Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Is Pain Real?

Next time you stub your toe or whack your knee on the edge of the coffee table or the dashboard, pay attention. I don’t mean pay attention to prevent the accident in the first place. That’s probably smarter advice than I tend to give, but instead, pay attention to how you react.

I noticed recently that when I smash my elbow into a doorway or do some similar clumsy act, I scream inside. Sometimes I hop around and grimace but rarely do I ever yell out loud.

And I’m not the only one. So why do people do this? Wouldn’t it make more sense to draw attention to oneself during this painful state so that others could provide aid? One might think we don’t cry out for fear of embarrassment but I did some research and there’s a different reason. Scientists say we don’t shriek in distress because pain is all in our heads.

Okay. If you’ve ever birthed a baby, I know what you’re thinking: pain is REAL you fool! I remember the time not long when my son accidentally punched me in the groin. I hit the floor. And yes, it hurt. And no, I wouldn’t let someone drive over my foot to test this theory but hear me out, okay?

I don’t fully understand the science behind this but think about it this way: does any physical pain hurt more the second time than it did the first? Probably not. Our brains apparently develop “neural pathways” so each subsequent time we experience similar physical pain we cope differently, usually better. Furthermore, our minds will suppress pain during threatening situations so we can escape. Essentially, pain doesn’t have to be painful. Therefore, if pain is just perception, why do we have to feel it at all?

Okay, that’s a tad deep, isn’t it? However, here’s something else those wacky scientists have determined: swearing alleviates pain. Like a dog yelps when you step on his tail, for many people (especially those in maternity wards) a carefully chosen expletive can do wonders for pain and stress.

Whoa. I just realized how much money I have squandered on various pain medications over the years....

FUCKING DRUG COMPANIES!

Hmm. Suddenly I feel better.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

One Simple Powerful Word

Okay. I just did something I can’t believe I didn’t discover long ago. It feels really good. Seriously good. Anyone can do this. And it’s simple. And I want to share it. And that’s why I broke it down into ten easy steps.

1. Sit down at your computer.
2. Open a word file.
3. Put your head in your hands and think about all the things you have to do. Then write it down. Think of every single suck-the-life-out-of-you depressing thing you really do not want to do or deal with. All of it.
4. Make the list look professional. Use bullets or highlight certain items in colours.
5. Then prioritize the items.
6. Leave for a few moments, then return to add a few more items. Complete the list.
7. (At this point I had a momentary panic attack followed by a handful of chocolate chips which seemed to alleviate the pain but you can skip this step if you want.)
8. Take a deep breath; this is almost over.
9. Delete the least important items on the list followed by the important items followed by the really important items. Edit your list down to one item. Only one. ONE!
10. Delete that too. (If you can't laugh maniacally at this point an untroubled "tee hee" will suffice.)

It’s simple but genius. At least I think so and I highly recommend it.

And that brings me to my new mantra: delete. One simple powerful word: delete. Because when you think about it—how much of that stuff is truly important?

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Magic Toolbox

This is going to sound like a lie but almost every single time I need some sort of tool or bolt or screw or wire nut or (forgive me for being too technical here) that doodad needed to attach a light-fixture to that electrical box in the ceiling, well there it is in my tool box. Almost every time. Freaky, eh?

Here’s the even weirder part. I have no idea where the majority of that stuff in my toolbox came from. I don’t recall ever restocking it. Sure, some of it is left over parts from various projects, but mostly I guess my Dad supplied it.

Twenty years ago, he loaded a bunch of tools and what-not into the back of my rusty car before I moved to Alberta. I didn’t pay much attention although I was mildly irritated because my Dad was a serious hoarder and indeed he needed to edit the junk out of his life but I didn’t think it was really necessary that I drive his junk to Alberta and throw it out for him.

Turns out it wasn’t junk though. Years later, my oldest brother was visiting and discovered a number of his missing tools in that toolbox and that highlights another thing my Dad was: generous.

Were you thinking the word “thief” might be more appropriate? Maybe so, but I think my Dad was so “generous” with me because he worried that I would never be able to take care of myself, something my brothers could always do quite efficiently. Sadly, I am the family fart-in-a-windstorm.

Anyway, I think my Dad is still refilling my toolbox. And that’s the weirdest part considering he passed away seven years ago now. He has to be responsible. I have to chuckle though because I wish he had some sort of next-world power that would help me buy the right lottery ticket or secure a book deal or even magically morph my teenagers into compliant robots but instead, somehow he continues replenishing my toolbox like some gruff old tool fairy.

Yeah, I know. This theory is pea-brained and delusional. But I like it. Every time I riffle through that toolbox I find what I need and for a moment, I find Dad too. And for that moment, I imagine he’s still here doing his typical things: laugh-wheezing, complaining about the government, buying five pound boxes of chocolate for my kids and sharing highly exaggerated “true” stories. Maybe he gave me that gift too?

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Bathroom Acoustics

This is going to sound a little strange but I overheard a kid proudly singing a song in an otherwise empty public bathroom recently and I had to stop outside the door and listen. Enhanced by the bathroom acoustics she was singing a lyrically mixed-up version of Amazing Grace. I felt a little weird planted there eavesdropping, but I just couldn't move. 

Soon I had shuffled off all the years, all of my a-ged-ness and became the little boy I once was sitting on the toilet, legs swinging back and forth, I too singing my own song with abandonment, bolstered by the echo in the bathroom. Free. Totally free to be who I was then. When exactly does the freedom to be who we truly are so insidiously slip away from us?

When we hear pure innocence, I think it's important to pause and pay attention. And maybe, just for a moment, let that voice inside us sing along.

Monday, March 15, 2010

The Marshmallow Test

Ever wonder why you’re not more successful? Maybe it has something to do with the marshmallows.

Researchers have determined another measurement for success based on a self control test. Scientists placed four-year-olds in a room by themselves with a marshmallow and a surveillance camera. Children who did not eat the marshmallow were promised a second marshmallow reward after fifteen minutes. Two-thirds of the children ate it, some immediately, some after fourteen and a half minutes. Then the real experiment began.

Later, these children were studied as adults. Overwhelmingly, the children who did not eat the first marshmallow had higher intelligence scores and were significantly more successful in their adult lives in terms of career, finances and relationships. The conclusion? The ability to deny self-gratification makes for a successful individual and a successful future.

This makes me wonder several things:
1. Why am I craving marshmallows?
2. What, at age four, would I have done? (I suspect I may have sucked out the marshmallow’s core then convinced myself that the scientist wouldn’t be able to detect my obvious ruse despite the mangled marshmallow and tell-tale white powder around my mouth.)
3. Can someone’s entire future really be determined by one marshmallow?
4. Why do people volunteer their four-year-olds for science experiments?
5. Just how many scientists out there are doing experiments on their own children?
6. Will I be more successful in life from now on if I abstain from marshmallows?
7. What if they had used chocolate chips?
8. What if there had been a campfire?
9. How many things do I deny myself for at least fifteen minutes?
10. Why am I so weak?

I don’t mean to be flippant. Scientists are smart and I like them. I do indeed see the importance of limits and self-control. But here’s something else to consider: no disrespect to four-year-olds but even if they don’t eat the marshmallows, most of them do eat their boogers. I think success is a by-product of doing what you do with love, enhanced by choices and challenges and it can’t be measured one way. How do you measure it?

Thursday, March 11, 2010

My common sense kicks in sporadically, at best....

I read about a Florida man born without arms who wanted to cash a cheque at a bank and was denied the opportunity because he could not provide a thumbprint to verify his identity.

Well duh. Of course he could not provide a fingerprint, so instead he offered two pieces of identification but was still denied.

Huh?

Common sense folks, common sense. I took a common sense quiz on the internet and scored only 75% but I still would have cashed that man’s cheque.

I’m not saying I have a lot of common sense because the truth is that sometimes I just don’t. In fact, when people remark that there is so little common sense in the world now, I become a tad nervous. Do they mean me?

For example, I pay about $60 monthly to access 100 TV channels and yet I can’t find anything to watch. Is that sensible? No, but I continue to do it, every month. And let’s face it; someone with a high level of common sense would likely not take a common sense quiz on the internet to calculate his common sense level. Plus, my wife seems skeptical that I scored as well as I did. I asked her for an example of common sense and she said, “If you pour a cup of hot coffee, don’t take a big sip.” So I said, “I don’t drink coffee.” She just shook her head and turned away.

I guess my point is this: common sense does not always kick in precisely when needed most. That teller who asked an armless man for a fingerprint is likely a very reasonably person most of the time. Just like the young woman I recently observed driving her vehicle during rush-hour down an insanely busy and packed Edmonton street while interacting with her laptop computer. Maybe it was some sort of laptop emergency. Okay forget it. That’s just plain nuts.

Still though, who has common sense all the time? Ever mow the lawn in flip-flops? Ever keep driving when you feel really tired? Ever swat at bees? Ever pretend you are an electrician? Ever climb on your icy roof wearing mukaluks? (Okay, that was just me.)

We all make senseless mistakes. Again and again until we get it right. And as the saying goes, “the one good thing about repeating your mistakes is that you know when to cringe.”

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Distractions

As we’ve all heard it said, “The way to a man’s heart is through his ribs.”

Although I’m not endorsing this method, it is indeed likely to get a man’s attention. But is it necessary to go this extreme? Or even as the more popular saying goes, “The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.” That also sounds painful to me, unless of course, homemade pizza is involved.

Joking aside, these sayings make me wonder. Why do some women find it difficult to capture a man’s heart or even his attentions once the heart has been captured? Are men that difficult to get close to?

Short answer: no. Most guys like girls.

Long answer: no. Most guys like girls and are very willing to share their minds and bodies and even their hearts with the right woman, but I also believe that we men have a fleeting attention span and it’s difficult for us to concentrate if
a. the TV is on.
b. we are doing something else we want to do.

(Is this, however, really that different from women? If a woman is on the phone or having a bath, she does not want to be disturbed.)

We all get distracted from each other. We all get confused signals and mixed messages. We all try to use shortcuts to get what we want from each other. Essentially though, the way to anyone’s heart, male or female is simple: respect.

This involves several verbs. Listen. Forgive. Seek. Honour. Support. Appreciate. Trust. Compliment. Love. Order pizza. Send the kids to a movie. Shut the TV off. Talk.

Monday, March 8, 2010

What should everyone know how to do?

1. How to listen.
2. How to tell a good story.
3. How to make perfect macaroni and cheese.
4. How to ask someone for a date.
5. How to shake hands.
6. How to change a tire.
7. How to smooch.
8. How to hold a baby.
9. How to read.
10. How to do something musical.
11. How to build a fire.
12. How to handle a skid.
13. How to say no.
14. How to show respect.
15. How to express gratitude.
16. How to apologize.
17. How to forgive.
18. How to talk with your eyes to the one you love most.
19. How to think for yourself and how to think twice.
20. How to eat chocolate (slowly).
21. How to give.
22. How to play a game or sport.
23. How to have a poker face.
24. How to show how you really feel.
25. How to accept what’s hard.
26. How to fight for what’s right.
27. How to keep promises.
28. How to appreciate your own foibles.
29. How to save a life (it’s easier than you think.)
30. How to hear your own drum.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

What could heaven be like?

Riding on a ski lift not long ago, I closed my eyes and stopped to reflect on where I was and what I was doing. It was one of those being-in-the-moment moments.

What was I thinking?

Sometimes, when life slows down in a special place for just a few moments, clarity results. We all have these places in our lives. Places where time seems slower and more precious and more full somehow. Places where nothing else matters, when there is no stress, where the lines have been drawn and we know which side we’re on.

I have been blessed to visit many of those places in my life and have those moments. They are always in my memory now. Lying on the roof of my old farmhouse under the wide Saskatchewan sky when I was kid. A quaint Victorian house converted into a restaurant on Cape Breton Island. Camping under a mountain in the Rockies with my wife and our friends. Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. Tossing jellyfish back into the Atlantic Ocean with my kids. My Grandparents’ living room. Floating down the Peace River. Many others too.

Maybe for you it’s your cabin or your summer home or a resort or a park in another country or in your garden or when you fly your plane. Whatever and wherever though, it’s just a moment and really, an opportunity to whisper thanks.

And when I have those moments I feel as though maybe we can all know here on Earth what heaven could be like. Maybe it’s like floating on a ski lift with a warm winter breeze blowing, resting comfortably, feet dangling, just waiting to get to the top and then skiing off among the huge spruce trees and sliding through the icy sparkle as the sun sets. Maybe. Just close your eyes.

[Dedicated to Mitch's family.]

Monday, March 1, 2010

Another thing kids from Saskatchewan probably shouldn't do...

I love skiing.

Since skiing is basically the equivalent of skydiving for a Saskatchewan boy like me though, there are some stipulations that help me enjoy the sport.

I need room. Big room. And I can’t ski with anyone lest I smush them like roadkill. And since my upper body seems to be a tad (three times) larger than my lower body, I cringe at the thought of using poles. My arms must be free and extended outward (sadly emphasizing my upper body further). Why the catatonic stance? It’s simple. I’m preparing to break my arm or several vertebrae or perhaps my pelvis. Picture a puffed out turkey on stilts.

But that’s how I like it. It might seem surprising, but most fellow skiers seem to immediately recognize the invisible “no fly zone” around me and provide a wide berth. Most make eye contact once and then never again. Irritating snowboarders zoom by like they own the place and let’s admit it, they pretty much do. To them I am simply another obstruction to avoid like a tree or an annoying relative. I don’t resent them for their confidence and ease.

I do resent some ski parents though. Sorry, but watching a parent put a harness on his ten-month old and ski behind him like the toddler is some sort of tiny reindeer is extremely annoying. Don’t get me wrong. It’s fantastic when kids learn to ski very early thanks to their sporty and fun-loving parents. My problem with this can be boiled down to one (hyphenated) word: show-offs!

Some parents are just so competent. Some parents are so talented too. Some parents can teach their kids how to do everything. Some parents even ski down a mountain while holding a child in their arms. That would be like me skiing with a large watermelon nestled under my chin. I’m not good at science but the upper body ratio thing alone means that little scenario is a disaster formula.

I guess I should just admit I’m jealous of those super-parents who are so freakishly capable they can teach their kids how to ski and ride a bike and split atoms and whatever. And in comparison, what have I done? Well, I did buy them helmets.



 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Google "Saskatchewan + mountain" and this is one of the results. Works for me.
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