The One Thing About This Year

Sharyl asked me what was the most useful thing I took out of the last year and I said “that I don’t know what my motivations are most of the time and most people have no idea why they do the things they do.” I don’t know why I’m telling you this.

It has been liberating because for most of my life I accepted that the reason why I thought I did something was the actual reason why I was doing it. In retrospect, this is ridiculous. The decision to accept that my first thoughts about a motive were accurate failed to consider that my initial thoughts about a situation tend to be emotional or reactive before they are logical and pragmatic.

My tendency to accept the first thing that popped into my mind effectively ended the search right as the more logical brain processes come on-line and the most effective problem solving takes place. Since these processes never tackled the question “why did I do this?” my initial assumption never got challenged or balanced with an alternatives. The brain assumed everything was correct and then devoted the rational thought processes to solving or engaging an erroneous assumption. This is why two people can end-up arguing passionately about something they don’t care about. It’s also why a number of people become extremely abusive during conversations or arguments.

For example, the immediate reaction to someone saying “you are asking me to do something that you didn’t do yesterday or the day before. In fact you never do what you are telling me I have to do” tends to be defensive; and sometimes aggressive.

The word “you” triggers something akin to being pointed at. Most people feel singled out when they hear it used in what they interpret as a negative situation. This feeling is automatic and unconscious, and it is chemical – it’s an emotional release in response to a match between the current situation and something stored in long term memory. The chemical make-up of the emotional release will be shaped by the earliest experiences and there is a diminishing marginal impact with further experiences – what happens later in life will have less and less impact on the automatic emotional response to similarly matched patterns REGARDLESS of increasing levels of maturity and brain development. Once the match has occurred, logical thinking will be impaired for as long as the emotion is sustained. NOTE: If ones first experiences of feeling singled out in a negative way were resolved effectively and in a way that allowed the experience to be balanced with facts, they won’t interpret “you” the same way as someone who did suffer abuse from their caregivers in response to being singled out for a negative thing.

So the statement already has them acting emotionally (illogically) and they then need to stew on being called a hypocrite (while it wasn’t said, this is what people hear). This has them become defensive and start looking for reasons why it is fair to ask you to do something that they are have not yet been willing to do.

There’s a lot of bull shit in all of that and it all has to do with trying to stop being the center of attention for negative reasons – in this case that goal is achieved when the other person is wrong in what they are saying. This is exactly WHY seemingly decent people will become raging assholes when confronted with facts about their behavior.

The next thought that springs to mind after the urge to defend (IF it is allowed to come forward) will usually be very logical. It tends to be something like “hey, I just felt the emotions float over and out of me!” then “what do I really want from this person right now and what is the request I am actually making of them?” Then maybe “yeah, I haven’t done that ever. Maybe I shouldn’t expect someone else to do it for me” or “I don’t know what I’m talking about here” and hopefully the words “I’m sorry, it isn’t fair of me to expect you to do that when I haven’t. Ultimately I’m hoping we can agree on the following….” or something like that. It’s a very different conversation.

That’s the big thing I took out of this year. My initial reaction will be defensive, as initial reactions should be. But by not taking action, I’m actual able to figure-out why I’m doing stuff because I’m not trying to dig myself out of an imaginary hole or pummel on someone to get them to say that I wasn’t wrong.

My Purpose – revisited

Over the last few years I have taken time to reconsider my reason for being on the planet, my purpose. I now see it as a fundamentally arbitrary thing yet of fundamental importance when considering how I should engage the world in-order to get the most of my time as I exist in my current ordered form (the bag of particles that make up my body).

Since I discovered it, it has more or less been “to create beauty through helping others actualize potential.” Time, experience and learning have moved me past this. I changed but continued to live my life with that purpose in mind. It became a drag and the almost absolute antithesis of what I thought I was doing.

It changed today to read “to help living things actualize more of their potential” for about a hour. This still isn’t right. It isn’t Bobby Kennedy enough as it still implies only my direct intervention and nothing of creating a world around me that is conducive to things getting more organized – be it thoughts, actions, fitness, attitudes, development of a business, creating art in all forms, imagining the impossible, creating something out of nothing, etc… – so it needed to change.

It became “to help generate order through the creative actualization of potential in living and nonliving things.” That sits better because the “living and nonliving things” means the inclusion of almost anything including myself; e.g. my body, brain, and mind (all of the thought processes and normalized narrative thinking) can be a part of that which gets creatively actualized, a necessary change to stop a lot of the madness that I have been toying in. The nonliving things means that it isn’t just people I’m open to now, it’s EVERYTHING on the planet.

This excites me again because I can be living a purpose driven life all of the time, not just when I was engaging others. Wow!

Visit to the Juravinski Cancer Centre – For Glioblastoma Multiforme (Brain Cancer)

Today was the first visit to the Juravinski Cancer Centre in Hamilton for my dad, with my mom, brother and me. This was the first time I had visited a cancer center and the last few weeks are the first time in almost 30 years that I have actually given cancer much of a thought.

I like the center. It’s clean and it was warm and I had the thought that it would be a comfortable temperature in the summer. There is a hospital like feel to the place and there’s no mistaking that you are in a health care facility. Missing though, thankful, was the chaotic semi-shell-shocked movements and anguish you get from the masses in emerge. At a cancer center everyone is there for a reason and everyone inside the building knows it. It’s all about the cancer and the people it’s killing.

The way this place worked today was simple. It’s a clinic and there are a team of doctors and health care providers who are specialized in cancer treatment. Our team had a neurosurgeon and a neurologist because of my dad’s diagnosis of Glioblastoma multiforme or GBM (brain cancer) – I would imagine that they’d have a specific type of surgeon and specialist for different types of cancer – along with an oncologist, 2 radiation doctors and a nurse.

The nurse introduced herself, chatted and collected a detailed health history, current medication, information about how my dad ended up in the hospital, symptoms, and she asked for any imagining that had been performed. She asked if we had any questions and left with the CT and MRI results.

The oncologist was next, he came holding, among other things, a picture of one of my dad’s MRI images. He chatted about about the key stuff – the last 6 weeks and ultimately what the neurosurgeon has said at the hospital 2 weeks ago – GBM, a brain tumor that cannot be removed. This doctor agreed. He showed my dad the MRI and pointed to a thing in the center that doesn’t look like anything else on the page.

He preformed a complete neurological exam and explained the next hour. The team of doctors would meet and review all of the information and then would be available to discuss the opinions on treatment and the prognosis. “Come back to the same room in about 30 minutes.”

He was nice, like the nurse. It sounds silly to say “nice” but that’s what they were. Try walking into a room with a time bomb, hand it off to a family, and still have them think you were nice. It was completely professional and if it hadn’t been for why we were there, I think we would have talked about how nice the whole thing was while we waited to hear what could be done about it.

Some food at the cafeteria / lounge that had a piano but no singer. The family chats back and forth about stuff. I’m looking around and starting to feel strange because as I look at each group of people I’m trying to guess which one of them has cancer. If you haven’t played this game, you don’t really win when you guess correctly. There’s a table of 3 people, one is dying, the two that aren’t are going to be grieving their asses off soon. You can’t guess who is who without looking at their faces and when you do, you see a 21 year old son with his mom and grandmother, mom’s in a wheelchair because she has cancer. I felt rage deep inside that made me want to wreck something for what’s about to happen to this poor kid. I suddenly wonder what type of cancer killed the cafeteria singer and as I do, my eyes meet Des’ and he’s just seen the kids future too. I glace away towards my dad unwittingly winning another round of the stupid game my brain is playing.

We head back to the room and the doctor returns. He presents the treatment options. The tumor cannot be removed so my dad will never be cured. If he wants to fight it, they’ll remove as much of the tumor mass as they can, give a course of radiation and chemo, some recovery time and then more radiation and chemo. He’s free to do nothing about it, and that isn’t an unreasonable choice. The nurse and doctor spoke candidly about GBM and what’s in store when you battle it. Your life lengthens by months. But they have to open your skull and cut pieces of tumor out while avoiding causing serious brain injury. The goal of this is to create enough space for the swelling caused by the radiation and chemo to fill without causing cognitive impairments.

The fight is brain surgery, then radiation and chemicals to kill cells. Give the body some time to recover from all of the trauma and go at it again.

It’s reasonable to say no thank you because it can be a rough ride, with no guarantee of doing much. And there are no halfway measure. You’re 100% into the fight or you are not. It’s becomes a philosophical issue more than a problem to be solved by science because with cancer, the science isn’t strong enough to offer guarantees. You throw the kitchen sink into the battle or you don’t. Either way, you are now dying from something.

The team of doctors came in and answered all of our questions. They removed the shame from making any choice while offering 100% of their focus to fill their piece of the treatment puzzle. Again, it was really professional and the conversation was honest and caring. The time-lines are estimates, the tumor is serious, the treatment is not a cure and it can be rough. Consider your options and we’ll talk next week. After the thank yous and the goodbyes we head home and they go to meet their next round potential soldiers in the fight against cancer; which is good because these are the type of people you would fight for and they are also the type of people you would not feel bad saying no to. They made it clear that there is only one right choice and that just happens to be the one that my dad will make.

I’m not sure if I’ll ever be back to the Juravinski Cancer Centre in Hamilton. Right now that’s up to someone else. But if I go back it won’t be with a sense of trepidation or fear because my dad would be in good hands there.

Afternoon Naps

I have never really enjoyed sleeping in the afternoon. For one thing, waking up the second time is tougher. For another, the quality of sleep isn’t of a very good quality for me. But the main reason why I’m not a fan of afternoon naps is because of the hypnagogia phase of this type of sleep. This state always kind of bothered me because the imagery of dreams doesn’t tend to happen here and you get a raw stream of clear pictures and dialogue about EXACTLY what your brain is processing.

A couple of weeks ago, a Tuesday afternoon, I had a dream were I was telling someone that my uncle Kevin (oldest brother on my dad’s side) “had gotten it from exposure” in reference to his cancer. In the dream I was attempting to create a logical difference between my uncle and my father. As I drifted awake I became aware that I could hear my parents talking in the computer room. I wasn’t able to make out what they were saying, but the tones of their voices was causing me to come awake with a touch of anxiety. “Are you having a stroke?” I hear my mom say. “No” in a soft relaxed tone is my fathers reply. I’m now standing looking at my mom and dad. I ask my dad how he’s feeling, go through the stroke check list and there’s nothing alarming. He’s fine. His thinking is seems a little off, but not really. It’s tough to tell to be honest. A few days later, after returning from the doctor with my brother, there’s a change to his medication for his heart rate and a “there seems to be something I’m not getting” from the doctor. The next day he improves so the crisis ends.

Sunday my dad is thinking a lot more clearly but his stomach hurt. Monday he’s tired and not feeling so good. It looks like a stomach flu, a fair possibility. I take an afternoon nap. Out for a short while I wake-up hearing my mom say “we need to take your dad to emerge”. And off we go.

He gets a CT scan, there’s something in his brain that shouldn’t be there so he’s transferred to Trillium Health Sciences (Queensway / Hurontario) Mississauga’s neurosurgery department for an MRI to find out what it may be. It’s around 11:30 am Wednesday when he gets back from the MRI. He’s sleeping and his vitals are normal. I take a some time to research brain tumors on the internet.

Turns out brain cancer as a primary tumor is rare. Most brain cancers are a result of a cancer spreading from a different part of the body. Brain cancer as a primary tumor is rare in people above 70. There is a genetic link, but that accounts for 5% of it. My uncles bone cancer was the result of exposure at work. My dream from the week before was starting to settle very unpleasantly on what was suddenly become a new reality that was hard to understand and manage.

When the neurosurgeon gathered around the family at 5:40 pm and said glioma my heart sank.

Now what does this all mean? The hypnagogia phase is a possible gift of insight for a lot of people. What I did with the information that I was given the week before the cancer diagnosis is sort of a mystery. I didn’t say to anyone “my dad has cancer.” You don’t say that unless it’s true and I didn’t want to be right about what I had felt in the dream. I did pay more attention to his movement and the things he said, but other than the stomach pain he was improving. To the best of my knowledge, I hadn’t considered the possibility of my father having cancer before that nap. But the thought had been present and working on my brain for 8 days before the doctor said it.

The family is stunned. My dad is 68, hasn’t been a smoker in years, rarely worked with PVC (the only chemical conclusively linked to glioma), is active and healthy, and has always had a fantastic brain – a natural problem finder and solver, an ongoing learner and an articulate communicator. It just strikes me as a little unfair that everything about him is still in great working order, that he’s taken care of himself, his body and his mind and now as he begins to enjoy his retirement his genetic code presents this new challenge.

I’m not sure when I’ll take another afternoon nap, I suppose when I need some more of that hard hitting unfiltered clarity that my conscious mind can’t seem to draw out.

Do The Best You Can, That You Can Live With

Many people have taught me important life lessons – there’s a lot of them to learn and I’ve been open enough at times to let others impact me.

A few winters years ago my parents (mom) started feeding this big ginger cat that would hang out by the back of the house near the dryer vent. It had been hanging around the neighborhood for a few years and each year it seemed to be finding it tougher to get by. Being a male, there was no chance that they’d be letting it sleep inside unless it was fixed. And being an unfixed male, it was assisting in the making of kittens, adding to the cat problem. They talked to the humane society so the option of having them pick it up and deal with it was on the table. My parents dilemma was that a cat this old and independent wasn’t high on a adoptable list – the cat would have been up down. This may have struck them as unfair because the cat was effective at living and had earned the right to NOT be killed.

My folks made the decision to bring him to the vet and get him fixed. It cost around $125 and after a day of recovery, he ran away when my parents let him out of the cage after returning from the vet. “That seems like a total waste of money” I said when I chatted with my dad a couple of days later. He just shrugged and said “you do the best you can.”

About a week after its surgery there was a particularly cold spell and the cat returned to sleep inside and get fed. It left in the spring and you’d see it occasionally until the winter returned. It didn’t have anymore kittens and had a better quality of life when the winter became too much of a challenge.

A few weeks ago I was talking with Tony about raising children. He has two kids, I have none. There are challenges to parenting that I don’t realize so my understanding of the process is almost completely theoretical. I had a few curiosities about some of his approaches and when I asked him about them it was clear that there’s a lot of room to wiggle when it comes to following the path of best parenting approaches. Realistically, you have to do the best you can, that you can live with.

There are consequences to buying a child’s compliance through rewards but there are times when you simply need them to be quiet, focused, excited, etc…. but if you can manage those consequences and deal with whatever is thrown at you, you are going to be able to live with your decision.

Life has many twists and turns, challenge enough without the baggage of regret. Doing the best you can is an effective way to eliminate regret from your future. But when life gets in the way and you need to balance some of your wants with some of your needs, you do the best you can, that you can live with.

Do YOU Like Stupid Things?

Some people like to do things that don’t appeal to me. They say they like doing them when I ask, so I’m usually happy enough if they don’t ask me to do it with them. I try to keep it simple so that if something doesn’t impact me, my enjoyment of the world or put anyone at risk, I’ll do my best to let it go. People don’t like being openly judged and being told that they are wrong is something that causes emotional responses in most humans; it’s best to avoid thinking too much about the things that have little impact on life because that isn’t going to fix the stuff that can be controlled.

I suppose that I have told people that their dreams are stupid, that their actions are stupid, that they are kinda dumb. I do it less now that I’m older and understand what people hear when you ask them things. While it has been a long time since I actually told someone that they liked stupid things, I know that many of the people I have talked to have heard me say that they like stupid things. And to this point, it’s both sad and shittie.

It’s shittie because using the word “you” is useful and can add a lot of efficiency to conversations. “You were speeding and got a ticket” is concise. Using fewer words tends to decrease the chance of a miscommunication. But what if using fewer words actually lead to hearing stuff that wasn’t being said? This will complicate communication dramatically and it is exactly what happens when some people hear the word “you” in a sentence that is directed towards them; they hear a criticism which usually gets their back up. In this case, we’re contending with someones interpretation of what was said vs. what was said. To avoid this potential derailment in a conversation I’ll try to not use the word “you” and I try to avoid accusing them of something or pointing out their actions as having a negative consequence on the world.

It’s sad because there is a reason a person immediately interprets “you” as a criticism. Why would someone normalize the assumption that almost every comment made about them is a criticism of them? How this comes to manifest itself (or for whatever reason something comes to manifest itself) as an almost narcissistic obsession to see others blaming them for random life is a scary and sad notion. This tendency has been normalized because they have been in an environment where it was normal or where it was never shown to be anything other than what is possible.

While this may not necessarily indicate abuse, it does indicate a tormented life leading up to the moment they are standing in front of you waiting to hear you rip them to pieces.

Happy end to the forth fiscal quarter!

What Do You Do When You Stop Running?

I haven’t been writing much recently because I have found my life to be almost too boring to talk about let alone put in the physical effort to write it out. When my friends ask “how are you doing?” I’ve been trying to put on a smile and say “awesome” or “amazing” and gargle out a few sentence about why it life is awesome/amazing when asked. My friends aren’t bull shit so they call me on the lack of passion. I say stuff, they hear it, think what they think and the conversations move on.

My thoughts on the matter are as follows:

I have a tendency to be narcissistic. All of the blogs I’ve written about toxic people and those kinds of things come from a place of experience, experiences that I don’t need to repeat anymore. I’ve been a real dick to a lot of people. I haven’t been the pacifist observer I’m capable of being because I make myself the center of everything and trying to control the crap out of the things I don’t like. I am sure there are reasons why I do this but they don’t matter much to someone I’ve just made feel guilty for something they didn’t even do.

The controlling tendencies remain, but I feel them now. I know the buttons to push and I know when I’m about to push one of them MOST of the time. The awareness that I’m about to push a button is very important to me because I don’t like being a dick. Creating an emotion within someone can have a positive impact, fear of dying can motivate someone to correct some diet issues, but given that I don’t have any control over the exact emotional response I trigger, there are too many unknowns for me to continue to do it to people without telling them I’m doing it. Manipulating other people is a problem I have had for a long time and I’m happy to be able to identify when I’m doing it. I’ll get my way a lot less often but maybe I’ll get some different life experiences….

Goals and dreams are fine, a man needs a purpose, but you need to be certain that you are trying to make real a dream that is actually yours. If you’re working towards something you don’t actually want, achieving it isn’t going to be very satisfying. This wasn’t a problem when it came to me riding too much to make sure I was this image of optimal health – worst case I run myself into the ground – it’s a huge issue when dealing with relationships because they involve someone else. The problem is that you end up saying and doing things that don’t match-up with your intentions. This creates a lot of anxiety and dissonance within the both people; it causes suffering without a positive end goal. So I’ve let go of the relationship dream / goals I had and have shifted my focus onto money and career objectives because I KNOW I need them in my future and I know I can control my efforts in achieving them.

For most of my adult life I have been experienced a constant low level of anxiety. It is so much a part of me that I search for things to think about to justify feeling it; it’s only recently that Des pointed out to me that I tend to feel something and then look for a cause. This is something about all humans. In most instances, the feeling comes before the reason. The truth may be that I am anxious and have unconsciously found chronically stressful life situations to displace the thought that my fight or flight response is on a hair trigger.

The only relationships that fail are those with or between narcissists. They don’t work because a narcissist thinks in terms of me, myself and me. The other person is a thing that serves a purpose. When the needs are being met everything is fine NOT because the two people are getting along but because the narcissist is getting their way. Once that stops happening, the controlling and abusive nonsense begins. Being a partner to a narcissist is a lot like being a robot. Your role is to do whatever they need done, usually preemptively and without prior coaching, and to take their ridicule for not doing the right thing for as long as they need to spew it out, and listen to it again anytime they feel like reliving their disappointment in you. I’ve served up enough of this sh!t to know that it doesn’t help anyone in the long run and it only gets the other person to modify their behavior and rarely impacts their nature.

Close the loops that hold you in the past. This summer was the culmination of my adult life so far. I was able to see who I was, who I wanted to be, what I had been doing, why I had been doing it, and what I needed change in order to move my life towards what I know I want. These realizations answered a lot of questions I had about myself and framed a lot of my actions in a way that makes complete sense, allowing me to stop thinking about them. With each loop I closed, I gained a little more mental energy which I put towards the panel business, something that represents my future. As the past gets put away the future gets brighter because you’re putting more energy towards it. However, open loops still remain that sap energy. If you really want to move into the future, create a big goal and start closing the loops of your past. It’s insane how they bleed you out.

I only have so much nervous energy to devote to stuff. It doesn’t matter what it is you want to do, think or move, it requires mental effort, and there is a finite amount of it available. Once it is used up, you slow down dramatically and need to rest and recover. It stands to reason that a long bike ride will have an impact on my ability to think later in the day. It was less obvious that a long stressful thinking session will have an impact on my bike ride later in the day. It does, and it tends not to be as positive an impact as physical exercise has on thinking. It’s also true and even less obvious that unconscious thinking will drain your nervous energy reserves. It makes sense why I’m a little flatter now, the work on the panels is new so it’s a little stressful. To learn it most effectively I’ve been immerse in it, which tends to prime my unconscious brain to work on solutions and advance my understanding, which takes energy.

Maybe it was my face. With my teeth moving and the spacers prevent me from closing my mouth completely there is nothing to force my jaw out of alignment. When the jaw sits naturally there is very little tooth contact on the left. That means a life-time of my mouth closing in a way that isn’t lined up. No matter how small the deviation, it’s going to have an impact on muscles, bones, fascia, and nerves in that area. Being both an eater and a talker, my jaw has opened and closed millions of times. Millions of reps, each one tracking just a little bit to the left. I’ll accept that we can normalize dis-function, I can’t accept that normalized dis-function to be equal to proper bio-mechanical function. I’m open to the possibility that much of my recent flatness has something to do with the improved soft tissue environment in my face, head and neck.

Interesting Take On Allowing Women To Drive

Interesting snippet from about a report by the Academics at Saudi Arabia’s highest religious council:

If the only country in the world that still bans women from driving were to change its rules, there would be “a surge in prostitution, pornography, homosexuality and divorce.” Within 10 years of the ban being lifted, the report claimed, there would be “no more virgins” in the country

It seems like someone is implying that if you let women drive, it’s only a matter of time before they’ll want to marry the people they love, leave the relationships that aren’t working for them, and the culture will begin to see the things that spontaneously happen after equal rights are bestowed upon the other half of the population.

In one context the words in the canoe article could be taken to imply that there would be a loss of something valuable if these things were to happen.

In that context, it is true. There will be a down side to some of it (the loss of privilege, influence and an easier life for those who are told to give these things up) and an upside to some of it (the collective new influence of half the population participating as equals in a culture). This will change things because granting liberty to women is past the tipping point for which liberty will be demanded for all people.

When women are given the right to divorce their husbands, they will leave them. When the most qualified person gets a job regardless of their gender, gay people gain the right to exist within that culture. Cultures advance when they accept that men and women are the same species and effectively the same thing. The trivial division of innate worth based on gender, when brought to light, does seem to make all other divisions look equally trivial and rather pointless.

I think the academics are right, if you let women drive it’s only a matter of time before all people are going to want to be treated fairly.

Remember, New Information = New Actions

Got an interesting message from a friend today. She had been in a disagreement with one of her work friends about something that didn’t matter much, but over time the disagreement began to change into something a little more sinister. As often happens with disagreements between work friends, the drama began to build. It reached a boiling point and they talked the thing out.

What was cool about the message was that it revealed a level of awareness about the other person that hadn’t existed before. What was once tolerated because it was just the way she was now framed in the context of the disagreement having boiled over. There’s a new level of awareness of how things can become. This shifted my friends thinking slightly, but enough to put aside a few of the legacy behaviour of listening to the drama. There was an appreciation that after sorry things are forgiven but the world must shift according to the new information.