Prostate

I told the kids at school that I was going to “a meeting” this afternoon. That was true … a meeting with a urologist in the Prostate Clinic at St. Joseph’s Health Care. My doctor did a rectal exam late last year and found an irregularity as she touched my prostate gland – some unexpected bump. She wasn’t very concerned but wanted to be thorough. Fair enough.

So there I was today, sitting in the waiting room for half an hour, wondering if I should breathe easy or jangle a bit. When I looked inside, I saw calm. So I decided to kibitz with the woman to my left and the man to my right. That was fun.

Finally it was time for me, and Dr. Urologist extended his hand. A jolly fellow. He took all the data he had – blood work, rectal exam, my survey answers – and plugged the info into his computer program. I saw the word “abnormal” next to the “physical exam” category. This led to a small gulp. Doctor told me that today he’d do a look-around with his finger. If he didn’t find anything strange, he’d change “abnormal” to “normal”.

I glanced at the screen again. Right now it said “Probability of cancer: 44%”. Woh. Doctor told me that this general cancer lingo included ones that aren’t a problem. Okay, but that wasn’t particularly reassuring. There was another category, which I think read “Probability of high intensity cancer: 24%”. Not a happy camper over here.

As they say, my life was flashing before my eyes. I felt naked, fully vulnerable, swimming in the question “Am I well or am I sick?” Everything seemed to stop.

And then there was Doctor again, smiling and ushering me over to the examination table. His finger was poised for action, and I was poised for the worst, the best, and everything in between.

Seconds later, the exam was full speed ahead. “Ahh … I see what your doctor means. But it’s not a nodule. It’s the vas deferens [a tube inside me that goes somewhere]. You’re FINE.”

I’m fine. You heard that, didn’t you? No sweat. No worries. No reason not to have a long and happy life.

So … on I go.

Lost!

I was up at 6:00 this morning, if “up” means rising on my elbows in bed, swirling between conscious life and sleep. I wanted to go for breakie at the Belmont Diner, and then on to school to say silly things to kids.

I reached over to the nightstand for my glasses … and they weren’t there. Odd. Somewhere in the night, I remembered sweeping the comforter over my snoozing body, and there was a faint recollection of nudging something.

No problemo. I dropped to the floor and scanned the usual spots where glasses have been known to descend. Nothing.

“Look harder” said the Bruce voice. I expanded my search, including the narrow space behind the nightstand, and unlikely distances under the bed. Nope.

You’ll be happy to know that these gyrations were all accomplished in the nude. My bedroom window was right there, and my body was well lit, but surely there wasn’t anyone out in the field walking their dog in the dark.

My heart rate climbed. A sheen of perspiration appeared on my forehead. I got up and roamed around, purposefully.

In good time, I discovered that all of these yielded a “No”:

-on top of the nightstand
-in the drawer of the nightstand
-on top of my dresser
-on the raucously coloured comforter
-under said comforter
-under the sheet below
-on the kitchen counter
-on the living room couch
-on the patterned living room rug (crawling and brushing with my hand)
-across all available surfaces in the bathroom
-inside the bathroom cupboard
-on the washer and drier
-in the den (hadn’t been in there for a day or two)

Such was the descent of my mind. And the wanderings of my naked body. (Lights were bright in the den, which faces the street. I didn’t care.) Visions of days with only sunglasses came to my fuzzy eyes. Having a neighbour come in with 20/20 to scout the premises. Etcetera.

I was speeding up and revisiting unlikely locations. Breathing fast and shallow. Scurrying.

And then I stopped. “Bruce, go have a shower. Maybe that’ll help you think more clearly, and erase from your mind the probability of aliens having landed.”

Oh … the deepest sigh. Before hitting the spray, I decided to make my bedroom more presentable. I carefully pulled the sheet tight over the pillows, and then did the same with the comforter.

Then I shook my head. “What’s to become of me …?”

Interviewed

Yes, that’s what happened to me yesterday … for the second time in my life.

Back in the 80’s, I worked with a psychologist in Lethbridge, Alberta. We led personal development seminars and Joel was a great coach. I was a newbie, a 30-something guy armed with some knowledge of communication skills but definitely lacking in life experience.

Our local TV station got wind of the work we were doing and wanted their viewers to hear about it too. My memory is that Joel had done many of these interviews and suggested that I give it a go. Tremblingly, I agreed.

On the day of public reveal, I put on my ill-fitting brown suit and headed downtown. The chairs in the studio were comfy, unlike me. The woman asking the questions did her best to settle me down but sadly I fumbled my way along the path of vague answers and big gaps of silence. Here I was, a seminar leader with prolonged descending self-esteem.

I watched the complimentary copy of the video once, cringing at regular intervals. I felt like a teenager with a face full of acne.

***

Okay, that was a long ago then. Yesterday was a totally different now. Carolyne, the Program Director of the Evolutionary Collective, was interviewing me online. Our work is an exploration of consciousness, and a leaning into the future to glimpse where evolution may be carrying us. More than anything, we intend to bring more love into the world.

I’ve been doing the 1-1 mutual awakening practice with many people over the past one-and-a-half years. Usually there’s a vivid meeting of the eyes as we melt into each other.

It was 1:45, fifteen minutes before interview time. I’m sitting in my room at a Toronto bed and breakfast … with a big smile on my face. Instead of a brown suit, I’m wearing a bright red shirt and jeans. Instead of swallowing every thirty seconds, I’m flying free.

Carolyne asked me a whole bunch of questions about the impact the EC has had on me. I didn’t care what she asked. I was too busy laughing about I don’t remember what. There was no planning to my answers, no strategy. Things just seemed to bubble up. Plus I was in no hurry to say anything. I felt great trust that the words coming out of my mouth would be true and helpful to future viewers.

Carolyne and I giggled a lot as our time together flew by. If I knew any communication skills, I couldn’t remember them. She and I were together … that was the only important thing. Our eyes met.

***

So how can this be?
Well, 35 years must have something to do with it
I’ve learned a lot and forgotten what I’ve needed to forget
I’m more of Bruce than I used to be
Thank you, life

Day Thirty-One: Going to the Home Continent

Goodbye Senegal, for now. I love you.

I thought yesterday’s bus trip from Toubacouta to Dakar Airport would be five hours long, but doorstep to doorstep it was only 3:25.

We were dropping young Ansou off at his new hometown of Passy. His brother Ali and I have become close during two visits and I wondered if he’d be on the side of the road as we slowed into town. Actually, I knew he’d be there.

He was. I saw a boy in the distance. From my perch in the front passenger seat, I started waving, just as he too began the greeting. I hugged Ali twice in those few minutes. I wear his bracelet on my left wrist. He’s my friend.

This was one more goodbye in yesterday’s lingering departures. So many African friends, not stopped by language in the pursuit of love. I have families both here and there.

The road to Dakar was sprinkled with villages – fruit stands, parked semi-trailers, rows of motorcycles with young men astride. People flowed everywhere and the din of voices blasted through the open windows. There’s just such an incredible energy in this country.

Lydia, Marie-paule and I were flying overnight to Belgium. I was scared about my ability to stay well all the way to San Francisco. Lydia gave me half of a sleep-promoting tablet to see me on my way. It didn’t work. I got less than an hour of shuteye. I experimented with different sleeping positions. At home, I flop from side to side, but on the plane this left one foot edged onto the floor. That hurt after awhile and sleep didn’t come. I finally figured out that a symmetrical stance worked best, head straight back on a pillow and feet flat on the floor. But that didn’t produce the result either.

We landed about 5:30 am, and Jo was soon there to whisk the women home. I had more than five hours before getting on a plane to London. A flight attendant on the Dakar-Brussels flight told me about a lounge that had actual beds! Oh … give me sleep.

It turned out that this lounge was only for customers of Brussels Airlines, but I found another one … the Diamond Lounge. They had a little bed available, and a shower! I got wet, washed my hair, shaved and brushed my teeth thanks to the supplies provided. My toiletry kit was in my checked luggage. There was even a spread of food and drink. Yay. After, I set my alarm for two hours thirty hence and fell to the sheets … … Nothing. No sleep. (Sigh)

Here I sit in another departure lounge, this one in London Heathrow Airport. The direct flight to San Francisco will be twelve hours, not the fourteen I thought it was. Small mercies.

I’m now at the thirty hour point of little sleep. Another twelve hours on the plane plus maybe two hours to get to the Downtown Berkeley YMCA, and I’ll stand at forty-four. If I can’t sleep on this flight, I bet I’ll be delirious. No thanks. I have a full version of one of Lydia’s sleeping pills at the ready. Pray for me.

Compassion

It’s an astonishing painting, by Alex Grey. It hangs in my hallway just inside the front door. I could go on and on about the beauty of it all but I’m sure the message is clear to you. There is giving and there is receiving, with the giver knowing deeply that he or she is being given to as well.

We had an art class this afternoon. The lesson was on perspective, how a line of trees can appear to be stretching to the horizon. The teacher and I roamed around, offering feedback and encouragement. One young man (I’ll call him “Brett”) had his head down and I asked if I could help. He was shaky. When I looked at his pencil drawing, I saw the mistake he was making and I coached him about how to fix it. Then I moved on to other kids. It was fun to offer a hint here and some praise there.

Ten minutes later, I glanced back at Brett. His arms were propping up his head and he was crying. I walked over. “What’s wrong, Brett?” He turned to me and away from the students beside him. “This isn’t any good and my dad will be so mad.”

My eyes welled with his. I flashed to my father and to the unconditional positive regard he sent me, even when improvements needed to be made. Clearly home was sometimes not like this for Brett. I wanted to assist him and I wanted us to have privacy. We found a table off in a corner and sat there with each other, both of us making some marks on the paper. We worked towards the OKness of any tree that emerged from Brett’s fingers and shared the creation of perspective – two tall trees on the left and right edges of the paper, two shorter ones next door and two itsy bitsy versions in the middle of the paper. By the time the first bell rang for home, Brett was calm.

Such a key moment, that one with the tears. Each of us needs to be ready with a helping hand. The Bretts and Lucys of the world deserve our care.

Unapologetic Greatness

In the Evolutionary Collective, people from near and far meet on the Internet to explore consciousness together, to further the growth of deep love in the world. There is a practice we do, usually 1-1, in which a profound connection often emerges. We glimpse the possibility of a unblemished unity flowing between members of the human family.

Sometimes on our calls, a teacher will ask for a volunteer to practice with her or him in front of the whole group. We see everyone onscreen by way of Zoom, a technology similar to Skype. The intention is for all of us to learn as the volunteer leaps in, sometimes missing the mark, sometimes hitting the bullseye. The teacher gives feedback. Ideally, the volunteer accepts it with grace.

I’ve been terrified of such encounters and have never volunteered.

Until last night.

Without thought, I found my finger tapping the “Raise Hand” button … and there I was, naked in the digital world. I opened to the moment and let the emerging words flow out. My expression was outside of the realms of “good” or “bad”. It was simply real.

Once we had moved on from the coaching, I felt warm inside. Glowing. At peace.

For many months, I’d labelled my timidity as fear of failure. But I wonder. Could it be instead that the image of me having outrageous power to do good in the world was just too terrifying? What would my life become if I was consistently “out there” in a huge way? Could I cope with the fierce bolts of electricity? Would I end up alone?

***

Afterwards, I remembered a woman who spoke piercingly about the fear of being great. I didn’t remember her name. I didn’t remember her words. So I just sat quietly, hoping that a phrase would come back to me. And it did:

“Playing small does not serve the world”

Mr. Google did the rest.

***

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, “Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?” Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

Marianne Williamson

Tensing Up … Letting Go

For all my driving life, some unknown entity has tightened my stomach at a certain moment. I’m approaching traffic lights, which are green my way. The orange hand is flashing and there’s no countdown to yellow. There it is, some deep physical worry that I’ll have to stop for a red.

I consider myself a fairly mature person but this gut response has long fascinated me. After all, it’s a hopefully long life. What difference will it make in the span of time if on this day I arrive at my destination a minute later than hoped for? The answer to my unaddled brain is clear: none. But so often the cranium addles itself.

Tonight I was driving on Veterans Memorial Parkway in London. Traffic on this particular road zooms along at 90 kilometres an hour or so. Way ahead of the intersections are lights which come on in a flashing way to show cars that they need to slow down for an impending yellow. Oh, my history of seeing the light start flashing when I’m almost upon it, and then blasting down the gas pedal to “make it”.

Not tonight.

For some elusively mature reason, I let up on the gas in that moment. Some force did it … there was no intention. And then the yellow came on and I stopped, without a heart smashing my chest. Hmm. Perhaps this is wiser. Maybe it’s better to feel into the flow of driving rather than jerking around with the gas and brake.

And then there’s life. I wonder if “making it” happens when I smell the roses. They’re awfully sweet, you know.

Haunted House

Imagine a small elementary school. Imagine its tiny stage. It’s dark. Soft spiderwebby stuff hangs down. Lights glow and flash. There’s a severed hand over there. A small doll sits up, a beam illuminating its melancholy face. On the table is a cauldron of brains, better known as spaghetti. Organ music fills the space. Ten human beings stand or lie or hide behind the curtain, in various states of distress. Nine are young, one is old. All are grotesque.

Do you get the idea?

We have a manager – “Tammy”, a Grade 6 student. She orchestrates our visitors, who range from age 6 to 12, plus some hesitant adults. They are ushered into our home in groups of two or three. If it’s a Grade 1 child, we mostly laugh rather than scare. For the 12-year-olds, however, it’s full on terrorizing.

We played our roles for an hour-and-a-half. I cackled, moaned and invited folks in for dinner. A glob of spaghetti dripped from my right hand. Green stuff adorned my left.

Oh my God, we had fun! Our victims hopefully are having lovely, terrorless evenings as an entry to soft sleep. But they’ll remember their excursion into the Twilight Zone.

You are travelling through another dimension
a dimension not only of sight and sound but of mind
A journey into a wondrous land
whose boundaries are that of imagination

Thanks for coming with me to the wild country
Sleep well

Getting A Bang Out Of Life

I should be a better waterer.  I moved into this condo in Belmont two-and-a-half years ago.  My neighbours and I each have a separate building.  The back of mine faces a farmer’s field.  Shortly after I moved in, my builder had a locust tree planted in my mini-backyard.   It was already ten feet high when it hit the earth.

I didn’t water my leafy friend.

Now, as the leaves are emerging, there are several skinny and very dead branches.  Time to do better, Bruce.  I took a photo and rambled over to my local garden centre, where Jim knows about all things plant.  “Lop off the dead stuff, create an earthen bowl around the trunk, and give it a good watering once a week.  It’ll be fine.”  Ahh … the joy of friendly expertise.

I bought some topsoil and headed over to the rental place, which had just what I needed – a tree pruner.  Long wooden handle for one hand, a rope to pull the blade shut for the other.  Piece of cake.  This was yesterday afternoon at 2:45.  They closed at 3:00.  See?  The Gods were with me.

I was too busy doing nothing at home to get the project underway yesterday, but today was my rendezvous with destiny.  I was out there in my home maintenance clothes, ready to get covered with soil, and all set to show off my tree pruning skills.  The first dead branches were about six feet above the grass.  Insert blade opening around the offending bare one, pull the rope gently, and watch the twig fall gently to the ground.  Oh, what a good boy am I!

Hmm.  That one’s higher and a lot thicker.  I was at a bit of an awkward angle, maneuvering around the live branches.  Pull with right hand, left one on the handle > Nothing.  Pull harder > Pretty much nothing.  Okay, this isn’t working.  “Why don’t you just grab the rope with both hands and really reef ‘er?” > “Okay, I’ll do that.”

[And now for a pause that refreshes: You handy men and women in the crowd may possibly be gasping right now.  How could this homeowner be so … stupid?  Doesn’t he see the probable consequences of his proposed action?  Was he born in a cave, somehow managing to stay there until this moment?]

I pulled like the hero I no doubt am.

Schmuck!  The handle smashes into bone just above my left eye.  Falling.  Soft grass.  Warm flowing.  Heading to lights out … but no.  I stumble up, lurch to the garage and grab the paper towels.  Glasses in one hand.  Masses of white grope from the other to my face.  Red trickle down the lens, pretty against the amber and purple of my frames.

Brain exploding.  The neighbour’s doorbell.  Maddy’s hand on my shoulder.  “Come in.  Sit down.”  She gently removes the roll of paper towel from my elbow.  I keep pressing.  “Lean back against the wall.  Breathe slowly.”  Fading in and out.  Gary appears with a bag of ice.  Later, two big bandaids.  Thank you, my friends.

Twenty minutes later, I’m lying on my bed.  Far from sleep.  Exhausted.  “Go to the hospital.  You may have a concussion.  You’re okay to drive.”

Was I?  I knew I didn’t want to bother Maddy and Gary.  Who knows how long I’d be in Emergency?  “I can do this.”  And I did.  The twenty-five minute drive was almost uneventful.  I was slow and steady.  A wee bit of blood dripped from under the bandage.  I wiped it away.  No big deal.

The wait seemed long but it wasn’t.  My ice bag was now a cold water bag.  The staff were so friendly.  The doc had been around the block a few times.  No concussion.  A few sutures needed.  I gulped at that news, my wimpy relationship to pain coming to the surface.  Injecting the freezing agent hurt some but the four stitches were … seamless.

***

It’s hours later.  There’s a little smile on my face, just as there was during some hospital moments.  Some pain in my noggin.  What a silly guy, but essentially lovable.  It was another rich life experience.  I’m sure there’ll be many more.

The Bicycle

It hurts when I let something stop me in life, when my fear takes over. I dropped out of the 2018 Tour du Canada bicycle ride after three days and never got back on the bike. I knew this was putting a lid on my energy, and having me make far less of a contribution to people.

I stewed and moaned and succumbed. I created in my mind a dilemma that hovered over who I most deeply am. And finally, I said “Enough!” Finally was yesterday morning.

Thank God I’d chosen to get rid of the clipless pedals that have been a part of me for years. Basically, the cycling shoes attach to the pedals via a little metal cleat on the sole, so that I’d have stability and power. Sadly, most of the time I managed neither. I was in the bike shop a few days ago trying out new and improved pedals. I sat on the device that keeps a bicycle steady (a “trainer”) and tried over and over again to clip in. My bike guy even took hold of my foot and set it in the perfect spot for attachment. Only with his hands on could I get the job done. Not a single time on my own. So I took ta-pocketa home with flat pedals on.

I was so nervous in the morning, with horrible memories flooding back: getting my cycling shorts caught on the saddle repeatedly while a crowd of TdC’ers looked on, encouraging me; falling I think four times on my three days of the ride, accompanied by various gashes on my legs and arms; feeling the wind of the semi-trailers two or three metres away as I worked on creating a rhythm; getting stuck in too hard a gear as we climbed a long bridge near Vancouver. Oh … major yuck!

First, put your bib shorts and jersey on. I chose a dragon design. The beast was not me – it was an insidious outside force that was ready to pounce. The clothes felt vaguely familiar and immediately strange. Had I moved so far away from being a cyclist?

Fanny pack, house key, helmet, full water bottle. I took ta-pocketa out of the garage and pressed the button to close the big door, exiting by a human door. Good … all locked up. But where was my fanny pack with the accompanying key? On the hood of Scarlet, I remembered, safely ensconsced in said locked garage. I bowed my head. A detail that at other times would be ho-hum looked like a game breaker. After a spurt of angst, I remembered that a spare house key sat under the Buddha on the back patio.

I had taken off the handlebar mirror at the bike shop when I offered to transport a woman’s bicycle on my rack to her home. I now replaced my navigation device but I couldn’t remember how it fit on the handlebar. Ten minutes of anxious fiddling and it finally looked sort of okay.

Driveway. Street. Right foot on right pedal, ready to push off with the left. Almost a year of absence from the unimpeded road. One very large sigh. Would I catch the darned shorts on the back end of the saddle … again? The answer was no. I was up and rolling down Robin Ridge Drive. My eyes were wide. I’d actually returned to cycling! There was a jolt of ecstasy and then I just concentrated like hell.

I rode for fifty minutes on country roads. There was a two kilometre stretch of really rough pavement, including a downhill section. I wobbled a lot. I steadied myself. Cars and trucks came close. I stayed about two or three feet from the edge of pavement – a legal maneuver but one that angers a lot of motorists. The memories were there. I kept pedalling. The quiet expanse of Yorke Line had me breathing again, had me flowing again. I didn’t experience any power in my dear legs but I was moving forward.

Back at the hacienda, there was no burst of joy. The insides of my body were vibrating. I felt like a stranger in a strange land. But I did it. I got on my bike again.