Short Story – The Honest Cold

Photo by Rick J. Brown on Unsplash

“So you’re telling me you’re angry at your wife because she bought you a pair of work pants,” said Tali.

“That’s right,” said Bruno.

“No, that’s wrong.”

“They’re not the right kind,” whined Bruno.

“So what.”

“I don’t want them.”

“Who cares?” said Tali.

“I do.”

“No you don’t.”

“Fuck you.  You can’t tell me I don’t care,” said Bruno.

“Sorry.  You’re right.  You do care.  You care what the fuckin hammer heads on the job site might think of you if you aren’t wearin Carharts.  Instead of caring that your wife loves you. And wants to buy shit for you.”

Tali put on his hard hat and got up to take a leak then turned back to say,

“Bro, didn’t your dad teach you that whenever you can say yes to your wife just say yes.”

“That makes no sense.  And my dad never taught me anything about women,” said Bruno, screwing the cup back on the red thermos his wife bought him.  

“When?”

“I. Don’t. Know,” said Bruno.

“I do,” said Vanessa.

“When?”

“Never.”

“It’s not never.  It’s just not now,” said Bruno.

“I’m not waiting till I’m forty to have children.”

“Who’s saying you have to wait till you are freakin forty.”

“You’re a fuckin broken record,” said Vanessa.

“I need to feel more stable in my work.”

“Then stop getting fired,” said Vanessa as she turned and walked to the cramped kitchen.

Let go is the proper term.  And it isn’t my fault.” 

I don’t care if it’s your fault or your boss is an asshole.  Deal with it.  Your buddy Tim does.  And Manuel does.  Why can’t you?”

“I don’t work with them anymore.”

“My point exactly,” said Vanessa.

“Why can’t you stop hounding me?”  Bruno’s posture slid from tired to defeated. 

“Hounding you?!  I’m …,” said Vanessa, shocked that Bruno couldn’t see what she wanted.

“Ya.  Where are the children?” said Bruno in a falsetto voice imitating Vanessa.  “Don’t get fired,” he continued, karate chopping his right hand into his left palm.  “Tim is better than you.”  Another karate chop.  “Just say nothing to your stupid supervisor when he wants to cut corners all over the place,” said Bruno out of breath.

“You seriously think I am criticising you?” said Vanessa. 

“All I can hear is how I am not good enough for you,” said Bruno glaring into Vanessa’s back.  Vanessa spins around,

“I am supporting the man I think you are!” 

Bruno grabbed his coat and his phone and slammed the door.

‘I am not going to chase that loser’ thought Vanessa.  As she banged utensils around the kitchen Vanessa heard the pitter patter of little feet from the ceiling above her. 

Bruno and Vanessa were living in the house where he grew up.  They occupied the basement apartment and rented out the bungalow above them.  

“And if that baby isn’t crying all night, it’s running around all day – pumpum pumpum,” said Bruno about the same little footsteps that make Vanessa edgy.  But for a different reason. 

“It’s like the only thing Vanessa and I agree on these days,” he said.

“You know I know the total layout of the upstairs so in my mind when they are walking around I picture it.  I can’t turn it off.  I can’t focus on anything because as soon as they move it’s like I become their tour guide or something.  But only in my mind.”

“Take it easy bro,” said Massimo Bruno’s older brother.

“That’s the point, I wish ….  I take the wrong things easy and make easy things difficult or whatever.  Anyway that’s what Vanessa says.”  

“Ok.  Breathe Bruno.  If I had a beer I would offer you one but I don’t keep any in the house anymore,” said Massimo.

Massimo shoves his hands in his jacket pockets and leans against the frame of the open garage door of his home literally 4 blocks from Bruno’s place.  Bruno had walked here in a huff on a crisp November evening.  He loved the clean fresh air but tonight he was too busy running his revenge movie in his head of the stupid things he would do and say.

Instead of selling their parents house they had all agreed that Bruno and Vanessa would live there and pay his parents rent for the whole house while collecting rent themselves from the tenants upstairs.  Bruno would attend to the tenant’s needs or complaints with the enthusiasm and customer service of a teenage tree sloth.  Bruno and Vanessa lived there almost rent free because the rent from upstairs covered the mortgage payment.  They just had to pay utilities.  Still the mortgage was in Vito’s name, Bruno’s dad.  The plan that Vito and Massimo put together was for Bruno to buy the house in 2 years from the date of moving into the basement. Three years later Bruno was still flailing professionally and financially.  

Vanessa didn’t bring much to the table.   She had learned from her vitriolic parents that, upon their immature version of divorce, she was a commodity that had value even if she did nothing but breathe.  Up to this point she had found sufficient success with this model so that it didn’t occur to her to have initiative.  So for her it didn’t make sense to her to invest in a career if they were going to start a family and then move upstairs. 

“Bro, take her some flowers, kiss her like you love her, go for a tumble in the sack.” 

“Ya, you’re right,” said Bruno.  

Bruno let himself get drawn quickly into an abyss of fear you could see in how his eyes went distant in an instant.  The flowers were a great idea, Bruno thought, but having sex would only reinforce his place as the one guy who can’t get it done.  Massimo had seen this look many a time before;

“And find some fuckin sunshine in your day.  If there aint no sunshine in the vicinity – fuckin make your own.  Dude.  It’s life.  You’re young,”  said Massimo punching Bruno in the shoulder.   

“You have a woman who loves you, bro.  Make any mistake you want but don’t make that mistake – of not loving her.   And being loved by her.  I will slap you so hard if …”

“Ok, I get it,” said Bruno.

“We’ll see if that is true, Romeo.”

Massimo was tired of Bruno’s broken record of woe is me. 

“I really appreciate … I know I just dropped by and you’re probably about to have dinner and,”  Bruno went on.

“Dude,” said Massimo.  “This is getting old.  It’s so old it’s stale.  Ya know. Not stepping up to the plate and then complaining you’re not on base.  Bro …”

“Bro, I came here for a little commiseration,” said Bruno.

“What does commiseration mean?”

“It means, like to be, on the same page.”

“No it doesn’t.” 

“Drink wine from the same bottle?” tried Bruno. 

Massimo didn’t want to be the perfect older brother but he couldn’t help shaking his head.  In a flash he had visions of their dad and childhood; and the stupid teeenage things they did together amazingly all fitting into a few seconds in his mind.  

“Ok, so then what does it mean?” 

“Bruno.  There is no perfect time to have children.  Bro.  Make your wife happy.  Make us all happy.  Fuck – make yourself happy.  It doesn’t fuckin matter what you do!   Just get her pregnant as you do it.  That will answer 90% of your imaginary problems.”

“Ok it’s time for ….”

“You don’t have any issues?”

“Issues?”

Can you get it up?”

“Yes, I can get IT up.”

“Then are you shootin blanks?”

“Fuck if I know.”

“Well, If your Vanessa isn’t pregnant in the next 6 months you gotta get your junk analysed.  

In the cool silence of the dusk the honest cold of the night lovingly takes over.  In that bare moment teasing intimate conversations Lisa, Massimo’s wife opened the door at the back of the garage.

“Hi Bruno, good to see you.”

“Hey Lisa, you too,” said Bruno.

“Are you gonna stay for dinner? I am reheating Massimo’s for him now,”  said Lisa looking at her husband.

“Thanks Lisa, I gotta get goin,” said Bruno.

“Thanks Babe.  I’ll be in in a minute,” said Massimo before Lisa could close the door.

”You see what it is?  It’s the whole package.  It’s a marriage.  It’s a family.  It’s a circus.  Everyday there is a ton of bullshit if you are gonna count the cost.  Bro – the point is to make important things important.  If Vanessa is important to you, make her happy, give her a baby.”

—-

From the Collection of Short Stories: Tool by Kevin McNamara


Short Story – Jerry Rig

Photo by Sandro Cenni on Unsplash


“Ok guys, another session of Hot or Trot.  You first Andy,” said Matt.

“OK, give me a second  …Gigi Hadid or Scarlet Johansen?”

“All blondes!  I like it bro.  Gigi obviously.  She’s a sultry minx,” said Matt.

“I agree,” said Hector.  Matt didn’t trust Hector.  Matt didn’t know why yet.  Hector knew why he didn’t like Matt.

“Ok Sally,” said Matt using the nickname for Hector he takes from the fact he Hector was born in El Salvador.  Nobody else uses it.  “Your turn.”

“Selma Hayek or Eiza Gonzalez?”  

“Hector and his smokin hot Latinas.  Cheers,” said Andy.

“Who the hell is Aisha Gonzalvez?” asked Matt.

“It’s Eiza Gonzalez, you uncultured hack.”

Without hesitating Matt launches an immature missile back at Hector, “You know what the problem with …”

“Hey, Isn’t that the new guy right there,” squints Andy.

“Who?”

“Across the street.  The guy who just came out of the fast cash place.”

The three of them look across the street and drink from their pint glass.

“Yup,” said Matt.  “That’s him.  He’s the guy prancing around in those Carhart overalls he doesn’t need.  There he goes into that coin laundry place.  Bubbles.”

“Cute name,” says Hector.

“Hector.  Since when the fuck did you say something was cute?” asked Andy.

Matt, Andy and Hector were enjoying Friday afternoon beers on a patio picnic table. Monday to Thursday they worked hardscaping projects 12-14 hour days so Friday Fields, the boss, could leave the city early to beat traffic getting to his cottage north of the city. 

Though they make decent coin, they do not have cottage bound incomes so they find a friendly patio and flirt like idiots with the waitress:  Andy loves her perfume, Hector her eyes and Matt her boobs; all of them mentally promising a huge tip so they earn her wink as they leave. Today they were happy bread to the toaster of 4:30 pm June sun.  That Tom Cochrane tune was finishing. 

“Jerry,” blurts Andy.

“Bless you.”

“Jerry?  Quien chingados es Jerry?” asked Hector.

“That’s the name of the new guy.”

“My man Jerry.  He’s alright,” says Matt, wanting to be drunk.

“Listen guys …”  Andy grabs his phone and puts a twenty on the table.

“No bro, not again.”

“Gotta go guys,” said Andy. 

“But we just ordered our second pitcher.” 

“I’d love to, but duty calls”

“Ya I know. I get that call all the time and I just send it to voicemail. Deal with it when I get home.” 

“Not this time …,” hesitates Andy in a way that disarms all their ridicule. 

“Whatever bro,” said Matt. “See ya Monday.” 

Fridays are for grabbing a beer on a patio so, instead of driving to work,  Andy rides the bus in the morning.  Post patio Andy loves looking out the window at the scenery from the back of the Uber and disconnecting. 

As the Uber waits at the light, Andy sees Jerry, the new guy coming out of the coin laundry, walking past the fast Cash place and going into the 2 for 1 pizza place. It’s pretty good pizza. But all they do is cut a regular piece into two pieces. Voilà: 2 for the price of 1!

Monday morning they couldn’t find the key to the Bobcat.

“Who the fuck has the key to the fuckin Bobcat?” 

“Try Fab fuckin Fields.”  

“He probably took the key Friday because he feared in a neighbourhood of homes averaging $4 million someone would steal his heavy machinery over the weekend just for kicks.”  

“If he arrives and we haven’t done jack shit he’s gonna fuckin lose it.” 

“Mother fucker.  Start offloading the interlock up to the top of the driveway.”  Fields was on his way.  Driving south from cottage country he saw the calls on his Bluetooth but didn’t answer on purpose.  

Using the wheelbarrow they were getting it done as if they had all just converted to being Amish.  Having pulled back a bit the chiffon floor to ceiling curtains in the living room, Mrs Moosavi was observing the chaos outside her home. 

“Mother fucker!  Start offloading the interlock up to the top of the driveway.”  

“Fuckin fields does this on purpose to reduce us to fuckin manual labour so he can justify not paying us more.  He is the master of ‘an accident – on purpose’.”

“It’s brilliant and sociopathic.”

“You think that is an exaggeration but you have to see that he sets himself up to be the hero.”

“Relax.  All I know is my paycheck arrives on time every two weeks.  Baboom.” 

Seeing that the two summer hires were setting the lines and had a handle on the task at hand Hector leaned on his rake.

“Andy, hermano, how’s your wife?”  Hector loves strategically dropping Spanish into his conversation.  

“What? Oh Ya she’s doin alright. Thanks for asking.” 

Hector was fishing for gossip because Andy didn’t usually offer up to much info about his family like the other guys did. 

It worked. 

Andy hesitated “My wife has serious menstrual cramps. They just knock her right out. So I can’t just sit there Friday afternoon at a bar drinkin beer while she has to get up and feed the kids dinner and keep them from destroying the place.” 

“Wow. That’s brutal.” 

“For her, ya. But Xochi must have to deal with that too,” said Andy. 

“Ya. She and her sister, apparently their cycles are synched or something so they just talk on the phone. I bring home chocolate and ice cream and she seems to get through it.”

“Hey guys, did you need anything?” asked Jerry encroaching on the supervisor bubble.

“Ya.  A medium double double and a French cruller,” said Hector.

“Ignore that ridiculous, brown gnome,” said Andy. 

“Thank you brother Andy.  Now. Jerry, when the Guiness Book of World Records comes searching for the smallest Canadian penis in the history of Canadian penises – you just point them in Andy’s direction, will ya?”  said Hector.

“Jerry-rig it for the moment brother.”

Not a chance!  Get the fuckin come-along,” said Matt.

They needed to hold the 40 foot white pine back at the side of the house to get the Bobcat into the backyard so they could resurface the pool area.  Since the client couldn’t peek out from the window to see what they were doing two of the crew said fuck it just yank on the tree and if it returns to its original position great; if not then Fields and his insurance can deal with it and yell at him later.

The three including Matt said no.  Either they said no because it was a lazy solution to a small problem.  Or they simply feared Fields’ rath once the customer complains.

“What he meant was to get Jerry to hold it.  He’s standing right behind you.”

“Ok Jerry.  If you’re the arborist in the family, what do you think?”

“I can make it happen.  We just need a couple boards and the hand saw and we will wedge the space open.  Also the ten foot ladder,” said Jerry. 

“Ok, Jerry.  Make it happen.  We’re gonna take lunch and need this ready when we come back.  Capiche?” said Matt who today was driving the Bobcat.

Driving to Tim Horton’s with nouveau riche mansions on either side there was a Filipino nanny wheeling a stroller and walking a schnauzer.  In this neighbourhood because nobody who actually owned a house walked on the street there were no sidewalks.  So the babies and their nanny’s walk in traffic.

“You know my neighbour got a ticket for not pickin up his dog’s shit”

“My neighbour was telling me he got a fine for not putting his dog on a leash.  Then he went on this rant saying that he was going to submit a proposal to Elon Musk.”  Matt told the story:

“You know what Elon Musk should do.  He should program his Nueralink chip to…

What is the fuck is a Neurolink chip my other neighboour asks.

Neuralink.  I corrected the guy.  You haven’t heard of this?  It’s another one of his big ideas to insert silicon chips into people’s heads to monitor their thoughts and help people with diseases like MS to be able to move because they think it, the first neighbours says.

So it can listen to your thoughts and do what you want. That sounds cool I said

Ya but the government is gonna want to listen to those thoughts too.  You know it’s only a matter of time said another neighbour as we stood there watching our dogs play in the dog park.  Anyway, back to my idea.  Have the chip geo identify with your home and then have posts, kinda like charging stations, at various points, like in parks around your municipality that you have to get within say 3 metres of every so many days.  Basically making you exercise – he says.” said Matt.

What if you have a broken leg – does the chip know that?  And you can’t make it.

“No you have to go,” Matt whips out his sarcasm.

“Ya, even when the snow is 2 feet deep.”

“What’s the point?”

“He is saying, my neighbour, that why penalise the people who actually are out there with their dogs getting fresh air and exercise.  Make the lazy twinkies get off their couches and take their beer belly for a walk to the park at least once a week.”  

“And if they don’t?”

“And if they don’t then he says there is an automatic fine of like $15- 20 bucks,” said Matt.

“Holy shit!” and they all laugh like the time Hector told them he was thinking of importing exotic birds from El Salvador.

“Big Brother doesn’t need our help.”  

“We need to shut your neighbour up!” said Hector.

“Shut im up or shut im down!”

“Ya he is a bit of a nut job,” said Matt 

“Ya think?!”

___

Jerry Rig is from the Short Story Series Tool by Kevin Mcnamara

Short Story – Odd Man Out

Photo by Kevin Grieve on Unsplash

“I’m gonna start my own home services company,” declares Oddie as he and Reggie load the morning batch of 2×4’s onto the forks of the loader to lift them up to the second floor to start framing up there. 

8 am on a chilly September morning, the summer heat has peaked and subsided.

Oddie imagines he is an angelic combination between Chris Rock and Lenny Kravtiz; funny and suave.  If you saw him you would probably think he looked more like a cross of Kevin Hart and Danny Devito; short and obtuse. 

Reggie, the ragged yet loyal employee, smirks out loud and pauses to straighten his back for a moment, 

“Right you are.”  The clean Spruce fragrance was a weird source of Reggie’s optimism over the years.  

Oddie stands for Odd Man Out which is the lengthy nickname the forming crew gave him in his first week.  They just had to look at him: his boots were too skinny, his hard hat was on crooked, his face was puzzled.  He just looked odd.  But he was quick on the job site.  

“That’s right.” 

“What’s your company called?

“I don’t know yet.  It’s a service that connects the trusty handyman with homeowners needing odd jobs.” said Oddie as if it already existed.

“Right,”  repeats a smug Reggie and turns to grab an armful of lumber. 

“What now?!” 

Reggie loved yankin this guy’s chain.  He gets so hot under the collar at the blink of an eye.  With his grey gloves he touched his left index finger to his right baby finger and started counting,

“First of all, you do know there are like at least 5 of those apps out there that provide those services and seconofall they have like, just a little bit of a head start on you.  Third they have millions in financial backing and…”

“And what?” 

And .. they aren’t you.”

“Meaning what?”

Reggie straightens up again and looks Oddie directly in the eyes and says nothing.

“Fuck you!” says Oddie.

“Right.” 

“I don’t care what you think.” Declares Oddie.

“You don’t want to care but you do,”  Reggie exhibits his clarity of mind as he straps on his tool belt..

“Fuck you, get to work,” Oddie orders Reggie

“Get to work, Fuck you”

Be original

“Hey Reggie, Gerry the site supervisor yelled from ground level, “Ya gotta sec?”  

Reggie undid his tool belt saying under his breath “What the hell does this dipshit want now?”

Gerry was squinting up at Oddie framing in a door as Reggie got down there.  Gerry starts speaking to Reggie while still looking up at the second floor. 

“You have to be weird and know it to get a nickname like Odd Man Out and live with it.

And that the shoe fits says everything.”

“He loves it.” said Reggie staring at the side of Gerry’s ugly head.  “We gave him a back door to being part of a team of foul mouthed framers and he took it,” 

“Are you a fucking psychologist?”

“The guy needs what you need.  He is shit at how to get it.  About the same as you are at dropping in a plumb door header.  That’s why they made you supervisor,” said Reggie.

As soon as Reggie heard Gerry say  “Listen Reg.”  His bullshit detector went off.

“I gotta bit of a situation.  Sandoval’s son needs a job and the office threw it in my lap.  You worked with him before, right?”

“That pip squeak would carry the same 2×4 from one end of the job site and hide on his phone for 30 minutes.  Then carry the same 2×4 to the other side and do the same thing all over again.”

“Ya well he got in some kind of trouble.  It’s either cars or drugs.  Maybe both.  Anyway the message from Sandoval is to keep him busy so they know someone is keeping an eye on him,”  then Gerry laughs as he reads the text message he received from the office this morning.  “So he learns the value of work.”  Gerry looked to his right for confirmation from Reggie but didn’t get it.

A wave of humility and appreciation ran through Reggie.  He realised what he already knew: that Rhonda, his wife, was his hero.  She had been super strict with their son and daughter and that is why Cherise their daughter was on academic scholarship at McMaster University and their son Malcolm was in grade 10 following in her footsteps. 

“He’s not the only one …”

“What’s that supposed to mean”

“Nothin”

“What can that miserable little shit do here without fucking up my job site.”

“Nothin.”

“Ya I know,” agreed Gerry. “Wait.  Let’s put em with good ol Oddie.”

“Let’s not.”

Gerry pulled a purple e-cigarette from his inside jacket pocket and hauled on it.

“Oddie and I have a decent rhythm if you hadn’t noticed.”

“Listen Reg …” Hearing that phrase again Reggie just turned to walk away.  “He starts tomorrow,”  Gerry yelled at Reggie’s back.

Ricky parked his 2022 metallic blue Jeep Rubicon beside the portapotty at 7:45 because he was afraid that his dad would take away the Jeep if he was late.  His dad was the owner of Sandoval Developments.  If the forming crew thought that Oddie looked out of place, Ricky looked like he was modelling for the Home Depot website.  Everything he wore was functional, just like Oddie and Reggie.

But the function for Ricky was to look good. New construction boots, tight hi-viz black sweatshirt with silver and yellow reflectors, shiny black hard hat with a Sandoval decal on the front, fresh yellow leather gloves and tinted safety glasses.  He never took his ear buds out.  He was instantly labelled Slick Rick.  Reggie loved how this clown brought comic relief to his day.

Oddie hated working for $24 per hour for some rich fuck.  He hated that the same rich fuck didn’t give a fuck for his own son.  He didn’t hold it against Slick Rick.  Oddie adopted him like a younger brother even though they were the exact same age.

“Bro, you’re holdin the hammer all wrong,” said Oddie.

“Ricky.  What did I tell you about holding the nail between your fingers?”

“Dude, did you even put your level on this stud.  From here I can see that the thing isn’t plumb.”

Wow.  Nice.  Look at that.  Fits perfect.  Reggie did you see?  Our man Slick Rick is good on the saw.” 

“Dude.  Look at me.”  Oddie schooled limp Rick on the reality of belief in yourself.  “Haven’t you realised that they think I am a freak.  They have more in common with you than they do with me,” said Oddie even though it wasn’t true.  As a young man lost at sea Ricky instinctively grabbed his phone to ground himself cyberspace.  

People didn’t understand Oddie’s sense of tribal inclusion.  In truth, neither did he.  He simply felt like we are all in this together.    Oddie had no reason to question because that was who he was. He also knew he needed to accomplish something everyday so he got some satisfaction.  He wanted to share this.  

Slick Rick was a textbook spoiled brat.  A tragic teenager.  His parents weren’t on the same page about children, marriage or money.  His mom’s love wasn’t going to magically make him into a man.  His absentee dad supplied everything but the intangibles.

Sandoval pulled up in a white Mercedes SUV to see how his son was being made into a man.  To get out of the vehicle would have been to break the macho archetype he loved more than his son.  The back seat tinted window came halfway down.  Ricky looked at Oddie, looked at his phone, undid his toolbelt and climbed down to talk to the tinted window.

Reggie and Oddie unabashedly stood at the edge of the second floor watching the father/son debacle.    

“For the last 15 or so years Sandoval has shown he doesn’t give a fuck about the well fare of his own son,” said Reggie. 

“Dude, we are providing a babysitting service to Richie Rich,” Oddie said to Reggie. “The fuckin father needs to know that.”  Reggie looked sideways at Oddie and said,

“You are not going to pity Richie Rich.  That’s not gonna pay your bills much less fulfil your  crazy dream of your Odd Man app.”

Oddie nodded at Reggie’s name for his odd jobs by a handyman app.

“Ya bro. Or do you want to be in the business of handy jobs?” Reggie laughed at his own joke.

Odd Man Out is from the short story series Tool by Kevin McNamara

Short Story – Duct Tape

Duct tape

‘Ya baby’ Joe says to himself.  Emerging from the forest he wipes sweat from his eyebrows as he slows from running to a walk.   Sitting on the bumper of his open trunk, he chugs water and scribbles the perceptions of the tree sap.    

On his forest runs, Joe duct tapes tree sap (today it was Blue Spruce) to his forehead,  wraps his head with his blue bandana and runs in the forest.   As he runs his heat starts to liquify the resin. Joe’s theory is he will absorb the essence, the history and the mineral of the sap.  Then he needs the grammar to be able to translate it.

~~~~~

‘Hey bro, I’m gonna take a shower.’  Felipe said when Joe opened the door to their apartment.

‘Wait.  What’s your problem? You’ve been in bed all fuckin morning and, unlike you, I have to work.  Why the fuck would you need to clean your shitty body right now?

~~~~~

‘Dude, I apologize.’  Joe said after showering first.  ‘I was in another space when I arrived because … whatever.  I’m sorry.’

‘Ok, Whatever.’  Felipe copied Joe. ‘ Are you off to work now?’

‘No, I am going to make lunch.  Are you going to shower?’ Asked Joe.

‘No’

‘What?!  ‘When I got in I thought you were going to shower.’

‘The moment … passed.’  Felipe said.

‘Don’t tell me.  You’re hungry for the food I make.  But you’re not hungry for the food you don’t make.’  Joe grilled his roommate.

Felipe accessed his go-to guilt mongering moves:  slow shoulder shrug, meekly look to the floor. 

~~~~~

A month after kicking Felipe out Joe’s new roommate would be a friend of Sarah’s (one of Joe’s first clients).  Irena was arriving in town in 2 or 3 weeks.  She already had work and just needed a place to live.  Felipe only took his belongings so Joe paid to dispose of the mattress but left the desk and chair in the hope of saving the world from another Allen key assembled desk and bookshelf.  

‘Here is first and last month’s rent.’   Irena said, ‘Holding out her hand with twelve one hundred dollar bills.’  

Walking up with a bunch of clothes on hangers, Irena’s dad locked eyes with Joe, ‘All good?’  Joe nodded too many times, too quickly thinking he had been seen checking out the guy’s daughter.

~~~~~

‘Hey, what are you listening to?’  Asks Irena as she comes in from her night shift and Joe happens to be putting away his grocery shopping (for the last hour).

‘That’s some early The Weeknd’

‘It’s a little whiny.’  Tests Irena.

‘The guy is talented. 

Within a week of Irena moving in the apartment smelled so fresh it made Joe think of getting flowers but that would have been weird.  He would put down his phone just to hear Irena walk from the shower to her room.  Joe didn’t want to jeopradize the reliable rent but his body was crushing with lust for Irena.  Joe was slow.  Irena had picked up on that signal weeks ago.

‘Irena, I think we both know that I think you’re hot.’ Joe knew now he had to shut his stupid mouth.  And wait what feels like millions of seconds.  Wait like an idiot or speak like a moron.

Irena’s radiance fills their 2 bedroom apartment.

‘Ya I agree.’  Irena talking tough, delayed a second, ‘ I’m pretty hot.’  Irena demures through her eyebrows; and then they both break out laughing.

‘You wanna go to the Mexican place up the street for a bite?’

‘Who me?’  Plays Irena.

‘No, with my assistant coach from peewee hockey!’

Walking into the headwind on Hitchens Street North Joe hugged Irena to his side.  

~~~~~

At times Irena’s shift work coincided with Joe’s night cleaning contracts.  It worked when the frolicking couple wanted to be together.  Joe surprised himself how he shared with Irena his deepening engagement with nature.

‘While you are working with doctors helping people I am barely learning to work with nature.  It’s a whole education.  The forest is a university.’  You know what I mean?’  Joe asked.

From the simple lexicon of willingness to love and be loved Irena said. ‘Yes.’

~~~~~

‘Mmmm, I love that pine scent – so sweet, vibrant and earthy.’  Irena inhaled the pebble of red pine sap she rolled in her fingers.

Joe thanked the tree for the sap then pulled a small piece off.  He stuck the duct tape with the nugget of sap to Irena’s forehead.’

‘Weirdo.’  Joe said, smiled at her with a cross-eyed look and kissed her.

‘Ok captain.’  Says Irena knotting her pink bandana and pumping her legs.  ‘Let’s heat up some of your sap.’  

In the autumn afternoon facing the forest, Joe speaks, 

‘I have no idea what this sap contraption does but it just has become my ritual between me and the forest.

He stood erect, shoulders back, vision focused deep into the forest for 10 seconds, and with a slight nod of his head, they entered the forest.

 ~~~~~

Joe is shaken.  ‘What?’  

‘Why not?’

‘Why not.’  Said Joe scared shitless to go out into the forest at night.

‘You are awake anyway, neither of us are working so let’s do it.’  Irena said

‘We can take a thermos.’ Joe rallied.

The trees having surrendered most of their leaves to the cycle of the seasons allowed them to take in a wide swath of stars.  Sat on a long shelf of river shale they wrapped themselves in the red wool blanket as they cupped their steaming tea.

‘I need to be different.’   Joe said

Irean looks at Joe sideways, ‘Don’t worry buddy, you are plenty different.  Which is plenty sexy.’

‘No.’  Says Joe ruining the moment. ‘Irena, my point is I need to not be my dad.’

‘You aren’t.  You won’t be.’

‘I can’t do that to you.’

‘We won’t let that happen.’

‘I can tell your dad is a big bad ghost lurking in your past.  Still I wouldn’t mind meeting him – so I can know you better.  So I can see where he finishes and you take off.’  Irena said.

‘It’s not like I am in a fight with my dad.’ Joe winced. ‘I don’t even know if he is alive.

‘My dad took me on my first fishing trip when I was like 6 or 7 years old.  He yanked me out of school and we went up to a cabin on the French River for almost the whole week.  My mom was furious he didn’t take her anywhere mid week on the spur of the moment.  One night when we finished dinner in the main lodge and got back to the cabin it was pitch black.

‘Where’s your tackle box boy?’  

‘I don’t know. Isn’t it here?’

‘I don’t see it.  Are you calling me blind?’

‘No, daddy, no.’

Well if it isn’t here where daya think it is hiding?’

‘Did I take it to the main lodge after I tied up the boat?’

‘Damn good question.  You gotta keep track a your gear.  The fish aren’t gonna’ do that for you.’  

‘What do I do?’  asked a trembling Joey hoping his dad would offer to look for it together.

‘You do what any good angler does.’  Joey’s dad stood with his back towards him and said, ‘He finds his gear before someone else does.’  

‘Where is the flashlight?’ asked Joey.

‘It’s in your tackle box?’ He lied.

‘So,’  Joe said looking into Irena’s eyes, ‘I walked towards the lights of the main lodge but my tackle box wasn’t there.  I was scared shitless because I had to go down to the dock.  There was no light.   I nearly kicked the tackle box into the water.  It was on the dock beside our rented boat.

So that kind of ruined any nighttime wilderness adventure for me – till now.  Till you.’ 

Irena readjusted their blanket and caressed Joe’s hand as she breathed in every ounce of the moment.

‘You know what my dad said before he left the day I moved in?’  Asked Irena.

‘I have no idea.  But he did give me the once over when we were unloading your stuff.  By his reaction I think he felt you had nothing to worry about.’  Joe said.

‘Meaning what?’

Meaning that there was no way a woman like you would be interested in a schmoe named  Joe.’

‘Maybe.  Or maybe he could tell you weren’t a prick.  And that I was safe.’

Joe loved the breath he was breathing, ‘You are safe.’

Irena laid her head on his shoulder and her imagination went to work.

After a few magic minutes, ‘Hey, what did you mean by a woman like you ?

‘A total babe with beautiful brown eyes; not afraid of the dark and not afraid to duct tape sap to her forehead.‘

In The Meantime

Photo by Content Pixie on Unsplash

Yesterday walking up the moist front steps Tammy sniffed some mineral earthy air that her memory associated with the white quartz.  

‘Let’s rent a car.  Take the day off.’ Tammy offers Malik to agree with her fresh idea as she walks in the front door.

Malik stands up straight from his work desk, takes in a big breath and looks her dead in the eyes.

‘Tammy ..?’ His voice, simply saying her name, went through a 2 – part process of getting her attention with a strong ’T’ and dipping at the end trying to bring her back to earth.  Her spontaneous whims always threw him for a loop.  What’s wrong with planning? He says with his eyes.

‘Malik ..?’A It’s-all-part-of-the-package look was how she responded to his need for a plan.

After a two hour drive out of town the next morning they set off on a five km hike into the forest following the curving river lined with attentive cedar and spruce.  On the riverbank the cedars’ gnarly roots suction themselves to the iron infused sedimentary rock that frames the river.  On the forest side of the river bank tree roots delve quickly into the forest floor littered with spongy, green rock cap moss.

It’s a good 5 degrees cooler under all the verdant trees where the river quickly narrows and drops four feet through the effervescent rapids.  Just past the brief rapids as the river widens again slightly is a massive white quartz.   Although radiant and striking, it is so ensconced in the place it can be confusingly easy to miss. Tammy can’t remember how they found out about it.  Malik remembers and relishes holding the mystery. 

A mystery that the quartz holds is its size.  The carpet of bright green moss acts like a receding hairline on the top and also grows on one side hiding where the quartz meets the riverbank rock.  The outlines of the massive white boulder hinted that the beautiful crystal extended some metres beyond what was visible.   In his enthusiasm to find out how far it reached Malik confused it with the pockets of snow clinging to winter under the tree skirts; playing hide and seek with the invigorating rays of the spring sun.  

They came to dwell with the quartz, to remain in its presence, seeking to be transported deeper within and higher up.  The quartz made you wonder. Wonder with confidence. Wonder up.   The massive cool fresh quartz engages you as if you were on time and up to speed on your life trajectory.  It draws your truth out of you.

They agreed to eat lunch in an hour and served themselves some steaming tea.  They sat cross-legged on their yoga mats 10 metres apart on the river bank.  Once settled in, breathing and clear of mind Malik found his faculties subtly intrigued.  He was being pulled to grasp what was going on:  it was the rapids.  As the rapids bounced the water all over the place, they were challenging the river, asking the river how important the flow of water was to it.  The river, regaining its composure a few metres downriver, always answered the same:  I may bend but I will never break.   

Tammy didn’t like a sudden burst of her bubble of connection when they were in nature.  Malik knew that.  But the words just popped out.

‘I don’t think nature…,’ Proposed Malik, impacted by the electrical wash of the huge quartz. ‘… knows the concept of: in the meantime.’  Hearing himself speak he realised he had broken the connection bubble but for him this was a pretty deep thought so he just kept going. ‘Nature is always in the here and now…never waiting… endlessly passionate.’  Malik liked how his poetic kites floated into the early afternoon cool air.  Soaking up the moment with his sense of transcendence he sought, Malik breathed in deeply.  

Tammy, chill, aware and reflective in the robust, rewarding afternoon was shaken by Malik’s declarations.  Hearing him utter in the meantime jolted her out of her cozy emotional vacation and dropped her into an unsettling mental state.  Tammy went from cupping the thermos cup of green tea to strangling it.

In six year old Tammy’s mind meantime was what she called the episodes of her parents arguing.  She instinctively recoiled under her bed in her and Shelly (her half-sister’s) room. Her bookshelf was empty.  Her story books were in piles under her bed.  Tammy lay among the dust bunnies and socks turning pages until the yelling and screaming stopped.   She found a corporeal focus that completely blocked out life in the meantime.   Fifteen  year old Shelly wasn’t around so much so Tammy ended up being the flag bearer of her own safety.  It seemed her parents first had to be mean to each other before they could approach her smiling saying:‘Don’t worry sweetie, come out from under there. Everything is going to be ok. Mommy is happy.’  Nine months and two police visits later there was no more meantime.

Final Excerpt of short story – The Coffin

Photo by Roseanna Smith on Unsplash


His husband love got overtaken by business.  In the moment he justified his focus on growing the business.  And his children’s inheritance will prove he was successful – was his mental argument he would have with himself, as he raked leaves or swept the driveway – as a way to  assuage the discomfort of regret.

Gord felt he didn’t have the connection with his children for the same reason as when they were growing up he was growing his business.  Selling plumbing supplies came easier to him than being there for his children.  It wasn’t that he didn’t want to be there. It’s that if he didn’t grow his business no one else would.  Plus this business put food on the table and would pay for university as long as he kept his foot on the gas and didn’t let up. 

‘There are different kinds of love, sweetheart!’  Gord remembers growling over his shoulder at Linda.  His teeth were clenched down hard perhaps in an attempt to not let these silly words out.  He can see it now.  They were in their bedroom one Saturday morning when he was getting ready for work instead of taking Phil to hockey practice and teaching Martha to skate and buying the groceries with Sue.

‘Of course there are different kinds of love.’  Linda was paused by her absolute frustration that her good husband still didn’t get it.’  That’s the point!’  Linda schooled Gord looking him right in the eyes as he buttoned his shirt.  Linda’s abstention from swearing gave her message that much more ummph.  She was no longer in an argument with him but had already transported herself to how it was going to feel in the car later that morning as she drove Phil to Saturday morning hockey practice instead of his dad. Gord could feel Linda’s disappointment but he couldn’t somehow say he was sorry.  Because, he told himself in the moment some 35 years ago, he wasn’t sorry because he was supporting his family.  This memory, and others, were the life recordings that went through Gord’s mind as he would slowly sweep the clean front walk of its minimal weekday dirt.  

In the few years since the death of his wife Gord had this urge to connect with his family so they know their unique value.  Therefore his anchored vision project.  Yes it would have been easier to say he loved them.  And that if he had failed in some ways as a father he was sorry.  But that would have been like the first route he walks in the mornings: short and simple and gets the job done without complications.

Mercifully Gord heard the toilet flush all the way down the hall which yanked him out of his swamp of regret. 

‘It’s all very spiritual and transformative and, and, and earthy.’  Cedar vibrated her hands at her sides as she sat back down to show Gord how she was impacted by their chat.

‘Yes but without the sweat lodge.’  Gord fake laughs quickly. ‘ Or if you want the sweat lodge go for it.  That was never my thing.’  Gord was trying to be funny in case he was coming on too strong.

‘What was your thing GG?’ Cedar asked, using her position as the preferred grandchild to be so direct.

‘I …’  Gord’s shoulders briefly pumped up and down as he gazed out the kitchen window looking out over the driveway and leaned back into his personal journey.

‘My thing would be whatever my thing was at the time.  One thing at a time.  When your grandmother was sick, that was my thing.  When I started my business, that became my thing.  When each child was born, that was my thing.  But, as the years went on, with each child it was less of a thing.’  Gord paused and looked into Cedar’s eyes because Cedar’s mother Martha was his third and last child.  They could both feel that this could be taken to mean that her mother’s  birth and existence amounted to less than the birth of her two older siblings.  

“You mom being the third wasn’t loved less by any means.  There was just, I don’t know, more going on and as parents we weren’t petrified as we were when your uncle Phil was born.’ 

Cedar was the third child as well.  By 7 minutes.  Her twin brother Red went to the light before she did.  

Was I less of a thing? Cedar had never even thought of it.  In the moment she felt good about being a twin, or having Red as her twin because of how it echoed her existence.  Gord saw her face quickly disappear inside of herself but didn’t grasp she was cherishing her birth not feeling any anger for getting the bronze medal.  She was very happy to be on the podium.

‘You and Red were born at the same time so you were a big deal.  A lot of diapers.  Jack loved being your older brother, he was like a mini dad organizing your toys, helping you walk.

‘Actually when your mom told me she was having twins I thought it was great.  But then she said, I have to confirm it with the doctor.  And that always stuck with me.  How did she know?  Now Gord was lost inside his mind where fireworks were going off of beautiful family memories.  And then, as it had come to be a recent habit, it circled quickly back around to Linda.

‘Your grandmother always loved the whole mystery of giving a child a name.  It gave her joy and energy so for me I couldn’t see how others saw it as overbearing or imposing.  Anyway it would be an innocent imposition.  She would bring her little notebook and look into her child’s eyes for a clue – then look to the sky for inspiration. She really loved doing it and thought it was her role to participate.   Martha says it was the only time she saw her mother write.  That wasn’t true.  Martha just felt that they were her children and she, plus her husband, had the ability to name them.’  

‘So how did she know?’  Prompted Cedar for more information on her mother being a young mother.  She wanted to admire her mom as the young, dynamic woman she could see in family photos before she was transformed into a bossy mom.

‘Know what?’

‘That she was pregnant with twins?’  The juicy confessional type of conversation with GG was so novel and satisfying.

‘I didn’t really capture that.  Martha came up with your names before your grandmother could really process that there would be twins and get her motor running, so to speak, on what could be possible matching names.  And truth be told, the names Red and Cedar that your mom had already come up with were so far off Linda’s screen that, well there was nothing to say really.’’

‘So my mom came up with the idea for our names?’  Cedar couldn’t remember asking and hadn’t really ever wanted to get into it.  Her brother had a bit of a hard time because his name was Red but as life would have it Cedar got the red hair of the two.  It confused people that a guy named Red didn’t have red hair but he had a twin sister who did.  So they would get bullied in high school.  That’s what teenagers do when they are presented with something that is beyond their grasp.  They would stand up for each other but he was basically a wimp so he got brushed aside.  Guys would even just hug him instead of beating on him.  Beating on Red was so easy, it was comical.  

As a result, sometimes they would play down they were twins, and a few times even siblings.  There was no abandonment of one by the other.  It was actually an effective teenage social strategy.  It was a way to avoid ridicule.  They would retreat into the fact that they were twins born Geminis.  Twins squared.  It made no difference to anyone who wasn’t them but it just made the route to get to them emotionally more convoluted so it provided an extra layer of protection.  

But in the same breath, in high school her name gave her a way to sound different.  Which she liked because it mirrored the way she felt.  It also spiced up how she dressed and helped her come into her own style.  Tall with her long, wavy red hair she took on a Boho look that seemed to work for her.  

‘I remember your mom saying that she loved the red cedar trees because…’  Gord started.

‘Wait GG.  Actually, I think I will ask my mom about our names.  If you don’t mind.’  Even though she was eagerly soaking up the downloading of family history from her grandfather she stopped him.  

‘We haven’t avoided the conversation, we just made sure we never had it.’  Cedar explained to her grandfather.  As it came out of her mouth she could hear how lame it sounded, but it was basically true.

Cedar was glad she had dragged their good-byes outside because in that way it broke the proximity of the two of them that had grown around the kitchen table.  She didn’t want a hug so Cedar fumbled with buttoning her coat moving toward the door.  Cedar skipped down the stairs and they waved good-bye.   Cedar put in her ears buds as she turned right to catch the bus uptown.   As Gord stood on his front steps breathing the cooling November evening Cedar was reconnecting with the sound track of her generation.  Gord, GG, dad, daddy, hesitated.  He stood on the front steps of his fully paid off house, where 3 beautiful children knew innocence  and joy; where Linda, his wife would bring each of them home from the hospital and nurture them with sincere service that inspired and humbled Gord.

Waiting till after Cedar had turned the corner he then headed back to his garage.   The same garage where he started his plumbing business.  The same garage that was his first warehouse for his plumbing supply business.    This old man was in a negotiation with his own shoulders to determine if he walked back with the hunched shoulders of a defeated man who had nothing better to do than to test drive his coffin.  Or if he was an aging man engaging the role of elder as he addressed mortality with humility/fear/awe/respect.   

Gord was comfortable in his coffin.  It was only the second time he had laid down in it. He kind of felt like a Formula 1 driver slipping into their sleek race car. He had used his yellow measuring tape to get his height and width and depth.  Then he added 6 inches to each measurement.  It was snug, not cramped. 

Burn My Coal!

Photo by Casey Horner on Unsplash

Our collective human race behaviour imposes a pervasive impact on the well being of planet Earth. 

If someone insults us or a loved one we become instantly indignant.  Can we overlay that indignance onto our role in the quality of life of the planet?  Can we use our emotion for how we want to be treated and share it with the planet?  It might cause us to elevate our action of compassion.

If I said to you that someone is really ‘burning my coal’ what does that mean?

It means my past is being made more important than the present and the future.  

Let’s back up a little bit.  60 Million years, more or less.  Coal used to be a tree.  The coal we burn is getting power from dead plants and animals.   That tree died and during decomposition mixed with other ingredients as it was covered by successive layers of organic life.  

Plant Some Trees – Burn Less Coal 
Breathe More Air – Live Your Life

That tree is now participating in the transition of carbon into petroleum.  To us that petroleum is used for gas to run our cars, tires so our cars can move/planes can fly, our plastic pill bottles, synthetic fibres in clothes and vaseline.

To the planet, what is petroleum?  As we keep withdrawing petroleum from the viscera of the planet – her temperature has risen?  What’s the correlation?  Is it the burning of carbon that is the reason?  Well, we can say yes.  

Without diminishing the need to transition to renewable energy sources there is also another consideration.  That the planet had its own carbon offset program – by design.  More accurately the planet had control of its own thermostat by being able to cool itself.

Is it possible that the planet’s ability to remain cool has been impacted by the extraction of her coolant?  Is it possible?  We don’t even know?  

Perhaps petroleum is to the planet what HFC 134 (this gas replaced freon) is to your fridge.  Perhaps petroleum is to the planet what freon is to your air conditioner in your house.  Imagine your car on a hot summer day with the windows up and you have a leak in the hose from the condenser to the vents in your car.  It’s going to heat up pretty quickly.

Perhaps petroleum is to the planet what blood is to your heart. Imagine your heart with diminished blood flow?  That’s called a heart attack.  Is it possible that is what we are thrusting upon the planet?  Cardiac arrest!  We don’t even know?!

Let’s plant some trees so we can breathe fresh air.   Let’s use our past as a foundation for perception about what tomorrow needs.  Let’s align our satisfactions in our current Life Stage with our many communities (family, marriage, business, soul, body).  This way we can translate perception accurately so our actions today are congruent with a human development journey.  By definition a development journey is congruent with respecting the Great Mother, planet Earth.

Update Yourself With The Significance Of Your Name

Photo by David Clode on Unsplash

Before the butterfly can fly it was first born as something very different: a leaf munching caterpillar. Although they are the same creature they show very different natures. The caterpillar is pedestrian and the butterfly graceful. The caterpillar cocooned itself with the genetic knowing it will be reborn into a colourful butterfly. The beautiful butterfly is reliant upon the survival of the slow caterpillar. All three stages (caterpillar, cocoon, butterfly) are equally and uniquely valid.

As we grow our lives are layered with the residue of our experiences.  Each of the three names can accrue a greater potency as we learn which of those experiences direct us in the direction we want to go.  As we grow we discover how best to work in the world, refine what we want and how to live accordingly.

When you seem to have an unclarity of what you want or how to get it, that is a good time to reflect on your resources.  Or if  there is a feeling of having lost direction or connection it is time to pause.   It is very useful to review the role of each life within you that each of the three names represent.  As you grow so does the pertinence of your history.  As a child life decisions were made for you.  Now as an adult you make them.  This updating process  highlights the value of your attitude and vision to extract meaning from your past and apply it to your development.

This process of updating helps to find purpose in the daily striving and the life long journey.  It can take a load off of you in the moment to see the continuity of your life and harvest the life lessons and crystalize emotion of your experiences.  There is healing available in case we need to reframe a difficult childhood.   With a view to update your youth that now supports a development journey we can convert that difficult childhood from a wound into a strength. It can become the forging of a knowing that no matter the situation you find yourself in you bring unique value to the moment.  

In the wake of peace from 15 minutes of meditation or walking in nature consider the following:

Foundation Name – The function of your family growing up, companionship in school and playing/sports/trips, learning new skills. – Breathe in the reality that those experiences support your growth now.

Synthesis Name – The importance of your unique way of upholding the human experience including: your style, sense of humour, attention to detail.  Know that this is your fingerprint on the energy of life that you attract by the fact of your initiative and your human pedigree.

Mystery Name – Being creative with ways to stay curious about the pathways of energy: in the mind, of your high emotions, of the planet Earth and beyond.  This elevates into clarity of what is happening in the moment as it is unto itself (as opposed to things are happening to you).  This means you can load your elder life with your desire to be of service to your communities

In the updating process we will likely have many memories that make us happy, sad, angry and long for days gone by.  We can take advantage of the awesome attribute of the mind called memory.  It causes us to picture and feel our life history.  We can generate appreciation for those times and make them into the strength of our foundation for what we as an adult and elder want to do and be.  We can be grateful for the functioning of the body and its faculties for their accuracy of functioning in constant support of our life. 

The Evolution of Your Name

Photo by mostafa meraji on Unsplash

I think my parents were going to name me Catherine if I was a girl.  If their child had been born a girl or had been given a different name, the same fundamental process of life still awaited the baby.  The name we use to identify ourselves is a label more for the other people in life than for oneself.  

Your name might resonate with you, as it fits your personality.  Your name might be the same as your dad and implying you are the junior version of him.  This is looking at names from a management or cultural view point.

Thinking about names from a viewpoint that humans are on a development journey that requires us to respond to many influences from the planet, people and unseen sources of energy.  These unseen sources include the energetic changes that are associated with each new stage in life.  We are quite possibly a very different person within a few years of having passed the threshold of youth into adulthood.  

Some cultures have their elders provide a ‘sacred name’ to the child to be a reminder and guide throughout their life.  Along those lines below are ideas for taking charge of your own name and thus your life.

The name you are given

Child – What you are called – the name your parents gave you.  Recognize and appreciate the foundation that resides in that name that provides the leverage for your growth as a man.  This is your Foundation Name.  It encapsulates your birth, your hunger for learning, your child’s love of life and the awkwardness of growing into your body and identity.  This name stays with you through all of life’s stages.  It is like a fresh mountain stream that is the clean source of your memories.  It is the holding name for your initial connection with your life’s trajectory and your authenticity with that signal.  

The name you choose

Adult – What you want – the name that you decide reflects your synthesis of the inner and outer experiences, feelings and sensations.  This is your Synthesis Name.  You are a nexus of so many currents and threads, stages and lives, directions and levels, needs and wants.  All of this is happening while you are tasked with being an integral member of many communities that include your marriage, family, neighbourhood, manhood, soulhood and a passenger on planet earth.  Synthesising is you thriving in the moment of the current life stage you are living so that you derive satisfaction from how you live everyday life.  That way your wife does not become responsible for your lack of satisfaction you feel because you were too busy with paternal/family/professional responsibilities.  Then, as an elder you have a sense of accomplishment and of having contributed to the learning, growth and development of your communities. 

The name that chooses you

Elder – What you represent – to the continuance of the human story, to your communities, to the planet, to your soul accompanying your spirit into the universe.  Your significance to the planet may be difficult to know while you are in the middle of striving in daily life to make a living and find meaning.  So that name can be elusive.  And that is why it is called the Mystery Name.  Even if we don’t know what is always happening it is important to highlight the ideas and qualities that you feel resonate with your Mystery Name.  This sensitivity to recognize what fits with this next stage of life is a real challenge that can be frustrating and seemingly have no progress.  As you encounter success, challenges and failures in all stages of life you are in an ongoing process of consciously sowing the seeds of your eldership.

Seek and Offer with Liz Taylor

In addition to her Foundation for AIDS and more than 40 movies plus television shows, the generational movie star Liz Taylor squeezed in 8 marriages from 7 husbands.  This shows Liz Taylor was into recycling before most people on your block.

In her personal life Liz Taylor sought what her heart petitioned.  To love and be loved; to receive and be received. In a personal relationship Ms. Taylor offered insecurity (when you are a good friend of Michael Jackson your life currency includes high frequency ego)  and warmth.  In a man she sought not only romance but a source of stability.  She had a need which she felt would be satisfied by a solid relationship.  Taylor wanted a marriage strong enough to support her as a woman yet flexible enough to be able to handle the whims and intrusions of Hollywood. 

In the classic movie Cat On A Hot Tin Roof Taylor plays the empathetic yet tempestuous wife to Paul Newman as her failing husband.  The 1958 movie could have been called ‘Lost and Found’.  Newman’s character Brick Pollitt was lost in life and Taylor’s Maggie desperately wanted him found in her life; in her heart.

What you seek is almost certainly available in the person you seek it in.  Ms Taylor probably found some of what she was seeking in Richard (twice) at some point, Conrad, Mike and Michael.  After the proverbial honeymoon was over they may or may not have wanted to offer it up to her.  Once she felt her man couldn’t, or wouldn’t, offer Liz what she wanted then she needed to look for it elsewhere.  In one of her marriages it was only a matter of months before Taylor’s marriage had become unfulfilling . Although it makes sense that when the love is gone then why stay married, but it would be costly in divorce lawyers.  

Maybe Liz didn’t know how to ask to be loved the way she wanted to be loved.  Maybe the men she chose weren’t up to the job.  A few of her relationships definitely were complicated by drugs and alcohol. 

Unfortunately a common conundrum for a man is not knowing how to love his wife.  He wants to but can’t understand what expression that takes.  Love gets contorted by our handling of the emotional unpacking of our inner lives, life stages and development urges, professional success, physical health.  So it is easy to understand how two confused adults can fail in a relationship.  Especially if they had no guidance from their parents.

Without simple yet deep conversation sprinkled with wisdom we end up with men who are in fact lost with no idea what they seek and what they offer.  That is frustrating for everyone.  And can be dangerous because the man can think anytime he is being asked to do something it is because he has done something wrong.  Which is incorrect.  He is being asked because it is his responsibility to participate in a relationship and family.  

Also, if he is being asked it says he is capable and can be relied upon based on what he offers as a man.  We get this good reputation by doing a lot of small things, day after day.  This repetitive signal that upholds our marriage is a practical way to seek love.  As we grow and learn we can refine our seeking.  Refining our seeking means that we use our experience and intuition to know where, when and how to seek.  It means that our spouse can feel that embedded in our seeking is an offering of love and support for her as a woman.

What you seek can be found in what you offer.  It’s almost like saying you already have what you seek – you just want it reflected back to you.  And is reflected back to but just like in a mirror, it is reversed and is based on what your spouse seeks.  You seek honesty and so your spouse delivers the truth; you seek happiness and your spouse offers laughter; you seek companionship and your spouse offers you conversation.

If you don’t get what you seek then perhaps before pointing a finger it is to ask if it is clear to you what you seek and offer.  That can be as simple as writing it down on a piece of paper:  3 things you seek in your relationship and 3 things you offer to your relationship.  Is one contingent upon the other?  Yes and no.  It isn’t tit for tat at the moment.  We all have to put up with our spouse in the bad days and relish the good days.  And they provide you the same service.  However a living relationship needs the give and take of seek and offer to have a flow between both people that continue to define and refine their mechanism  for loving and being loved.   

By persisting in what you offer to your wife, offering her safety and your sentiment for her happiness, it will help define what you seek.  Meaning you know what you want as a man and as a husband that is valid unto itself while at the same time strengthening the marriage.  This requires understanding what satisfies you as a man and making yourself responsible for it.  This involves learning what fulfills your spouse and supporting her in that endeavour.  You seek being loved and someone to love.  

Obviously not at all costs.  With dignity for the person and their stage in life. 

Simple ‘Sistem’ To Write Your Own Story

The message is simple – the execution not so much.

Robert Downey Jr. is Peter Highman in the 2010 movie Due Date. He ends up in a car travelling with the ideosyncratic Ethan Tremblay played by Zach Galifiniakis.

The movie is painfully hilarious. It showcases the talent of both Downey and Galifinakis. I imagine the director Todd Philips gave them a clear idea of where he each scene needed to get to and then let the actors loose.

Downey has had a very successful acting career becoming well known for the Iron Man trilogy. It feels good to see him accepting he is so talented and sharing those talents. It feels even better knowing he had to get over some pretty serious addiction issues at a young age. After being in and out of prison as a result of his reckless lifestyle he finally was able to rehab himself and re-construct his life and career.

No doubt he had to ask forgiveness from his wife and of himself.

As highlighted in the book Satisfaction (link below) an effective way to forgive, yourself or others, is to move on. To have something better to do than regret the past. To connect to some task that is stronger than the pull of bitterness from feeling hard done by. To rise above the inability for personal growth in the moment and accept that we can always be growing.

A very concise and effective mindset to participate in writing your own story is the Sistem Mindset.

Quite simply it is: Resist – Insist – Persist.

Resist the lower levels of life that want to rob you of your energy. That means resist pettiness, revenge, grudges, assumptions.

Insist on dignity. Yours. Theirs. Of a man. Of a woman. That means asking questions to understand why. This is coupled with finding a way to be understood for what you want.

Persist in growing. Grow as a man, as a family member, as a professional, as a human. This means knowing your focus is valuable (which is why Facebook/Google make so much money off their ads) and put it where it gives you a fulfilling result. Persist daily in your morning routine. Wonder out loud what is possible – you never know what your wife or children might have in mind. Read a book you already read to see what you didn’t grasp the first time; investigate on line classes, minimize something from your diet you know isn’t good for you and introduce a new vegetable you haven’t tried before.

Who knows what these three pronged Sistem might cause in your life.

The thing is the more we Persist in growing the easier it can be to Insist and Resist.

Link for the book Satisfaction: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1777691109

The New You Series – Advice – Guidance and Wisdom

There is a well known adage that perhaps was coined by Confucoius or is alluded to in the Bible.  Either way it goes like this:

‘Give a man a fish and he eats for a day. Teach a man to fish and he eats for a lifetime.’

It would appear to hold true. This is very much the Rich Dad/Poor Dad juxtaposition.

Perhaps, in hindsight, there is a line missing:

Forget to demand respect for the planet from the man and he will destroy fish stocks and end up giving his children farmed fish full of chemicals. 

Let’s look at the adage through the lens of: Advice, Guidance and Wisdom.

At the level of advice is ‘give a man a fish’

At the level of guidance is ‘teach him to fish’

At the level of wisdom is ‘demand respect, from yourself and others, on behalf of the planet’  

Advice

Is for guys

Application is to work life, guy life, ego buoyancy, for not looking stupid, to the now

Forms of Advice – tips, sayings, phrases, guyisms, answers, encouragement

Advice provides timely ideas for someone to make decisions to get results.

Advice for any person, at any age in any stage in life.  It is useful to daily life and can stand the test of time. 

Provenance – brain

Relevance – bridging the moment with what you want

Photo by Anaya Katlego on Unsplash


Guidance 

Guidance is for men.

Application – Guidance is a resource for learning to deal with fear, for growing awareness, for understanding others, for facing the future.

Forms of Guidance – story, map, the legend on a map, questions, challenges

Guidance hints at the man you become if you listen to it and let it impact your life

Provenance – heart

Relevance – love, the need to love and be loved

Photo by JD Mason on Unsplash

Wisdom

Is for The New You,

Application is for participation in service to something bigger than you, curiosity and reflection

Forms of Wisdom – crystalized, dense yet light in its transmission, mysterious and confusing and settling

Wisdom is the language of the instinct talking about finding meaning and integrating it into life

Provenance – soul

Relevance – magnetizing to the truth and electrifying to action

Practice all 3 (Advice – Guidance – Wisdom): Know the difference so advice doesn’t get passed off as guidance; and wisdom doesn’t get reduced to guidance.

Demand advice from your peers, guidance from your parents and wisdom from your elders.

Tidy: Profile of The New You

Photo by Scott Blake on Unspla

“Hey”

Turning left out of the restaurant, MJ and I walk south along John Street.  I know I hear some running footsteps but, so what.  You never know who is asking for something so I put my arm around MJ’s shoulder and keep walking.

“Excuse me”

I look over my shoulder between me and  MJ and see this guy waving his hand and running towards us.  The guy was wearing black pants, a white shirt and a knee length white apron.  It’s our waiter from the restaurant.  Maximum 25 years old as he ran with ease towards us.

“Crazy” the waiter says, landing a few slow down steps as he reaches us.

“Look.”  He only takes two breaths to speak normally after a 2 block sprint.

“I think the bills stuck together.  I don’t think you meant to leave a $40 tip on a $29 tab.”  The waiter tentatively offers two twenty dollar bills.  The bills were probably just printed and put into circulation.  I had just got them out of the bank machine earlier in the day.

“I thought they felt funny.” I say putting my hand out tentatively as the waiter goes about half way.  

“Thank you very much.”  I extend my appreciation and my hand to receive my overpayment.  

“Right on.” Waiter says. There is a brief gap in the moment; and then he spins to jog back to the restaurant.  MJ  and I look at each other.

“Wow.  You don’t see that too often.  Someone running 2 blocks to give you money you didn’t know was yours.  Actually, in the moment I thought to give him 1 of the twenties.”

MJ says “I could tell you hesitated.  You could’ve.”      

Standing in the same place, slowly folding the 2 twenties, I look at MJ and declare “That’s honesty”.   Feeling proud to have been a part of that street vignette, I almost feel I deserve some of the credit.

MJ holds my gaze for a moment, then she says “That’s tidy.” 

TIDY

Tidy is living life with minimal loose ends.

Tidy is not military.  It is clarity of scope of any intention.

Scope refers to what you are going to do when and how.

How refers to the quality of your work and ‘the 2-stage hand off’.

The first stage of the ‘hand off’ is you receiving from the previous person what you said you needed in order to get started.    The second stage is you delivering what you said you would. That way the next person knows what to expect when you are finished with your part. Essentially ensuring the next stage 1 for the next person includes what said they needed to get started.

So if the person before or after you is not tidy, life now has drama that we aren’t paid for.

Being tidy is a reflection of self respect; It is an expression of understanding others and having the arts and skills to be understood.

Tidy is a great way to run your life.  

Like someone runs their business. 

You do what you say you are going to do.

You make commitments, make a plan and invest in the project.  Then people quit, get fired or screw up.  So being tidy can be a great hypothetical ideal but the daily reality can make your work anything but tidy.  Because someone on your team quit means now you can’t deliver your products on time. So you have to advise others that your delivery is going to change.  That’s business.  That’s life.

Sometimes there is a pandemic and materials or staff are scarce or expensive and your price changes and the customer isn’t happy or wants to cancel all together.  These are some of those changes that fit into the ‘you-can’t-make-this-stuff-up’ category. 

So many obstacles can get thrown your way making your work, and life, untidy.  You can’t control others.  You can manage yourself.  Your work is subject to outside influences.  When everything is going sideways, that is when you need to insist on being tidy in your mind.  Meaning understanding who is responsible, or to blame, but with an eye to moving forward.  

The New You Profile is: 

The man a young man strives to be;

The gentleman a man can feel he is becoming.

The scope of that gentleman’s life is:  deep, expansive, growing, challenging, intriguing.

Pioneer The New You

The following is an excerpt from my new book Satisfaction: How A Man Elevates His Skills And Qualities To Generate What He Wants. The book highlights men’s Emotional Agility. Emotional Agility here refers to a person’s capacity to synthesize daily and devotion emotion. This is the degree to which a person can cultivate their own sense of meaning while integrating the sense of peace this brings into their daily life. Emotional Agility is the way a person is able to rise up above the grind of daily life to recognize higher realms of awareness.

Pioneering implies going into the unknown. That is scary and can cause us to retreat into our habits when we actually can feel a need to grow. Pioneering the New You requires us to be brave and creative, perseverant and sensitive.

From page 108 … “The New You doesn’t exist without the old you. Yet the New You uses the past and resists being used by it. By standing firmly on your past with eyes into the future you invoke perception about what to do now. Each day, for each of us there is always a New You available. A version of you that comes with a higher level of intention.

Your New You grasps that a man changes as he is processed through the succession of Life Stages. He also realizes his spouse will experience a corresponding change thus the New You is nimble in the moment to update himself with the intricacies of her growth. the New you isn’t scared of the moment because he has no need to control it. the moment is free to flow into the future. So is the New You. Free to stop, smile and tell your wife she looks great.

The New You accesses his agility to get satisfaction. He is tune to his finesse to facilitate Fulfillment in others. He declares what he wants and has the humility to do the work to make it a reality.