, 
where are you now?

from Wiseman by James Blunt

Tuesday, 8 September 2015

It Just Feels Right

I can only speak my point of view,
Because it's the only one I've lived.
I'm going to write much more personally today. (Sometimes I do, sometimes I generalize.) I'm feeling as if a part of me which was dormant for a while has come back to life.
The instigator of this... umm... awakening (?)... is nothing more, or less, than remnant thoughts dripping onto the page from weekend reflections on a long ride home last night. As I often do when I'm driving alone down a dark desert highway (cool wind in my hair), I reflect on where I've just been and what I may have learned while there.
More often than not it's goofy shit. (How many of you now have a Hotel California in the back of your head?)
If any of this post resonates with the reader, great. If not, that's okay too. It's my shit anyway.
For clarity's sake, I went to a wedding in Wisconsin this past weekend. I was asked a few times about the long drive for a single weekend. My answer was simple: it was Vicki. There are certain people I have connected with over my fifty-four years for whom, even if we haven't seen each other for some time, I will step up. In Vicki and Greg's case, I was honored to have been asked to attend their wedding in the first place and they are important enough to me to make the effort to be there. Some of the looks and comments I received were akin to, “Really? You drove all that way for a wedding and some kayaking? Weird.”
Personally, I find it weird when people don't put that kind of effort into friendships (in particular, chosen family).
Perhaps I'm a bit of an anomaly in a “what's in it for me” world.
I went to the wedding stag not knowing more than half a dozen people in a foreign country where the people I did know were going to be occupied for most of the event. They were getting married after all. Basically I was left to my own devices, which is perilous enough under normal circumstances.
I used to be a wallflower at these shindigs. If I didn't know anyone, I would hang back and watch the world go by. There's an old saying about sitting on your porch and the whole world will eventually pass by. While that may be true, my ass gets sore if I spend too much time sitting in one place. I'm not sure lethargy is a particularly noble life goal for me anyway. I would rather move than wait.
Fortune favours the brave.
Thanks to another group of kindred spirits, I changed my perspective. And, it didn't happen overnight. New trees (ideas, concepts and habits) are easy to remove. Old trees with roots deep in my past are much more difficult to dig out or avoid.
I learned how to move through a room by watching other people move through a room. I emulated some of things they did and ventured out in the thriving throng using their model. Some of it worked and some of it felt as alien to me as it would waking in some alternate reality. Then again, it was an alternate to my own reality. Eventually, I found my own rhythm and the dance became easier.
I am able to find only that with which I am familiar and, therefore, able to see.
It took me a long time to figure out this next bit and some of it came to me again over the course of the weekend. We need models. Not supermodels. I would deem neither the women nor the men they label as “models” a framework for reality. I'm not certain they're all that super either. I'm speaking of models of those things we seek. Until I see, feel, and touch something similar to that which I seek, and recognize it, I will never know the feeling of what I am looking for.
Why is feeling important? Because energy attracts similar energy and I emit and feel energy... like we all do.
It's how we feel like we're in the same relationship or the same job or the same neighbourhood even though we have moved on to something "new". We migrate toward that which is familiar (comfort zones). And what is familiar feels right even though it may not be right. That situation or person or job may not be what is good for us, yet it is what we attract because it is all we see through our filters. We get the same thing over and over because we see and feel the same things. It's difficult to do another dance when the song is always the same.
I generalized above yet I know I have fallen victim to those same pitfalls: wanting something different and not able to recognise it because I've not seen it before and, therefore, don't know what it looks or feels like. Until I experience the feeling of being in the company of those people, places or things, I won't know what I'm looking for. 
It's the feeling I seek... not a person, place or thing.
It's how I can now move through a crowd of strangers and find kindred spirits. They suddenly appear by my side (or I by theirs) without any real effort. I know what I'm feeling for. (Yes... I know what I just said. It's a double entendre. Bite me.)
It's how I ended up spending time with Barbara, Tim and the two Petes. It's why I made the effort to attend Greg and Vicki's wedding. It's why I made a side trip to visit Han on the way home. Important people. Kindred spirits.
It was tough leaving Wisconsin. The people felt right... and a lot like I was home.
At the very least, I now know what I'm looking for.


Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Bent Balloons and a Can of Beans

I'm camped out in my bedroom hiding from the heat and eating a can of baked beans cold... right out of the can... 'cause I can... and there ain't nobody here to tell me different. The only thing missing on this evening camping safari is a fire and some smores. I'm pretty sure the fire would be frowned upon. I'm out of chocolate anyway. All this and I've got “Save a Horse Ride a Cowboy” screaming in my ears. Hmm... don't have a horse either.
Bet you're wondering where this is going. Nowhere, honestly. None of that previous parasitic paragraph has anything to do with my post... I think.
I had a particularly stressful day. Truth be told, it's been an especially stressful week. I was “bent out of shape”, “not really myself” or any number of other idioms one might employ to describe not feeling one's self. Things have been fuzzy around the edges. Not all of the stress I've felt is external. Some of it is self imposed. It's pretty common knowledge that we put ourselves under more pressure than we could ever expect (or accept) from anyone else.
And the pressures are a grocery list of undigestible consumables: paying bills, looking pretty, going to work, family obligations, plans with friends, cleaning the house, doing the laundry, get the oil changed, feed the kids, cut the lawn, discuss important stuff with the spouse and on and on. We feel the push from external sources to the point we feel like there is something wrong with us because we don't conform exactly to what society had laid out as guide lines. We get so deep in what the world expects that we find ourselves wondering where the hell we went.
What? You thought you were different? Special? You feel pressure differently than everyone else? Umm... no... not really. 
We are all familiar with inflated balloons. We have all likely squeezed that balloon contorting it's shape. With a little pressure we can contort that balloon into many different shapes. After a while though, the balloon, which has a weak point, finally bursts. If we had released the pressure, it would assume it's natural shape... what it is really meant to be.
It's like that with ourselves, I think. When we feel pressure from parents, kids, bosses, bill collectors, getting it right, being careful, looking like everyone else... fitting in... we begin to contort into something we are not. Our personalities assume "shapes" they would normally not be. The pressures, both internal and external, contort who we really are. When we deform based on doing what we think will provide the least resistance rather than being who we are, we create stress.
Stress makes us ugly.
Pressure hardens us. It makes us defensive. We begin to create a shell to protect us from the pressure and eventually that shell hardens into a stone wall. “I can handle it”... “Bring it on”... “I'm independent”... “I am strong!”. The problem with stone walls is, like the balloon, there is always a weak point. When pressure becomes too great, the walls crack.
When we break... well... all the king's horses and all the kings men... ya know?
And if we don't break, one day, for each of us, we look in a mirror and wonder how we became so distorted. Make no mistake. We all find ourselves in front of that mirror. Whether we look into it early on or the day before we die, we all get there. How did I end up here? This isn't what I had in mind. Look at me! I don't even know where I am anymore. I'm distorted and cracked and pieces are out place. This can't be me!
I've screamed those words myself.
There is nothing like seeing a person who stops taking on pressure. They stop taking other peoples problems as their own. (It doesn't mean they don't take time to listen. We all need to be heard.) They stop pressuring themselves. At least not as much. They stop trying to fix other people. They stop trying to solve other people's issues. They stop worrying about what others think. (Again, it doesn't mean they stop listening.) They stop comparing themselves to some ideal which can never be reached. They trust other people to stand on their own two feet. They trust themselves.
The lightness in their faces is... angelic.
The only way I know to return to who I am is to find a place where the pressure is off. To cease taking on others issues. To stop criticizing myself because I burnt toast. To end the fruitless attempt to be like everyone else... and be liked by everyone else. To just stop...
And eat baked beans right out of the can.