Last night, Jody was sitting up on her side of the bed, and I was in a chair beside her.  Right in front of me was the tiny wooden table that holds her Kleenex, water bottle and a bowl for meds.  I looked at the light brown hand towel that covers the table, and especially at the tag hanging from it, the one with washing instructions.  My forehead wrinkled, and inside I said “No”.  I wanted the towel to be pure towel.  I wanted the essence of towel to be all I saw.  I knew that the towel didn’t need the adornment of “Machine wash in cold water.  Tumble dry low.  Remove promptly.”  It was a diminishment of towelness.

I feel the same way about meatloaf.  Don’t want the heavy gravy.  I need to sense the beef itself, and the spices the chef used.  Sometimes I get strange looks from people, implying that I’m not dressing up my food appropriately.  “So boring, Bruce.”  Oh well … it just feels like a different drummer, wanting to taste all the subtleties.  No better and no worse than anybody else.

The beauty of the blue spruce tree in our backyard is just so “balanced”, symmetrical.  And the light turquoise tips blend naturally with the brownish needles closer to the trunk.  It is enough.  At Christmas, our neighbour festoons his spruce tree on the front lawn with strings of multi-coloured lights.  In that context, I see this too as “sufficient unto the day”, with its own beauty.  But some folks add blinking lights to their display … and that draws forth another “No” from me.

I’ve always enjoyed watching movies in theatres.  I went to Expo 67 in Montreal as a teenager, and one day was watching a film outdoors with hundreds of others.  Suddenly something happened that I had never experienced before – instead of one image on the screen, there were now two!  A collective gasp filled the space.  I enjoyed the novelty, and actually was shocked by it, but the fact that I needed my eyes to go back and forth to see both movies started feeling like … no.  In 2014, many advertisements have pictures flashing by every second, assaulting my sense of now.  I don’t like it.

Perhaps I have a towel, tree, light and film idiosyncrasy.  I don’t mind.


I study smiles.  Have for a long time.  Would you believe that I have a subsciption to The National Enquirer and that I reflect on the faces therein?  Well, whatever the magazine or newspaper, I’ve noticed that very few people in advertisements, stories or obituaries really smile.  I look at each face and say either “Yes” or No”.  Is it a truly genuine smile that shows the spirit within?  Is there a shining forth?  Too often, there is great pain revealed through the upturned mouth.  It makes me sad.  What are those lives like, and what about the loved ones who live beside that pain?

In my travels to many schools, I met countless faces.  I’m thinking of one woman, a secretary, whom I’ve known for many years.  Over perhaps fifty visits to her school, I had never seen her smile.  It’s been my hobby to say or do silly things, trying to make people smile or even laugh.  “Mary” never did.  None of my twistings and turnings worked.  And I was sad some more.  Last fall, actually just a few weeks before I stopped teaching and went on short term disability, I was leaving Mary’s school near the end of lunch hour.  There were big windows near the entrance, and I saw Mary coming in from the parking lot.  Timing my approach perfectly, I opened the door as she was about to reach for it, bowed, and said, “Welcome to ______ School, ma’am.”  Guess what?  Mary smiled.  It wasn’t a big one but it was there.  It made me happy.

One of the best parts of the World Cup for me is when the camera catches fans up close and personal.  A person will see themselves on the JumboTron and a brilliant smile lights their face.  One of those genuine types.  The shift in my well-being is huge … I’m so happy that they’re happy.  And it’s even more intense when they spot the camera operator and look straight into the lens.  Ahh.

May I smile even on my deathbed.  People deserve to be on the receiving end.


Flat and Distant

For those of you who read my post yesterday, I got six hours sleep last night – just what I had hoped for after cutting back on sleeping pills on Saturday.  Still, my mind has been cloudy most of the day.  Guess you could say that I’ve been experiencing a different level of consciousness while getting a clear picture of what I’m all about in life.

Lots of errands for Jody in the car.  I’ve been listening to Stephen King’s Insomnia while motoring along.  Great book, but not today.  I’ve loved the elderly hero Ralph Roberts, but this morning I didn’t care about him.  Ouch.  Down somewhere among my functioning brain cells, I knew that I care deeply about other human beings.  But I just couldn’t cope with Ralph.  During my glimmers of alertness, I was shocked.  “Not me!  Not me!”  Except that it was.  And how arid that felt.  How could I possibly stay sane if this was my daily grind?

One of my early stops was at “Canada’s Finest Coffee” in London, to pick up some Keurig K-cups.  I got out of Hugo and was walking to the store when along came a woman.  I virtually always say “Hi” at these moments, and there’s no effort to do so.  It’s just like rolling off a log.  But as she got closer, I had to push myself with all my might to meet her eyes, smile, and say hello.  And push I did.  I just couldn’t look the other way and pass on by.  So … that’s good.  But what must it be like if that’s what you do minute by minute and day by day?  It’s horrifying to think about what that does to a person.

Inside the store, I was talking to an employee named Holly about different coffees that were on the Keurig website.  Another monumental effort.  I mentioned that Jody was sick and we talked some about cancer, which has touched both of us.  But I wasn’t there.  It was just a blur of words coming out of me that hopefully made some sense.  Where, o where, was my commitment to “be with” people?  Some place where I wasn’t.

Then on to Costco (awfully tired of Ralph en route), where I know a lot of the staff members and demonstrators.  I usually love the banter.  But today, I just wanted to stay away from people.  No visit to to the Vision Centre, nor to Customer Service.  I picked a cashier that I didn’t know, and was the basic transaction-oriented customer.  How yucky.

Finally on my journey of dimness, I walked into the Real Canadian SuperStore to buy just one item: silver polish.  As I was about to plunk the little can down on the express conveyor belt, the darkness lifted.  I had me back.  So I placed my Silvo beside the groceries of the fellow in front, and said to him, “Do you mind if I put my silver polish here when you’re not looking?”  He laughed.  The cashier laughed.  I thanked God.

I can’t live like that morning guy.  It hurts too much.


I’ve used pills to get to sleep, and to stay asleep, for many years.  I may see myself as a nice little Buddhist guy, so majorly peaceful, but the truth is that I haven’t known how to handle the stresses of teaching.  I taught visually impaired kids until my recent retirement, usually going to about twenty schools a year on a regular basis.  Some days were golden, and some were not.

I worried so much that I didn’t know enough about eye conditions, and how to assess a particular child.  I struggled with a “To Do”list that never seemed to fall below 100 items.  I did my best to deal with the wide variety of personalities that came my way in the school system.  And I didn’t sleep very well.

So it’s been a regime of Trazodone (1) and Lorazepam (2) for many moons.  Even with the meds, there were some Sunday nights when I didn’t sleep at all.  Such overwhelming fear.  For part of the time when Jody was in the hospital in February and March, it took three Lorazepam for me to get five or six hours.

My spiritual life and my drug consumption tossed me back and forth in the wind.  “Should’s” abounded.  Really evolved human beings wouldn’t need all those pills.  But the more I’ve thought about it, the intense focus and the multitasking required in so many careers is just unnatural.  Society says “X” but my heart and body say “Y”.  And “Project Pension” has seemed so essential.  I really think that the insomnia of the last decade is not about any deficiency in me.  I bought into the context of achievement, of comparison with others, of the importance of knowing stuff.

As of June 19, my employment life is over.  So I took a step last night: one Trazodone and just one Lorazepam.  And the result, ladies and gentlemen, was four hours of sleep, plus a daytime dullness that’s worlds away from the mindfulness I treasure.  I wonder if you can see that dullness in these paragraphs.  Maybe I’m good at hiding it or maybe it’s clear as day.

I don’t want to live this way, not being present to the enchanting moments of life.  I guess, though, that I need to pass through days like this on my journey to pilllessness.

What I want is to be a large contribution to the people in my life, to be a beacon of love and presence.  And without the ego of “Look at me”.  So I travel on.

How about six hours tonight?