Confrontation

N.B. This is my first post in three days. Sorry about that. This wasn’t a stumble as much as it was an interruption due to illness – I get terrible headaches, but we can talk about that later. In the meantime, on with the show.

I gotta warn you, I am going to be using very, very coarse language. Not to gratify it, but it illustrate how shocking it all was.

I guess I shook my head in disgust one too many times.

The TV was tuned to CNN and the latest news of children separated from their parents in the US due to the immigration laws, how Trump blamed the Democrats and how the Chief Justice used the Bible to justify the actions of the state. I keep my headphone volume at maximum when I exercise and only read the screen while I rested between sets.

As I exercised, I remembered a conversation I had a few years ago when I took a TS 16949 training course in The States.

We had been on our lunch break in the little cafeteria, watching news on the big screen. The trainers had provided a nice box lunch. Somehow the topic came around to ‘the right to bear arms’ so I asked why guns were so important.

“Because,” one guy had piped up. Big guy. Ex military. Still carried his bulk with him but he was less active, so it seemed to weight heavy. “The government shouldn’t have weapons that I am not allowed to have. I protect the constitution and the people first and if I have to fight against the government, it should be my right that it’s a fair fight.”

When my workout ended, I took off my headphones, checked my pulse on my watch, and did a mindfullness check to confirm how I felt – burned out and wonderful. The long rest helped me hit the weights hard.

“You got a problem with Trump?” A guy asked. He looked older. I guessed in his late fifties or or early sixties. He must have seen me shaking my head at the TV.

“Um, well,” I said. I felt like the Terminator from the first movie. Three possible responses to choose from, in red, courier font, float in front of me:

  1. “Yeah, I got problem with Trump. What are you going to do about it?”

  2. “No, I think Donald Trump is wonderful. What colour is the sky in your world, sir?”

  3. “Sorry, but…”

As a devout Canadian, I started with, “Sorry, but….”

I explained how I have problems with anyone who’s policies are designed to deliberately inflict harm. “If you open fire using Twitter and trade wars, that’s one thing. But to put kids in by separating them from their mothers is another. I wonder what makes him think that his ends justify his means.”

“I’m a fan of Trump,” he boasted, pointing a thumb at his chest. “He’s not a stupid man.”

“I never called him stupid,” I countered. “I only questioned his decisions.”

“Listen, he wasn’t handed his money. He made it in real estate, and you know he’s got brains because he outsmarted all of them [people] in New York.”

He used a racial epithet that I’m not inclined to repeat. I will curse until I’m blue in the face, but I won’t use hateful language to describe a culture. I walked away. He followed.

“Look at all the money that Crooked Hillary took when she did all of her speaking engagements. Hundreds of millions of dollars. Trump took nothing compared to that.”

I tried to ignore him and fill up my water bottle.

“So, if it’s wasn’t for the United States, you know where we’d be right now?” He asked me, ignorant of my ignoring him. “The world owes them alot of money.”

I continued to fill up my water bottle, thinking about that former marine from years ago.

“And don’t get me started on that faggot, Trudeau,” the old guy went on. He may have had a point there, about how someone who crosses over the border into Canada is compensated better than someone who has put their life on the line for our country. But he didn’t have to use slurs to get his point across.

The gym is a public place and I didn’t feel the need to have this aired among everyone if he didn’t appear to be open to discussion. At least the marine took the time to explain things to a Canadian who didn’t know a lick about home firepower.

“I don’t disagree, I just don’t know enough to simply take your word for it.”

He continued using hateful language to describe people from other countries. I grabbed my gym bag, signalling I was getting ready to shower and change. “You’re right, if it’s true, it is terrible.”

“You’re calling me a liar?”

“I’m saying I don’t know enough to be able to see the truth.”

His turn now to shake his head in disgust. “Spoken like a true politician.”

I showered and changed and got ready to leave the gym. I saw him on the way out and wanted to wish him a good day and hope we could talk about it when I learned more. He walked away like I wasn’t even there. It’s been a few days, he doesn’t even look me in the eye anymore.

I still shake my head whenever I don’t like something on CNN, though. And I keep my headphones at full volume the whole time – right up until I lock the changeroom door behind me.

Becoming Richard Simmons

Anyone reading this blog would think I am chronicling a fitness and wellness journey. And they would be right and wrong at the same time.

I chose to be fit because I found that the alternative simply wouldn’t do. A team-up of genetics and questionable decisions over the past forty five years or so backed me into a corner where I had two choices – I could not do anything and end up growing old, feeling miserable all the time, complaining about everything, being nothing but a bother to my family, chomping pills from a dresser that looked like a candystore of medicine bottles or I could make a change. And it turns out, change is good and I feel good and when I feel good, I like to share.

The other truth is I love to write. I really do. And being at a loss for words to describe how good it feels to write is kind of ironic, but I will try.

I built a workout spreadsheet that tells me what I am doing over the next twelve weeks and how to gradually increase my weight and the reps. I built a nutrition spreadsheet that helps me track my calories, carbs and fats. I track my mood and my sleep. I do that so when I go to the gym, and I push myself, and I feel that ‘burn’, I know it is contributing to all of those things I am tracking and while I may not see it right away in my body, I know I am doing just a little bit more each day. I get a great deal of satisfaction from that. Mostly because, I never thought the day would come when this kind of thing would be important to me.

Mell and I joked over texts the other day, and I made an offhand comment about where I’m going with all this.

“Who am I now?” I texted. “My God, am I the Canadian Richard Simmons? Am I going to make DVDs of dancing to the oldies, but now, because I’m Canadian, it’ll be dancing to Glass Tiger, Honeymoon Suite, and Gordon Lightfoot?”

“You could,” Mell answered. “Elena could produce and edit them for you.”

That’s my wife. Always supportive. I then lamented about her not needing to question her life’s choices after seeing me prance around in glossy gym shorts, clapping away to “50 Mission Cap” while a parade of overweight men and women in gym clothes and a variety of different toques exercised at varying degrees of intensity, while I cheered everyone in an unnaturally high voice.

That’s an entertaining vision, but that’s not why I go on about this. It’s because if I can do this, I can do anything. Even write a novel.

Oh, I’ve written short stories. I am very proud of a recent rejection. I have attempted a couple of NaNoWriMos (formally and informally). And once, I finished a first draft of a 40K word novella that never went anywhere. It always fizzles out. I didn’t stop writing, mind you. But more to pass the time and blow off steam. In the back of my mind, I felt convinced I couldn’t do it. The same way I felt convinced I was doomed to be a victim of my genetics and heritage.

I changed that. Maybe I can change other things, too. So, in the meantime, I blog 500 words a day for the next few months, strengthening my writing muscles and enjoying the feel of that burn. Come January 18th, 2019 – whether I am ready for it or not – I will start a novel that I will stop writing on January 18th, 2020. I’ll be 48.

 

 

“Wannabe” is my phone’s favourite song

Yesterday morning marked the third day in a row that I did not want to exercise.

‘Deloading’ builds muscle and a few days off is no big deal. Truth is, my mood was in the dumper and I couldn’t be bothered.

When I started this whole regime, I had a motivational trick I played on myself. The night before, when I felt inspired, I would pack up my car. That way, when I inevitably tried to talk myself out of going, I would curse at the effort of having to go to the car, unload the car, bring everything inside, and risk waking up Mell and the kids.

For those three days I didn’t go to the gym, I only put my stuff by the front door, not putting the effort into bringing it to my car. I let my subconscious sabotage my efforts.

Turns out, my phone had other ideas.

Spotify still doesn’t work on my Windowsphone so I have fallen back to using Deezer. But a recent Deezer update caused the app to crash. Thinking that all was lost, and still mad at myself for not going to the gym for the second day in a row, in a fit of pique, I reset my whole phone back to factory setting and configured it all over again – an effort to distract myself from what angered me. Deezer Support’s prompt reply was an apology and a request to reinitialize the app with an assurance it would work. And work it did. I left it on the counter overnight to sync and download all of my music. That was the evening of the night before.

I checked the phone yesterday morning, checking for music and playlist downloads. I scrolled through, happy all was intact, when suddenly, one of them starts to play.

Wannabe” blares out in the quiet morning kitchen. It was 5:30AM. When the phone reset, it must have put all volumes to full blast.

“Ha ha ha ha ha

Yo, I’ll tell you what I want, what I really, really want

So tell me what you want, what you really, really want”

The phone locks up. My PIN doesn’t want to work. The volume won’t turn down. The laundry room is so small it amplifies the sound. I can envision it screaming up the air ducts and into everyone’s room.

It gets all the way to the next,

“So tell me what you want, what you really, really want

I wanna, (ha) I wanna, (ha) I wanna, (ha) I wanna, (ha)”

Before I tear off the protective cover and pop out the battery.

I rush out of the house, avoiding more commotion that would wake up my family. Standing by the car, I resist the urge to throw the phone into the field across the street.

Playing motivational pranks on myself is one thing – like pre-loading my gym bag the night before – but this was something else entirely. This time it was a conspiracy between my phone and my subconscious to shame me into getting back into things.

Like  mob enforcer, it’s saying to me, “Alright, pal. You think ‘Spice Girls‘ is bad? Maybe one day in the middle of the meeting we’ll just play “Mmmmbop” when you are making a presentation. Or maybe “Billie Jean“? You like to dance a little to that one, don’t you? Oh, you won’t like that? That’s too bad. Maybe if you get your ass to the gym, all these problems might go away. I’d hate for bad things to happen and maybe embarrass you. That would be terrible. For you…”

The Best Camp There Never Was

Georgina camps were 90% booked before the end of March but Mell managed to finagle something so that the kids each got two weeks of camp this summer. The lady she spoke to said it’s the fastest it has filled up in 10 years.

I only ever remember going to a kind of field trip camp – a different place in Toronto every day. There was a trip Centre Island and I remember seeing “Grease” for the first time. That lasted one summer. Every other summer after, I either hung out in Haliburton with my aunt or worked on a farm in Buckhorn with my uncle (although, I remember a farm in Peterborough, too – with a grain silo cap decorated in white and green).

This year, Elena had her sights set on “Leadership Camp”, making her nerdy dad extremely proud, but that got booked up. She’s going canoeing instead, making nerdy dad doubly proud because his canoe skills are poor and she needs to learn how to take care of her dad – someone needs to be the grown up.

Reid is signed up for two weeks of fun camp – nothing specific. But one of the ones I thought would be cool for him was a “Soldier’s Camp” – he does have an interest in all things military and I thought he would find the experience inspiring. Again, nerdy daddy sees him as a commando on missions saving the country. My boy had other ideas.

So I asked what he thought of the idea of a camp where he learned how to be soldier.

“I don’t think so, Daddy,” Reid told me. We were in the kitchen, watching “Rogue One” on the laptop – he did all the watching while I cleaned up after dinner and made lunches for tomorrow.

“I was sure you’d be into it,” I said.

“Naw. Only if I could be a rebel soldier. Do they have Star Wars camp?”

Dad went from nerdy proud to geeky proud – they are next to each other on the weirdo meter. If you don’t know, then you don’t have one.

“No, but they should!” That would be a great idea for a local chapter of the 501st.

“Yeah, but not just a Rebel Soldier camp or a Stormtrooper camp. There’d also be a Jedi Camp and a Sith Camp and at the end of the week, you have to perform a lightsaber duel with your partner. And Rebel Soldier and Stormtroopers would design battles where they capture the flag and stuff.”

My son is a genius.

So, Georgina Parks and Recreation, if you are reading, you are free to take this idea. And you have to make it open for all ages. Just sayin’.

Biography

Write a short biography about your best friend,” it tells me. “Begin with a real hook or a grabber sentence.” This is the “Writing Class” for the Wednesday of the first week of “The Writer’s Devotional“.

I knew I had my copy somewhere. I kept it on my shelf when I worked at CEVA, alongside a first edition of “Moveable Feast“, “Jurassic Park” and a Bodley Head edition of “Ulysses“. I found it at the bottom of the banker’s box I brought home and stashed in my garage when I got home after last day at CEVA. It now on the corner of my desk, placed next to my “Zen A Day” Calendar, in front of my Darth Vader piggy bank, between the pictures Elena and Reid painted for my birthday last year.

After crafting this first sentence,” it tells me, “continue writing, including basic facts – full name, birth date, place of birth and current home address.” As a reminder, this is an unauthorized biography, but the names have not been changed, just to keep it interesting.

My life with Jon started with a troll doll. A bunch of them, actually. While I’ve learned little of his ‘basic facts’ during the intervening twenty five years, I can say with unwavering certainty that I would sooner spend time with him than any one of the finest people in the world.

I don’t know if he has a middle name. I am pretty sure his birthday is January 23rd (or maybe it’s the 26th). I’m not sure if he was born in 72 or 73, so he might be the same age or a little younger than me. I have no idea where he was born – although I think it was somewhere in Richmond Hill – and while I am absolutely certain where he is living right now, I am not going to fall into the trap of giving that away to you guys.

Twenty five years ago he was dating a friend of my girlfriend. The two of them met at work and got along swimmingly. Jon and I met across a bingo card filled table, surrounding by mu-mu wearing old ladies who hoarded colonies of troll dolls, treating them with an unnatural amount of reverence.

He wore oversized corrective lenses with brass frames that made his eyes look absurdly tiny in comparison and his hair was parted on the right, slicked to the side. At the time he favoured jeans and plaid shirts (from my memory) and when he greeted me his hand nearly swallowed mine when we shook. I followed his lead because it seemed like he had done this before, but I got distracted by everyone else. He noticed me starting at everything and asked what was going on. As a result of that question and much to the chagrin of our respective girlfriends, we put more effort into speculating on the “Secret Lives Of Blue Haired Bingo Ladies” than the game at hand. I won’t say it was love at first sight – because that would weird Jon out – but I will say that I knew I had a friend for life.

Ten years later, I stood as one of his groomsmen at his wedding. Not long after that, he stood as my best man in mine. Our first children were born exactly six months apart, our second born children were born twenty days apart. You might accuse of being in sync because we spend too much time together. Truth of the matter is, when you flash forward to the present day, it could be argued we don’t spend enough time together. I might see him one week in eight.

Today he’s the guy that comes to mind when you ask my who my best friend is and what follows are some of the things we’ve done to seal that friendship….

That’s as much an intro to a bio of him as of our friendship, but you get the idea. Oh, and I’m not making it up. It’s not a made up name. I swear.

Stumbled

I made the nurse take my blood pressure three times and check my weight twice because I did not believe the readings. I went through the rest of the appointment in a kind of haze and went for a coffee and a slice of carrot cake to think it through. I verified the weight readings after a quick jump onto the Wii Fit after the rest of the family raced RC cars in the school parking lot. I had ostensibly volunteered to stay behind and clean the kitchen and empty the dryer but what I really wanted to verify it all in private.

I took a chance with a new protein drink and bars and succeeded in going back over the 190lbs mark and it turns out that I need to stay on blood pressure medication for the near future. Safe to say, my afternoon doctor’s appointment did not work out the way I planned.

I was feeling anxious enough to consider not blogging today. I deliberately postponed my regular 11:00AM post, expecting to be bursting with good news. I sat down to my ‘black eye’ – a very strong cup of coffee – but took out my Kindle instead of my laptop from my backpack. I just didn’t feel like writing about anything. I was even going to go to bed tonight, telling myself I had nothing to write about.

Which is the furthest thing from the truth. What’s true is there is too much to write about but nothing I wanted to put down on paper. When I’m conflicted like this, I’m bombarded with little nagging doubts that confuse me and keep me from finding any direction. So, what do I do when this happens?

I write. When I get lost, I sometimes go to a dark place and I come out with the words I need. They won’t always be the right ones – I am traipsing around in the dark, remember, and I can grab only what I stumble over and find – but they are words and they make me feel a little better. There are days I worry that I can’t write without that little bit of darkness, but I stop worrying and get back to writing.

I read. It gets my mind off of things and I dive into a book. I’ve actually almost finished Stephen King’s “The Outsider” and he has done another masterful job. But he doesn’t need to hear that from me.

I exercise. I can’t do much now but I went over my routine for tomorrow morning (yes, another spreadsheet, with hyperlinks and everything) and tweaked it a little so I get a little more cardio in.

I plan. More spreadsheets. No more protein drinks through the day, no more bars. Just my regular diet, low on carbs and sugar, high in meat protein. Plan it out for the next 7 days. I can guess where I will be in 7 days and set another target.

This brings my blood pressure down – which reminds me that I need to get my prescription filled (but who am I kidding? My wife will be all over that) and I breathe easier. This dispels those nagging doubts that get in my way – those doubts that tell me that I’m making a big deal out of nothing, that I am coming off as self important, that none of this really matters and why am I putting this online for all the world to read. This makes me feel better.

Yeah, I stumbled. But it doesn’t mean I have to stay there.

-edited a little for words and clarifications. I didn’t do a draft of this last night – so I am editing in the morning before I go to any meetings. And it looks like I won’t post again until tonight. Behind schedule again 😦

 

Persistence

I woke up for 4:00AM completely exhausted.

“Maybe no gym,” I thought.

But I’d deliberately ironed my new pants and shirt then loaded them along with my gym bag and shower kit in the car the night before. I did it knowing I would dread the work having to rearrange things to avoid the gym and shower at home. I can be mean to myself sometimes.

“I’ll just go on the treadmill,” I thought.

Changed clothes, shook up my protein shake, packed the rest of my gear and powered up to the gym and got onto the treadmill. I chugged back the vanilla ice cream flavoured protein milk shake and started listening to the newest episode of Star Trek: The Next Conversation – those two guys always cheer me up. I finished the podcast as I worked out and they kinda distracted me from being so damned tired.

“Okay,” I thought. “Only a few sets on the back extension bench. And I’ll use the fifteens, not the twenties.”

A few sets of that (I eventually went to the twenties), turned into a few sets of everything else, and ninety minutes later, I was showered and changed for work with a protein bar and another shake in me.

One of the regulars stopped me on the way out. “You look like a guy who is seriously considering going back to bed.”

I laughed. “You must be reading my mind. That’s exactly what I was thinking.”

“Well, keep going. You’ll figure it out, I’m sure.”

I got to work, went through my routine of things-to-do, and I remembered I didn’t write anything for today’s blog post.

“Ah, I’ll let it slide,” I thought. “I’ve done a post a day for exactly a month now. As a reward, I will give myself a day off.”

But wait. What will be my excuse next time? Where does it stop?

I showed up at the gym today and I was tired. I showed up at work today and I was tired. Why is writing any different?

Well, when I go to the gym, I get results (In five months, I’ve lost forty pounds of weight and four inches off my waist – I haven’t been a 32 waist since I was 16).

When I go to work, I get paid. I get to keep a roof over my family’s head and sometimes I get to buy things (well, most times I get to buy things, I just want to get one big thing – like a new laptop – but that can wait a little longer).

I get nothing concrete from writing. I’m not published. A handful of people read this blog. I haven’t finished a short story in weeks. I would love to write a novel but I have nowhere to start and who is going to read it anyway?

But that’s right. I want to write a novel. And those do not appear out of thin air. Oh, I would average 500 words a day before, but often it would be an average, and never every day.  Not even for NaNoWriMo in any form – I would write one day and it would be the equivalent of three. And I honestly feel if I can do this every day, every single day, between now and January 17, 2019 that on the following day, those next 500 words will be the first words of the first draft of a novel I want to write.

Persistence will make the difference, I believe. And I chose what stops me, I don’t let the circumstances make up my mind.