Self-Disclosure

To what extent in this life do you share with others the truth about yourself, the good things and the bad?  Well, it depends on the you.  I think letting people know about my feet of clay, as well as my triumphal moments, frees up my body and soul … to flow.  And if the energy is moving largely unimpeded, I can touch other human beings.

Which brings me to Roberto Osuna.  He’s a relief pitcher with the Toronto Blue Jays, a young guy.  Imagine the pressure of coming on in the late innings with the bases loaded and the game on the line.  A few days ago, he did something remarkable: he told the world that he had anxiety issues and right then he was feeling “lost”.  So much for the male ego ruling the day.  Instead, the human heart had its say.  Well done, Roberto.  Some folks will be highly critical when you tell the truth.  Some will be clapping their hands.  But sooner or later you will have a tiny smile on your face.  No more charade.  No more looking over your shoulder to see who’s there.  No more being strategically careful.

I remember being in a meeting about the computer needs of a visually impaired student.  I’m okay with computer stuff but no whiz.  It seemed like everyone else in the room knew far more, and I too became lost.  What to do?  Fake understanding?  Cover up my terror with a big smile?  Press hard to control the shakes?  I chose elsewhere.  I told the assembly that I didn’t understand what people were saying, that I was feeling overwhelmed, and I needed to leave the meeting.  Which I did.  There was no tiny smile on my lips, just a red face.  The smile came later.

In Sunday’s sports section of The Toronto Sun, Steve Simmons had his say about Roberto:

“I can’t begin to tell you I know what Roberto Osuna is feeling.

I do know how troubling it can be when you lose a portion of yourself and you don’t necessarily know why.

But I can tell you with absolute certainty, from my own experiences, from the daily challenges, that the challenges of anxiety and mental illness aren’t easily explained or understood and they can be all-consuming.

Hopefully Osuna gets the kind of help he needs and finds the kind of peace all of us deserve.”

Well said, Steve
Well said, Roberto
Well said, me

Nipples

I was lounging on a Cuban beach two years ago, talking to a couple I had met the day before.  The fellow looked at my chest and said “So, you’re really glad to see me.”  Huh?  Then I looked down at my nipples and saw that they were sticking out some.  But they’ve always looked that way.  And then I forgot the whole thing.

Fast forward to a few weeks ago when the weather got warmer and I started wearing t-shirts again.  I looked in the mirror and there were my nipples, showing some under the T.  And in this version of Bruce, it wasn’t okay.  Here’s this nice little Buddhist guy, very familiar with letting things be as they are, starting to obsess about natural bumps on his chest.  Whatever happened to nipple peace?

This skewedness continued on its merry way until yesterday.  “Go down, you stupid little things.”  And that was pretty irrational, since my nips always seem to look the same.  Conveniently ignoring that relevant fact, I went to my laptop and Googled “normal male nipple”.  I then discovered that there isn’t any such thing.  We guys come in all sorts of configurations!

Undeterred by such variance in the male chest, I sallied forth into several Internet articles.  One plastic surgeon described “the perfect male nipple”, with the areola being such-and-such a diameter, and a nipple height of 3-4 mm.  Being alone in the house, I whipped off my shirt, went to a kitchen drawer, pulled out a ruler and proceeded to do the measurement.  6 mm.  “See?  I’m abnormal!”

Oh, Bruce.  Get a grip.  Just accept that you’re an absolutely perfect male specimen, except for nipple height.  Actually, aren’t we all perfectly ourselves, even as we regress from the mean of human features?  I think we are.

There’s the Six Million Dollar Man, and now we have the Six Millimeter Man.  Both absolutely fine examples of the male species.

I woke up this morning, put on my “Shine A Light Upon My Day” t-shirt, laughed at my nippled self, and sauntered over to the Belmont Town Restaurant for brunch.  Nobody stared.  They pretty much didn’t notice me.

Get my point?

 

Hairstyling

I was walking by the junior kindergarten door on my way to volunteering with the Grade 6’s.  There seemed to be a flurry of activity inside.  I wandered into the comings and goings of short people and saw that the class was having a spa day … hair makeovers and pretty nails.

A 5-year-old hairstylist invited me to take part.  I was ushered to a tiny chair and covered with a tiny plastic apron.  Then the clothes pins.  At least ten of them were artfully placed through my short grey hair.  After much debate, my two stylists declared that I was ready for the world.  Except for the nails.

Across the classroom I floated to the nail salon.  A palette of colours was presented to me by a young esthetician.  “I’ll take pink.”  That would go well with my glasses and fitness tracker.  Soon a brush laden with water-based paint descended towards my digits.  A few minutes later and I was as pretty as punch.

An assistant walked me to the floor fan, where my fingers dried.  Gosh, I looked good.  I really should go the spa more often.

I traipsed over to the Grade 6 classroom, where eyes widened upon my approach.  A couple of guys said, “That looks really good, Mr. Kerr.”  I wasn’t totally convinced of their sincerity, but there were lots of laughs too.

It was time to head home from school.  I was scheduled to visit a 92-year-old resident of a seniors residence with her niece, my friend Pat.  I asked a few 12-year-olds if I should lose the accessories and got a mixed response.  A few said dump it all, some said yes to one and no to the other and a couple of adventurous souls thought I should show her the whole enchilada.  So a full meal deal it was.  Was Thelma going to have a heart attack?  I’d soon find out.

On my way to London, I dropped into the Belmont Diner, my favourite haunt.  It pretty much came down to women laughing and men staring.  Not to be thwarted, I approached a few guys, telling them that they too could look like me.  All of them declined.

I was walking towards the front door of the home when I saw a woman sitting in a wheelchair.  I asked her if I looked good.  She said something fun and positive.  And I went off looking for Pat.  It turns out that the woman was Thelma.  I hadn’t seen her for 45 years.

The three of us sat in the lobby, enjoying coffee and tea (and cookies!).   Residents and staff came by, for some reason looking at my hairstyle.  I got many compliments and smiles.  I told them that it was the latest style from Paris.  I’m sort of a cutting edge guy, you know.

So … no heart attacks and lots of happiness.  I should see my young stylist more often.

Back in Belmont, I had a ticket to a community dinner in my hot little hand.  It was at the arena, at the far south end of town.  I’m at the north end, about a 25 minute walk away.  So again the question was yes or no.  I voted yes.

The walk southward was uneventful, just a few quizzical looks from passersby.  The real test was my entrance to the arena’s meeting room.  There must have been 150 folks chowing down when I walked through the door.  (Actually the door was open).  Immediately there was a mélange of raised heads and icy stares.  A few giggles.  I went over to my friend Rosemary to tell her my story.  She knows me well so I don’t think my coiffure was any big surprise.  Later she told me that several people had come up to her to see if she knew that man.  I’m pretty sure she didn’t disavow all knowledge of the human.

I saw a lot of men with arms crossed as they no doubt contemplated my sanity.  Women don’t seem to cross their arms so much but they too were curious.  I explained myself to my tablemates and really enjoyed heading out on the dance floor to get more baked beans or another glass of orange drink.  Hey, if you’ve got it, flaunt it!

Finally, I started visiting the residents of other tables, and the warm-ometer needle gradually rose.  After hearing me yap away about JK kids, I guess the adults realized I was a benign character.

So there’s my adventure.  It could be that a hundred people laughed at me.  Not a bad day’s work.

 

 

Bigger Than This

To me, “this” refers to the present moment, as opposed to “that”.  It might be joyous or sad, inspiring or frustrating, or everything in between.  It has adventures and it has movement from one thing to the next.

A couple of days ago, I experienced stillness, no movement, just being here now.  It was so sweet, and then it faded.  I figured it was by grace that such sufficiency showed up and I vowed to simply wait until this light shone on me again.  Trying to make it happen, such as by feeling into the current event and trying to make it stop, was a useless endeavour.  Effort doesn’t lead to the timeless.

Then there was this morning.  What if I found a mantra and simply repeated it throughout the day, hoping that it would trigger the downward flow of energy that I was experiencing recently?  Sounds like a strategy but not really effort.  That might work.  But having things “work” seems contrary to the letting go that came upon me before.  Still, I decided to do it.

How about “Not this”?  I tried that for awhile but no sweetness came my way.  Then I realized that negating the present moment wasn’t it.  I needed to honour present happenings while opening to something beyond them.  Maybe “Bigger than this”.  Worth a shot.

I was driving into London, going with the flow of the traffic, when I let “Bigger than this” seep into me.  Immediately the quiet flow of energy fell softly from my throat to my stomach.  And I was there, fully aware of the cars, but absolutely quiet inside.  I started congratulating myself and right away lost the immense space.  “Just watch the fullness (or emptiness), Bruce.  No analysis or conclusions.”

I got to my bike shop, to pick up ta-pocketa.  Unmindfully, I had broken my pedal last week.  “Come in.  We’re open” said the sign.  A smaller, handwritten one said they had to close unexpectedly for a few hours.  After a minute of grousing, I remembered my mantra … and the world opened once more.  The frustration of driving to Lambeth but not getting to take my bike home was still there but it was … small.  I smiled.

My afternoon was at South Dorchester School, volunteering with wonderful Grade 6 kids.  Right away, I had a conversation with two girls about drawing, and my mantra disappeared.  It stayed disappeared until I remembered it while talking to two women at the end of the day.  In between, I had many glorious moments, such as staring at a computer screen, surrounded by 12-year-olds, trying to guess who’s who from 27 baby pictures.  I got one right!

You could say that I was present for all these interactions with the kids, and I was, but how deeper could the moments have been if “Bigger than this” had augmented the already beautiful?  I don’t know, but I’m thrilled with the possibility that I can access the infinite often within daily life.

Tomorrow there’s more daily life on the schedule.  The Grade 6’s have a class trip to Western University in London.  We’ll be playing 4 or 5 different sports and “new” games.  And I have a challenge:

Stay present
Stay open
Stay fully alive

I can do this
Effortlessly

Just a Glimmer

Well, I woke up this morning [Sunday] and that feeling of immense space was still with me.  How about that?  I felt some energy moving down my body, towards my stomach.  A very quiet energy.  The moments were there and there was nothing to add to them.

The morning cold was bearable but my body really turned it on in the p.m.  No nose breathing that I could discover.  And I was zooming along the 401 at 110 kph.  Those two facts would normally have completely dominated my consciousness.  But not today.  There was a subtle current of ok-ness below.  Scarlet was going so fast but I was very slow inside.

The space would often close in just as my nose did, sometimes as a car changed lanes right in front of me.  But the stillness kept edging back into my drive.  Sweet.

Now I’m watching the Nashville Predators battle the Pittsburg Penguins in the Stanley Cup Final.  In the spirit of doing something about my problems, I’m shoving gobs of mentholatum up my nose.  But still precious little breathing.  And then there’s my stomach again – not a pain but a fine awareness down there.  It’s as if my body is helping me recenter myself, again and again.

And now the softness is gone and I’m my closed nose again.  Still I think of nasally normal moments in my future.  Will I be able to access yesterday’s peace at will when my body isn’t distracting me?  Maybe.  But it seems to me that I can create other distractions pretty easily.

And so what if I’ll often be able to reach an open state of being?  How can that better the world?  Assuming that I’ll be able to do this (without effort), perhaps other people will resonate with the same energy.  Maybe our minds will be so calm that our doing becomes a blessing.

Then again, all these musings could be so much horsepucky, the meanderings of a deluded one.

***

Shortly after the reference to horsepucky, I’d had enough vertical life and went to bed.  Where I slept for the next twelve hours, nose and all.  I’m up now and the spaciousness is gone.  Well, let’s see.  Maybe I’m wrong.  I’ll go searching.  But searching isn’t it.  That’s just more effort.  Peace is as clear as the nose on my face or it’s not there.  No.  Nothing.  But that’s okay.

Y’all come back sometime …

There’s Something Bigger

I was driving from Cambridge, Ontario to London this afternoon when a moment came upon me, and it’s stayed through the hours since.  It was a sense of … completion … sufficiency … total allrightness.  It was, and is, quiet.  Almost not there, except it is.  What’s it look like, you ask?  Well here goes:

I don’t need now to be anything other than what it is

There’s nowhere to go

There’s nothing to accomplish

All is still

I simply am

That’ll do for starters.  I know that goals are good but they’re far off in the back of my being right now.  I’ll strive towards things in the future but at the moment I sense that I won’t be tied to the results.  I know that I need to be concerned about injustice and to act appropriately when it comes my way, but that’s smaller than whatever this is.

Time for some specifics:

1.  I haven’t written a blog post for 24 days. This morning that was a problem but not right now … There’s something bigger than the need to write to you.

2.  What if I never write again? … There’s something bigger than ever writing again.

3.  I have a cold and am all stuffed up … There’s something bigger than this discomfort.

4.  My left foot hurts when I walk.  I wonder if it’s plantar fasciitis.  I’ve had it before … There’s something bigger than plantar fasciitis.

5.  I want to lose weight in preparation for the 2018 Tour du Canada cycling trip.  So far not much has happened … There’s something bigger than losing weight.

6.  I want to improve my cardio and strength in preparation for the Tour.  To this point, there’s just a bit of improvement … There’s something bigger than getting fitter.

7.  I want to ride the Tour du Canada … There’s something bigger than crossing my country by bicycle.

8.  I want to be in a loving relationship.  I don’t see any potential life partner on the horizon yet … There’s something bigger than being in a romantic relationship.

9.  I want to live in my new condo for many years … There’s something bigger than having a lovely home.

10.  I love the kids in the Grade 6 class where I volunteer.  I hope than some of them love me … There’s something bigger than being loved.

11.  I love being around people and making them happy, making them laugh … There’s something bigger than spending time with human beings.

***

On one level, I don’t want colds and I do want to say good things to the folks I meet.  Right now, though, I’m immersed in a sense of sufficiency that is just sitting here with me.  Will it be on the bed when I wake up tomorrow?  I don’t know.  But there’s something beyond having this sweetness continue uninterrupted.  The fact that it’s here right now suggests that it will come back after it leaves.  And that’s good enough for me.

 

On The Tracks

I love walking.  I love Belmont.  I love finding places to walk in Belmont.

Today I went ‘splorin’.  Many times I’ve crossed the railway tracks at the south end of town in Scarlet.  I knew from the map that they headed northeast, crossing two east-west roads – Avon Drive and Harrietsville Drive.  Once I reached that second road, I could walk west till I hit the T-intersection at Belmont Road.  I figured that the whole thing would take me two to three hours.  Adventure!

As I sauntered south from my condo, I talked to three people about my journey.  Every one said “Be careful” while all I wanted to hear was “Have fun”.  Oh well, I’d do both.

At the entrance to the Belmont Farm Supply yard, I turned sharp left, and stepped onto the tracks.  Yay!  My plan was to walk on the gravel beside the rails but I soon found that it sloped steeply down to the side, and my ankles said no to that nonsense.  So that left a path between the rails, maneuvering over the wooden ties.  Sometimes the gravel between the ties was a few inches below, and that took inspired footwork.  But who cares?  I was out and about and all the vestiges of civilization were fading behind me.

My first visitor was a bird – a kildeer.  I’m guessing that it was a she because it puffed itself up on the gravel and screeched unkindly at me.  The babies must have been in the tall grass nearby.  “It’s okay, mom.  I’m not going to hurt you or the little ones.”  I skirted way around her and passed by, whistling a happy tune.

It was hot today, maybe 28º Celsius.  For the first bit, my way was enclosed by trees and bushes, and the old forehead was dripping.  That’s all right.  Adventurers need to overcome lots of stuff.  Then the village park on the left came to an end and so did all the trees.  Fields of brown (to be planted) and green (winter wheat) beckoned.  And the breeze caressed my face.  Ahh.

I could see a long way in both directions.  Farmsteads were wee in the distance and I was alone in the world.  Sometimes I like that.  I thought of train trips I’ve been on and how wondrous it was to see the natural world, far from roads.  It was the same today.  Just me and my ties and my gravel.

Swallows swooped and I was entranced with their beauty.  Sometimes pampas grass accompanied me, waving in the wind from their eight-foot highness.  I crossed Kettle Creek on a short trestle bridge, letting the sweetness of the flow mix with my fear of a suddenly approaching train.  No train, just the water below.

Once the tracks curved and for awhile there were no signal lights to be seen way forward or way back.  Wilderness!  So I told myself.

Soon Avon Drive was behind me and I knew that Harrietsville Drive would meet my feet within half an hour.  I felt a touch sad, knowing that cars would soon be my companions.

And then they were.

Pavement home was still fun, if missing the aura of mystery.  I looked at houses passing by and wondered about the lives of the folks inside.  Up ahead was a fellow whippersnipping some weeds in front of his place.  I went over to talk and he smiled.  “I saw you in the paper.”  And indeed I had been, in an article about the tree that a landscaper planted for me in front of the post office … for Jody.  We had a good talk.

And then it was just a couple of kilometres back to orange brick.  Home.

***

I guess I’m a Belmontonian
Starting to know the land and the people
It makes me happy

At the Bottom of the Heap or Standing Tall?

Yesterday was South Dorchester School’s track meet.  Kids from Grade 3 to 6 strutted their stuff.  Many athletes were on display, throwing, jumping and running to exquisite lengths.  I enjoyed their performance but was especially taken with other students.

I saw one girl far back from the field in the Grade 6 girls’ 800 metre run.  Another girl went back to run with her, to encourage her.  They crossed the finish line with their arms over each other’s shoulder.  Just awesome.  What sports should be about.

I watched as some kids jumped only half as far as others in the long jump.  And I saw lots of children get their footing all mixed up in the hop, step and jump.  Gobs of anguish on the field.  Many adults and students encouraged the kids who simply weren’t athletes.

Are the less physically accomplished less valuable as human beings?  Not for a second.

These lessons made perfect sense but they weren’t gut wrenching, since I wasn’t running, jumping and throwing.  They became up close and personal a few hours later, however.

Last night was the first yoga class of six offered at the Belmont Library.  I signed up for the series and headed down.  My classmates were nine women, with grey hair well represented.  I had tried a few classes without much success but now it was time to get back on the horse.

I hadn’t counted on a bucking bronco.

Sitting down with my legs out ahead, I could hardly bend forward.  My feet were a land too far.

Standing on one foot lasted approximately three seconds each time, before toppling behaviour ensued.

Lunging forward sent pain through various body parts, and I had to give myself relief before the sequence of poses was complete.

Throughout all this, my brain brought me back to the kids.  How they struggled.  How I tried to encourage them.  And now it was time to encourage me.  My skills and strength were far below my companions’.  So what?  To use a martial arts term, I was “on the mat”.  I had shown up in the yoga room and was doing my best.  The same as those kids.  They had walked out to the track, to the ball throwing field, to the long jump pit.  And they gave what they had.

I think we’re all fine people.  It’s one thing to be on public display when you’re good at something.  Quite something else when your skills are low and your strength ebbing.  Life seems to throw gain and loss at us, both in liberal portions.  With a little help from our friends, we can handle it.

A Little Adventure

Why not create moments of oomph in my life?  And why not do it every day?

On Wednesday, I got an idea.  My neighbours Borot and Petra were about to leave on a 12-day Caribbean cruise.  They’d be spending a few days on the road before walking up the gangplank and they were so excited about it all.  Borot told me that they’d be setting off this morning sometime between 5:00 and 6:00.

So I did what any normal human being would do.  I bought a 20-pack of Timbits from my local Tim Hortons coffee shop.  They’re tiny donut balls – majorly yummy.  I went to bed early, setting the alarm for 4:15.  But I was too excited to sleep much.

After a morning shower, I brewed a cup of coffee, grabbed the Timbits, pulled on my winter coat, toque and mitts and sat down on the porch at 4:55.  I couldn’t wait for Petra’s garage door to start climbing.  I was ready to rush over with a Fare Thee Well present.

5:15.  Not a peep from two houses down.  Oh well.  The coffee’s good.  5:30.  The coffee’s cold so I rushed inside to the microwave, somehow believing that I could hear the garage door from my kitchen.  5:33.  Local human being bursts onto his porch, cup in hand.  Walks down the street.  Sees that there aren’t any lights on in Borot’s home.  Gosh, they better start showering soon.

5:45.  Nyet.  Those Timbits start looking good.  Then a possibility hits me: my friends left before 5:00.  Strangely, though I felt a twinge of disappointment at the prospect, I was almost giddily happy.  I’d never sat on my porch at this hour, watching pinkness grow in the east.  I was on a heroic quest but it didn’t seem to matter whether the result was produced.  The journey was lovely.

6:10.  Silence everywhere.  I imagined Petra and Borot zipping down the highway.  I thought of the Grade 6 kids I’d be visiting this afternoon.  I bet they like Timbits.  Twenty-seven children … twenty donut balls.  Oh, we’ll figure something out.

And we did.  Three kids were away.  A couple who were there didn’t want a donut.  The rest lined up in front of me and almost everyone thanked me for their little sphere of pleasure.  Two Timbits were left.  What if all three kids come back tomorrow?  Ahh, we’ll handle that too.

It was a fun day.  Here’s to many more.

 

Just Skimming The Surface

I went walking on another golf course on Monday – Mount Elgin Golfers Club.  The owners of Tarandowah have bought it so I get to wander in two places.  Unlike Tarandowah, Mount Elgin has many trees, with a nice mix of coniferous and deciduous.  Plus about six ponds.  Tarandowah has none.

What especially enthralled me were the birds.  Canada geese were wherever water was, and they also enjoyed sauntering down the fairways.  They honked whenever I got close but didn’t take off.  Hopefully they sensed that I was a benign human being, and had no interest in scaring them.  They received a wide berth.

What I love about Canada geese is that they’re almost always in pairs.  I think we’re meant to have a partner in life.  I wonder what those couples talk about.  Probably the same stuff we do.

I walked the front nine and then came into the clubhouse for a beer.  Lindsay is one of the staff members and she asked me if I had seen any babies.  Sadly, no.  But I was on the lookout when I returned to the green grass.  And on hole 14 or so, under a weeping willow, there was the family, including four little fuzzballs. The parents were staring me down but I just wanted to see the waddling from afar.  So cute.  Lindsay smiled later when I told her.

Although I enjoyed the presence of the gooselets, another species was the star of the show for me.  Swallows, with tinges of blue on their wings.  There must have been fifty of them on the various ponds, and oh, can they fly!  They’d zoom about six inches above the water, making wild turns.  Occasionally, their beaks would gobble up an insectal morsel as the bod motored on at supersonic speed.  I just stared at the grace and athleticism.

I tried following the flight of one bird but that was a challenge,  what with so many streaking over the pond.  And I was left with the question:  “Do they ever land?”  Not that I could see.  What anaerobic fitness!  What air speed records!  What a rush for this fairly stationary human being.

It could be said that I come for the flying, not the golfing.  I’m glad the feathered ones are in my life.