What’s in YOUR wallet …

People do things to others that hurt.

Mistakes, misguided conclusions, disregard for the feelings of others, thoughtlessness and sometimes willful expressions of darkness.

These things just role through our lives and we have no power to avoid them.

There you are a happy little Shad fly moving through the air one minute and the next you’re splattered across the windshield of someone else’s Mac truck.

Woefully careening down the highway out of the drivers seat. Completely impacted by someone else’s journey. You want to just fly off but it’s too late for that … you’re splattered.

You have no control over the feelings and the experience.

Or so it seems.

For days …months … sometimes years that word unspoken festers inside.

The mention of the name of the offender calls forth emotions that turn the most otherwise calm individual into a ranting, seething warrior.

I know someone who has harbored such pain for literally decades.

She refuses to view forgiveness as anything other than the power she wields over the transgressions she feels were committed against her.

I’ve heard the story, countless times… admittedly some of the things that were said were hurtful.

But that was a generation ago.

Life has continued to flow, children have been born and raised and even death has visited her family.

So why then does she refuse to release the past after suffering the weight of resentment for so long?

I think we do this because we think we learn so early that forgiveness is the final power we hold over a people who hurt us.

I will forgive you if you crawl/buy me something/go harm someone else

We feel powerless when we get splattered! Our response from some sort of shortsighted perspective is to imagine that by withholding forgiveness we hold the power to never be hurt by that person again.

And this requires work.

Almost invariably the offender starts cow towing to the victim, birthing a toxic relationship with a short life expectancy.

it’s short because not many of us will choose to endure the shitty feelings of being judged on past “learning opportunities” for an indeterminate time.

And so the offender exits the highway and the victim is left with nothing but the one side of the story, which permanently traps her in the pain of the moment that happened long ago at the moment of the perceived transgression.

I’ve literally heard people say... I will hate that guy til they bury me.

in so doing the victim mindlessly squanders every tomorrow canvas they have to paint, with the splatter of some putrid color they really are not fond of.


Because to forgive would force me feel the vulnerability to reoccurrence of pain by surrendering the power.

News flash … The ONLY Power I have over the past is the power to choose to not let it burden me today so that I might bring my full self and ergo make tomorrow’s past better.

This also takes work !

Sometimes the lust for power seduces me in dim lights with sexy underwear.

It breathlessly whispers to me: “they don’t deserve my forgiveness. ” it moans “If I let them off the hook they will just do it again

While both of these ponts may be true, it is the victim who ultimately carries the toxins of anger while the offender hardly feels the ankle bracelet he has been condemned to by the victim.

Forgiveness can only work it’s magic when BOTH the person seeking forgiveness and the forgiver want to feel better.

The problem is that in some deep dark recessed place in my mind …I kinda like sexy underwear… I forget that power over others is not my prerogative and that I am actually taxed by the weight of harboring resentment.

And so by not forgiving I join the team of people that do things that hurtME!

Only thing is that in this process I also hurt other people … like the ones closest to me.

I do so by hanging on to past transgressions so they do not see my fullest light, since some of it remains hidden behind the weight of yesterday’s mistakes.

I deny those I am closest to the manifestation of my best self.

Making tomorrow’s past less than it can be.

Sometimes I feel I need to decide to never expose myself again to that person.

But as I walk away I have to remember – do I want to start my journey today with the added weight of yesterday’s pain?

Or do I want to take the energy I would invest in that goose chase and direct it to lightening my load by learning how to forgive those who hurt me?

Making tomorrow’s past better.

Up from the river… “DeeNile”

The movement toward “making a better past” came not in a minuscule way.

It came with a cataclysmic crash the day we buried my father.

Because that day I found myself with no other option but to accept he was gone.

I loved him so deeply, for so long that I had really kinda created a denial based defense mechanism..

Incapable of conceptualizing my life without him, I never really consciously accepted that one day he would not be anywhere I could see him.

Then in a flash I was left with only the hole I felt in the place where I once thought my heart was.

The pain and sense of loss that day literally drove me to my knees beside the hole into which they were lowered him .

And Bam! I was lowered to one of the darkest moments I have experienced.

There was very little light defining me when I finally got home that night.

I said things to one of the most important people in my sphere left on the planet that night.

Hurtful, ugly, painful things that could only have been said from a place where I was consumed by fear.

Fear of how would I be in his absence.

The light that defines me flickered very dimly that night and I said things that changed my world .

It is a past I want so much to make better.

News flash… No can make a better past!

I’ve had a few years now to figure out how I might have approached it differently.

The first thing I do now is to accept.

Acceptance is the very first step to a better past.

Acceptance of what is allows me to avoid taking an active role in making life messier.

The only place from where a better solution might be discovered is a place that is not rooted in denial.

Denial is only a prolongation of the suffering, since I can’t move on from what I don’t recognize.

If I steadfastly deny the inevitable I may delude myself into moments of temporary distraction but in the end the inevitable is exactly that …inevitable.

In 19 days my eldest daughter is leaving home and moving to the west.

And this time the hole will not consume me.

As this time I will approach the same fear from a different view.

Instead of denying the pain until reality slams over me, this time I am choosing to take it on the chin in daily sparring matches with acceptance.

Only instead of one giant Muhammad Ali right hook I am leaning into small jabs to the chest.

Mindfully allowing myself to feel just a tablespoon of sadness now, has allowed me to right size the the inevitable.

I will miss her more than I can say.

That is just a fact.

She has been one of my anchors in the last couple years and we have had some deeply rewarding conversations as she emerges presenting the beautiful spirit she is to the world.

Yet, I must accept that her life is calling now and while I might want to deny the day will arrive, I really don’t want a repeat of the last time I tries that!

So every day I take a small dose of acceptance in whatever form it comes…bitter pill of fear and sadness or joy in the recognition of the woman she has become.

Both touch the familiar fear of …

what will I be in her absence

This practice of allowing bite size chunks of the fear has served me well…so far.

Acceptance allows me to feel and digest small portions of emotion every day. Like filling some small bags of sand on the banks of the river of my life, in order to prevent a tsunami from washing away my heart again.

It has not been pain-free, but it has lead me to believe that I will not be ill prepared and caught off guard nor will there be a second cataclysmic clash.

Choosing to take small bites of what scares me, leaves me feeling like I have the power of choice.

And choosing to surrender is the last/best gesture of power I will ever make!

So every day I let a little out, lean a little in and prepare to make tomorrow’s past better.

The Chubby Scotsman’s I Italian shoes.

My father was a man who lived his dreams large.

In 1955, he bought what was a marina on 6 acres in the Montreal suburb of Rosemère.

In honor of the deepest love of his life, he built a colonial mansion right out of “Gone With the Wind”

He built a business crafting women’s shoes from a small run of 55 pairs per day to more than one thousand.

Many times he remembered being laughed at for being the “chubby Scotsman making Italian quality shoes in Canada.

Then he drew the attention of Coco Chanel and Roland Jordan. His reputation for acumen and fairness preceded him in the world of business.

But long before the accolades began, he told me the story of showing up at the bank to open this first commercial account and found himself without a cent to make the initial deposit to open the account. The manager at the time, Mr. Russ Scrim, looked at him and smiled, reached into his pocket and handed him a fiver with the words:

Something tells me I will see a return

Think that happens often in today’s banking world?

We are so caught up with protecting ourselves on to walk, covering our ass or acquiring some participation awards, that the ability to judge risk versus reward (common sense/intuition) that grows from vulnerability, is an talent that has atrophied within our society from lack of practice.

We claim to admire those who reach and strive for excellence but often those are the first at whom we smirk.

“Hang with the ‘winners‘ ” we are told.

When did failure and having nothing become such a leprosy-like condition?

Why, when people need us the most, do we trust their experience (good or bad) the least?

It is precisely at that moment that the wisest among us demonstrate the ability to discern between shame and guilt.

Do they have past evidence of moral corruption (shame) or did they make a bad choice (guilt).

When businesses come to an end we all too often look to blame and almost always the fault is associated with one single strategic error made by the leadership even in the wake of years of sage choices.

Rarely do the pundits, academics or bureaucrats even recognize let alone applaud the “failed” entrepreneur for swinging for the bleachers or finding themselves following an outdated business model right to the last gasp of financial life.

True Entrepreneurs by nature – risk it all.

Ideas fail.

Businesses die.

And just like Mufassa and Simba that’s just how life rolls.

To accept that is to “accept life on life’s terms”

But it ain’t easy as we are surrounded mostly by images of everyone’s best moments!

Happy laughing pictures of well suited smiling people eating fabulous meals driving badass cars to the world’s most beautiful panoramas.

And photoshop fucks with our ability to see life as it really is and to forgive ourselves for our losses.

I, for one, have experienced the challenge of forgiving myself for a past I wish could have been different.

One evening, my daughter Morgan and I were exchanging on self forgiveness:

I just don’t know how to do it without feeling lame… like I am excusing myself for messing up and setting a precedent for future excuses” I shared

” Ya, I get that” she replied.

I struggled with the same thing and then I shifted the focus.

I found the concept of self-forgiveness so dauntingly lame that I couldn’t wrap my head around it until I broke it down.

I have to take it in steps.

Firstly, I have to acknowledge that from today’s perspective, yesterday’s problems look so easy to solve.

Then step two is to try to recognize how the ‘wrong’ outcome (in my view) actually serves me in my pursuit of trying to be a better version of me.

Finally, I have to make the conscious choice to accept that I have learned more from the knocks and bumps than I have from my nicest teachers, and forgive myself.

Placed in three simple steps, even I am able to digest and begin to practice self forgiveness – funny how the second gen freed me.

The end result is that with my hands less filled with obsessively trying to undo the past, I now have my arms outstretched and my hands free to reach for the best I can be with what I know today.

Yes, one’s reputation, which of course is based on the past, is often all that some look at. Further, there are even those who deliberately poke at the scar tissue of our past in a sick attempt to exercise control over us through our past pain. But are these the most enlightened amongst us? And a better question – Why do we allow them around us?

Expressed in today’s vernacular:

Haters gonna hate

That’s just what they do.

In my world, I would rather reach. Receiving the participation award and the experience of a pristine life played safe at the cost of never experiencing the self-confidence of recovery and rebuilding from nothing is far less appealing to me.

And as far as the haters go?

Well, the way my dad raised me …

Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn

On Becoming

Back in the day, my mother who hails from the Deep South used the expression “that’s not at all becoming” in reference to attire or behavior that she felt detracted from the standard of appropriate she had established in her world.

It’s a quirky use of the word, in that when placed in first person context it really doesn’t make sense. Who can one be becoming ? Is is a verb or a noun?

She had a number of those colloquialisms that often gave me irritated pause yet also inspired my fascination of words.

To become, seems to me, the most accurate description of a life worth living .

Like the start of every day when we lay there, eyes first peeling and we wake to a blank slate of choices.

Starting with: Will I get up or snooze? Will I exercise or rush to the office? Will I build myself further today or will my past define me? Will I wear pants ?

In these choices I become something that heretofore didn’t exist – an ever so slightly different edition of me .

Albert Einstein is widely credited with saying,

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.”

Yet many of us thrive and flourish on routine.

Prompt adherence to predictability has a soothing and calming effect on one’s being.

However, when the fear of risk and pain fuels the desire for calming and soothing sensations, replacing the will to evolve and grow despite the potential risk, then I run the risk of proving Einstein’s hypothesis.

The reason it is insanity to repeat the same behavior (dare I say whether it be socially approved or not) is that it attempts to control the limitless opportunities to feel all that life offers.

And Is life not defined by feelings ?

Not sure ?

Walk to a graveside snd ask “how do you feel now?

In the absence of a voice from the other side, all we are left with is the balanced equation of our existence through our thoughts and feelings.

And actually ” thoughts” are a poor second influencer, between those two, simply based on the chaotic neighborhood of my mind, from where they emerge.

Thoughts are all to often from the wrong side of the tracks.

By conspicuously limiting myself to one view is like having only one dessert …ever …or quitting something that’s harming us, eventually we pine for something to stimulate ourselves alternately.

And that’s where we give up mindful choices and start “mindless reaction”.

Like eating our one dessert choice with ketchup in a Moo Moo. Or more typically quitting the diet gorging ourselves and gaining twenty pounds.

Further evidence of the insanity of boredom coupled with the power of choice, can be witnessed daily in the lives of the Uber rich or celebrities.

The absolute debauchery people with money and power seem capable of often can’t be even fantasied by those of us with less fame and fortune.

Why is that ?

Could it be because they stopped becoming?

They have arrived !

When we have all that we imagined we need to isolate us from our fears of insignificance and make us different/ above/ better than –what next ?

Clearly, therein lies the measure of success, for it’s not about who we became to position us where we are, as that is past tense.

No, it would seem that it is far more about the choices me make and the conclusions we accept about where we are today.

Uber rich/ broke … old/young … afraid/at peace whatever the state I am viewing myself from when my eyes first peel will initiate the orientation of my actions- for the only day I ever have – today.

Ultimately … (and here is the big reveal on my choice of website names)- the only way I can have a hope of making a better past is by consciously making different choices today.

By building a present I can be more authentically comfortable with, I have a hope of being in the future and looking upon a past with the eyes of contentment.

I’ve been blessed in life to have had far more than my share of material things and also extended periods where I didn’t know how I was going to provide for those I love.

I have lived nights in the opulent hotels of Europe and mornings where the ceiling has literally fallen in above my head in my home.

Yet neither position, in the moment, provided me with the same growth and learning that the juxtaposition of the two experiences in one life, have taught me.

It’s particularly challenging to lose things and people we assumed defined us.

However, when we do and choose to get up and dust off, we open ourselves to the boundless options and feelings available to us in life.

We learn first hand that who we thought we were is nothing in the pale light of who we are becoming.

The eyes have it ?

When I was a kid I remember defending myself for some transgression before my dad and saying;

Can you tell me what’s on the wall behind you without looking?”

To which he replied;

No I don’t have eyes in the back of my head

Without skipping a beat I quipped;

Me neither-so we can agree that the view from my seat is different than yours

He smiled.

point taken…

I still got grounded though.

The experience however, was not in vain.

Fall Light.JPG

Inspiring since that time a fascination with the intensity with which we each will defend our own perspectives.

And  further, how the degree to which we defend the perspective has an inverse effect on the accuracy of it’s reflection of reality.

The most succinct way to summarize my observations would be as follows;

The more attached we become to our perspective, the more narrowed our view and experience of life becomes.

Speaking of view … I have often marveled at the accuracy of our vision.

The eyes seem to be able to funnel in all of our panorama, most often without limitation.

So how is it conceivable that at any point in time we become limited to only one narrow view. And while we are on it, how is it possible that music can be almost universally appealing and simultaneously aggressively divisive?

I will listen to anything BUT rap/country/ opera/ metal/bladideeda “

How is it possible to drive past a forest of trees, leaves each riddled with imperfection- on the cusp of death and yet the driver only sees the brilliance of autumnal splendor?

Or look at our sons first ever written alphabet and comment ” Almost perfect! … You just neglected to dot your j !


Clearly it’s far less about the observed and far more about observer. But how to distinguish “who” within us is actually observing is often a very messy, convoluted and confusing process.

The difference between the “Autumnal” and “Alphabet” perspectives (described above) is the place from where the observations that inspired the emotional response, were interpreted.

Agreed, it is the eyes most basic job to bring information inward for us to first ascertain any threat to survival, to inspire reaction (fight/flight).

Yet to “react” we need emotion.

Emotion clearly is felt in the heart but unfortunately all too often falsely fictionalized in the mind.

And therein lies the distinction, when the mind is thinking through the data interpreted from the eyes, ears et al and cross relating it within the extensive database of past experiences and future threats, it can over season the experience.

And any reactions overly influenced by mind’s perspective, run the risk being less representative of the heart’s true intention.

But the best news is ..

Conversely, if the heart is simply open to a drive on a fall afternoon, the experience of the ever present natural beauty, overshadows the actual reality of the individual leaf’s life cycle.

Monster, Horror, Chiller Theatre- scary stuff !

The only constant is change !

Embrace change!

Change! Evolve! Grow!! For this is to live!

These quotes circle us daily, appearing throughout our culture. I’m guessing they are so popular because more than anything else we are commonly bound by our struggle with shifts in the status quo.

I’m guessing that’s because the amygdala (the part of our brain where self preservation questions are acted upon) was designed for simple questions and simple times like:

“Gronk do I run from this T Rex or will it let me ride it” ?

that way of thinking was soooo 10,000 BC!

Now as continually evolving technologies and a rapidly shrinking planet have us in close proximity of all kinds of unknown, our poor little amygdalas are in need of an ‘all inclusive’ somewhere.

Then there the moments of exceptional change: death of loved one, end of a marriage, a new home, a new job, change in health.

These times in life tend to have us pining for change less overwhelming. Seeking more routine.

It’s at these powerful moments of change in our lives that we are most susceptible to forgetfulness, irritability and further, substance abuse, verbal/physical anger and suicide .

It’s as if we have an amount of different shit we can process and then we hit that predetermined amount of change we can take no more and we just want to escape.

Leaving me to wonder if it was this state that inspired the famous author of the unchanging high school required reading to say;

“Certain things, should stay the way they are. You ought to be able to stick them in one of those big glass cases and just leave them alone,

J.D. Salinger, 

While these may be the musings from a different era, back then things were done the same way across generations because part of parenting was to pass on life hacks to the next to the next wave- (now we have Facebook, day care and reality TV to take care of that)

The Internet changed the pace for us all, the result is exponential growth in awareness, and opportunity. Nothing is impossible and everything is changing faster than (at times) our ability to keep processing it all.

However the downside of the power of the internet is the pace it demands and the expectation of immediacy.

Change and lots of it – is actually the new ‘routine’.

The response to overwhelming change can often be disconnection. For example the reaction of a friend of mine who is going through separation from a long marriage, the twenty somethings leaving the nest, moving to a new home and a diagnosis of cancer was;

“I feel like I’m numb, things that I loved and engaged in bring me less- if any- joy.

I feel powerless, all my milestones have been smashed and I don’t really know which way is true north …so why bother?”

No shit ?!! That’s a Tsunami of change.

It seems that, like a lot of life’s lessons, the secret response to overwhelming change, is wrapped in a paradox,

It is at moments like the Tsunami noted above, that we feel most powerless. Yet it is precisely at the moment we acknowledge powerlessness, that we can shift to become aware of our ultimate (and only real) position of power to play from.

The ultimate gesture of power is surrender.

In that we actually have the choice to accept and surrender, and who isn’t aware that “choice is the privilege of power”.

And surrender centers around the acceptance of what is ‘now’ even when we might feel a wee bit frightened and overwhelmed “by the now” .

It is during the painful resistance to change that we are victims to the greatest fears. Those, as yet, unmanifested outcomes that we have concocted in the vacuum of uncertainty that proceeds our acceptance and commitment to change.

Surrender, however, is not for the faint of heart or the undisciplined. It rolls onto the scene at the crescendo of our resistance. Invariably at the moment when we think “I just can’t do this … I give up.”

When surrender and acceptance appear to us there is a palpable release from active resistance. It can be felt like the change in the air that occurs after lightening finally cracks the sky on a hot, humid summer afternoon.

And yet there is still one more shift to happen if we are to fully “embrace change .

The shift that happens when we acknowledge the outcome is not ours to control is the most revealing and transcendant.

This seems true because it is at that instant we realize exactly how vulnerable we find ourselves when the masquerade of indignant resistance has been removed.

Brilliantly put another way:

Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation creativity and change

-Brene Brown
Ultimately it seems our aversion to the feeling of vulnerability is truly at the core of our resistance to change. Yet it is the rise from vulnerability that we have the option to feel the most empowered.
The most difficult/painful part of change is our resistance to it.
We are the authors of both our challenges and our conquests-depending upon the view we take of them. Choice and our subsequent perspective is the greatest privilege of being human.
In many ways change inspires us, makes our heart race, and often ache. But are those not the moments we feel most alive?
It is our awareness of all this that makes change so frightening, so it’s hardly surprising that the “King of fright” has some of the most insightful words on the process:

no one can tell what goes on in between the person you were and the person you become. No one can chart that blue and lonely section of hell. There are no maps of the change. You just come out the other side ..

Or you don’t

-Stephen King,

Lima beans and magical talents revealed .

Some people never develop a taste for Lima beans.

I’m always reminded of that when I choose them for my plate. Oddly at the precise moment that revelation appears I am also reminded of gagging when they appeared on my plate as a young boy.

Like so many paradoxical lessons life offers we often don’t realize how something enriches our life experience until we manage to deal with initial unpleasantness of an unexpected experience.

So much of what we define as a “happy fulfilling life” is too often predicated on the world remaining “with all our ducks in a row”

Everyone behaving the way we imagined from the comfort of under the covers this morning, and everything tasting just as we like.

Life’s short might as well have it your way!” I am incessantly told .

Really…. doesn’t that imply that if it’s going “my way” life is as it should be??

“Cool !! I knew it .. that’s exactly what I’ve been telling you all for all these years”

It’s easy to recognize in the context illustrated above how ridiculous it is to expect a day without disturbance, but if we all know this then why are we so fucked up when Lima beans appear on our plate?

Why is it someone driving, in a way that we don’t feel coincides with our interpretation of the right way to operate a motor car, why is it when this happens that many of us lose our shit and drive 20 miles out of our way, trying desperately both verbally and with all the sign language we can remember, to let him know he should consider surrendering his licence?

The best reason I can come up with is “why am I not that happy” is a trick question !

The more egocentric we as a population become, (thanks Andy Warhol for the 15 mins of comment), the more we assume that things are supposed to go the way we deem correct.

Despite what we are perpetually misguided to believe, I suggest not one of us are not born with an entitlement to life without heartbreak, challenge and failure.

Try sharing the notion that failure is not progress with a toddler learning to walk: try scolding the youngster for falling. See how quickly he gets back up and tries again.

Or imagine those who never fully love for fear of the pain of heartbreak. Lima beans may make you gag but a life with an empty heart will kill you.

However also we are often reminded: “The heart is not filled from the outside” and this is paradox that I referred to earlier.

For It is exclusively in the stories behind my scuffed knees, broken hearts and embarrassing failures that I was inspired to press on and in so doing,that my spirit was fully freed to learn and grow. Only with complete acceptance of the “Shit Fairy’s” role as part of my life was I even capable of imagining being fully open to experiencing all of my life!

We we designed to evolve and the greatest growth comes with repeated, often challenging exercises to reveal to the world all that we have to offer.

And can’t this can only be revealed when we (within the intimacy of self awareness) stand in front of a challenge and rise to face it ?

It is only when I have resisted the natural temptation to shield myself from the pain of accepting “life on life’s terms” that my truest self surfaced with abilities and subsequently the confidence to get through even a large mound of Lima beans when they show up.

Now pass the Brussels sprouts please .