Jet Lag and Alcohol

What a teacher it is to cross six time zones. My body was basically saying “I don’t like this stuff!” Indeed.

I left Toronto at 6:00 pm on Sunday. Seven hours later, I was landing in Brussels, Belgium. I’d bought a cool pink flight pillow but I still couldn’t lay myself down to sleep. Trying to sit up straight and meditate didn’t work either. I decided to launch myself into a book about Rwanda. That basically kept me going till breakfast on the plane.

At 8:00 am on Monday morning, there were Lydia and her daughter Lore waiting for me as I passed through customs at the Brussels Airport . An hour later, we were sitting in their dining room in Nukerke. The world was my oyster. I was home.

I knew the drill. Stay up till it was bedtime in the new place. I set a goal of 8:00 pm. A quick calculation left me with an awake time of 32 hours. I was determined to meet that goal. My previous record of staying awake was 34 hours, a struggle that left me pretty much delerious. Would that be my reality this time as well?

As the day progressed, and we were out and about on errands, so did the fade accumulate. The head is heavy and the mind is slow. The vision blurs a bit and it was fascinating to watch the disintegration. Did I do something bad? Not at all. In fact, I was doing what needed to be done to get Bruce back as quickly as possible.

I thought of folks who fly to Australia, crossing 14 time zones or so. How do they do it? I guess they’re willing to take on the discomfort for three days or more.

I went to bed at 9:00 pm (!) on Monday night, scared that somehow I wouldn’t be able to sleep. Ten hours later, I woke up – a little tired and a lot refreshed. There! I did it. What a good boy was I. I was all set for the remaining eighteen days of my vacation.

There are problems you can’t control and then those you can. Tuesday evening we went to Lydia and Jo’s friends’ place for dinner. There was a festive mood among us six, and Kurt was the perfect host, continually refilling my wine glass after my last sip. I concluded that resistance was futile, that I deserved a night of excellent food and drink.

Wrong.

This body of mine hasn’t consumed much alcohol during the past few months. It was into a sweet rhythm and our dinner was a major jolt to the system. I was inundated with marvelous flavours and aromas but going with that flow was seductive.

I woke up Wednesday morning with a thorough hangover … dull in the head, exhaustion and bouts of nausea. Death warmed over. I slept for two hours in the afternoon in preparation for another evening out. As I stumbled around in my mind and body, I said a simple “no” to such excess. It’s not what I want my life to be about. If I’m to serve people, I need open channels to my heart and mind. Clarity, not cloudiness.

Dinner approached in a fog. I smiled at my new hosts and attempted conversation. I drank water. I ate small portions of food. And then, during dessert, my mind came back to say hello. “You know what I want, Bruce. Please give it to me.” Okay, from now on I will.

Today is Thursday and I am “normal” once more. Hallelujah. There is much living and giving to be done.

Nook

It was time to get my hair cut this morning since I won’t be seeing my hairstylist in Mount Brydges, Ontario for the next five weeks. Pop’s Barber Shop, complete with the traditional candy stripe barber pole, sits on Main Street, Black Diamond, Alberta. I showed up before the shop opened and spent a few minutes reading the historical sign beside the building. The old blue structure had been moved from nearby Royalties around 1950. Royalties once was the home of 5000 folks dependent on the emerging oil industry. Today its population is zero.

Past the sign, I was vaguely aware of some bushes. A closer inspection revealed a little path. It was an alley that I so easily could have missed. Entering the greenery, what to my wondering eyes should appear but a wooden bench, hidden from the street.

I sat down.

A place of peace, adjacent to the madding crowd … or as madding as four people passing by can get. A semi-trailer roared along Main Street. Only its stack was visible to this hidden one.

A place of sanctuary, untouched by the rushing, the to do lists, the lives lived with pressured purpose. I loved the respite from the hustle and the bustle, but steps away it was available to me if I wanted it.

The cave or the marketplace? Which beckoned more vividly? In the waiting for shorn hair, I chose the resting. In the next hour, I was back with the flow of people. Both have a place in my life.

Now the sheltering bushes
Now the sidewalk and stores
And now … ?

Michelle Revered and Detested

Coco Gauff is a 15-year-old tennis player who reached the fourth round of Wimbledon before bowing out to Simona Halep, formerly the world number one. I watched her press conference after the match. I marvelled at how well she spoke. Her words flowed and there was a quietness inside that reached out to the audience.

Michelle Obama tweeted congratulations and Coco was clearly touched by her gesture. “I’ve looked up to her for a long time. She’s such a role model.” Yes, for me too. A girl and a woman share grace, sweetness and also tenacity. Companions of the spirit, decades apart. Both so out there in the world, visible to the scrutiny of the assembled masses.

Just now, I looked up Michelle’s book Becoming in the Kindle Store.  I read some reviews.  What an education.  Here are some samples:

***

I believe I always loved Michelle Obama.  Her grace and dignity always seemed to come as a gift from above.  Her spirit is so incredibly deep and strong.

Slow and boring and self-boasting

***

It’s a wonderful, heartfelt, true story of HOPE in a world gone far too cynical.

Full of misleading statements and untruths

***

She’s open, honest and forthcoming.  Fantastic read.

If you are an insomniac, this book will definitely help that.  A real snoozer.

***

I truly believe many young girls will read the book and know
they can live with honor like you.

A shallow-minded patting on the back

***

I applaud her and the book.  It brought tears to my eyes
and deep appreciation for the Obamas.

Poorly written, silly comments in bad taste.
This is not a good book for a lady to read.

***

Mrs. Obama opens up and gives us a real look into her heart and mind and experiences in a way that is authentic and original.

Worst piece of crap ever

***

Amazing read.  Mrs. Obama is a treasure and her honest, thoughtful words and a dignified grace make me realize just how special a person she is.

What a joke.

***

Michelle Obama, thanks for being such a great role model while you were in the White House … championing exercise and good food for children and speaking your mind with grace and courage.

The lies, the misleading statements and poppycock drama to get you feel bad or believe something that is not true

+++

The message for me is to keep speaking my truth,
knowing that some people will like it and some won’t.
The source of my well-being does not lie within them.

Standing Out or Blending In?

I’ve been reading an article on leadership, specifically on leaders being attacked emotionally.  Woh … I cringe at the thought of being the target of abuse.  Too scary.  Surely I’d run away, hide in my house, play it safe.  But that leaves such a bitter taste in my mouth.  I know I’m up for more than that in life.

I tell myself that I want to contribute to people in a big way.  For that to happen, surely I need to be visible, not just an anonymous giver.  To be naked in the world, the beauty and warts right there for all to see.  Going towards rather than away from.

The authors are Harvey Jackins and his son Tim.  Here are some of their very pointed thoughts:

It is almost part of your job as leader to make mistakes.  Part of your job as leader is to keep trying new, difficult things, to keep stretching yourself enough that there is a chance of error.  (Who, me?  Yes, me.)

An attack is not an attempt to correct mistakes … The effect of attacks is always to destruct, to restimulate [trigger egoic patterns] … and to generally disrupt the functioning [of the community].  (It sounds like an attack is a deliberate attempt to injure rather than an assertive way to deal with an issue.)

Almost always, being attacked is an indication that you are doing something rather well.  (So, am I committed to pursuing a dream that will benefit humanity … or not?  Is my stand worth the flak that likely will come my way?)

Almost always it has fallen to the person who is the object of the attack to handle the attack.  That is a mistake.  (You mean I have to be brave, to be “out there”, even if I’m not the one being attacked?  Answer: You don’t have to.  You can choose to.)

Anyone you have seen working hard for years to benefit many people deserves for you to hold off that bit of restimulation, and take a stand for them, for yourself, for the community and our work.  (So, I’ll be strong enough to resist being triggered by the attack on another and therefore me reliving past fears.  I’ll be strong enough to stand tall for my set-upon colleague.  Answer: Yes.)

We do not allow anyone the option of attacking someone.  You have the option of giving up that behavior or you have the option of not being part of this community.  (Straight shooting.  Not peaceful co-existence.  Not live and let be.)

Do I have the cojones to say to someone attacking myself or another “That’s it!  No more.  We will talk later.  Back off!  You don’t get to behave that way, no matter what happened in the past.  Maybe there is a problem.  Maybe there isn’t.  We will figure it out.  But you don’t get to treat anybody that way.  I wouldn’t let anyone treat you that way.  You have to stop, now.”?  (Okay, here’s where the rubber hits the road.  Do I speak up in the face of myself or others being demeaned, disparaged, insulted, stepped upon … or remain suppressedly silent?  Hmm.)

Most organizations have attacks going on frequently, and it’s always disruptive of the organization.  It always limits their effectiveness because much of the time people are too upset by the attacks to actually do the work they’re in the organization for.  (Hmm again.  What a waste of time.  What a waste of the precious human energies that are eager to do good.  Let’s change this.)

Stand up
Speak up
Grow up

A Tale of Two Doggies

Melly is a tiny white bundle of energy, maybe two years old. Ember is a black Cocker Spaniel who’s a lot slower, no doubt due to her nine years on the planet. They’re quite a pair. It looks like Melly rules the roost, what with her yappy barking, but Ember has a quiet dignity that isn’t shaken by the young pup.

Years ago, Ember and I had an extended conversation under a Montana tree while the rest of the family were hiking up to Hidden Lake. Doggie and I wanted it slow and easy. We had lots of time to talk about life.

Although I met Melody when I was in Alberta two years ago, she treated me like a stranger when I showed up for Jaxon’s high school grad a month ago. Just to be clear, strangers are to be yelled at and bitten. It took four days for Melly to calm down and start treating me like a decent human being.

This morning, I had spread out my yoga mat in the living room and was spreading out my body in various contortions. As I leaned forward in an attempt to kiss my knee, a tongue brushed the back of my ear. I was pretty sure it wasn’t Lance. Instead it was my newfound friend Melly, seeking contact. Twenty minutes later, a larger being, this time black, took up residence at the back end of the mat. Ember rubbed up against me. Doggie affection times two.

My canine companions sometimes loll around on the living room floor. Occasionally they come over for a pet. Mostly though, they wander over to Lance or Nona for loves. Such an ultimate letting go for me. Come close when you want to. Stay away when that feels right. I’ll be fine either way.

Goodnight, my dear four-legged ones.

Mesmerica

There are IMAX movie theatres, where the show is projected onto a huge dome ahead and above. Then there’s Mesmerica, which I experienced today. The six of us sat in our tilted chairs as computerized patterns of light blended with fanciful music. The creator, James Hood, wanted us to experience an altered state of consciousness … and happiness.

There were moments of transcendence. Peacock feathers vibrated above me. Giant discs of light slowly descended, morphing as they fell. It felt like God was embracing me.

On one arm of the journey, a beam of bluish light wound its way through a forest of deciduous trees, over this branch and under that one. I joined in the search, for what I don’t know. The seeking was soft and sweet.

The explosions of colour throughout the hour felt so new. Mr. Hood let his mind open, and fresh air clearly rushed through. What appeared before us just didn’t exist a year ago. What majesty to bring something unknown into being.

Beyond the openmouthedness of it all was the swirl of disorientation. The constant flow of the images brought me to a swoon. I bet I closed my eyes fifty times during the hour. I needed those respites for centering. A wee bit of me felt guilty for missing some of the display but I was happier when I was taking care of myself. The heavens were being revealed above but there was also a heaven inside to be embraced. And the patterns of light found their way through the eyelids and into my heart. All was well.

Tyrrell

Lance, Jace, Jagger, Nona and Jaxon

An ancient fish – thirty feet long and weighing as much as three elephants

A 71-million-year-old dinosaur.  Check out the teeth.

Our tour guide, plus some folks on the left

I arrived in Longview, Alberta last night to see my brother-in-law Lance and his family.  This morning we were up bright and early for the three-hour drive to the Royal Tyrrell Museum.  We were immersed in the paleontology of long ago creatures, especially dinosaurs.  The above four photos all depict ancient ones.

I could give you the science of it all but that wouldn’t be as cool as goofing around.  It’s astounding how old these creatures are … so many millions of years.  What’s not astounding is how much I like having fun.  I revel in doing strange things just for the joy of it.  At one point, the family came upon a mummified dinosaur.  It was protected by a rectangular glass cage, and a yellow line on the floor eighteen inches from the structure asked us to stay back a bit.  I decided to put my toes on the line and see if anyone would walk between me and the glass.  Ahh … the study of human behaviour!

Two adults and nine kids made the journey between.  I was hoping the numbers would be zero.  Jace, Jagger and Jaxon saw me standing strangely and came over.  Once I revealed my strategy, their toes joined mine.  I guess our lineup was intimidating because no more “trespassing” ensued.  Yes, it was a goofy thing to do, and yes, it made me happy.

When I was in Alberta a few weeks ago for Jaxon’s high school graduation, I arrived as a stranger to the family’s little white dog Melody.  For four days she barked at this bad guy and nipped at my ankles.  Then she gave it a rest.  Yesterday, Melly yapped at me for half an hour before concluding that I was okay.  Good news for my skin and vital organs.  I told Jace that I’d “slipped her a ten” to get her to leave me alone.

This morning Jace asked me if I was going give a ten dollar bill to anyone else.  I laughed.  But as we strolled the Tyrrell, I decided to play.  I folded a ten spot in half and subtly slipped it into Jace’s hand.  A minute later, he returned the favour, with all the smooth grace of a drug dealer.  We were having fun.  Then I sat on a bench near a woman.  I think she was cluing into what we were doing.  So I reached over and put the ten dollar bill into her hand.  We smiled together.  “Give it to somebody else.  You can have the experience of receiving and then giving.  And so can the next person.”  She nodded.  She stood.  She walked over to a dad, standing close to his daughter.  She started talking.  I walked away.

That ten dollars hopefully travelled throughout the Tyrrell Museum.  Maybe its journey was brief, ending in an opened wallet or purse.  But perhaps it went on for hours.  I’ll never know.

I’m smiling now as I remember the giving.  Priceless.

Seeking the Past

A few days ago, when I was visiting Sharyn in Mannville, Alberta, I asked her if she’d be willing to drive me to Myrnam. Later, she told me that her first thought was “Why does he want to go there? It’s just an ordinary village.” Ha, ha! Perhaps this makes me strange, Sharyn.

Maybe thirty-five years ago, I was in this area of Alberta, visiting family. I crested the hill west of Myrnam just before sunset. A vast vista of rolling hills and ponds greeted me, bathed in a warm pinkish light. I was stunned by the beauty. And I’ve carried that sublime vision with me to Ontario and beyond. “Myrnam. Ahh.”

Now it’s 2019, and I’m approaching that hill once more, this time in the full light of day. But something’s wrong: there’s no vista, the light is flat, the gazing down seems blocked by trees. Where’s the magic? In response, I’m so disoriented. Did I make all this up? Have I held onto a lie all these years?

***

Yesterday, I drove down from near Edmonton to Lethbridge to visit Jody’s uncle Ray. Five hours of big sky and the sweet contours of the land. I booked a room in the Lethbridge Lodge Hotel, a place of memories: Jody and I having a cocktail in the lounge in an interior courtyard full of towering trees and splendid flowering plants. The breakfast room full of conversation and slanting sun.

The current truth was different. The hotel is under reconstruction. Towering blue tarps reduce the lobby to a temporary front desk. The lounge in the courtyard is gone, replaced by rectangular tables apparently only used for the breakfast buffet. The room of vast windows is now an Italian restaurant, with tiny panes bringing in only a small fraction of the outside world. Who pulled away my memories?

And now I smile. Clinging to images of the past … and then letting them go. Silly goose. I vote for the future. After all, my eyeballs do point forward. What moments can we create together just beyond the horizon?

O Canada

Tim, Michelle, Sarah, Glen and Sharyn

I’m in Mannville, Alberta, visiting my friend Sharyn. And there are new friends to meet: Glen, a jolly 95-year-old who never seems to run out of smiles; Michelle, a vibrantly intelligent single mom; her boyfriend Tim; and her 4-year-old daughter Sarah. Sharyn is either 27 or 76 … I can’t remember which.

Yesterday morning, we headed off to the metal gazebo at the heart of the village. Sharyn was appropriately decked out in red but I didn’t get the memo. My purple lizard t-shirt would have to do.

We lined up for the pancake breakfast with about 80 Mannvilleites. The guy with the microphone said something like “Isn’t it great to be in Alberta?” Not wanting to be left out, I yelled “Ontario”! The senior couple in front of me turned around and smiled. “Welcome to Alberta.”

It was Canada Day and I love my country. The microphone fellow said it was time to sing the national anthem and another gentleman came forward to lead us in “O Canada”. I belted out the words and most in the line did the same. What a good feeling.

Armed with pancakes, sausages, scrambled eggs and coffee, I found us a place to sit. The welcoming couple were already chowing down at the table. Cheryl and Doug were ranchers in the area.

I can’t remember whether Doug spoke first or me, but clearly we were both eager for contact. He and Cheryl have been married for 48 years and they certainly enjoyed each other’s presence.

Doug mentioned a dream fulfilled. The two of them had wanted to build a lodge on a scenic corner of their property, really a community centre able to host as many as 150 people for conferences and dinners. I could tell they were determined folks because Red Feather Ridge is thriving today. As Doug smilingly related the story, I yearned for an invite, but that never came. I let it go. Listening to Doug was reward enough.

Michelle and Sarah invited me over to their place for the afternoon while Sharyn had a nap. I was happy to have a kid in my vacationing life. We played three or four board games. I think it was the Candyland one that required no skill at all, just luck. So we two adults didn’t have to worry about holding our strategy skills back. We played that one twice and Sarah won once.

Next was Hide-and-Go-Seek. Sarah was hiding in the hole of a desk, with the chair sort of protecting her. I made a big deal of saying to Michelle “Now where did that girl go?” Sarah squealed in delight when we “finally” found her.

Now, my turn. By the kitchen window, there were long grey-and-white drapes that stretched almost to the floor. Perfect for hiding toes. Just a bit lumpy up top. I loved it when Sarah breezed through the kitchen on her way to probable hiding spots. After a bit, a little help from mom led to a young girl sweeping the drape aside. Such fun!

Later in the day, all of us had a fine dinner at Sharyn’s place. I sat at the table and looked around at the different faces, personalities and ages. My, my … an instant family for me. I am blessed.

My Absence

It’s been two weeks since I’ve talked to you.  Have I been “busy”?  Yeah, some.  But the truth is that I just didn’t feel like writing to you.  There was no magnetism drawing my fingers to the keys.  I know that my life is about contributing to other human beings, and sometimes in WordPress the “should” of saying something has been strong.  Sometimes I would write just to keep my daily streak of communication going.  At those moments, I wasn’t being true to myself.  This two-week absence has felt true.  And now it’s time to return.

I woke up this morning with an uncomfortable thought: maybe you folks think I’m dead.  Ouch.  I never want to hurt anybody, and what if some of you are imagining a car accident, a big illness, or a major mental distress?  None of those are true but leaving you in the space of not knowing was unfair.  I’m sorry if I caused you worry.  I should have just done a post saying “I don’t want to write right now.  I’m fine.  It could be a week or two before I reappear.”  That would have been good.

Hmm.  I’m glad I’m saying these things.  And I’m glad that I honoured the rhythms of my life by not writing lengthy posts recently.  And now … it’s time to share my thoughts again.  I’ll be back tomorrow.