Shoemakers Son

My father was a shoemaker.

Dad came from a large family of 8 siblings born to his parents in a transcontinental love story that began in Lin Lithgow, Scotland and was completed in Montreal, Canada.

He always said, “I have two loves: my family and my shoe factory”.

He was not a tall man, but he was big.

He was a big thinker, a big believer in human potential and he was bigger than big hearted.

I am six foot three, and he was no taller than five foot seven but from where I stood, I always felt I looked him squarely in the eye my entire life.

I never saw him fall short of his desired accomplishments. He was that guy who had the discipline and focus to grab the brass ring. Whether it be on the golf course, the dance floor or the board room, when he set his mind to something he worked until he achieved his goal.

Slowly over the last ten years of his life he, like all of us, began to have things taken from him.

The shoe factory was the first to go.

Together he and I fought until the last possible moment to save that factory.

The macroeconomics of the day, made the labour intense manufacturing of women’s fashion almost impossible in north America. I remember noting even our the Italian confreres, an industry with more than 900 years of history were forced to move their factories to China.

I will never forget the moment on the phone when I revealed to him that our bank of 45 years decided they “no longer wanted to be in manufacturing”.

So they “pulled the plug”.

His shock at the first evidence of “cancel culture” was silently palpable. A forty five year relationship tossed aside with but a few words.

Later that day I found myself alone as I heard the life of the machines bleed out of the compressors that I turned off for the last time.

When one falls from a position of prominence to one of uncertainty there are only two options: bitterness and fear, or growth and recovery.

The bounce from privilege can precipitate a temptation to blame and seek fault.

There is a flow that emanates from that place that meanders through arrogance, entitlement, and blame. Founders and their families board a tippy canoe and try to navigate the unfamiliar waters often spilling into substance abuse, mindless consumerism, and confusion surrounding how to enjoy the ride after the theme park closes.

Sometimes the canoe flips and leaving its occupants relegated to deserted iles. Where they remain trapped by a refusal to accept the principle that all suffering is anchored in attachment to form.

In other cases, individual entrepreneurs recover to friendly shores albeit sometimes only after they are re-awakened partly downstream by the splash of the cold water on their face or even complete immersion for just long enough to make them rise to the surface with a will to live beyond simply existing.

My journey took a circuitous path through many of these stops and until his death, my father watched me paddle my own tippy canoe.

Gratefully, along the way I was blessed with an understanding that it isn’t the destination, or even the journey that defines us, but rather, it is what we do with the paddle we are holding.

Dad had a framed needlepoint on his wall, that his younger sister gave him.

Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference

Shit happens, things change, people disappoint and hurt us. We are even misled by our forefathers who often scar us in error.

Those inevitable scars can inspire us to turn inward and rise or outward and withdraw.

Of late, my own journey has taken me further from the wreckage of my past and the ill-fitting masks I used to cover the man I was and no longer want to be. Yet I have found myself struggling with the wisdom to know the difference surrounding a situation I have lately been forced to accept and requires the courage to change.

I’m reluctant to re-surface past personas, who may have previously served me well when called to action, to bring forth change.

I have a verse of Bonnie Raitt’s haunting song “One Part Be My Lover” on repeat in my ears

He’s like a boxer who had to retire
After winning but killing a man
He’s got all the moves and none of the courage
Afraid to throw a punch that might land.

I found myself thinking of my father’s needlepoint, as I was driving over the mountain the other day, and spontaneously veered left to the place my father was laid to rest.

I haven’t gone there often as I fundamentally don’t believe that place is where he can be found.

But yesterday I just inexplicably  found myself there, crouching in  front of the monument and talking to out loud?!?

As if afraid to feel foolish I repeated:

“Look, I know you’re not here, but I wonder if you can guide me. Help me take the path that serves the greater good, best.”

Really, I know… I know, you’re not here, but I just hope to be reminded of your approach.

I know you’re not in this place Dad, but come find me will ya? I could use some help with this one”

Now, I haven’t ever had a posthumous conversation with him, and I’ve visited that site only a couple of times in almost 10 years, so not expecting an answer I stood and walked back to my car. Cuz he isn’t there right?

But Before I got back to the car, I had an afterthought… “uh, maybe you might listen for an answer”?

I turned and walked back.

With the spring wind rustling the trees and the sun on my face, I felt serene.

And then from well within I had a thought… no…. it wasn’t a thought– they come from between my ears- this reveal came from my center.

“Through Love you will find true Wisdom.”

A while ago I made the choice to accept the things I cannot change, and I have rarely been short of courage, in the face of things that need changing, but I have long since struggled with the wisdom part.

All of the sudden, this was such a clear revelation that it felt like finding the last piece under the couch, of the puzzle left on a table after the family had gone, following the Christmas Holidays.

I walked back to the car and understood how to govern myself with the challenge I am facing.

“I need to continually audit my actions to ensure they are sourced from a place of love for when I do so, there is no fear present, and I am serene.”

Getting behind the wheel I drove 100 meters.

I stopped on the mountain side as something dangling in a tree, caught my eye.

A tiny pair of christmas elf shoes hung on the roadside.

Completely out of place …right?

Lessons from the heart.

I’ve got money in my pocket
I like the color of my hair
I’ve got a friend who loves me
Got a house, I’ve got a car
I’ve got a good mother
and her voice is what keeps me here

Feet on ground
Heart in hand
Facing forward
Be yourself

-Jann Arden “Good Mother”

I had just received the call any father wants from his eldest.

She was on her way out for the evening and was just calling to say, “I miss you”.

We chatted for a long time, and I could hear the happiness in her voice and the awareness of how the challenges of being 4,000 km away had actually served her.

The conversation was one I was waiting to have for 25 years, er no she’s almost 26 now.

i recognized it was that call because my heart was soaring.

She told me that she mightn’t have emerged from the shadow of … shall we say, her sometimes “larger than life” father and an inspirational mother, had she not decided to face her fears and move.

I feel she has little idea how much she inspires me.

Her willingness to look at a challenge and take it on came to her early in life.

At birth our first child was given a 2/10 chance of survival after complications created several challenges for a tiny little fighter.

But fight she did.

When I would visit her in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, while everyone there was wonderful, no one could answer the question “Why did this happen to my little girl”?

When the day came that they asked if I would like to (finally) hold my daughter for the first time, that moment was etched amongst the quintessential moments of love in my life.

It is my belief that this auspicious start set us both up for last Saturday night.

When we hung up my heart was full, I felt a beam from within, cross my face and my smile seemed frozen in place.

Hours later, I was still trippin, I had gone home, made my favorite meal, and plunked down in front of a show that caught my eye.

I was content and fulfilled.

I even put that Jann Arden song on and sang from a happy heart, (yes, even the part about the color of my hair-which in my case is sort of a flesh tone).

To me the song is about finding (finally) joy in the most simple of life’s gifts,

A lesson which took way too long for me to learn. I felt tears of happy gratitude for the simple fact that my daughter has a good mother (she’s outstanding actually) who was equiped to cover all the lessons I had yet to learn.

I fell asleep with the smile of Buddha on my face and in my heart.

A few years ago, I separated my clavicle and sometimes it gives me grief if I sleep on it wrong.

So, when I woke Saturday night in discomfort, I assumed I was on my right shoulder and rolled over.

A few times.

It wouldn’t stop hurting, so I sat up.

When I started to rub the shoulder realised this was the left side.

“That’s weird”, I thought, not recalling doing anything to have caused the pain I begrudgingly chalked it up to age.

But still, I couldn’t sleep.

I looked out the window and saw the hospital across the street and thought, “Hmm I wonder if this is why I picked this place?”

By now the arm was hurtin pretty good, but as I turned to lock the door I saw my dog standing there waiting to come with me. I grew concerned for him. “What if I am not back before later in the morning?” “What if I go into surgery… or what if….”

“How will anyone know he’s there?”

I hesitated to leave him, for a moment and then I had no choice, the left arm was way worse than any ‘man cold’ pain I had ever experienced.

I locked the door wondering what fate awaited us both, yet something surrendered me, assuaging my fears.

At the door of the hospital it was a security guard by the name of Blair, who identified the state I was in, flicking his cigarette away, (that’s ironic no?), he set a land speed record racing me down the endless corridor in a wheel chair to the emerg.

Lying on a gurney waiting for one of the tests, at three a.m. I was struggling with feeling alone, and maybe a little …nervous?

I couldn’t see sending a message to any loved one. I mean it was 3 AM. Nighttime is the most fertile land in which the seeds of worry grow. I didn’t know what to say, my condition at this point was just speculation.

First, I distracted my racing mind with thoughts of my eldest, how she had faced down similar threats and won,

….and then I did the natural thing and opened social media 😊

The very first post in my feed was one of an old friend who had undergone a massive operation to fix his ticker, he had written a beautiful post about the value of friends.

It was well written, and I commented.

He replied!

It’s 3 AM dude what are you doing up?

I always get up early, it’s the best part of my day

He engaged me, literally walking me through the hours ahead and distracting my errant mind with funny old memories and promises to ski together in days to come.

The news came and it was the least settling kind:

We aren’t sure what happened but it sure seems like you had some sort of coronary episode

My first thoughts were for those I love, I am NOT ready to leave them. Upon realising none of us ever are, my next thoughts were “ I have so much yet to do, a lot I have promised to do, a lot I am responsible for and I’m only halfway through writing my first book!! Why did I wait so long to start?”

Why is it that all that I have ever learned about anything of real value in life, has been anchored in heart pain?

The loss of our family business.

The loss of my father.

The end of my marriage.

There seems to be an undeniable link between learning and loss. Between growth of the heart following pain caused to it.

And at that precise moment I had like an awakening, precipitating a trascendant shift in perspective and awareness.

I began to become acutely aware of the grace, patience and understanding with which the orderlies and nurses were doing their jobs.

I began to consider the “coincidence” of my friend’s post and felt the familiar awareness of something greater than me, manifesting a lighthouse by which to navigate my way through these scary-ass waters.

I began to think of my daughters call and her journey to happiness, from that little tent in neonatale intensive care.

I concluded, that while the world may be a mess, there are people who muster caring compassion and tolerance, every day- like Blair.

I understood that when I feel alone, that’s almost always a choice. As there are always those who have walked before me and whether I connect on Facebook or not, the path is tracked with their experience and I need to just keep looking for footprints.

Yet most significantly, I became aware that Life REALLY does want you to succeed.

The Universe is in your corner, it wants you to beat the odds. Think about it, the chances of you being alive and reading this are something like one in 10 trillion!

Let that sink in.

Yet life insists that we leverage the love that lies within us all, to find our own will to emerge. Then we must hook our wagon to that will and let it deliver us from the darkness that also exists in all our lives.

I walked out of the hospital late in the afternoon Sunday, stunned that they released me, with a spray pump of nitro and an appointment to come back tomorrow.

But I walked out with way more.

I left with an understanding that the French word for heart is coeur and the that roots the word, courage.

It takes great courage to face the darkness that surfaces in all our lives but as my 5-day old daughter taught me so many years ago and then again Saturday night:

My light is not eclipsed by darkness; it is defined by it

Your thoughts, comments and subscriptions mean the world to me



Is Integrity at the forefront of your workplace?

Previously on “Making a better past”:

In the last two episodes of Ray Donovan, er (that’s the pandemic binge watching speaking), I mean makingabetterpast I have been looking at the value and absence of integrity in the current theatre of business.

Part one:

Part Deux:

In part one we discussed the idea of integrity as an overstated objective and underachieved manifestation in today’s business community. While in part two we looked at the scarcity of it, in this segment we turn toward the challenges and true value of integrity within corporate leadership.

Throughout my career as a consultant, partner and employee, I have been lucky enough to work with several ‘captains of industry’.

Part of my approach has always been to try to understand the human behind the title before I tried to make a contribution toward the success of the business model.

I have found it important to align my own perspectives with what circumstances influenced the pursuit of the entrepreneurial vision and understand what lines in the sand define the character of the corporate leader.

With that said I have never been a “fake it ‘til you make it” kind of guy, and with but one short exception, have not worked with someone I genuinely didn’t like.

It’s not for nothing that the one exception to that was also the highest paying gig in my career.

Nonetheless, I have found that I am simply incapable of bringing my passion to a team that had values that didn’t consistently align with mine and when I tried, the result was self-evident.

For example, in the case of that lucrative gig, the owner was a man who hid his insecurities behind narrowminded, egocentric and misogynistic practices.

We would meet for breakfast and his comments about our waitress at 6:30 in the morning killed my appetite and shattered my respect for his abilities. Yeah, call me judgy but if you can’t order two eggs over easy without making an objectifying comment about the woman who serves them to you -then I’m not your guy.

In another gig, I brought my full passion to the project at 1/3 my usual rate for a guy, who inspired me with the opportunity, and the eloquence of his words. He repeated endlessly “when I win WE win”.

I criss crossed the continent for 3 years developing market awareness and negotiating a license agreement for this previously unheard of technology, and in the end brokered a deal wherein the technology was sold for $10 million to an industry leader. And that’s where part of my story ended up like so many others I have heard- cuz when “we” won, HE turned out to be the only winner.

Now some might say: Did you have it writing?

And to those I respond…

We are talking about Integrity here.

I understand the purpose and place for contractual documentation; it helps people remember the things that were said and sets the expectations of all parties.

However, in my practical experience, for all of us who have paid for the swanky cars and private schools of our lawyers’ children, we know too well that the hours we spent on paragraph 5 of page 4 of said contract, invariably were wasted as the document goes into a file and we forget the negotiated phraseology until the shit hits the fan and our ego fuels the exercise to fund our lawyer’s yacht.

Now let’s not be so cliché as to blame the lawyers, the French have an expression.

C’est gratuit” meaning that’s too cheap an approach.

We need to remind ourselves that if there was no market for slippery wording and opportunities crafted through omission, there would be no opportunity for the slickest of snake oil salesmen to get a law degree.

I have had the pleasure of working with visionary leaders who understood that integrity was the legacy that would follow them long after the office and sometimes even after they left the planet.

They placed that legacy ahead of selling their soul to get to upgrade vehicles.

Speaking of which…my father drove a Cadillac.

In the 50’s 60’s 70’s and 80’s, that was a self-awarded token of achievement! Not my thing, but I was proud of this poverty-stricken depression child who worked his ass off to achieve his dream.

When he broke away from the family publishing business to reach for his dream, he had to borrow the sum of $25,000 to start his business.

No money and no credit, left him approaching another man who made the loan on one condition: that every year until the loan was repaid, my dad would have to provide the lender with a brand-new Cadillac.

Do the math…that doesn’t work unless you’re looking at a credit card company as a comparable business model.

While it didn’t take 2 years for my father to realize he had made a deal that was blinded by his own ambition, it did take 10 years for him to repay the loan.

And while Dad was never the biggest fan of the lender, he always managed to do what he verbally committed to do. Sometimes it took longer than expected, but he ALWAYS honored his word. No contract and lawyers fees were required.

In so doing, his word became valuable – not only to others – but to himself, resultingly he learned he was not so free to make promises one week that the next he didn’t have the integrity to honor.

He understood that integrity was his and his alone, and even if when it hurt him, he didn’t spin the circumstances to renege on a cheque  his mouth had written.

All too often, today’s leaders lean too heavily on the rules created by those who have the most to gain in conflict- enter the legalese.

All too often, the willingness to disguise the shortfall of integrity with the catchall phrase “that’s just how the game is played …anyone else would do the same” seduces men who at earlier points in their career could claim integrity as their only asset

They sooth themselves with false nobility saying: “I get paid to make the tough choices” and then after cutting expenses, go out and get a new car.

But that’s where the rubber doesn’t meet the road ; often those “really tough choices” involve cutting the expense in the interest of making more money.

And last time I checked, we measure success quarterly in the corporate world,  in 3 month periods- 3 MONTHS!!!  Is that really the period we feel comfortably defines a legacy?

Maybe if the rules of business extended deeper into the eternal nature of the spirit (legacy, honor, or whatever term you wish to use to define the intangible) reaching beyond the rush of the quarterly bottom line, the model might shift from a continuous struggle and lament between employer/employee toward actually fostering the loyalty and heartfelt passion of a team.

Now, I’m not saying the captains are the only source of blame, remember the statement “if there was no market there would be no snake oil salesmen”?

The same thing applies if to those who choose to work for someone- if people didn’t mimic the pursuit of more! More! MORE! there would be a much smaller market for lopsided deals that handcuff great talent to the limitations of the vision of the leader or at least perpetuate a cycle of Metro-Boulot-Dodo (DM a Quebecer to translate that for you)

It’s on all who play the game to fearlessly challenge and openly  discuss the brokenness of the capitalism model. To actively invest in moving this vehicle  along its evolutionary path.

The challenge is the balance of power obliges that this metamorphosis must start with leaders accepting to do more for less in the short term by learning and believing that true value comes in the long term. That is super scary and can feel like pulling a rabbit out of a hat within the A.D.H.D climate that permeates the traditional model of capitalism in it’s current iteration.

Now don’t think I am advocating abandonment of capitalism in favor of some mamby-pamby-everyone-gets-a-share-regardless-of- individual-contribution-or-risk.

Not this serial entrepreneur!

I still love the thrill of the challenge of adding value to goods and services to sell for a little more than was paid.

I’m just suggesting it’s time for leadership to understand its role in creating new rules, practices and objectives for business, that extend beyond the old adage “Buy low/Sell high.

For example, I am inspired by increasing presence of “social enterprises”. These organizations that have shifted their raison d’etre from making so much money that they can choose to give some away, toward a new breed of enterprises that start with the specific intention to change some part of this connected ecosystem we all coexist within.

These leaders often savvy in the traditional sense of the game, orient themselves and their talents to make a change in the world and leverage the power of capitalism to do so. And because piety is not the objective, they can exist free from judgment to actually drive a Cadillac if they so choose, because their intention was spawned from a will to use the vehicle to make good for something beyond their own ego.

With this shift they look at every product sold as an opportunity to make an impact on something beyond themselves rather than making that a an afterthought or worse yet a marketing opportunity.

When the union showed up at the shoe factory there was a court appearance for ratification of their presence.

My father drove me down with him to testify.

The union lawyer thought himself crafty when he asked: “Mr. Wallace, what kind of car do you drive?” 

I remember the direct transparency, and shamelessness in his voice when he replied: “A Cadillac- why do you ask?”

 “Mr. Wallace, how many others in your organisation drive a Cadillac?”

I don’t know what they drive at home, but I don’t see any others in the parking lot

The lawyer then went for the jugular- “Are you comfortable with that?”

The room went quiet and I will never forget his answer:

Perhaps a better question might be ‘how do you compensate your employees compared to your competitors, or how many of your employees own their own homes?’. I have tried to create a business that can provide people with a chance to grow and then I get out of the way to let them choose their own path as I did. Now I know, from personal experience, that in some cases my Cadillac inspires people toward competitive growth and in others it fuels collaborative growth but as long as I build a small vehicle for people to grow, my business serves the purpose I intendedto provide a chance for people to go beyond the hunger I felt when I borrowed the money to take the risk and start the company

Afterwards, on the drive home, I asked my father for the answer to the question he referred to, without pause he told me the company paid 18% over industry standard and more than 35% of his factory floor team owned their own homes and three of his top employees had left to start their own competitive business. This was at a time when the gap between management and factory floor was very broad.

But how did he know this? Because his true intention shone through when he had co-signed on several mortgages, when other employees trusted him enough to seek his counsel and to share their moments of joy with him.

And therein, I learned the true value of integrity:

People rarely give their whole heart (and passion) to Leader who changes their word when it becomes painful and puts his own gain and desire to win as the primary objective.

It is about the leaders’ true INTENTION – Is it to see oneself in the fancy car or is it to pave the road just a little more so someone else can drive comfortably on it too?

But how did we get here?

Well…for that you might want to tune in to part 4.

In the meantime if you feel this is shareable I hope you will so we can move this along – together

Is Integrity the Black Rhino of the Business Serengeti?

If you recall when we last left off, we were entertaining the idea of how, despite how we all claim to be consistent, maintaining integrity over a lifetime is a pretty tall order.

Integrity itself is a word that I have filed in my grey matter RAM under A for architecture, as opposed to H for human quality. I wonder if that’s because I have more evidence of it in the linear notion of “Structural Integrity”?

Or could it be because there feels to be an increasing absence of palpable integrity in a world in which one rarely places oneself in the position to express, with the vulnerability of ownership, one’s own failures.

While this is often true with interpersonal relationships, integrity is never challenged more than in the competitive arena of the business community.

In business, we have seen the burgeoning presence of spin doctors, lobbyists and lawyers who have developed the art of deception through omission. They professionally assist “Management” in reframing the situation and the omission typically surrounds a responsibility “Management” wants to avoid the cost of.

The rationale skillfully leveraged by these creative persuaders seems to consistently circle one theme- Entitlement.

They sooth us, saying: “This is your Business/Career/Life… it’s your right to behave as you want. We can redirect you from the responsibility of your actions by leveraging jurisprudence…for a reasonable hourly rate”

To the profit-focused capitalist, this approach is as seductive as a portside peeler bar to a newly docked sailor. Our captains of industry are easily tempted to drift toward this thinking justified by the need and companionship cuz  “anyone else would do the same thing.”

And so, the standard is lowered. But is that the only reason?

When I was apprenticing in the wild world of women’s fashion, I worked in Valencia, Spain immediately before reporting to design class in Italy. While I learned a bunch in Florence, one thing that has given me pause throughout the years that followed, is how I totally lost my ability communicate in Spanish the minute I crossed the border.

For a long time I thought it was because of the complexity of the verbs.

 I now know the reason I couldn’t keep the two languages functional in my head was because of one simple 3 letter word.


Now, if you are aware of some little tingle of anticipation of a smokin’ hot story of drunken dalliances in both of those countries and how they ended abruptly because of an unfortunate choice of words, well you can stop reading right now, or prepare for your tingle of disappointment. You see my daughters skim these posts every so often so I can neither confirm nor deny those occurrences.

However, I will tell you that the need to fit in, to be perceived as less of an outsider in the eyes of the sultry Mediterranean women, in my early twenties, was almost as much of a driving force as my desire to learn to design women’s shoes…

…ok, maybe more.

“So, uh…Dude – apart from the name-dropping sex talk, what could possibly be the point of the Spanish/Italian reference?”

I guess I was observing how sometimes our brains seem to block out one skill to build another, and I wondered if that same thing could equally apply to human qualities?

I mean, the forum of business has become more like a WWE championship where the skill of fearless rationalization has replaced the art of true competition. Everywhere you turn leaders are brashly throwing down for their right to behave like an ass.

I wondered, if by developing talent in the art of spinning, justifying and rationalizing our foibles, we have ended up completely atrophying our capacity for integrity.

We have rationalized integrity to the point of losing our true understanding of it in its purist form.


Again, we have to look at the way the business world often operates behind the slick marketing it carefully crafts to keep us in the checkout line.

Even the most savage are wise enough to not bite the hand that feeds, and so when our business community has blurred the lines of integrity, individuals who live within that community must question the return on the investment of demanding a higher moral standard at the risk of losing the ability to pay the rent.

All too often business owners and leaders handcuff our “trusted associates” (employees) by disguising gag orders as loyalty to the cause.

Those of us who embraced capitalism as a path to independence, have learned that what we as individuals know to be “right” is rarely the easiest or most profitable path.

So, we quietly do the math and realize if we choose the high road and negatively impact profitability, then we may soon be the cutback required to offset the cost incurred, by the team, so we focus the blame elsewhere.

There is a story of a young V.P. in the Ford Motor Company in the thirties, presenting himself to none other than Mr. Henry Ford, resignation letter in hand. He was assuming responsibility for a production error that would cost the company $100,000, in the 1930s that was a whole whack of profit. Mr. Ford took the letter and tore it up saying at the time “I cannot accept your resignation sir; I now have a one hundred-thousand-dollar investment in you!”

Ford understood that witch hunts are far less valuable over time, than the acquired experience of a loyal team member.

But today, the pressure to perform is so characterized in fantasy based media that it seems more appropriate for leadership to turn outwards and “clean house and turn the page”instead of turning inwards and assuming responsibility.

How could this erosion in strength of character, once so valued in leadership, have advanced so rapidly?

That, dear readers is the focus of tomorrow’s post.

Integrity; that’s the ticket! – Part 1

Ask anyone and they will find some single word that best defines a life well lived.

While the average adult has typically more than 25,000 words in her mother tongue, (French or English) invariably, we tend to choose one word that sums the path to “success” and “fulfillment”

Tenacity, Transparency, Honesty, Ambition, Charity, Drive, Enlightenment, Sacrifice, Commitment, Selflessness, Discipline, Flatulence, Forgiveness, Focus, Resilience, Nurturing, Humility, Self-Awareness, the list is endless.

Well not actually endless, as it turns out.

More like about 1,710 words to be more accurate.

This according to “A Hierarchical Analysis of 1,710 English Personality-Descriptive Adjectives” by Ashton, Lee, and Goldberg, as published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 2004.

Wait -What the…!! Why would anyone spend the time analyzing the adjectives used in the description of another person?

For the same reason, a fifteen-year-old boy would approach his father, on a warm summer night as he vacuumed the pool to ask:

Dad, what the most important thing to you, in life”

We all seek to identify the personality traits required that will orient us toward “success”, and since in my younger view, my Dad was amongst the most successful that I direct access to, I sought his.

Well at least from the perspective of the definition of the term of success, that my 15 years of life experience afforded me.

Is it human nature, hardwired within our genetic composition, to emulate the traits we identify as ‘winner’ in others?

I’m thinking yes.

Yet, that can be argued in the many ways my sister, brother and I are remarkably different.

Which begs the question “Were we three watching the same pool cleaner?” Or at the very least our lives raise further ambiguity surrounding the eternal “Nature vs Nurture ”debate.

While the answers to these questions are more complex than I can begin to answer,  I’m thinking we three were in fact eyeing the very same guide. Albeit through different colored lenses, influenced both by our own baggage and the different points in the personal journey of the man who set the pace for us.

For example, the age difference between my siblings and I resulted in my sister undoubtedly identifying with his more youthful qualities of willful commitment and limitless bravado. While my brother seemingly was more influenced by my father’s aptitude for acceptance and forgiveness.

If each of our lives is nuanced by the moment and personal experiences (at that time), as well our own interpretation of the behaviors of the Sherpa we choose to follow up the mountain, does that explain how, despite being equipped with the greatest potential, all too often many of us end up at the top of a mountain overlooking an unfulfilling panorama? Or worse yet, measuring our lives in missed opportunities as we sit on the sidelines, hat in hand in front of others passing us by?

The words of David Byrne in: “Once in a lifetime” brilliantly capture the moment of emptiness when we realize the destination didn’t result in the feeling anticipated at the onset of the trek:

And you may find yourself living in a shotgun shack
And you may find yourself in another part of the world
And you may find yourself behind the wheel of a large automobile
And you may find yourself in a beautiful house, with a beautiful wife
And you may ask yourself, “Well… how did I get here?”

And now time for our musical break. Here’s the link to get you jostling with this sublime, funny, and existentially questioning tune. Which just so happens to be one of echoing refrains in the soundtrack of the middle part of my own little life movie:

So often, we allow others to identify the target of our limitless capacity. And so often that happens at our most impressionable moments. Like adolescence-the fun years when pimples and values simultaneously surface.

Some of us make the ascension to follow the parents we see as successful, forever setting our watch to the accomplishments of our predecessors to ensure we are “making good time” in comparison.

Others, who may find the influences of an upbringing that left them hangry or alone, choose a divergent path, resolved to never be “that poor”, “that late”, “that mean” or ” that rigid“. And please note, by “poor” I refer to spiritually, emotionally, or financially. They are guided by a not too distant horizon, quite literally allowing the darkness to define the light within them.

Photo credit- Aaron Vincent

Today, in my own journey, I have come to recognize that when the obsession of how to get there superseded the objective of where to get to, it was precisely at those moments, that I felt the least aligned with the flow of life and ultimately my most authentic self.

Which brings us to Integrity.

Ah …Integrity…we all claim it.

We write it into our mission statements. We hope to live a life that we can be identified by it, but in the end how many of us actually are?

Where the rubber meets the road, when we kiss ass because we fear losing our jobs, when we remain silent in the face of racism, sexism or any ism, when we put our thirst to fill the hole we feel within ahead of the work required to fill it, can we really claim we have integrity?

Not me…at least not with consistency, in the earlier base camps along my journey.

I spent too much time worrying that you were smarter, faster, or more of anything I was not. I bit my tongue, wore what you asked, and behaved like the salesman you rewarded me for, as I secretly felt the emptiness of not being aligned with my truest self.

But I did get super good at all! Or so I thought.

I spent a lot of time confusing myself between the value of practicing “Social Graces” and the fine Art of selling out.

I felt I had no choice.

Rationalizing my misunderstanding of – this was the path of a “responsible” adult. Aftercall there were loved ones to whom I had to step up for and for whom I felt I had to provide.

Talk about the walking wrong trail up the right mountain!

More on the ascension, and my Dad’s response to my teenage question in the next episode of “As the World Turns” (Aka my next post).

Oh and btw, no, that wasn’t a typo – I just wanted  to make you smile as you were reading the entire list of adjectives above.😉

3 Movies to remember along the path of Social Distancing :

Cool Hand Luke

I went to a Starbucks with a friend the other day, when asked for ‘my name for the order’ I replied “Wilson, and can I ask you a favor please? I’m a little hard of hearing at the moment, when our coffee is ready would you mind calling my name in your best booming Tom Hanks voice?”

My friend is a therapist and as we waited, I turned and commented:

There certainly is no shortage of crazy going on with all this COVID-19 new world order bullshit eh? Your business must be booming

Her reply made me think “No, but there sure is a shortage of available help!”

Social distancing, confinement and mask wearing has created more than a physical distance between us. It has atrophied one of our most primary needs – to feel a part of -to connect.

Added to these protocols is the change for most of us in our work life – which we all too often allow to define us. Where we do it, how we do it and who we do with, in most cases has been dramatically altered.

Further, the other third of our waking lives- our social life– has equally been turn on its ear.

Closed are the restaurants, decimated are the daily water cooler connections, beer league hockey, even the community of the classroom within Universities has been redefined as 4 people trapped in a basement apartment watching Zoom.

Heartbreak is rampant, as birthdays pass without contact, graduations pass without congratulatory hugs and deaths pass without the closure of gathering.

All this has amped up our sense of isolation and detachment to an 11.

So what?

Is not isolation and detachment the path to enlightenment chosen by wise monks? They seem respected and serene, so, what’s the problem?

‘The problem’ occurs when we do isolation and detachment not in the pursuit of something but when it is forced upon us. Remember “The Box” in Cool Hand Luke?

 “What we have here is a failure to Communicate!

And the “problem” is subversive and insidious.

Many like to call it Covid Crazy- and as we all know it’s raging more epidemically than the actual pandemic itself.

Evidenced initially by the gold rush to buy toilet paper, we all became consumed with a me-first-protectionist-survival-mode mentality. This was followed by an “us versus them” divisive flame -which is further fanned, as we now know, by the “social” media we use to “connect”. Now it would appear we have arrived at the spot on this Country Fair Fright House Ride, I like to call  the “Fuck it! Fork in the road

Cute little euphemistic names apart, the impact on us as individual elements within the blanket of society is not to be underestimated.

Anger seems to surface more freely as a symptom of the frustration with heartbreak we all feel as a result of life not unfolding as we had grown to expect.

The new normal has exiled many among us to spend far too much time in the confines of our own mind, which for most is a dangerous neighborhood never to be ventured into alone.

Let’s go back to the Monks for a moment, while isolation and detachment can produce serenity, they would also tell you that the road to serenity meanders through A Wizard of OZ type of Haunted Forest of the mind, BEFORE arriving at the awareness that the mind and feelings need not to define us.

The Wizard of Oz

Sadly, in detached isolation many do follow the first whispers of the mind and “Turn Back”, or at least momentarily turn away.

The most poignantly clear evidence of which is witnessed within in the escapist solutions that are most readily available to todays’ society:

 In a recent study in Quebec daily substance use have gone from pre confinement levels of 11% to 27%-,

Online purchasing has shot through the roof, arguably not simply because of the obvious convenience/necessity but also due to the escapist tickle that creates the endorphin rush of clicking BUY online.

Bulk buying is also a new trend. Buying more than we need reflects our will to feel surrounded by supplies pre apocalypse. Ok while this may be hardwired within us to ensure our survival, recently I listened to a report on a new trend “Convenience Store Bulk Buying”


How many cases of overpriced Sour Patch Kids packs can one consume prior to slipping into a hyperglycemic coma?

Wait don’t answer that- I will let you know in my next post.

The point is, while the pursuit of serenity, may pass through isolation, detachment and even silence, the actual goal can only be achieved through growth of connection. Often as part of a community, be it fraternity, sorority or LGBT cribbage club.

Isolation without a purposeful sense of attachment to a connection greater than oneself will inevitably lead to the autopilot world of “every man for himself”

The good news is that we are genetically coded to connect.

Over the millennia we have been far more successful as individuals within a species when we were genuinely connected as individuals within a community.

Enter LOVE.

I’m not referring to the romantic kind, I’m referring to the Fearlessly SELF-less kind

It’s the other direction of the aforementioned “Fuck it! fork in the road

Only through selfless & fearless love can we have a shot at the ‘monk like’ experience of isolation and detachment as we simultaneously grow from within.

The brilliant light of serenity at the darkest times, shines through the simplest gestures: encouraging the struggling artist in all of us, by acknowledging and sharing the artform of any individual with others.  

This can easily  be done by  telling a friend about a local tea store, giving business to the corner restaurant as they set up a takeout counter, subscribing to the works of an online artist or simply sharing an moment with a stranger that leaves you both smiling.

Upon so doing, we instantly become aware of how much more important our own position is, woven into the fabric of something greater is than our self obsessed attempts at individuality.

Not only will this raise self worth and thus lower anger, escapism and the frequency of finger flips to others, more profoundly when we make this effort to stop self centered scrolling and reach outward, we satiate the most primal need we have, the one that roots itself at the moment of our conception- The need to be connected.


I turned to see the Barista reaching out with my coffees-smiling from ear to ear and heart to heart.

3 Questions from late night Red Lights- Part Deux

In our last episode we found our “Crusading Contemplator” carefully considering the link between redundant traffic lights and Life Lesson Lists for daughters, after a sleepless night surfing the world wide interweb.. and now the exciting conclusion…(or is it just the enigmatic beginning )?

Sleepless, I found myself reaching for the internet, you know – The Land of OZ where dreams and disasters are sold to tickle our imagination and simultaneously lull us into inaction.

Lost in Facebook’s insidious attempts to expose me to “subject matter“, seemingly telepathically presented to distance me further from or closer to, some divergent political extreme, I happened across Frances Vidakovic homespun “37 Rules for My Daughter” .

As I read, I couldn’t help but wonder ” What gets into people to inspire them to share “wisdoms” learned from life experience” …their life experience

For example #21 – “Ask for what you want, the worst thing they can say is no”, # 30 ” You have enough, you are enough” and the old standby #2– “Don’t wear underwear you aren’t proud of in case you’re in an accident and they have to cut your clothes off.”

You can see the whole list here: and decide for yourself whether Ms. Vidakovic’s lessons are worth sharing with your daughter. I’m not here to judge…(well not in a “judgy” way anyway)

Further down the list, I was reminded of something I scribbled on my beside notepad in the middle of the night and I was reminded of my father.

Weeks ago I wrote the line “As if to side step pain we believe we can deny it’s existence”

I had no idea why I wrote that.

Or even how I could use it, until last night, when alone in the big empty home that once housed my family, aching from their absence, scrolling through insomnia, I began to question what is it that compels people to share lessons learned through the pain their life experience has delivered.

The paradox struck me, what is the inspiration of creating cheat sheets for the lives of others…I mean aren’t we always supposed to be chorusing Pink’s anthem “F&*king Perfect” to those we care most about?

The spoken section of the song kept echoing in my mind- “Why do I do that?…Why do I do that!?!?”

Here check it out if you need a musical interlude from this post, I found a beautiful acoustic version of this powerful song ….

Challenged by the paradox of leadership of those we care about ( I mean they’re perfect right? So why do we feel we need to add something?), I went through a whole list of negative inspirations. For Example: “We think we know better“, “We are seeking to be viewed as a guru“, “We are ‘ whistling in the dark’ -trying to compensate for our own uncertainty“, but these felt dark, gratuitous and slanderous and as anyone who knows me can attest, I have always preferred a glass half full.

Eventually I came up with 3 possible positive (albeit perhaps equally misguided) inspirations behind the default logic of “transferring the answers of wisdom

  1. The obvious one is : We wish to make life “easier” for them.
  2. We hope to provide a reference point for where the wrong turn occurred, when they find themselves in the aftermath of a tough experience and can’t quite figure out WTF! just happened.
  3. Or maybe it’s to prevent them from wasting time learning lessons that have been tried and tested countless times before, thus giving them a leg up to focus on learning more important shit. Something I like to call the Darwin Model of thinking evolution.

All are noble, responsible and even selfless inspirations.

Or are they?

The flaws in all three of these parental/leadership “best practices” are as glaring as a pimple on the porcelain complexion of a budding adolescent.

In the first approach, as far as “making life easier” I found the answer to the reason behind my late night scribble.

Disappointment Hardship, and Heartbreak are not only inevitable, they are a required component of a complete life. When we hurt, we arrive at the red light and are faced with the opportunity to pause and learn. Some of us choose to drift through the red light but almost invariably, if we distract ourselves from a lesson we need to learn, we simply delay a bigger collision down the road.

To divert those we love from their own pain is to deny them the opportunity to grow from and beyond it.

In the second possible inspiration noted above, while “providing a reference point” may appear more altruistic, like wazers alerting other drivers of a police trap up ahead. The truth is, sometimes when we pull up to the red light of pain, we don’t even know how we got there. Consumed all too often by the pain itself or too focused on where we want to go. So at that point we can’t even even remember the 37 wisdoms imparted by some well intentioned tourist, who has already traveled this route.

Case in point: ever found yourself second guessing your GPS?.

And the third option, “prevent wasting time learning rudimentary lessons” Well that dog just won’t hunt.” Because it’s a proven fact … We learn everything from mistakes.

I mean we learn EVERYTHING… Important stuff like:

  • Never mix the grain with the grape
  • Never answer the question “Do I look fat in these?”
  • No matter how smart you may think you appear in short term, the banks always win the long game.

To share experience with the intention of saving those we love a few steps on their journey, is is a lot like expecting the student in grade 3 to skip to post graduate work in couples counseling without the benefit of having a grade 4 heartbreak.– it’s gonna leave that scholar with only a theoretical exposure to the experience.

This type of mentoring can’t provide some evolutionary leap in our gene pool (or pool of influence ), on the contrary, it will limit the life experience of others to, at best, the limitations of our own.

So dude what’s the answer ?!!?!

Really?!? Have you not been listening…did you not read the title ?

I can’t give you the answer…I’m just sitting here asking questions, waiting for the light to change .

For more obtuse observations, rambling social commentary and unanswered questions, please follow me here or @

3 questions from late night red lights -Part 1

My father got to grade nine before he had to quit school to get a job to contribute to his family’s much needed revenue. At the time, the financial hardship of the great depression made this common place.

Often, that reality divided people into two camps. Judgy perspectives formed between the two schools of thought. Those who harbored resentment to shield the insecurity, from the abrupt loss of the innocence the classroom provides and those who accepted their lot hungrily pursuing life’s other more “self directed” channel of learning.

Dad fell into the latter category.

But he didn’t resent those who had achieved higher academic milestones, instead he placed great importance on the value of formal education as a compliment to the school of hard knocks.

As often was the case he backed up his values with action. On one occasion, when learning of a friend of mine who was financially unable to to make tuition, he quietly wrote a cheque covering the year, to ensure no opportunity to fully evolve was incomplete.

However his legacy extended beyond his accomplishments and material generosity, in that he was one of the best teachers I have ever known.

He read biographies voraciously and shared with those he loved the benefit of his experience through the lens of those he saw as “more educated”. Often quoting Dale Carnegie, cautioning “That’s not the way to win friends and influence people” when I appeared to be ready to take a wrong turn.

Yet his mastery of the skill set required to truly enlighten, never shone so brightly until his mentoring morphed from occasional lecturer to thoughtful questioner.

It’s four AM, you’re at a red light, on your way to work – as opposed to on your way home – and you come up to a red light.

WAIT! Hang on, are either of these options even relevant examples in a covid world?

Anyway, there’s no one around, do you furtively glance in all directions and then slip through the red light to continue on your way?

Why not – right?

No one will see, there are no cameras (maybe), and c’mon, the red light was designed to protect those who needed to cross the intersection at busier times-No?

Besides, isn’t there a rush of freedom when you make your own set of rules?

Damn straight there is!

So you break the rules, feel like a rebel and with that you feel in control of your life, sipping that extra dry soy flat white a few minutes earlier than expected, you start your day with a win.

Or did you lose a moment to just pause and exist outside the rat race?

I was surfing recently and I came across a list of “Rules to Share with My Daughter” (interestingly, there was no mention of flexible morning red light laws).

As I read the list of 37 rules I was to share as a doting patriarch, I was reminded of an early morning thought I recently scribbled about the paradox of imparting lessons learned on those we care about.

I reached for my bedside notepad and sleepily scrawled the following:

As if to sidestep pain we believe we can deny it’s existence”

What does sidestepping pain have to do with red lights and sharing life rules with your daughters?

Well that my friends, is a question, that if not comically obvious already, will be evident in my upcoming “3 questions from late night red lights-Part Deux

And for more obtuse observations, rambling social commentary and unanswered questions, please follow me here by leaving a comment below or clicking follow @

Stay Tuned…

Natural selection

Darwin’s vison of the evolution of a species has always been of fascination and inspiration to me.

To oversimplify his life’s work I would summarize his brilliant view as follows:

Individuals within a species who present genetic mutations dramatically inconsistent with the population, that provide a competitive advantage, are more likely to survive to the age of reproduction and thusly possibly transfer the successful, albeit mutated, genetic code to one or more offspring

My man Charles

For years now we have been told that the countless prescriptions of antibiotics issued by doctors, responding to our species insistence for immediate solutions, has created the possibility of a super bug. Now as we face a pandemic, I can’t help but wonder if Covid19 is further evidence of this.

When you really consider it, Nature has a spectacular way of wiping the slate clean when any particular species gets out of hand. Taking up too much place in what needs to be a perfectly balanced ecosystem.

The slow, the weak, the aged and the vulnerable invariably are the first selected in the culling that evens the scorecard, so that all species may co-exist in an environment with limited resources.

When one species’ success runs wildly out of control, destabilizing the delicate balance required to maintain a harmony, some catastrophic event typically hits the reset button. Often eradicating the entire species forever.

In a recent speech Joaquin Pheonix called on us to reflect if “…One nation, one gender, one species has the right to dominate another with impunity

Historically the signs of over dominance have included a species becoming so successful they mistake of interpreting the absence of visible predators for invincibility.

Can you say “Ice Age” Mr T Rex?

This self obsession ironically accelerates the species demise, by taking them off their competitive toes, letting them grow fat, slow and oblivious to threat.

You don’t need to look further than the device in your hands to be reminded of just how isolated from reality Homo Sapiens have become.

Mr Jobs invention, designed to bring us closer together has done the opposite by driving us into a world of chasing “likes” instead of working on being genuinely likable.

And walking through the aisles of the local grocery store, the absence of toilet paper, confirms that while diarrhea is not a symptom of a respiratory virus, it may indicate how our attention to the facts has dropped to Neanderthalic levels.

Even our compulsion to consume without consideration reflects our dog like nature.

A friend tells a story of his big dog jumping up on the counter and chewing through the packaging of three pounds of fruit cake one Christmas. When my friend got home, on the floor lay the dog with the most regretful look on his face, as if to say “ Dude!! What was I thinking ?!?”

The dog survived but my friend had the biggest Boxing Day clean up ever.

In recent weeks we have seen that this same animalistic behavior lies beneath the surface of some of the most fortunate members of our species.

And not even very far beneath the surface !

Witnessing behavior from Televangelists selling coffee, to use for barter in the post apocalyptic world,

Yup, Jimmy Baker is back giving credence to the idea that the most reviled members of any species may in fact survive and thrive.

to fist fights occurring outside grocery stores only days after the first cases were announced in Canada and you witness Homo Sapiens behaving like Lemmings racing toward the edge.

Profiteering and barbarism surfacing so rapidly it leads me to question: What truly lies beneath the thin veneer we paint on before we walk out into the world to spend most of our days noses buried in our devices?

Ironic isn’t it?

Now that we are being told that social isolation is the only hope we have to “flatten the curve” from resembling a hockey stick (Hey! I’m Canadian-eh), we, who spend our days obsessively distancing ourselves from any traditional form of communication- like talking, listening, smiling at a passerby and even eye contact – are now defiantly questioning the epidemiologists on how this unprecedented pandemic can be controlled through social distancing.

Oh sure… we will wear a mask to protect ourselves against illness – but too many of us are so cavalier, we think this won’t affect us! We are too powerful, rich & healthy to succumb to anything!

Uh… hello?

It’s not about you Monsieur T. Rex.

It’s about the fact that while this pandemic is projected to touch at least half of the human population… we don’t actually have the resources to attend to all three and a half billion of us in one waiting room at the same time!

So we won’t stop it’s onslaught but collectively we need to slow its pace.

Enter my hero- fellow twisted thinker & Scotsman Charles Darwin!

Darwin postulated that while the original default color of an Arctic Hare may have been a taupey beige, that didn’t serve the species so well, given the backdrop in which they frolicked was most often snowy white.

Predators could see them miles away.

So the species didn’t do so well.

Until, through some genetic mutation some mama hare popped out a couple of albino hares and those Wiley Wabbits actually got to make woopie with a couple of lighter beige members of a neighboring …(wait for it) …harem… (come on! I had to!)

Ok poetic license on Darwin’s theory aside, you get the picture.

So where the f&*k am I going with this?

I was thinking about how this may just be nature taking care of the overpopulating of our overly self consumed species by introducing a virus that will by all accounts slam our advanced healthcare.

And of course I was thinking about Mr Darwin’s theory.

I began to wonder …

What mutation at this point would be the genetic advantage for members within Homo Sapiens?

Looking around there seems to be one trait that is as scarce as a Black Hare in the arctic:


The selfless consideration of others.

The only way we can possibly flatten the curve and have the greatest opportunity for limiting the strain’s impact on fragile healthcare systems, is if we can all get past our egocentricity and consider the unseen vulnerable individual who may be connected to someone to whom we inadvertently pass the virus.

Not SELF preservation … but actually the selfless preservation …of someone we don’t even know.


In a world of orange men making this an “us versus them” issue or amazon snake oil salesmen jacking prices on Purell, this is as much of a genetic mutation as any Duck Billed Platypus or a black and white donkey on the Serengeti.

Now I’m not sure if Darwin’s theory considered individual or collective social evolution … but I’m thinking we are about to find out if the principle holds.

In my tiny sphere on this planet, I see fledging businesses take leadership positions by making the socially conscious choice to close instead of squeezing out much needed revenue, in the early days of this crisis:

I see established businesses, making the choice to go beyond governmental guidelines because the risk is too high to just take half measures:

I see corporate leaders shifting the focus of resources from strategic goals to employee support.

Most encouragingly I see the next generation of Homo Sapiens choosing to self isolate while reflecting on higher ideals like empathy and mindfulness.

I see tough choices being made by those who very easily could confuse “never give up” over “doing the right thing”

These outliers, deserve our acknowledgment. And further our “Natural Selection” of support because they are mutating against the previous definition of “survival of the fittest”

Their choices introduce a possible alternative to the threat of extinction.

Ok, perhaps not the extinction of a species but certainly of a mindset that can only lead us further beyond nature’s balance.

This may be a stretch in Darwin’s theory but it certainly gives hope to the Origin of a (new) species.

(Editors Note: While I posted a couple of examples of outliers here, I would love to hear of the altruism you are witnessing… please share them with me in your comments)

Tourist Trap!

Light of Dawn

Recently while on vacation, a woman looked over my way and waded across the pool. I panicked. My first thought was “uh oh! Some drunk traveler is going to commandeer my moment in paradise”

You know how some people are all too willing to share their personal pain long before you even ascertain whether or not they are teetering in and out of lucidity?

I figured this is what I was in for, when within 90 seconds I learned she was heartbroken. Her wound, while not visible was palpable.

Three months earlier she had lost her second husband to whom she was married for 23 years – within 3 months of being diagnosed.

I also learned that her first husband was also a 23-year marriage. Eventhough the first didn’t die, she seemed to have a twenty-three year best before date when it came to matrimony.

At first I was trapped in that awkward place of way too much info, way too quickly. But also just as quickly, my initial reaction was eclipsed by awe as her light shone through her pain.

She elaborated on the time she shared with #2 and how he supported her as she had gone back to school to get a degree after her first marriage, to become part of the support network for the abused and disenfranchised.

She spoke so lovingly of her man “he raised my son… without ever trying to replace his father” and how “he had washboard abs well into his fifties”

Then the tears came.

Now it is me who is seeking counseling to move through all this… imagine that? After all I’ve seen and heard on the job- I need a therapist!”

She seemed almost surprised by the fact that there really was a benefit within her own profession.

My therapist says I’m engaging in a little excess … but given the situation he completely understands and he even said he’d be doing the same

Loss of all kinds beats the shit out of our sense of “I got this!”

Loss of love, loss of health, loss of self.

These things, when handled individually are challenging enough, but when they roll into life all together like an oversized KISS tour bus, the most natural response is to run.

And run we do.

Distracting with substance … or worse – with less recognizable dalliances like work or sex … or even tears.

Tears at first are natural and can be cathartic. They change our body chemistry, attempting to provide a release from whatever it is that is saddening us. Tears are such a well designed distraction they even have the built in ability to make us laugh!

Have you ever looked at yourself in the mirror while in tears boo-hooing?

Check it out!

I remember being a kid and noting just how my contorted face made me pause and marvel at how weird my scrunched up mug mirrored.

At the time I decided to scrunch it a different way and before long I wasn’t thinking of whatever got me started … I was looking at how f$*ked up my face looked.

The tears actually became a distraction from my sadness, in the same way that the sadness itself was a distraction from the pain behind it.

When we are sad, often the first thing we share with anyone who might listen is “I’m sad” and therein we get distracted and resistant. Inspired by the voxpop refraining how we “aren’t supposed to be feeling that way”

Oh ?

Who promised us that?

Tears, booze, work or sex all are great in moderation but they can become even greater avoidance vehicles for actually experiencing through the pain.

Given that at some point we all feel pain wouldn’t we be better off exploring it beyond its discomfort inspired by seeking to answer: “Why has this tourist wandered over to me here in Paradise?”

What if we explored the neighborhood and asked:

What’s on the other side of pain?”

How could we know???

Most of us avoid it like the corona virus. Using hand sanitizer and steering clear of travel just to avoid the possibility of pain. And here’s the kicker – just like the virus, many of us actually carry the virus but never revealing a single symptom!

Similarly most of us feel heartbreak and just stay the hell away from exploring it as if it was our entitled right to never ever feel it.

But just like the virus du jour, emotional pain is for most of us, just temporary. A portal to a place within ourselves that needs our attention.

Not avoidance.

Not obsessive focus either.

Not even the search for a solution.

Our attention.

It invites our investigation, it calls for exploration.

But through some Facata reasoning we typically hope to explore pain…pain free!

Wtf ?

When my son announced he wanted to play hockey, the last thing I wanted to do was get up for 6 AM practices in minus OMG Celsius to drive and sit in a damp cold arena with bad coffee and hangover.

So how did I respond to his request?

By enrolling him in Sunday afternoon library studies !

Naw … (though admittedly the thought did cross my mind as I hoped to escape the inevitable).

No, I remember saying “ well if I’m gonna be there I might as well distract myself by yelling at the kids”.

Ironically, it didn’t occur to me that I could do that from the seats with the other parents.

Nooooo, I was thinking from “behind the bench ”

This full on swan dive into a sport I had not really played was counterintuitive, frightening and sometimes quite literally painful.

Picture unbalanced kids with a long stick right about waist level and you will catch my drift.

Yet dive I did, and through that pain I was lead to a love for the boys caught up in their struggle to learn and grow. And in some cases, just stand up.

That love, my light must have shone through because before long my daughter asked if she could play and then if we could coach her team.

Which I did … for nine years.

Nine years of cold drives, late for practice after work, countless moments of elevated heart rates and nine years of pulled muscles.

Nine years of screaming, cheering, bellowing love!

Love for my son… the young athletes and spirits I coached and love for my role as a coach.

It was Love that was on the other side of the pain from which I was so ready to run.

Love that I would have missed if I had listened to those who said “Oy! That’s a lot of work” and “You really don’t know shit about hockey dude” (we’re in Quebec)

We are hard wired for flight or fight.

A binary code that suggests the only two options are to run or resist.

What about pause and explore?

What lies on the other side of the pain we feel so entitled to avoid?

Why do we feel so compelled to run…(or swim) away from what looks like an overbearing tourist, briefly visiting us, with the gift of ultimately revealing the light that lies on the other side and of our fear?

And as we let our own light shine,
We unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.
As we’re liberated from our own fear,
Our presence automatically liberates others

– Marianne Williamson