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more than me

more than me — beyond me —
Where are you.

how can i see you as holy
when today i
can’t even see.

something so far off and eventual
as your supposed “kingdom”
is such a tease.

is it here within our hearts today?
and if so, why do i feel so alone?
is it eventually a total renewal?
if so, why the wait? why the suffering? why not now?
is it a far-off place in the sky?
how can i care about such a nightmare
that abandons my friends
obliterates this planet
and keeps you so aloof?

the things you want.
what are they? (i’ve been so focused on my own needs)

on earth as it is in heaven.
i can’t help but accelerate at the thought of it.
present tense, there is perfection.
here and now it can be true.
all we do is ask.

those needs? straight up:
i need to love myself with clear confidence.
no more traps of self-hate and negative rumination —
my body, my body of work, my roles
fully reassured of my goodness.
i need to love fiercely my wife, as Christ loves the church.
Dedicated, Devoted. Persistently, Patient. Sacrificing everything for.
i need to be present and affirming with the kids.

forgive me for how i have
torn myself and others to shreds

may i forgive too.

i don’t want
to get
stuck again
in easy outs
wishful thinking
dangerous
dead-ends.
help me.

you
say you’ve
got a
kingdom
that works,
compatibly, with
today’s world.
power it on.

i want that
next-life aliveness,
here.

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Copycat

About myself, I’ve discovered this: I’m an interpersonal Weird Al.

By that, I mean, I am a parody artist of rooms and people. I can sense and take on the values and expectations of people I interact with.

In my work, as a facilitator, this is wielded well: groups find in me someone who is attuned to their reality and can speak back to them their needs. I can summarize and synthesize well, because in many ways, I have simply taken on their burdens am speaking from their point of view.

I can also find that if I’m not careful, I can lose track of my own point of view on an issue. I drift into becoming a performance artist that is simply the embodiment of other people’s expectations.

The art of getting acquainted with what my own needs are, is a very slippery pursuit. It’s part of why quiet time, and time away from people, is crucial. It builds a self-understanding that becomes a stronger fortress, letting me more intentionally slip into “facilitator” or “listener” mode without losing my sense of self.

I remember a scene from a high school bus trip for a band and choir festival. An older kid I respected had lent me a CD to listen to. As I sat in the seat across from him, I noticed we were both wearing a similar plaid jacket, and were reclining in a similar pose, listening to what would have also been the same artist. I nodded at him to point out our similarity and he smiled back. I had hoped it would built solidarity and respect, a camaraderie in being seen as twins. And maybe it did, but I instantly felt a strong sense of embarrassment and shifted my posture, and gave the CD back.

Did I even like this artist? Not in the slightest; it was George Thorogood, for goodness sake — an artist I’ve never looked up again except now, to remember how to spell it. I remember finding the music to be thoroughly unappealing out-of-date rock; I was simply listening to because it was lent to me. While the jacket was mine and the pose comfortable, the posing wasn’t. I caught myself in the act of accidentally becoming someone else.

On the Ennegram, this “performer” personality shows up as the 3. The ability to shape-shift into different caricatures and archetypes as the moment needs.

I’ve realized lately that this is reason #1 that I’m choosing to continue my writing project. It’s a chance to daily explore and express what is true only to me, only when alone. The stories and experiences and emotions that are uniquely mine. “For learning and alive-ness making.”

A line comes to mind:

I am whatever you say I am. If I wasn’t, then why would I say I am?

From the year 2000, it’s Eminem saying that.

Commit to the public record? Put a thing online? Why?

To keep myself me. Solidify my sense of self like a ghost getting a foothold in the physical world. Here’s me otherwise —I am whatever you say I am. 

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Giverable

I was feeling miserable today, and trying to imagine my way out of it.

This isn’t etymologically accurate, but I thought of the word miser in miserable: one who hoards wealth. In this case, I imagined, a hoarder of terrible feelings.

What’s the opposite of somebody who hoards? One who gives away. The opposite of miserable, would be to be giverable.

Generous of spirit, giving away graciousness.
Generative, in creativity; generating abundant ideas.
Giving away truth; making it plain how one is feeling.

To be giverable would be a much more desirable state than the greedy Scroogery of misery.

But having this thought, it changed nothing.

Having a sick day allowed me to burrow into the cave of my bed, and it helped somewhat.

I decided to go for a walk, with timid steps tip-toeing down the driveway, restrained by reluctance, an anti-gravity saying “Stay home, nothing can change.”

I kept stumbling forward, into the mud and slush and along the gravel roads.

Am I off-track, in the grand swings I’ve taken at life, at the voices I’ve listened to, at the paths I’ve taken — am I simply deluded?

I found myself more than halfway around the block, and I simply drank everything in.

I noticed the sky was blue, and the sun was shining; winter was fading away. My jacket unzipped.

I noticed the wind on my face, steady, soft, unrelentingly consistent.

I noticed the whinny of a horse, a familiar refrain from a day long ago when those same sounds were sending me different messages.

I noticed I’m on a road I once saw as a symbol for no-trespassing.  And here I am, fully committed.

There need be no going back. This is a new season. I’ve listened well, I’ve heeded the call. We are well into something all-new.

By the time I returned home, hardly a trace remained of the mood-miser who had stumbled down that driveway in the first place. I was finally giverable.

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Welcome

Hi there,

I was wondering if you would like to join me on a somewhat eccentric internet journey.

I’ve been doing a create-daily blogging project since November 2019, and I realize that I don’t really want to do it just for myself. I’d love to invite more people to come along.

The things I write tend to be from the heart and off-the-cuff. I’m exploring a range of themes, from the emotions of fatherhood to the possibility of peace, strange dreams to spiritual curiousities — in the form of the written word, song snippets, kids poetry and drawings and more. For example:

It’s a chance to create an outlet for the creative voice that has been idling in my life for a number of years, laying dormant from a lack of time, but really, a lack of prioritization and an abundance of fear. I’m doing my best to bring courage and wholeheartedness to this project, which is also why I’m inviting you to come along: I’m here to engage authentically with life, hopefully giving you the courage to try the same in your own world.

Here, I endeavour to offer you no hot takes; simply warm gives. There are no like buttons, comment boxes or share icons. It’s a quiet space for reflection and experimentation.

I write daily, and send an email round-up weekly. Most people choose one essay/article/item to read each week from that email (I mark my recommended piece with a ⭐).

My hope is to develop a rhythm of regular expression that helps unearth new thinking — a way of “learning and aliveness-making,” for myself, and for you. I want to practice realness, authenticity, and self-expression, on the frickin’ internet, of all places.

I’m also working on a book project, and hope this can be home where I share writing, thinking and progress on that — and that this community will develop into something that helps grow a readership over time, full of its own wisdom and authenticity.

If you’re into it, please join me. The sign-up box is in the footer.

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Cold doubt

What if this daily writing project itself is spurred on by misplaced motivations, unhealthy impulses, un-analyzed desires?

What if it’s adding a stress and burden of production to a reality that doesn’t need it?

What if it’s trying to “force” something that just needs to be let alone?

What if the better choice is to simply work dutifully, be a loving husband and dad, and lay to rest these literary pursuits?

What if the very concepts I’m preaching on are invalid, or dangerous? What if I’m wrong?

What if I’m motivated to be a published author through erroneous influences, and I need to better interrogate those impulses?

What if my true calling lies elsewhere? Like here, at home, with my family, not doggedly pursuing the approval of an unknown agent, publisher, editor or readership.

I don’t know for sure the answer to any of these questions.

I ask myself for perspective, but my body simply returns the answer, “I’m cold.” I’ve been wearing a winter jacket and a toque while I write tonight. The coldness has been throwing off my ability to read my own emotional realities and spiritual senses.

I know that I’ve committed to a create-daily project. That I technically give myself the grace to rest from it when I need it. That if I’m wrong, I will learn. That it’s building a muscle and a habit that I want to improve. That I very well could be simply contributing more noise onto the internet at the expense of my own well-being.

I’ll say tonight: “Hey, doubt. I hear you. Thanks for trying to help. I’m going to give you a voice so I can hear what you have to say, and we can keep talking a bit.”

I’d love to round it out with a clear, bold, galvanizing response, but all I got is this: I’m a little cold.

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Spice Girls 2020

Some Canadian night, in the years between 1996 and 1997, my family and I were watching Hockey Night in Canada when the transmission was punched through with a blinding burst of light and colour, sound and song and dance. In the middle of the hockey broadcast, a music video began to play.

Though nobody in our family knew it at the time, the band was the Spice Girls, and the song was Wannabe. I think the music video was being used to galvanize viewership during a lull or intermission, and would cut away to feature rock ’em-sock ’em hockey highlight images as a way to capture attention with an on-the-rise pop group.

Instead of capturing the attention of this two-channel-over-bunny-ears family, it was like having the signal scrambled. Chaos erupted. What’s this? I imagine a parent rose to block the screen’s content with their own physical form, though again, I can not confirm if that happened.

For me, back at Hockey Night, I didn’t know what to make of it. A 10 or 11 year old Kevan saw it more as an interruption to the hockey game, and thought the singing group was “stupid” and “weird.”

In the intervening years, in my creative experimentation with technology, I created a satirical website called “The Spice Gorillas” to mock the group. I used Front Page Express to build the website. I borrowed the names of the actual group (“Sporty Spice”), and creating parody content that mimicked natural-geographic writing to describe each of these pretend primates’ habits and habitats. It featured images of unique gorilla species’ I had borrowed from a CD-ROM encyclopedia.

Tasteful? No. Mature? No, literally childish; it was content created by a youth.

This year, now that Spotify has reached its digital fingers into the past and resurfaced all music, the song Wannabe began playing in my house, thanks to algorithms and our kids’ predilection for danceable pop. For one of the first times, I began paying closer attention to the actual words of this song.

Lines like:

You want my future? Forget my past.

and

Taking is too easy, but that’s the way it is.

24 years removed from this original, uninvited debut, I’m hearing these words in a new way.

I’m hearing a group of women say something incredibly powerful — a bold, colourful, provocative group was trying to share a message that we’ve all needed this whole time.

Allow me to translate the words from Wannabe into contemporary language:

If I communicated my actual needs and desires, would you hear them? Or would you just project your own interests on to me?

Are you interested in me as person, or just an idea?

Can you see me holistically, and imagine a healthy future for me?
Can you see my past and let it be what it is?

My time and life, they matter to me. Don’t treat me poorly.
Are you willing to do your own work of maturing?

If you’re interested in me, see me holistically.
See my relationships and friends.
I’m not temporary, I don’t disappear, and what I want is real friendship.
If you’re interested in me, choose to be a participant and a contributor.
Don’t see me as an object to consume.
Don’t let yourself follow the status quo patterns of a consumer culture and expect to simply take what you want. 

That’s my manifesto. Are you inspired and aligned?
It’s what I care about. Can you handle that?
I’m only interested in people who are real and authentic.
If you can’t show up like that, I’m walking away.

[Additional rapping and singing ensues]

This episode came to mind this week as I heard of people’s reactions to the Superbowl half-time show.  All I can offer is the translated words of the Spice Girls of my own much-too-slow discovery of their message.

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Attention economy

We have an attention economy in our house.

The attention we all want is Kendra’s.

“Mama, look!” Theo will say, demanding one-on-one attention on his latest dance, lip-sync, costume or performance.

Ben will barge in with a question. “Mama! Can I…” [usually associated with gaining access to a specific piece of technology]

“Mama!” Addie will holler, showcasing her latest illustrated work of art and storytelling.

But Rosie is the primary advertiser. “Mama!” she’ll declare.

“Hi mama,” she’ll chirp, and cheerily climb onto her lap.

“Mama?” she’ll call, looking for Kendra from around a corner.

“Mama!” she’ll exclaim, worried if there’s no response.

“Mamaaaa,” she’ll wail, if it turns out Kendra’s out and she’s stuck with dad, who just won’t do.

Kendra graciously grants this coveted attention to each of her demanding devotees. Mere listening is not enough, they require eye contact. “Look at me?” Theo will say, whenever we attempt passive “mm-hmms.” He needs engagement, and will be appeased by nothing less.

It’s like sunlight, for photosynthesizing plants. Keep steadily baking under that light, and you’re growing. You’re greening. You’re good. She’s got eyes like a sunbeam, and our family is entirely solar powered.

Tonight at dinner, Theo’s lips were stinging. Cracked lips and citrusy foods made for a distraught Theodore. “Dey aw CWACKED?!” he moaned, erupted into volcanic tears, and stumbled over to Kendra, who was still trying to eat her own meal.

Rosie spotted to the shift of Theo attention, and pushed her plate closer to Kendra, like a cartoon cat, itching to be noticed.

Kendra soon had two small people on her, again, while her own dinner was unfinished. (Don’t worry, I took Theo away.)

In that moment, I saw Kendra’s lack of arms, lack of nourishment, lack of lap. She’s not the sun; she’s a plant herself, craning for nourishment.

And there I am, across the table from here — am I another plant, bending to gain from her glow? Another advertiser, craving hits of Kendra attention? Jockeying for position in the list of never-ending demands for eye-contact and noticing? Or can I somehow be a sun, offering some form of growth-generating warmth, some of my own attention and care, to bring some of the nourishment that’s maybe missing from the life of a misunderstood sun.

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Nobody left out

At 8:20 am, I entered Beast Mode. Headphones in, music up, I blitzed our house in clean-up mode. Stashes of kid art, stockpiles of pencils, mountains of recipes, avalanches of things-to-be-krazy-glued — it was all swept up in a foot-stomping, house-storming assault, making up for all the nights we said “we’ll do this later.”

While I cleaned, I turned on an album I hadn’t heard in a long time — earlier in the morning, a forgotten melody line appeared in my mind and I was reminded of it — so I pressed play, and dove in. Later is now.

As I chucked boxes and carted goods to and fro, the over-the-top production of this long-lost music was activating all of my emotional centres. The familiar notes and nostalgic noise were like steam from homemade soup under my nose, bringing tears to my eyes as it soared and swirled.

One part of the song led to an improvised extended interlude featuring a women’s choir, where She is surrounded by uncountable melody and dissonance and percussion and sound, and the voices sing: “We’re going to the house of God, are you coming?”

I had an image in my mind of a cacophonous, jubilant procession. It was led by women, unafraid. It was streamers and brass and loudness and possibility. It was sweeping up all of us, nobody forgotten, not a single soul left alone or on the sidelines. An absurd, decadent, citizen-powered parade.

All this to say, I pictured a future with nobody left out. And it made me cry.

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Partner parent

This morning, getting Theo and Rosie changed, Theo spotted a puzzle and brought it to me: “Can we do this?” he asked.

“Oh great,” I thought, rolling my eyes. “A three year old doing a puzzle…let’s get this over with.” I whizzed through the puzzle, assembling it in a flash, barely incorporating Theo’s suggestions (all of which were wrong: “I think this goes here!”), so that we could move on to more age-appropriate activities. Besides, we had a plan; we were getting changed, so we could go outside. Move along.

But when Kendra gets asked by one of our kids to do a puzzle, it’s an entirely different game.

She can see developmental milestones, a gift from her time spent studying human biology at undergraduate and master’s levels, including some paediatrics.

As a parent, she lives into her role as a coach: she identifies tasks the kids need to do, and will attempt to equip and encourage them to do the job.

In the case of a puzzle, she’ll let them do the handling, so they can work on dexterity, motor skills and spatial awareness. She’ll encourage them to do the placing, to notice patterns, and keep trying. She’ll tune in to their own emotional attitudes, encouraging them to persevere, to build resilience. She relies on her experience in rehabilitation as a physiotherapist to do this.

It’s mind-blowing to see her competence step into the ring. For me, I’m so absorbed in my own mental reverie and emotional milieu, lost in my own thoughts and feelings, that I’m brushing past the opportunity. I’m so uninformed about matters of development, that I don’t even know what physical and cognitive milestones to coach them towards.

This was a huge gift when our son Ben was around three years old. On any given day with with Benjamin, I’d be overwhelmed and lost, and quickly blame my own bad parenting for the various freakouts we would encounter. But Kendra began noticing patterns. And that led us to explore with professionals the diagnosis of Sensory Processing Difficulties. It helped us get Ben help from an occupational therapist, alongside a couple other professionals, to help us know how to build in to Ben’s unique reality.

I wouldn’t have even noticed. I would have assumed it was my problem, or a one-off emotional day, or just the general challenges of parenting. Kendra helped us spot that something was consistent.

I say this to point out a few obvious takeaways: Partnership in parenting is so crucial. We each bring different viewpoints to the table, which help round out an understanding of our kids. The skills and perspectives each parent has is a gift.

Secondly, sometimes, the reality of childhood development means something else is going on. There may be unique resources, tools, and funding to help address something in your own kiddo that you might be writing off. In the case of Sensory Processing, it’s a cousin of autism/Asperger’s that has less visibility and funding, but has many valuable tools to explore.

Lastly, one key point: Kendra is amazing. I don’t think she has plans to make herself available for paediatric developmental consulting and coaching, but she would do amazing at it.

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Strategizing out loud

Since starting this project, I have actively resisted any act of strategy. I have not wanted to undermine the creative, focused energy of simply writing. As they say, “only writing is writing.”

(Plus, I know my own weakness: the activities of mentally problem-solving have a very powerful gravity. If I go there, it’ll be hard to skyrocket back out.)

But it’s getting close to time: I’ve had in my view the deadline of either my birthday or after 100 posts: we’re at 70 now, and my birthday was two days ago. So it’s nearly time to strategize. I figured: maybe I can use the blog itself to process and think about where to next. And maybe you could even speak into it!

Reaching people: This is limited right now to “whoever is already signed up to my email newsletter.” There are about 300 subscribers, and approximately 60 open each week, resulting in about 20 opens. Not huge, I know, but I remind myself: this project is primarily an engine for myself first, and for others to join me if it’s valuable/interesting for them.

Do I want to grow that audience? That’s a good question to ask. Why would I not want to grow it?

  • I really care about “aligned” audiences, who are here for kindness, wisdom, exploration, honesty, depth, humour, weirdness, and all that. I’d rather keep it small and close-knit if it helps give me an energy that helps me create the work I want to be creating.
  • I’m scared of comments, uncomfortable with social promotion. I don’t really love the activities associated with growing an audience. I don’t enjoy the feeling of being self-promotional; I’d rather just retreat into a small cavern. There’s some fear to get over there.

I do want to grow the audience, but I want it to remain a positive, civil environment, not one that terrifies me with internet toxicity or embarrasses me with #selfpromotion.

If I begin growing the audience intentionally, another consideration would be helping people make sense of what they are seeing when they get here: who is this writer? What are the most interesting posts? This suggests I should create an about page, classify some posts in categories, create a “best of” list, and all that.

There are also “professional” users of this website: people who might want to book me for speaking, or agents and publishers I am reaching out. I have kept the space very under-explained, again, to just let myself write, but it may be time to explain myself better.

I’ve got some technical fixes to do: Chrome shows a security warning, there’s a weird WordPress error or two on the back-end.

On the newsletter side, my Mailchimp subscriber list is so old, I think most recipients have the sending address flagged as spam, so most of the list isn’t even seeing these sends. Additionally, with a fresh list and a clear focus, I could reach out to my email contacts and ask people to sign up.

Here’s what I’m seeing from this short think:

  • I can create clarity on the site: Create an About page, curate some categories, select some top posts
  • Find healthy, authentic ways to expand the audience, such as reaching out to real life contacts, and sharing occasional posts on social.
  • Get honest with myself about social/internet boundaries: Am I willing to enable comments? Make my social profiles more active?
  • Ask for help: If there are roles I’d like to invite others to play, I can consider that I don’t have to do all this alone.

So far, the daily-create habit has helped me find and tell stories I’m super proud of, like Tony in Atlanta. It has helped me get to clarity on thoughts I’ve needed to express better, like Gross Domestic Love. It has helped rejuvenate a writing muscle that was atrophying. It has sparked inspiring conversations between friends that have been incredibly meaningful, reminding me of the wisdom, depth, gentleness and possibility that is alive in the world. And yeah, it can be tiring and hard to fit in, and remains something I’m choosing to prioritize.

Thanks for being part of this! Drop me an email if there’s anything you notice about my out-loud musing that might help.