Archive for the 'Dealing With Death' Category

Thank You Letter To Natalie

Heather seemed to tune into and then ask the question “what roll does Natalie’s death play in my life now?” I made a few jokes, effectively denied that there was any, accepted that there was some and should be and finally said that I wasn’t sure other than being sure that life was going to end some day. She continued to ask questions, tough questions that I didn’t want to answer and questions that made me feel like she didn’t want anything to do with me. But I trust her and tried to stay with the topic. It was hard because what I say about Natalie’s death is scripted, well rehearsed and automatic. Yet she continued and as I shrank, as I have made so many of my clients shrink, something began to occur.

When I realized that no matter what happened between Heather and me, I needed to clear the space in my past of these stories. She encouraged me to write a letter to Natalie and one to my father explaining the things I was grateful for having learned because of them. Below is the letter to Natalie.

Dear Natalie,

I am writing you this letter to let you know how grateful I am to have been in your life and for all of the experiences that our life together brought.

You were my first real girl friend so much of what I know about passionate love came from our time together. You gave so purely to me and you always talked about our relationship and our future in a way that made me feel amazing; the things is, I didn’t realize just how amazing that was at the time. There were times when I took you and your heart for granted because I believed love was easy and finding someone who was capable of giving it so freely wouldn’t be difficult. It has taken me a very long time to reach the same level of connection with anyone else. Now that I’m older and can see things more clearly I want to say thank you for sharing your love with me in a way that let me know that I was worth it.

I need to say thank you for being loyal, supportive and standing beside me when I needed to make the tough decisions. When I didn’t get to be a TA during my first year at Brock, you never made me feel bad about it, in fact, you explained why I didn’t get the job perfectly and I still use this description when coaching others about their view of a failure to get an opportunity. When I made the decision to overload my schedule and take on more classes, you stood beside me, proud that I was being fearless in my pursuit of academic success. You never made me choose between going out and having fun or doing my school work and you celebrated my good marks with me. Thank you for believing in my dream of getting a masters degree, a PhD and becoming a professor.

Okay, the things you may not know anything about.

I need to say thank you for the experiences that your death brought into my life. Some of these were really hard to live through and I made some potential limiting choices as a result of the thoughts and stories I told myself about them, but now that we’re almost 2 decades on, I’m able to see how they were neither right or wrong and were simply a part of my journey. I’m growing more confident that the stories I told myself were exactly the opposite of how the world is or was, so here you go.

I’m grateful for the sense of loss that I experienced because of you dying. There was a big hole left, while mostly a narrative, it came to represent what can happen when someone is gone. Leigh once told me that I felt as bad as I did because I loved you as much as I did, and I get that. People are important and I will always remember this because you left my life and the world so completely. Knowing this allowed me to connect with people in a way that has added so much value to my experience here and I think it has been useful to others. I learned to listen better because you never know when you are having your last conversation with someone. And everyone will always have their last conversation with us.

I’m grateful for the sense of meaninglessness in life that your death showed me because it allowed me to create a reason for being any time to suit the situation. There have been moments in the last 18 years that I was moved and performed fearless and great actions simply because I knew that there is no meaning to any of it. Through your death I learned to be of service to others who had been effected by death or were dying. I’ve never regarded them as victims, just fellow human being who have been rocked by the challenges of life. At worst they got a friendly ear to actual hear their words and at best they got a temporary partner to share and live their pain. Others were not alone because you taught me what is was like to exist in a state of grief, the one common emotion that all of us will eventually experience.

I am grateful for the escapist decisions I made to help manage life. There were moments that I regarded much of the last 18 years as a big waste of time, but presently I look at them as some of the greatest lessons that a human being is capable of acquiring. I didn’t die during any of those moments, I didn’t really suffer. There were times when I thought that I had lost my mind, but it always came back. I had fun running, I really did, but it got boring and I started to need more out of life. In fact, some of the escapist behaviors will go down as the most dangerous things that I will ever do; not strategic or calculated, just silly and dangerous. But I lived through all of them and now that I stand on my own two feet, clean and in control, I am forgiving myself for those things because I see how they have created the possibility for me to help others avoid some of them. I have a wisdom that many have but don’t ever share because they remain lost in the behavior.

I am grateful for the challenges of having to come to terms with your death and for how this impacted the analytical nature of my brain. This is what will make me most of what I will become because I needed to dig deep to manufacture an understanding that was compatible with someone as young and health dying one night without warning or purpose. It was tough, but my brain is good, my mind creative and my desire for answer strong enough to figure things out. The accuracy of what is created doesn’t matter because they are all stories, but the fact that there is something is what means the most. I’m rarely stuck for words or an explanation and what does come out of my mouth is a well processed and richly synthesized reason for whatever.

In life, you taught me how to love, you taught me that I am worth loving and you taught me that the right people will support and stand behind me. Thank you for those lessons!

In death, you taught me how to grieve, how to be of service to others and how to live a life based on the knowledge that everything will end eventually. I miss you and while I don’t know if we would still be in communication I believe that your life should not have been cut short. But it was, and the impact of your death changed and shaped me. I’m proud of who I have become, how I have grown and I am grateful for the lessons and the impact you have had on my life from the moment we meet.

Thank you Natalie! You will always remain a dear friend!

Relative Of Terminally Ill Person - The First 3 Weeks

Note - I’m posting this now because I believe it is useful. It was the only article that I wrote in the series because my dad died 6 weeks after he was diagnosed. In talking with peers who have experiences GBM it is not uncommon for things to end extremely quick. I miss my dad,  I miss his laugh a lot and I miss the relationship he and my mom shared. That, more than anything is what I feel the worst about. My mom is a great lady, my dad was great man, their relationship was still going strong so it’s sad that it ended so early.

This is the first in a series of articles about being the relative of someone who has been diagnosed with a terminal illness. It could be useful for those not directly impacted by the illness as it may give some insight into what we’re going through. For those who have been leveled with the news of the coming premature ending of a loved-ones life, invest in yourself and the experience you have begun. This is a process that hurts. The biggest legacy you can now leave for your relative is to get good at helping them enjoy dying and learn as much as you can from the experience so you can be useful to others when they join our ranks.

Day Of Terminal Diagnosis (DOTD) +3 weeks.

There are going to be two points in this process that are going to be highly significant. The second is when your relative dies, the first is their day of terminal diagnosis. You experience both of these as deaths although there is a relapse of sorts in the grief if there is an improvement in their condition. With GBM most people experience a reversal of cognitive symptoms so their return to life is welcomed because it blunts the sharpness of the news and the waves it caused.

There is no right way to feel although feeling some things is better than others. Happiness, laughter, joy, reflecting back on their memories, harvesting their wisdom and experience. If they have given of themselves to move your life forward pay them the respect and hear every word they are saying.

Your friends feel as useless as you do and they don’t realize how to help most effectively. The most important thing they can do is to be completely honest with you and forfeit their judgments of you. It should go without say, but sometimes people need a reminder. Watching someone you love die isn’t as easy as watching someone you love grow-up. Both are challenging, but with one you see the potential be actualized, with the other you see the potential float away.

They are dying, you are not. Make your peace / say those really important things early and when appropriate, let them process it and let it go. You did what you did for reasons that felt valid at the time. It doesn’t matter very much anyway, they’re dying and they’d rather live in the present than rehash the past. If you have unresolved issues consider the key thing that you need them to know and tell them that. If you don’t, consider telling them how grateful you are that they did what they did to help you become the person you are, someone you are happy to be. Then let it go, have some fun and be happy! They will be gone soon and you will have plenty of time to grieve, grow-up, adapt, and find your peace with your own place in life.

There are stages of grief that have been well documented and which are scientifically proven. Get to know these stages because with a terminal diagnosis there will be a blurring of many of them. Encourage those who offer support to get to know them too, because if they take the anger personally, it isn’t going to help you at all. In fact, it can shift focus off of your loved one and onto something that will remain well after they have gone. This isn’t a great way to spend the final weeks and days of someones life.

I’m hopeful that I’ll get to write a bunch more of these articles. Fingers crosses!

On Finding A Therapist

For me it was fairly simple, I just connected with an old friend who I trusted and who was a therapist. I’m an open book of sorts and kind of shamelessly float through life broadcasting myself (or the stories I tell myself about myself) to whoever seems willing to hear them. It worked effectively because I had spend a lot of time analyzing myself, my actions, my expectation and my past to be open to whatever they asked me to consider. Strangely enough, they didn’t say very much that was different from what my last couple of girlfriends, my brother, my dad, Tony and many of my clients have said. What was different was my willingness to hear what was said when they said it because the wall was already crumbling.

Below is a message from a friend who found therapy to be helpful in moving past a relationship challenge about 18 months ago. I found it to be very succinct and accurate.

Therapy is something that is very personal and it’s like hiring a personal trainer, you need to have a certain rapport and confidence in them. I found mine through my group employee benefits with work. The bulk of her work is life coaching with companies and some work on the side for personal type crisis.Also, therapist are very expensive and can cost $200 an hour. This is a big commitment. She has 20+ years experience, so she can set her price. I can certainly provide you with her info - she is in Oakville, however my suggestion would be to look in the yellow pages for therapist that are close to where they live and then ask a set of preset questions - interview style and then pick one to try.

For instance, what is their specialty, how long have they been practicing, what is their approach, do they assign homework, what is their pricing, etc. I know this sounds tedious, but you right away feel like you at least made some sort of best decision. You have to remember that you are telling this person your most intimate stories and need to feel really comfortable with them. It’s like hiring a doctor.

My Strongest Trait - Analysis - Why My Relationships Breakdown

My interpersonal relationships began to go wrong when I started to suffer depression a year after Natalie died. My analytical strong trait developed as a way to cope with the feeling of being alone after Natalie broke-up with me and then died. It didn’t take hold until about a year later when my depression faded. I had been working diligently to uncover a solution to my grief and confusion and found that everything could be altered by changing the context. Life was then simple because all I needed to do was understand enough to change the context.

My relationship with Natalie was normal for a first relationship. Fun, passionate and fearless. The first part of it with Leigh was the same, along with spontaneous. But after the depression, I started to analyze things in a way to fix them. It’s a truism that a human being will stop what they are doing spontaneously EACH AND EVERY time something goes wrong. Most of our coping strategies are attempts to fix or avoid the things that we judge to be wrong.

I became and remain effective at identifying the things that aren’t working. This isn’t a problem for the most part, it made me an effective manager and trainer, and now serves me well as a performance coach, but it creates challenges that many people do not face with their relationships given that I’ll usually try to fix as opposed to accept my partners for who and what they are or graciously part ways with them. I work aggressively to correct the things I judge to be wrong; and with an alienating intensity that makes people back away. It will be even worse when someone mentions that they like to be challenged because I’m immediately enrolled in the process of their future optimization.

I LOVE the analysis! Human beings are programmed to find being right to be rewarding - we get jolt of neuro-transmitters with every right answer we get or with every pattern we match. It stands to reason why I do this because I’m able to identify things that are wrong and get rewarded. But there is one major flaw in this which makes it unworkable in my interpersonal relationships - there is nothing wrong with the girls I date. All of them are amazing, highly intelligent people and are very highly functioning. Some optimization may be possible, but it isn’t needed. The types of people who are drawn to me tend to be fairly self aware, bright, articulate and passionate. They are looking for spontaneous partnerships and NOT a tune-up.

It’s clear that my strongest trait, the one that developed to keep me alive and reorganize my life after the almost unmanageable trauma of the premature and unexpected death of a loved one, served its purpose well. I’ve used it countless time to manage lesser traumas, a number of tough break-ups, and, ironically, it seems to be the cause of a greater amount of pain in my relationships than it now prevents. It’s a fantastic tool for work, I can uncover the things that aren’t working for my clients quickly and almost effortlessly. Efficient service and exceptional value are two things that clients deserve, but they are things that girl friends tend not to be in the market for.

My future is loaded with possibilities that didn’t exist before and in many ways they exist because of my strongest trait of analysis. My career has started and I’m closer to fulfilling my purpose. The quality of my relationships can improve with the expression of this trait outside of the context of them. For this piece of knowledge, I am grateful!

3 Months Later

My father has been gone for 3 months today. I didn’t notice it until I was eating dinner with mom and she mentioned it. It’s an easy thing to forget I suppose. It was kind of cold outside at the end of January, nothing like the glorious day today has been.

I went running with Leesa today. We’re doing a run in a couple of weeks down Young street and I haven’t been keeping up with my training so we go out each Sunday. I really enjoy running with her because she is like family to me - we are completely honest with each other and she calls me on the stuff I say that doesn’t make much sense. She is one of the few people who constantly challenges me and doesn’t feel bad about it. She is as analytic as I am and a true pragmatist.

I went climbing with Leesa a few days before I gave-up my compulsive life and her comment that I was really insecure stuck with me for a very long time. In my post Goal Oriented Action - A Great Proxy For Confidence I spoke with little personal experience about setting and working hard to achieve goals being a fantastic substitute for confidence and if you do it for long enough you will eventually build confidence. 2 months later I can say with personal experience that working towards goals is an effective way to eliminate the need for confidence.

It is kind of funny because I can’t say it builds confidence; not yet anyway. What it does is take your mind out of past and places it temporarily into the future to set the goal and then directs your attention into the present moment. This focusing on the moment is peaceful because there is no depression based on memories or anxiety based on the future. All you have is future / present time that allows you to work towards a future by just being.

I miss my dad a lot, but I don’t think about it much. Memories of his laughing still float in and out of my mind each day. I touch his urn and say “good morning” or “I love you dad” when I’m up really early to go to work. I don’t push the thoughts of him out of my head, they just aren’t there as much as they were in the month following his death. I took the time to grieve my ass off and then took responsibility for my actions moving forward. I can’t undo any of the things in my past so I made amends a well as I could and created the possibility of being better than I was in February 2012 for the rest of my life.

I think about my mom more than anything. She’s doing a lot better, but for her the loss is a lot greater. She doesn’t really have the goals that I do to keep her going and lose herself in. I’ve got a couple of business to build, my health and spirit to stabilize, friendships and relationships to cultivate, books to write and people to mentor. Her action list doesn’t have those things on it. I’m not sure what is on there to be completely honest because we don’t talk about that stuff. I like it when she laughs and jokes around with me, Des and Sarah, and when the neighbors brings over their two children and my mom talk to them.

It almost pains me to say this, but my life is better now than it was 6 months ago. My dad’s passing was a wake-up call to me, and he gave me a stern warning about life a week before he died. He didn’t do many of the things that I was doing, he preferred life and experiences that were not clouded in compulsive escapist behavior and he was hopeful that I would stop. I think he’d be happy with the choices I’ve made in the last 2 months and I don’t think there would be much he would say I should change. I love myself unconditionally for the first time in my life because I am being integrity and living an authentic existence, and that is good because without these or the unconditional love of my father, I’m not sure what the last 3 months would have been like.

My LandMark Forum Part 5 - Day Two, Part Two

On the way back from lunch I saw the walking dead guy. He looked the same, different clothes, but same hat and look of not giving a toss about anything. I say to him “hi, is this making anymore sense to you?” and he replies “no, not really.” He wasn’t dead, he was actually very engaging in his 3 word reply so I asked him if he wanted to chat a little because it was making some sense to me. To my surprise he said “yeah, that’d be cool.” We’ve got about 20 minutes before the next session begins so we head upstairs to chat.

I had no idea what was about to happen, I had little concept of what was capable of coming out of my mouth or my mind or that I was about to be changed. Friendly small talk on the way up in the elevator and we go into one of the big conference rooms were a lot of people are talking, eating and being all LandMarky.

“So, what’s going on” I say as I turn my chair to face him. He turns his to face me - this is odd, no one else this weekend had done this. I have a way of leaning into people when I’m trying to open them up and they almost end-up wearing me like a bulky Irish sweater. He did almost the same thing and begins to talk. He was born in a different country and moved to Canada when he was 9 with his mom. At 13 he gets HIV from blood because of an illness and the lack of appropriate testing at the time. His mom dies a few months before they would have become Canadians citizen (I believe they were refuges), he goes to live with is uncle who make the decision to not adopt him. The principle of his school outs his HIV status with gets him effectively kicked out of school. Not being a citizen or permanent resident the government denies his health care but allows him to stay in the country because is HIV wasn’t his fault. The doctors tell him that, without treatment, he will be dead in a few years and that there’s no way he’ll see 30.

I can hardly believe what I’m hearing and ask “how old are you?” “37″ and he continues. He didn’t know what else to do so he got a job, an apartment, some junky friends and got wickedly high to ride out life. Not point in doing anything because the doctors have told him he’s going to be dead before he can make something of himself.

Well, I don’t know what else to do but listen, analyze and try to figure-out when I can do my thing. Keep him talking is my first notion. He’s still alive so that’s something.

“That’s fu(ked-up.” Not my shining moment in coaching, but honestly, I couldn’t say “check please” and walk away so I went blue. “Yeah, but then I turned 30 and I wasn’t dead and I didn’t seem like I was going to die so I stopped getting high and just sort of wondered what do to next.”


“Well, I met a girl, we feel in love and, not having a problem with my status she married me.” They moved to BC to get away from his junky friends and to get him the chance to clean-up. But his immune system was beginning to dip and when he ended-up in hospital with pneumonia, it looked like HIV was going to take him down. But it didn’t, and was he was recovering, a doctor asked him about ARV medication stating that he was “the one in 100000″ that caught a break and lived long enough to get a chance to get them.” His viral load is non-existent, he and his wife had a child and they moved back to Ontario.

This is my opening so I launch, “can I say something?” “Sure.”

“I’m talking to a corpse. You are dead and this is overtime. The doctors gave you till 30 and you lived until 30. But your body wouldn’t die so here you are. You are a god damn miracle, except you didn’t plan on being here and you have no idea how to enjoy life. You moved from a different country, had your mom died, got poisoned by the government, neglected by your uncle, outed by the school and lied to my the very institution that killed you when they said you would be dead a decade ago. Your so messed-up because you’ve started act two of your life and never learned how to live at all.”

Pause, it was registering, but not enough for him to break the silence so I re-up and go again. “You did the very thing that anyone would do in your situation, you packed in as much fun as you could because it didn’t matter, you were dead anyway. But you didn’t die and when it got boring you stopped. But what skills do you have, what method for enjoying live did you find other than getting high?”


“So that’s why you are here. You are here to learn that you have lived a perfect live, done the perfect things based on the information you had. Created the perfect future based on what you knew. But it was all bullshit because your body didn’t do what it was supposed to do in-spite of the fact that you worked it over. You have no purpose because you are dead. This is all screwed-up because you were supposed to be gone a long time ago and your brain hasn’t been able to figure stuff out.” This got him, there was a change in everything about him. It started with a smile, then his posture changed, then he became excited. “You just need to figure-out what you want to do with your life and then do it. Do you cook, exercise, have you hiked, can you start a support group, can you have this conversation that we have just had with other people, …”

It was on him now. He was awake and alive again and, frankly, I had a hand in it and for that I took out of it that I am special. Not because I am particularly amazing, I am, but that’s not what it is. I am special because I see the possibilities in a way that most other people won’t aggressive attack people with. I didn’t give him sympathy, I didn’t set out to make him feel better, I set out to make this Landmark Forum weekend work. I didn’t have an idea what I was going to get into and, if I had, I don’t think I would had started the conversation. I was scared to death once it got going because it was scary. I wasn’t afraid of HIV, I was afraid of the conversation. Frankly, he is a bigger person than I am, he is a greater person than will ever be. I am a simple general in the battle for human potential who is naked, bold and fearlessly authentic in their quest.

We hugged, he thanked me for his rebirth, I thanked him because he had let me run my game and been open enough to the coaching, feedback, and thought and emotional manipulation that seems to come very easily to me. We parted ways and I felt pretty good about the universe. There was a moment when I thought to myself “you need to leave now, this weekend is complete. Performance coaching is something you have been doing for a long time.”

I stayed, stuff continued, and when I went out to my car for dinner, I noticed glass around on of the tires and it looked like it was going flat. This was a pisser that I couldn’t shake as I went back for the final couple of hours. Thoughts of me leaving at 10 to a car with a flat tire stayed with me until about 9:15 when my world got vaporized.

How To Get Past Loss

The last few months have been a real challenge. I’ve watched my father get sick and die from a brain tumor, I’ve had some special relationships end, a few friendship erode and disappear, and some of my work goals vanish. I take responsibility for most of it - my dad getting sick notwithstanding.

In the same period of time, I have seen some big improvements and the creation of a new future has emerged. Greater work possibilities presented themselves the day after the other ones disappeared, I was given forgiveness and allowed to complete everything in my past that was holding me in it, I became friends again with the two most challenging break-up partners I’ve had, I discovered my nature and uncovered my purpose, I got rid of most of my compulsive behaviors and I took a few huge steps towards enlightenment.

How is it possible to find such progress in a time of total upheaval? There is an approach that makes it all possible and it is relatively straight forward:

1) Understand the power of context in altering your experience of reality. I finally realized and accepted that life if meaningless. If it had meaning, most people would know it and be living it. But they aren’t. Trying to continue to live is basically the only thing that all human being do, so if you want to say that the meaning of life is to keep it going, fine. But anything more than that is a fabrication. Since it is meaningless we’re free to do whatever we want with it. Find or create your purpose, update as required and fearlessly start being it.

2) Keep your blood sugar level in an appropriate range. If this level drops too much, the prefrontal cortex will begin to shut down and logical thinking will become impaired. Once logic disappears, you are left with emotional thinking which is only concerned with keeping you alive. You’ll stay alive, but you aren’t going to be much use in recovering from loss.

3) Stop altering your consciousness with chemicals - smoke, alcohol, whatever. Your brain does its best everything when it is fueled with natural food and very few chemicals. Alcohol impairs your ability to process and assimilate information, so the grieving you do when you’re drunk (or have had a few drinks) is pointless. The lessons and realizations are lost and you just suffer; there is no plus to speak of. It doesn’t take much booze to waste the opportunity - a single glass of wine or beer is often enough to render the brain incapable doing what it does to move you through a challenging experience. If you are looking to change your life, don’t drink, smoke or get high.

4) Reduce your stress as much as you can. This means in all areas - reduce exercise, work schedule, social commitments, relationship obligations, oxidative stress associated with poor food choices and inadequate hydration and get as much sleep as you can. Your body has a finite ability to recover from stress and the loss of a loved one is tremendously draining. You will transition through this period of your life much more quickly if you focus on dealing with as few things as possible.

5) Accept that processing loss needs to happen and that it will be a lot easier to deal with sooner rather than later. People will support you a lot very early on, they tend to withdraw and assume you have an adjustment disorder if things aren’t improving after a few months - spouses and parent will take longer than friends, siblings or adult children. The key is to allocate time to recover and take it to mend.

Our species has been dealing with loss for its entire existence, so the proper coping strategies are written into our generic code. Take the time and let the body, brain and spirit do its thing. The end is near, just so long as you take the time you need to located and move towards it.

Interview With Patrick William McKinney sometime in the spring of 2022

I sat down with Patrick McKinney for a 30-minute chat that he suggested I make at least an hour for. He also asked that I wear comfortable shoes because he can’t sit down for very long when he’s asked to talk about himself. “Not that I don’t find it to be a compelling subject, it just isn’t very interesting.”

Patrick is the younger of two sons, born in Northern Ireland to a protestant mother and catholic father. “My dad had seen enough of the world by the time he was 20 to realize you find an amazing wife and move quickly. The family moved to the south or away from the north when I was 2 or 3, I don’t remember which or when and forgot to remember when I asked. My first memory is hazy and about a wall and bees. The next is of me and my brother happily running to meet my aunt and cousins. The bees were in the north, the running was in the south. I bring this up because these made me who I am.”

“Lets be fair here, I don’t belong anywhere, and that’s why I’ve done so many different things. I love everyone and everything, and have very few close friends because of who I am. I’ve been a very manipulative person for all of my life and others find this to be kind of alienating, but only those who let it happen, right?” Before I could answer he said “that feeling you’re getting in your stomach right now, the way your foot twitched and your shifting, it means I’m in there” pointing to his head. “I’m good at this not because I just went in there, but because I was already in there. Been there all along. Do you feel like walking?”

The family moved to Canada when Patrick was 9 and his brother Desmond was 11. “Desmond has played the bigger role my socialization than anyone else. My folks provided most of what was needed to survive, Des provided the rest.”

“Do you see that man standing there?” asked while pointing at a group of 4 businessmen. “Which one?” “There’s only one of them standing, the rest are leaning on him” was the grinning reply. “Breath 3 times, you’re starting to become a little unhinged again.”

“I didn’t really fit in when we moved to Canada. I selected the very people who would help me feel like I didn’t belong. It’s wonderful looking back on because if they had been any different, I would have been average.”

“When you feel like you don’t belong, when all you have to lean on is your brother and parents, you don’t really get settled with anything. I love with all of my heart, with all of my being, but I would engineer the end of every relationship and friendship that wasn’t with someone who was able to feel and put up with what I was doing. I didn’t have children with any of the wonderful women I was in relationships with, and that left me with a huge amount of unconditional love to share.”

Patrick attended 3 universities to get a pass degree, making and leaving behind many wonderful friends. He cites the death of a girl friend during this time as being a changing point in his life. After graduating, he worked as a manager for a company his brother had created. This gave him a chance to excel at something, and enough money to afford to get out of his head on drink and other compulsive behaviors. About this he said “you can write all this self abuse stuff down if you like, it’s my past and I love it, but it’s more important that you capture the need for the journey than the way the journey took place.” Context is important, and you can feel it when you talk to Patrick. Time with him is a roller coaster and it’s easier if you try not to hold on because he’s not going to let you fall off.

He found himself working for GoodLife Fitness as a sales person, then a manager and then a personal trainer. “But I was still running. I quit the PT job and took a month vacation to the east coast with Deb, one of my oldest and dearest friends. I rode my bike and rotted, and didn’t find what I was looking for.”

I coasted for a few months until I got sick and a doctor told me that there was protein in my urine. I thought my kidneys were shot and my life flashed before my eyes. I was going to die much sooner than I had thought and it was going to be a life on dialysis and maybe a transplant, and I realized that I hadn’t done much living. The test wasn’t accurate and I was spared the future that I had bought into as a dreadful thing. That was another moment in my life.

I told myself a story and ran to the edge of the earth with it. When the story died, I felt alive again, and reborn. It’s all a load of meaningless crap that I was able to manufacture, believe, feel and run with. “I’d like to clarify something here because it can be confusing to some to hear that without the proper context. Things do happen, they are real things, and there is a real organic emotional response to them. Real pain. But we also get emotional responses to things that don’t happen. The reality was that I didn’t have protein in my urine but I told myself that I did and that created an emotional response. Human beings do this a lot – create suffering out of nothing. This is why cognitive behavioral therapy is so effective.”

”Things changed slightly after this, I began to do more of the things that I wanted to do. My jobs, relationships and actions helped me to express my strong traits - a love for all things, an analytical mind and an ability to manipulate. I became a strength coach / personal trainer, a life coach, and I began writing. Things continued along this path until two very critical things happen, I feel in love and my father died. The girl was amazing and it didn’t work out. During our short relationship I began to see that my compulsive behaviors were not working for me anymore; our relationship was one of those behaviors. When my dad got sick and died, I made the decision to just stop them.”

”On February 29, 2012 I killed the person who had been living act one of my life and I started act two with a clean mind, body and a recreated spirit.”

The conversation changed at this point, an already enthusiastic chat became an almost frenzied assault on the English language in terms to pace, and loaded meaning.

“Patrick William McKinney is what I call myself now, not because it’s my name, but because it’s what I was labeled. What were you labeled and how did that shape you?” There was a pause and before I could answer “I’ve never been good with names because I think they are silly. Sure they have purpose, but how often do we use a name when we are speaking directly to someone we love? Only when we’re trying to control the other person.”

“Some people didn’t like my parenting book, they called me smug and ballsey to write it given that I don’t have any children. I liked those names more because it tells me about their state of mind.” PWM’s view was that parents are too busy being parents - either exactly like their folks or the complete opposite - to fully appreciate what is going on. “Too involved in the creation and building of adults to have the time to see that the goal is to cultivate the child into an adult child.” Some of the things adult parents said to me about the book had me crying inside because their children were not getting the best upbringing possible.”

“My “Atheists Guide To Spirituality” was blast to write. A former client clued me into it during lent of 2012 when my spirit was catching-up to my physical body. A lot of faithful and non-faithful people dismiss outright the views of the other simply because they think it matters. We’re all part of the same things, we’re all the same thing so the view that we’re separate is both a nonstarter and inaccurate.”

Describing himself as a General in the battle for human potential, there’s a glow that flows out of him. He does seem older than time in a way, his eyes are engaging, but you get the very real sense that you are not special when you talk to PWM. It isn’t that you are ordinary, it’s that he has known you a lot longer than you have known yourself. It’s almost creepy, but when you give into the possibility that it is true, it is freeing.

“Do you have a personality disorder, are you ADD or something?” “Goodness yes. Most people do. How long have you realize you have one?” “About a second or two, how long have you known?” “I just assume it to be the case because our up-bring paints us with them. Our purity is clouded with a notion that we are the center of the universe because it’s our point of reference. Parents tend not to feel comfortable telling their children the truth in matters like this because they feel ill equipped to articulate the possibilities it creates. They are scared of the damage it will do so they continue to damage their children by validating the notion that they are unique. Complete nonsense. The greatest people who have ever lived killed the notion of this identity in order to serve some higher purpose. It’s only in death that we are free.”

PWM admits that he would have made a lot more money had he pushed forward with serving himself directly, but seems completely content in the moment knowing that his coaching, training and speaking business, coupled with his writing impact a smaller group of people who end-up impact more people than he could on his own. He thinks his charity work is fairly effective too although he doesn’t really speak about it much. “Charity is a funny thing, there’s a fine line between charity and self indulgence. I’ll battle for them, but if someone wants to know anything about the numbers they can talk to the critics. I’ve never been arrested, charged or investigated. I’ve done very well out of them not because I take money, but because they’ve have helped me remain humble and the people we work for teach me more than most other human beings can. They’ve learned more about life than those who come from privilege.”

We chat a little longer while walking and picking-up litter, garbage and saying hello to various people who walk by.

We straighten things that are out of alignment and effectively float down the street doing whatever needs to be done but wouldn’t have been done in that moment had we not been there. It was pleasant and I had forgotten to notice that it has started to rain a little.

I’m not sure I will ever interview PWM again, and I’m fine with that. I’m not sure I interviewed him in the first place. It was slightly careless of me to believe that it would be easy and I’d sooner have him interview me. I have a feeling it would be a lot more interesting because there’s so much about myself that I don’t know and it’s clear that he would bring it out. But maybe he already has….

Two Months On, One Month On

Two months ago my father died.

One month ago I woke-up from almost 39 years of living in a fog after giving up most of my compulsive behaviors. It was rough at times.

I loved the escape, getting out of my mind on drink and food, passive aggressive blaming, addictive relationships and a lack of authenticity and integrity. The first day was fine, the second day was tough, day 3 to 10 were a challenging detox, then things began to improve.

I never thought about starting any of it again though. I effectively stopped sleeping and was only able to get about 3-5 hours a night of cold sweating and dread. I took to sleeping with Bear again, a stuffed animal that Rachel gave me a number of years ago because I felt so alone when my eyes would pop open after 30 minutes or 30 seconds of sleep. It didn’t feel weird to take him out of the closet and cuddle him. He has personality and that seemed to give me strength.

At some point I noticed that a lot of the suffering had started to go away. I was left with some intrusive thoughts, but my therapist coached me on some cognitive behavioral therapy techniques that have been extremely effective at transforming the thoughts into something else. With the proper context, I can see that something happened and am free to tell myself any story and create any feeling about it that I like. She’s very good at her job and has spared me a lot of pain, replacing it with a contentment for the average life I have lived surrounded by some extraordinary people.

I made peace with everything upon seeing the motivation of my actions, accept it, and became extremely grateful for all of my experiences.

Then, seemingly out of nowhere, love began to flow. This is a powerful love that I haven’t experienced as an adult. It is more powerful than anything that I imagined I was capable of experiencing. It is hard to articulate it, but it feels like a highly focused understanding and compassion for humanity, all things living and everything in existence. A metaphysical understanding that I am the universe, that all of us are made up of pieces of the universe that have existed since everything began. Our form borrows bits and pieces as slightly more organized but utterly meaningless collections of matter. We exist as this for an insignificant amount of time and then we are returned back into the cosmos.

My spirit is restored when I realize what this means. We are all exactly the same thing, I am no different, not even different from other people. The fog is gone, and it is impossible to forget the experience of what it is like.

I can feel emotions, sense their origin, and fearlessly attack the world. I understand my essence and that my spirit is pure. I am now incapable of lying to myself or to others. I see my compulsive past as a gift, and the remainder of my life will be about fulfilling my purpose. My vitality peaks as the energy of the universe channels through my body - I have become indestructible because I have died.

Patrick doesn’t exist anymore, he never did. He was a figment of an imagination and a desire to be instead of being. People think I have lost my mind, and I have.

“Thank You For Teaching Me How To Love”

One of the things that I didn’t say to my father directly was “thank you for teaching me how to love.” As much pain as there is having a loving relationship not work out the way you hope, it really isn’t as bad as not being able to experience love. Yesterday a friend asked if was sure that I was ready to start dating again and I conceded that I would get hurt again, and again, and again until if found the ideal partner or died. But not living is worse than the hurting because a life of inhibition and not feeling connected to someone you adore is more enjoyable as sitting on my hands waiting.

My dad was an extremely compassionate person who did everything in his power to make sure the family was well taken care of, happy and that each of us knew we belonged in the family REGARDLESS of what we did or thought. He and my mother fostered and engendered a sense unconditional love that I have set-out trying to recreate with others; in my romantic relationships, friendships and effectively anyone on the planet. When I tell Des, Sarah, my mom, my dad, Tony, Sean, Jeff, Deb, Rachel, Kate, Leigh, Sharyl, or Natalie that I love them it is because I do and that I don’t feel any shame for it. I’ve said it to clients, other Group Ex instructor and the occasional stranger who doesn’t seem to have it for themselves.

In my relationships, once I realize that I love the person and that we’re going to make a run for it, the love is expressed and I accept and love everything about them. They may not be the typical type that I get involved with, they may have what they view to be baggage, but I accept these things and will adjust my image of the future to accommodate them. Their track record may be as bad as mine (nothing but failed relationships) but it doesn’t matter because once you accept your feelings, you express them 100% and without being inhibited, and you enjoy the gift that the universe has helped you draw into your life.

My parents were together for their entire life so I have seen it modeled. Staying in and working on a relationship isn’t anything that seems unnatural. Through the challenges and through the good times, I try to keep my head up knowing that what is in my heart is pure and that the other person is not going it alone. If they ask for help, I give it, if they complain about something that they are causing, I’ll tell them how to fix it and if they are being dishonest with themselves or with me, I’ll call them on it. The goal is not control, it’s for us to return to the present because that is the only place were peace can actually exist.

There are times that I feel it is a curse as it can take a long time to recover from the end of a relationship but that is the nature of how I love. It is for a life time regardless of whether or not it should have ever been. This means it can take an awful long time before I reconnect with those I used to share a future with, but that is what it means.

My dad never feel out of love with my mom, so I’ve never learned how to fall out of love with my romantic partners. And when all is said and done, even though I haven’t gotten it right, I’m confident that when I do, life will be peaceful forever. There’s no shame in that and no need to forgive myself either.

Unconditional love is beautiful and I’m grateful for having been born to parents who taught me how to do it. Thanks mom and dad!