A few months ago, I wrote a post where I was afraid to press “Publish”.  It was about my testicles and how the presence of benign cysts had caused personal growth … to the tune of 3-4 times their normal size.

My surgery is on September 21.  Yesterday I met with a doctor and a nurse for a couple of hours.  I’ve been pretty calm about it all so far, but it’s amazing how a raft of paperwork can send me back to the terror of my only previous surgery.  In 2003 I had a tendon transfer operation on my right foot after creating a pretty good rupture.

Point number one:  Back then, the stitches were removed too late and I was in agony during the procedure.  I remember yelling at the top of my lungs, no doubt creating a heart attack or two in the clinic.  I’ve had long experience with the pain scale of 1 to 10, and that moment has been my benchmark ever since for what 10 feels like.  This time, I was reading in the patient booklet about removing the plastic bandage 24 hours after the operation.  I glanced at the next sentence and saw the word “stitches”.  There goes the old heart rate!  After marshalling my forces, I read.  The stitches will dissolve.  (Huge and lengthy sigh)  Oh, how I fear pain.

Point number two:  The booklet went on at length about constipation.  I know the topic well.  What came to my quivering mind, however, was lying in my bed hours after the surgery and not being able to pee.  The horror came back to me like a slap in the face.  The pain mounting.  The nurse saying “We may have to insert a catheter, sir.”  More liquidless hours.  Insertion.  (Oww)  And still nothing.  “Try singing a song.”  “Imagine a waterfall.”  “Here, dip your fingers into this water glass.”

Not a drop.  6 … 7 … 8 …

And then, in the wee hours – a drop.  Eventually followed by a torrent.


I’m a mature adult (most of the time)
My Buddhist training will see me through
I’ll be fine

And still I fear the 21st

Jolt In The Darkness

I went to a movie yesterday at the Hyland Cinema in London.  It’s such a cozy place and shows real stories with real people.  I was settling into the Coming Attractions.  And then …

“We can hear you talking from over here!”

The voice from behind was female and snarly, and was aimed at someone on the far side of the theatre.  I forgot about the upcoming movie.

What washed over me was sadness.  It was such a violent outburst.  And I don’t want any violence in my life.  But nor do I want to hear chatting moviegoers while I’m sinking into the film.

One choice is whether to speak up when something’s not right.  I say yes.  Suppressing myself surely withers my internal organs along with my psyche.  I’ve spent too much time in my life not saying what’s true for me.

But how to do it?  I fear confrontations.  In this situation, I would have left the theatre and asked an employee to speak to the yapper.  Once, at a concert, I said “Please don’t talk while the singer is performing” to the people beside me, and that felt good.  Plus nobody hit me.

If I’m to continue making a difference in this world, I need all of me available for the next person I meet.  Shutting myself down won’t get the job done.  So I will express, with caring and without antagonism.


Fear Of Colour

I’m living in the Comfort Inn in St. Thomas, Ontario for about fifteen days.  My condo in Belmont should be ready for me sometime between September 15 and 20.

Jane is the interior designer I hired to “stage” my home in Union for sale and to help me design my new living spaces.  A couple of weeks ago, it was time for us to decide on colours for the walls.  You’ll be happy to know that as well as a warm white, I’ve picked bright red, green, teal, yellow, purple and blue, as well as a cozy reddish brown for the den.  I love them all!  At one point when Jane saw the directions I was heading, tears came to her eyes.

How strange that along with the grief in losing my dear wife Jody comes an unexpected silver lining:  I don’t have to run wall colours by anyone else, except getting Jane’s opinion … It’s the Bruce show.

My bedroom will be teal – both walls and ceiling, with a warm white crown molding separating the two surfaces.  It’ll look so cool.  The new owners of my former home in Union asked for Jody’s and my reddish wood sleigh bed in their offer to purchase so I needed to buy a new headboard, footboard and rails.

Friday I went to The Brick on a furniture hunt.  I rounded corner after corner with nothing singing to me.  And then, there sat a creamy white bed with a sweetly curving headboard.  And I’m pretty sure there was a sign hanging on it saying “B-R-U-C-E”.  I fell in love.

Soon thereafter, I realized I could buy a matching dresser, mirror, chest and two night tables, all for a very good price.  I wanted to leap to the sky but I felt myself contracting.  “I must see if Jane thinks this stuff will go in my bedroom.”  So I texted her, even though she had told me the day before that she was heading off on a week’s vacation.  No answer Friday.  No answer yesterday morning.

As I waited for a text that probably wouldn’t be coming for a few days, I thought about Bruce.  The guy has some design skills.  He can recognize “esthetically pleasing” (most of the time).  And I noticed that over the past few weeks, I’d fallen into the trap of depending on the professional’s opinion.  Thank God Jane agreed with me about the bold colours.  But here I sat, afraid to say to myself “This works.”  Afraid to be the sole one choosing.  Afraid to head back to The Brick with my MasterCard.

I just watched this fear, as a good Buddhist is wont to do.  My body was rigid.  And then it wasn’t.  And then it was again.  Then another letting go.

I got in Scarlet
I drove to The Brick
I sat on my bed
I opened the drawers of my dresser
I looked in the mirror to see who was there
And I pulled out my credit card

Done deal

Haida Gwaii … Islands Of The People

I was aboard the schooner Maple Leaf for seven days in June.  Thirteen of us experienced the wonders of Haida Gwaii, north of Vancouver Island.

Part of the learning centred on humpback whales, sea lions, black bears and many species of birds.  But there was more.

Haida watchmen are the guardians of ancient villages and their totem poles.  We got to visit five of these sites.  Many years ago, there were hundreds of villages scattered among the islands of Haida Gwaii.  Then came the white people.  Then came smallpox.  Ninety per cent of the Haida died.

For much of the 1900’s, another reality was residential schools.  Kids were removed from their homes and sent away, as far as PEI.  They weren’t allowed to speak their language.  If a brother and sister were at the same school, they weren’t allowed to talk to each other.  Their long hair, a deep symbol of identity, was cut.

At one of the villages, I stood beside Ken, a watchmen in his 30’s.  Do I ask him what I really want to ask him?  Yes.  I mentioned the smallpox and the residential schools.

“You folks seem so happy.  Have you forgiven us whites for what we did?”

Ken smiles.  “Oh yes.  We welcome everyone.”

Oh my.

The people are alive and so very well.  It was a privilege to spend time with them.

Strings Of The Heart

I’ve rediscovered tennis over the last week, first in person at the men’s Rogers Cup tournament in Toronto, and then on TV as the men and the women (in Montreal) battled for the championship.

I played tennis long ago and, just like golf, would occasionally hit a great shot that kept my spirits high.  But eventually the knees said no to the quick movements needed on the court.  My love went underground.

Sitting in the stands a few days ago, I was enthralled with the brilliant strokes … a zooming serve that just caught the line, a thirty-shot rally that exhausted both players, a sweet drop shot that just ticked over the net, and a high lob over the opponent’s head.  So cool.  It was mano à mano, and womano à womano on TV, each one drawing the best from the other.

Last Monday night, I watched Denis Shapovalov, a 17-year-old Canadian, best Nick Kyrgios, one of the top-20 players in the world.  On match point, the energy in the Aviva Centre was astonishing.  Transformational.

As stirring as the competition was, another factor emerged for me – the personality of the athlete.  Some stoic and strong and tough, almost machine-like.  But one player’s humanity caught my attention.  I watched a match on TV between Canada’s darling Eugenie Bouchard and Kristina Kucova from Slovakia.  Genie was supposed to win but Kristina was tenacious.  And as the last stroke was struck, the winning Kristina went down on her knees, overwhelmed with joy.  She was ranked 121st in the world and wasn’t supposed to be doing what she was doing.

On Saturday, Kristina played Madison Keys, a hard-hitting American, in the semi-finals.  Madison’s serve was so fast, and smacked into corners that Kristina couldn’t touch.  Late in the match, as the players rested in their chairs between points, TV showed us a tear rolling down Kristina’s cheek.  My heart and soul stopped.  I was lost in the beauty of the moment.

In 50 minutes, the contest was over.  Madison completely dominated.  Kristina walked off the court crying.  She later told the press she was sorry that she hadn’t given Madison a better battle, and that she had let down the fans.  Not this fan.  Give me a full human being any day.

Next summer, the women come to Toronto for the Rogers Cup.  I’ll be there … in Kristina’s court.