Self Improvement · Original Thought · Uncertainty

Peer Pressure

When faced with the decision to research a subject, ruminate on the information, reflect on the consequences and form your own opinion or blindly accepting the collective fiction of a group, which do you choose? Does it matter if the subject seems significant? trivial? If the consequences are personal and material, do you resort to the easier approach or take a harder road?

Group think works because thinking is hard work. Comprehending an appropriate question and choosing a credible source of information are skills that we have stopped practising.  My greatest strength is my ability to synthesise disparate ideas. My greatest weakness is my ability to synthesise disparate ideas. Regardless, I tend to rush to a conclusion and if the destination at the end of a straight line is familiar, I will probably go where my eyes take me.

We are kept from our goal not by obstacles but by a clear path to a lesser goal.” ~ Robert Brault

The road less travelled is bound to be more challenging, more interesting and more scenic. I am heading out to Sundre Alberta this afternoon. I have made the trip hundreds of times and often vary the route. If I wanted to arrive in 1 hour and 7 minutes, the fastest course is to stick to the freeway (QE2). Traffic clips along at 120 km ph and on a Friday is bumper to bumper. My goal in heading away from the city is relaxation and mindfulness and if I speed along with the crowd, I arrive irritated and anxious. However, if I meander on lesser highways with a slower speed and considerably less traffic, I am able to take in the majesty of my surroundings and rather than getting stressed by the trip, I am relaxed and inspired by it.

pathway

If I am distracted by the shortest path; however, I measure that – least time, least effort, most familiarity, personal preference, invalid excuses, unrealistic fear I will always miss out on the journey and will probably arrive somewhere that I have already been but without the learning, preparation, or anticipation.

Make Today Remarkable, by resisting peer pressure posturing and embracing some originality,

B

 

Original Thought · Self Improvement · Uncertainty

Are You a Segregationist?

bending willow

Are we practising segregationists? Segregation defined as the act or practice of segregating; a setting apart or separation of people or things from others. In the not so distant past, I surrounded myself with like-minded folks who held and espoused the same views of ideas, policies, and people. While a scary practice, it becomes critical and unhealthy when the like-minded crowd out everyone else and sound walls of similarity are constructed to keep ‘them’ and ‘their nonsense’ out of sight and sound. I was comfortable defining people by how they differed from me and couldn’t/wouldn’t consider making a crack in the wall to let the freshness of something new or different in.

I watched my tribe grow organically, like a Persistent organic pollutant (POP) defying any degradation of its power with stubbornness and vitriol. I used energy; kinetic, physical and emotional to hold different opinions at bay and resisted considering possibilities, even when I could feel the glimmer of dishonesty and see the light of inconsistency in my position. I set myself apart from others who were different and surrounded myself with folks who conformed to my ideals and confirmed my ideas. We were diverse in age, race, and economic conditions but marched in lockstep to policies and positions that we hadn’t necessarily given the proper consideration to.

My observation is that segregationists exist at all places on the political spectrum; left, right, and center. Ideology around religious, environmental, economic, and social fictions are strong regardless of race, creed, ethnicity, gender, age. We all draw close to people who ‘do things the right way’. We like people who are like us. and consequently and unfortunately we don’t easily like people who aren’t like us; unless we make a concerted and committed effort.

The effort to openness is enormous. We have been shunning those who are different from us (in any/many ways) for 70,000 years. When Homo Sapiens started creating community and culture they needed to create a common narrative – a Sapien fiction that allowed and justified unearned trust. As we began to live more complex and crowded lives, we redoubled the narrative. The Sapien fiction allowed them to usurp and probably slaughter other homo species of the day. Millenia later we are still separating ourselves, within one species, into groups based on the myths we tell ourselves about ourselves and the world we live in.

What would happen if we took a slightly different approach? What if we allowed a 10-degree reorientation to take place? If I was open to 10% of what makes someone else different from me, would I be a different person? better? yes. possibly.

When I am willing to shift 10 degrees from my stubborn fiction and the person in front of me shifts the same, we have less distance between our stories and might be close enough to see where they overlap.

Imagine a centrist Democrat ( Jack) meeting a centrist Republican (Jill). Under most circumstances, they may not give each other the time of day on issues of health care, taxation, or immigration. If Jack shifts their position towards Jill’s by 10 degrees and she does the same, they may both realise that they want what is best for most people and only differ on tactics. Once the chasm narrows, there seems to be greater willingness to listen, if not appreciate to someone else’s opinion. Curiousity to understand builds bridges while asking questions in order to overpower builds walls.

How do I more consistently become an integrationist? How do I hold strong views strongly and still be willing to hear other fictions? Maybe this fable by Dorothy Colleen is a guide.
The Oak and the Willow, a fable
In a field, there was an oak at one end, and a willow-tree at the other.

Whenever a wind moved through the field, the willow swayed in the wind, while the oak remained unmoved.

When this happened, the willow said to itself, “I wish I was as strong as the Oak, instead of bending over with every breeze“ then one day a large windstorm whipped through the field.

When the storm passed, and the darkness lifted, the willow looked across the field, and was shocked to discover that the oak was laying on the ground, broken. When the Gardener came into the field, the willow said, “Oh sir, what happened to the Oak? How is it that I survived the storm, weak as I am, and the Oak fell?”

The Gardener said, “Oh little willow-tree, do you not understand what happened? When the winds blow, you bend with them, while the oak remains still. So when a really powerful wind comes along, you can bend with the wind, and survive it. But the Oak cannot bend, and so if the wind is strong enough, it will break. For the Oak had a secret, a weakness within that no one looking at the outside could see. And the Gardener went on his way, leaving the willow to ponder what he said.

Moral: Strength within and strength without are not the same, and one should cultivate strength within first. Also, when the winds of life blow, bend, and you may survive the real storms when they come. Try and resist them, and when the real storms come, you may break instead.

Original Thought · Self Improvement · Uncertainty

Dare to Fail

 

mistakesIf I am not making at least three mistakes a day, I am not trying. My greatest opportunities are waiting for me to have the courage and willingness to attempt them. The least I can do is step up to the plate and swing the bat. Sometimes I will foul off a curveball and learn to be more patient. On occasion, I will whiff on some high heat and gain some perspective regarding the challenge and some skills I need to develop. In a few instances, I will get hit or brushed back and end up on my butt looking foolish but if I get back up and step back into the box, I get another appearance at the plate. If I put my head down and slink off to the dugout, after striking out, I have missed the chance to improve, innovate and endure.
I am generally active in my world for 16 to 18 hours a day. If I take lots of swings and only whiff at a one every 5 to 6 hours, I am missing my share at the plate. Yesterday I wrote something rude and inane in an attempt at humour, I quoted the wrong James brother in an attempt to convince (and was corrected), I blurted out a thesis that I hadn’t thought through (as an extrovert, I do this many times a day) while trying to understand, in an effort to be curious I asked an impertinent question (without understanding my insensitivity). I wrote 750 words in an ongoing chapter, most of which turned out to be crap – but there is one sentence that has possibilities. I met 4 new people and all of them were generous and supportive about a ‘big idea’ that I shared with them and I was interested and present as they recounted what they are working on.
I ran in the rain, laughed with a stranger, ate with a friend, slept well and dreamed hard. The last sentence weren’t risks or mistakes but not that long ago they would have been unusual. I took steps to make them possible and now they seem familiar rather than odd.
A speaker yesterday, suggested that we need to let out crazy ideas out because they just might work. I have no shortage of absurdity wrestling for space in my head and now I have been given permission to give voice and action to more of it. If 3 out of 10 turn out to be viable and feasible, I will be thrilled with that average. If 1 in 100 is a home run, I still get to run the bases one more time than someone who is sitting in the stands watching the game being played by others. If my timing is right and my idea scores for me but also adds remarkable value to the efforts of three other crazy folks, then we are on our way to achieving another reason to celebrate our teamwork,
Even if I don’t clear the bases 99/100, the one grand slam is still exhilarating.
What risks can you take this morning? tomorrow? this week? Are you willing and maybe excited with the freedom and permission to make mistakes? Would you be willing to create a “My Mistakes” journal and record all the times that you pushed the envelope and had it tear? Would you commit to celebrating the 1/100 big success and commit to learning from the 99 stumbles?

If you have the confidence and courage to shake up your days, your week, your life and rattle some cages, leave a comment or contact me at bob@remarkablepeople.ca and we will figure out how we can connect and support each other.

Make Today Remarkable, by trying enough scary stuff so that you fail three times,
B

“If you’re not making mistakes, then you’re not doing anything. I’m positive that a doer makes mistakes.”  ~ John Wooden
“A life spent making mistakes is not only more honorable, but more useful than a life spent doing nothing.”  ~ George Bernard Shaw
“I think it’s important for scientists to be a bit less arrogant, a bit more humble, recognising we are capable of making mistakes and being fallacious – which is increasingly serious in a society where our work may have unpredictable consequences.”
~ Robert Winston

“You have to change your life for yourself, and it’s about the fun of getting there – sitting in the tour van, breaking down on the side of the road, you know, having a laugh with the guys in the band, making mistakes with nobody watching.” ~ Imelda May

Original Thought · Uncertainty

Less Focus and More Attention

 

involved

My importance is only perspective. When I think that I am the center of the universe (or you do), it is only because of where our attention is focused. If I stare at a dot on a paper the surrounding white space shifts so that my concentration is on the spot.
If I focus on the negative impacts that I see from the actions of a world leader, it becomes my topic of discussion, where I spend intellectual and kinetic energy and impacts my mood. Where I place my attention nudges my ideation and action. If I am trying to find a poverty reduction strategy and it is my focus then I miss any opportunity that a prosperity creation strategy could add. If I wring my hands about the news regarding the Paris Climate Accord and the discord around the decision, I might miss the lessons that can be learned from new collaborations and strategies.
Focus is important when undertaking tasks like scuba diving, rock climbing or hang-gliding (life and death in the balance) but only seeing my nose or navel in more complex circumstances leads to missed opportunities.

Today I am going to notice the world around me; the things that rile me, the things that resonate with me and the things that rattle me but I am also going to watch for the stuff that is obscured by too much attention.

Make Today Remarkable by broadening your horizons,

B
Tomorrow; You do have a religion/philosophy even if you can’t name it

Self Improvement · Uncertainty

Dear Me

I have been around some young people over the past weeks and am excited by their passion and troubled by their despair (in the same person (or maybe all persons)).
I don’t seem to have any meaningful advice for them to celebrate their enthusiasm or lift them from their anguish. Ther swings, which I suffered because of a mental illness, are wide and deep. I don’t know what to say because when I was bouncing from manic to depressive, nothing helped and almost everything hurt. If someone significant in my life reached out, I rejected them and their words because they couldn’t understand what I was going through.
I started wondering, what advice the today I would give to the fifteen-year-old? What should I tell/remind the seventy-five-year-old version? Does distance give me any perspective?
Dear 15 year-old Me,
I do remember what you are going through. The pain and sorrow that couldn’t be labelled but was tempered by pulling the blankets up over your ears and screaming in silence. The weight on your chest didn’t leave but it hurt a little less when the sights and sounds of the world were walled away. I remember the shrieking tension that rose up as a reversal of emotions waded slowly through the muck. The extraordinarily bright light, the squishiness of your palette at the touch of your tongue, the nauseating speed of everything swirling around me without seeming to make progress were welcomed because it meant that in minutes, hours or days I would be at the top of my game; unstoppable, invincible, joyous and delicious. It all passed and I survived even when I didn’t want to. The best advice is just that -” This too shall pass”. It sounds meaningless and trite but so would the medical explanation that took another 25 years to uncover. Knowing that the anxiety didn’t have a foundation and that whether some girl liked me or hated me isn’t the end of the world isn’t helpful or at 15 even believable. I could offer that when it passes, you will once again be stronger and eventually you will have the courage to share the depths and the heights with someone who cares and she will ‘insist’ that you seek professional help. After a few years of evading, avoiding and resisting you will relent and in your case that is the beginning of a more joyful and productive life. This too shall pass.
With hope,
Me, nearing retirement

Dear 75 year-old Me,

Looking at you from 13 years in the past, I see a vibrant, loving, caring man. Someone who is still healthy. Someone who is joyously still married and sharing a meaningful life with your beloved of more than 50 years. The perspective from this vantage point is that all of that is possible and if you aren’t living hale and hearty and happy, it is my fault. I didn’t set you up by continuing to build on the good blessings of today.
I know you have a great relationship with your grandchildren because I strived to keep the relationships meaningful and unique. You are aging well, with little stress and still living an adventure because that is how I engineered the years between 60 and 75. Even if an illness has arisen, I took the steps to mitgate it and I battled the demon to a draw so you can live in an abundance of love, laughter and learning.My advice to you as I turn 75 is “accept your responsibilities for today – to love well, laugh loud, leap and learn, and accept your responsibility to set up the 90 year-old us for a remarkable encore with great grandchildren and wisdom and wonder and love”

With hope and confidence,

Today Me

Uncategorized

What Gets to You?

There is a gap between aspiration and implementation that needs to be filled. If my effort doesn’t reduce the chasm, then the goal is merely words. If my personal mission, for 2017, is to significantly influence 100,000 people this year but I sit quietly on my hands waiting for the best time to make a perfect appeal, I will likely get comfortable with the waiting rather than the action. I am an impatient imperfectionist with a serious action bias so I am more likely to leap before assessing how far I need to jump or how far I might fall. The specific metric isn’t as important to me as the doing. I would sooner fall 50,000 short while taking some for of action to inform, encourage, incite, provoke and coach rather than 100,000 short perfecting a perfect message (nonexistent). I blog, podcast, tweet, post, coach, speak, present, propose almost every day. The analytics I am using suggest that I have legitimately reached 300,000 unique individuals so far this year. More than 2000 have replied, commented, shared, challenged, celebrated. But how do I measure the in-betweeners? Between reach and engagement? Between engagement and action? Between status quo and change? Does it matter?

I am also an extrovert who uses the outside of my head to ‘mull’ and ” reflect”. The above paragraph leads me to a reflection that I need to define significant and influence before worrying about #’s to improve the decisions that I make. If I believe significant is measured by any engagement ( is a Retweet equal to a comment, is a question better than a like, are criticisms an improvement over exposure?) (my initial answer would be no, yes, yes).

What moves a reader from passive consumption to engagement? What can I do to foster more questions? Does it matter if the engagement is a sidebar to the initial medium? How do you accept or welcome someone’s influence in your life? Do you realize and recognize when and how your views, approaches, and opinions are being shifted? Is logic a contributing element? numbers? stories? depth? brevity? clarity?

Are you more likely to shift positions with a preponderance of evidence or an abundance of confirmation? Does a 300-page case study sway you more than 300 people aligning with a specific idea or trend? What influences you? Is there something that I could say or do or some way I could express my ideas that would be more likely to resonate with you?

Do you comment when something triggers a reaction (positive or negative)? Do you share through your network? Do you follow bloggers, tweeters? for their content? or just friends?

Still trying to figure this out after 600+ posts,

B

Uncategorized

Are You Happy Now?

“No one saves us but ourselves. No one can and no one may. We ourselves must walk the path.” – Buddha

“Greater in battle than the man who would conquer a thousand-thousand men, is he who would conquer just one — himself. Better to conquer yourself than others. When you’ve trained yourself, living in constant self-control, neither a deva nor gandhabba, nor a Mara banded with Brahmas, could turn that triumph back into defeat.” – Gautama Buddha

Choice is a social construct. It seems that the consequences of choice and range of options to choose are dictated by the circumstances of life. If I have limited income and very little financial resources my options for transportation solutions are different from someone who has significant margin in resources. But we can still make decisions within our personal menu and in the area of values and worldview, we can expand our menu (by choice) to include a wider array of selections.

I have written here about trust as a choice; one that once made becomes invisible. I have expounded on curiousity as being a frame we opt for. There have been numerous posts on how courage is a selection we are able to make many times each day. While the consequences of these determinations aren’t equal among different people and different cultures, the choice is still available.

I was volunteering last week at Calgary Reads Big Book Sale (100,000 used/donated books) and was sorting and curating the Health and Wellness section. I noticed that there were 11 books, written in the last 6 years, that had ‘Happiness’ in their title. Skimming the pages, I was struck by the focus on environmental and external forces and their impact on my happiness. The authors suggest that my happiness is a consequence of my where, when, how, and what. If I am unhappy, it is because of the circumstances in my life. I am in the wrong job, wrong relationship, wrong city …
None of my skimming revealed a thesis that my happiness is mine to choose or even that I have any serious influence on the happiness I feel.

Simply, happiness is a choice. A difficult one sometimes but still a personal choice.
Recognizing the situations and dynamics that bring you joy is important because it makes the decision to be happy easier. But the experience doesn’t create the feeling. The conditions are more like a placebo that requires a commitment to the generate remarkable impact. If I believe that going to Disneyland would be a trying and frustrating experience (I do) then arriving at the gate in Anaheim would likely be a disappointing and troubling day. If I have a medical appointment and decide to joyfully live in the moment and commit to exuding happiness throughout the session then I will see the good, the opportunity, the possibilities and feel less anxious (if not pleasantly surprised).

It may just be a delusion or a reframing of my conditions but I have taken the path of happiness under less than ideal conditions and found that my disposition changed the situation or at least changed how I perceived it.

I am embarrassed to say that I have allowed the opposite to happen. In a fit of ego or self-pity, I have chosen unhappiness and it festered into unkindness, unforgiveness, anger and despair in a place and time where I should have been overcome with glee. I think the term nocebo applies.

My mind (yours too) is powerful enough to alter reality, change perspective and revise the past and future so it shouldn’t be unimaginable that it can bring happiness into existence regardless of the swirling negativity or potential chaos.

Choose to be happy, act as if you are happy, see the world through happy eyes and speak happiness into the world and keep your eyes open to see what unimagined joy manifests.

Make Today and Tomorrow Remarkable,

B

Original Thought · Self Improvement

Wow, Wow, Wow!

I had a breakfast meeting today and at the end of the hour, she said: ” I dare you not tp be wowed”. The circumstances, she was referring to were clear and when we got to the appointed wow point, I certainly was wowed.

When was the last time that you allowed yourself to be awed? Have you been blown away by something in the last six months? Have you heard someone tell a story that blew your mind? Did you read an essay, a story, a book that left you changed?

Or are you cynically reserved in your response to the world around you? Do you expect to be astonished? Are you willing and able to be filled with amazement? What are you waiting for? Isn’t life meant to be joyously and lavishly enjoyed?

awe

I am open to being impressed (not easily) often. I am committed to keeping my eyes open to wonder. When I look for it, it rises up and surprises me in ways that two minutes before, I wouldn’t have imagined. When I am inspired early in the day, I am inspired often throughout the day. Wow seems to beget wow. In a state of awe readiness, I am more aware and appreciative.

Not coincidentally, I am also more ready to be a source of awe. The work I do is better to best when I have been lifted by beauty, majesty, creativity and surprise. Rigid gives way to curious. Yesterday frees up a different tomorrow. Ambiguity celebrates and status quo retreats. As yet unimagined directions and original animations to long-standing questions or issues arise. When my work is better to best (rather than mediocre to good), I witness excellence more often (in myself and others).

Like so many things; trust, love, courage, allowing myself/ourselves to be amazed is a choice that gets easier the more often to choose it and the rewards magnify with each instance.

Are you ready to be amazed? Choose to be wowed, this afternoon, I dare you.

Make Today Remarkable,

B

Self Improvement

River Cleanup

Why has become the big question. Of the W’s and H, Simon Sinek and others have lead us to understand our ‘why’ ahead of any other question. This is a laudable approach, as having an approach is better than winging it (maybe), but may act as a stalling tactic. It can also lead to perfection bias. (If it doesn’t meet the why test completely, then it shouldn’t be done.) The way I use why isn’t as a genesis test but as an omega confirmation.
For me, when I know the what, where, how and when I can test it against why. Why doesn’t generate the action it serves to align it and confirm it through the strategic positioning.
If I see litter alongside the pathway, I can think “that is terrible, someone should pick it up”. Who should that be? – Me? Does taking responsibility for helping solve what I encounter fit with my values? Yes – so the who is me. What should I do? If I pick up the trash and hide it so no one can see it, does that conform with my value of doing the best that I can? No – so I need to do something else. If I pick up the garbage and carry it a couple of blocks to a receptacle, would that serve my purpose? Yes -ok, that’s what I will do. I will come back at the end of the week and remove that piece of rubbish. No – that doesn’t fit with my belief that action always is better than delaying. Do it now.
OK, I will charge into the bushes and grab up the mess. Even though that meets my action bias, it contradicts my value of safety so I need to consider some of the possible hazards and plan to act in a safe manner.
So I pick up the trash, right now, in a safe manner and carry it to a nearby trash can. Who, what, how, where, when all confirmed by my why.

Thanks to everyone in Calgary who is doing that exact thing this morning during the Annual River Cleanup. You and your efforts are appreciated. Be safe, be well.

river cleanup

Thanks For making today remarkable,

B

fiction · Original Thought

Can You Experience My Story?

Just by imagining what you experienced as you tell me a story about seeing a black bear while hiking in Kananaskis Country, Alberta, my mirror neurons fire as if I was on the trek with you. The better you tell me the story, the more I ‘live’ the experience. We are wired to engage with stories and yet we pretend to be concerned with ‘facts’.
If I share a story, I hope to engage you. The more often I tell it, the more often I engage with it. My memories are from my perspective and distance and time can create challenges if veracity and validation are important. I have been writing a piece called Faded Recollections for a couple of years and some of you would have read excerpts in the past. I share this chapter as a way of hopefully reinforcing my thesis that you can share the experience if the story is well crafted. As always, your thoughts, impressions and candor are welcome.

Powerful to Powerless
Did the silence mean it was going to happen again? If I held my breath, would time stop?

After hours of clinking glasses and men laughing, the party, upstairs, came to a sudden halt. He was visiting from wherever he came from and the Pilsner or Bohemian and cigarettes always came with him. Crude jokes, a couple of punches and arm twists, a dollar and the big bottle of red wine followed. The man made my father laugh – no one did that anymore. His visits were the highlight of his year.

Darkness covered the corner of the basement where a curtain defined my bedroom. What time was it? Midnight? Would he be too drunk? Too tired? Tonight? I pressed myself against the concrete wall and pulled the covers over my ears. The cocoon was so small, maybe I could disappear tonight. Maybe I could transform into a superhero.

Superheroes didn’t feel this much fear. Superheroes fought back regardless of a 100 pound weight difference. Superheroes didn’t need their parents to fight their battles, even when they are 9 years old. Tonight I was going to fight back. I was going to say “No, no, no”. Tonight I was going to scream. Tonight I was going to stab him through his heart.

A light at the top of the stairs went out and the shadows crept away. The steps on the treads shifted from stomps to tiptoes. The sanctuary curtain was torn open and disappeared. Not in the world but in my head. I wasn’t here. I wasn’t helpless. I wasn’t abandoned. This didn’t happen again.

I was 6 the first time I remember Roy visiting Regina or the first time I remember him at our house. He was always around my aunt’s house in Saskatoon. “Wanna play catch?” “Let’s go to the park” ”Would you like a chocolate bar?” My cousins never went with him. They were always busy or out of sight or in the bathroom. O’Henry, baseballs and swings. Roy always had time for me. “ “You are becoming a little man, aren’t you”. “ Climb up on my lap and I will tell you another story”. One gold tooth, sweat, and tales of headless horsemen.

I think he did some kind of work with my uncle, maybe painting, or pounding, or lifting or grunting. Something for those sausage fingers and rough hands to squeeze and pull and push and caress. Man work where you didn’t need to ask if you could, you just knew you could. Start a job, finish it. “ money in your pocket let you do whatever you wanted to do”.

My dad didn’t really like anyone but he seemed to really like Roy. He didn’t talk about much other than football. “ If God made cows then we are supposed to eat them – with mashed potatoes and gravy”. “The government needs to teach kids reading, writing, and rules”. “ We have a little bit set aside to buy a truck but things are tough”. Roy drew him out. They shared something from their past but I never knew what it could possibly be. Mutt and Jeff, Laurel and Hardy, Jekyll and Hyde and yet they fell into each other’s company, bear hugging, catcalling and baboon laughing. Between visits, my dad sank back into a silent stupor with occasional outbursts and roars. Work, beer, sleep, work, beer, sleep, … until Roy graced the back door with chaos and mayhem on his shoulder. I loved the light he brought. Garlic, sweat, dirt, shone from his pores and everything was instantly and temporarily brighter, lighter. Twinkle, twinkle eyes, crooked man smile, and always a secret to be shared or never to be told.

In those days, everyone looked back with nostalgia. “ Will it ever be a simple as when we were kids?” “Remember the time we went swimming at the Red Bank and Charlie got caught skinny dipping by Sister Anna.” “ A deck of smokes used to be 35 cents”. Safety, sanity, silliness and no responsibilities. Life was better then and wouldn’t be better tomorrow. Things could never be the same.

Breakfast, school, cartoons and lunch, school, playground, supper, back alley, sleep, breakfast, school, cartoons and lunch, school, playground, supper, back alley, sleep …. Me and Brian.

When you don’t know what poor is, you aren’t. Ladders turned into sailing ships, trees into fortresses, sticks were swords or guns or spears and playgrounds were where kids shared secrets, surprises, and challenges. Street lights coming on signaled something different – no need for shouting “Billy”, no cell phones, no worried parents. Just streetlights coming on and dozens of kids racing home.

Dreams were simple, sweet, safe and if scary not so scary as to make you wet the bed. Exhaustion, growth, and youth brought 8 hours of sinking deeply into a soft mattress, cool sheets, warm blanket and a new day – much like the others but with a promise of adventure and unknown.

Once you stop being curious, once you know too much, the promise fades and then is gone. Night just brings morning and day brings more of the same. Stealing candy, curiosity and dreams. Hope glimmers for a while. Trust tries to press through. Love is seen but not felt. “I need to get up every morning and get out into the world and keep looking for the secret, keep looking for a time to share it, keep hoping that someone will ask. Running helps, rhythm and breathing stops my brain from returning. When my legs are churning forward, I can’t go back. At 1 mile the veil lifts and light peeks in. 2 miles and heat rises from inside and warmth on my face is understood. Beyond 3 miles anxiety returns as the awareness of the end gets closer. I can’t run forever but maybe for an hour. I can pull a Houdini again this afternoon or this evening and on Thursday. Keep running.

He would catch me some day. I knew the bastard was behind me, getting closer. He was near enough that I could feel his breath chasing me down. His panting wasn’t laboured but enjoyed. His body was strong and soon he would reach the end. 1 mile, 2 miles 3 miles – darkness. Powerful to powerless.