The Day My Life Changed Forever – 3

orchid - JonSullivan

I haven’t considered myself religious for over 30 years now.  It’s not that I have anything against Christianity (or religion); I just feel guilty calling myself a Christian and not believe in a God, Heaven, the hereafter, and all that other ‘leap-of-faith’ logic.

That’s not to say I’m not spiritual.  I believe on some level that there is a spiritual connection to can make with others – and I believe it happens all the time.  It comes from the energy each one of us put out to the world.  We are, scientifically, all bit of energy vibrating at different speeds to form various types of mass and structure.  So I therefore believe there could be something to it – and I can feel it from people.

But for the most part, I stopped believing in a lot of things a long time ago.  It’s just that religion had a good hold of me (school, social, punishment), and for the most part, it got me through some tough times. (I invite you to have a compelling look at one of those times here: Benni’s Dirty Secret.)  It was sort of like therapy with a twist; and for the most part, it worked.  That’s why I stuck around – and I have much to thank for the many individuals who entered my life in those times.

***

If I were to give myself a label, I would say I live my life today as an Existential Humanist.  This describes the kind of relationship I have with the world as I live it every moment.  As such, it serves and allows me:

  • To express my observations and perceptions of how I experience life as it occurs, and
  • To express my feelings and actions towards actions.

As an Existentialist, I am able to exercise my logical side of thinking.  I can see how the world operates without the noise of drama, stories, miscommunication, crisis, and all the other distractions created by humankind to interrupt our progress of human understanding.

As a Humanist, there is nothing I appreciate more than being in the company of others who are chasing dreams that improve theirs and the lives of others.  Not in a socialist sense; rather, I appreciate environments where EVERYONE is truly equal and compassionate about life and living.

I understand the Human Condition.  I know the how-to’s, where-for’s, and what-not’s about how we operate in life.  And while I can see how knowing this stuff can be beneficial to some; this is only part of the equation of experiencing human potential.  The other half is UNDERSTANDING.  That’s the plane of life where I exist with all my relationships – human or otherwise.  It is quite exciting, actually.

My life occurs in the little things that make up our day.  For example, when I go to the office to do my writing and work for the day (the local Tim Hortons coffee shop), I am greeted by some familiar faces I see every day.  Reasons are found to talk to each other.  I find the joy in holding the door for someone, and others often do likewise.  Friendly nods of respect are cast to solitary individuals, and infant/toddlers always laugh and smile when we interact.  It’s a good feeling to feel welcome.

***

I guess it would make sense that I would evolve to be such a person.  I suppose my early lessons to see life with the drama, deceptions, and manipulations molded me and the logical-thinking side of my personality.  As for the emotional side of me, I see now how I was emotionally immature (and distorted). Yet, I was living a life of service to others.  My 30+ years of volunteering, and the years of working in service-related industries (health, social service, military service, neighbourhood groups and agencies, etc.) provide evidence of my subconscious decision to help others.  What is surprising to me though, is that I’ve done a lot in my life – and all along (for over 30 years), I was living with Mental Health issues and didn’t even know it.

***

 But it was on that night that everything started brand new for me.  All that outer space stuff.

Here I was, instead of celebrating the possibility that I could become an astronaut like most other boys my age, I was having a philosophical crisis that was about to change my life (for the first time).

I suppose it was the last straw.  And I suppose it was natural for me to cry.  After all, I saw the last bastion of Trust and Understanding disappears from under me and there was nothing left on which to rely.  The well of my life had run dry.

Needless to say, I have issues with Trust to this day.  I’ve studied it to death and have developed a keen knowledge and understanding of it’s implications on our lives.  For example, there is so little trust in the world, we have laws, contracts, rules, wars, guidelines, tests, governments, and all those other tools to keep us all honest.  I’m not different from much others in this respect.

I did learn these 3 things about trust over my travels:

  1. Trust is NOT earned, it is only granted.
    Trust is ours to lose.  We have to give trust to others or nothing much would get done.  We understand there is not much trust in the world.
  2. Trust can only be expressed through action.
    It doesn’t matter how much you tell someone you are trustworthy, nobody will believe it until they actually experience it.  This can only be done through performance.
  3. Trust is driven by our personal level of fear.
    We all come from different backgrounds, so we are all different in our approach to life.  As life is driven primarily by fear (everyone), then it is easy to find someone’s level of trust.

Because of this experience, I (unknowingly) decided to invest time in my life journey for something to believe in – without success, over the years.  I have a trail of evidence littering my life experiences growing ip where I trusted others (within the standards of social mores) and got burned – sometimes badly.  For example, a recent business venture a few years back involved having a retired religious Minister as a partner.  He got an honourable doctorate, was elected a bishop, and honoured for a life’s work in central America helping the poor.  When everything is said and done, after I invested time and money into the operation, he disappears.  I find out he decided he wanted to get involved in a multi-level marketing (MLM) business instead.  I never had an opportunity to talk to him about it because I’ve never seen him again.  Incredible luck, huh?

I’ve learned not to take things personally anymore because I realize I am not life’s only victim.  I am one of many before and after me.  From this practice, I come to have more compassion for people and more derision for institutions or large bodies of businesses who benefit unfairly from the people they serve.  I am an active advocate for others when I see an immoral or unethical event taking place.

In that night of profound awakening and awareness, it seems incredible that the emotional crisis of a little boy would have such an impact that would shape and mould the direction of one’s life.  Yet, I can attest (through my background and accomplishments) that life never did occur the same again.

Whether an unconscious or subconscious decision, I decided to find out why people do what they do.  And after 40+ years of personal inquiry (remember, I am a Whyz-Guy) and experiences of much sacrifice, I did come to some personal beliefs about people and life:

  1. We all live in Fear,

  2. We are socially conditioned from our influences in life to behave the way we do, and

  3. We are only being the only way we know how.

Not bad for something started by a lonely 10 year old, huh?

Just think, I could have instead started down the road of resignation, crime, confusion, and death a long time ago.  I had my moments, but I am still here; and I am not going to give up on life.

Thank you readers for allowing me these last 3 days to share this with you.  I’ve been wanting to do this for years (but I had nobody to tell).  The fall of another wall – the cleansing of essence – the joy of it all.

Namaste

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The Day My Life Changed Forever – 2

Every dark cloud has a silver lining! :)At such a young age, I never considered the existence of out space to be bigger than the universe God created for us.  Man hadn’t landed on the moon yet, so what little I knew were the space walks and John Glenn.  To think space went on and on forever … well, I suddenly felt so small and meaningless.

So, in the darkness and alone, when I learned that our galaxy was one of a uncountable number – I just about died right on the spot.  (You remember last post about the world stopping?)  Given this information was not on TV (where I knew it was mostly fake) and in found in a library book, I had to consider it true.  That was the first blow to my min and difficult for me to understand – and I was confused as heck.

Then I thought … why is science, history, and religion so different?  It seems like we are supposed to believe – but what?  How am I supposed to know what is true?  Another slap in the head with another thought … if religion is true, why is there less proof?  Why do so many believe?  How is it justified?

As you can see, I had a fertile mind (and still do).  I loved understanding things and how it all fits together.  My mother came to have a habit of saying: “You will be a jack of all trades and a master of nothing.”  I was/am in awe of everything. (And she was right, I guess.)

And then to top it off – I panicked.  Then I started thinking things like: Now I’ve been duped by everyone.  Everyone is in on a conspiracy.  Is there something I don’t know yet?  What am I supposed to do and believe?  This is where I am practically wailing (silently) in the cold attic.

All of my pain and agony started to come back.  I put a lot of trust in religion.  I invested all my hope in it.  Now how do I approach religion and my spirituality?  I felt my greatest growth and development as a person through experiences that began from a religious source.  Now this astronomy thing …

***

I already had many traumatic experiences up to that point in my life (for example – I vividly remember being up close and intimate with the psychotic murder of a family next door as it happened).

Scared as heck, I tried to fit in as “normally” as possible, i.e. “not be seen or heard”.  I did what I was told; did it without question; and did it to the best of my ability.  My father conditioned us very well – we were all little child soldiers ready (and fearful) at his calling.  I did it out of safety, a sense of belonging, and for acknowledgement. (I got none!)

Then I found religion; and upon discovering everything it stood for (to a child in distress) – I thought I hit the jackpot!  It had all the answers to everything that was wrong in my world:

  • Patience, forgiveness, unconditional love, corporal punishment, sacrifice, reward of paradise, threat of eternal damnation, and much, much more.
  • It helped put my pain and suffering (and to my siblings) in a palatable acceptance of life

The biggest thing I noticed the religion I was born into did to people is what I witnessed as a power of belief and the changes it made to them.

Heck, for years, my father was transformed for 2 hours every Sunday morning for years as he proudly towed along his 8 kids to church.  He even walked differently (with attitude)!  When I caught an understanding of this a few years earlier, I knew there had to be something to being religious.

So, I remember thinking to myself that if I wanted any happiness in this world of plenty, then religion was the way to go.  By that time, I was attending St. Michael’s Choir School in Toronto, Canada.  I had the scholarship and the musical talents (piano/voice); and from that, religion wrapped me in a spiritual blanket.  My inspiration was fueled with thoughts of hope, faith, humility, and service – all of which brought me great joy in those years, and they set another layer to my personal foundation.

Yes, I learned forgiveness, albeit the difficult way; and I still gained valuable lessons about people and myself.  I still benefit greatly every day from these lessons learned.

A small confession:

Being a realist at the time (in hindsight, a budding Existentialist), I always felt the Bible wasn’t something to be literally believed.  I understood clearly they were stories written down to teach us things.  When I saw people expressing their 100% devotion to the faith, I didn’t understand how that could be so.  But one thing for sure: I DID believe in Heaven an Hell – and now this astronomy.

I realize now that I was questioning the trust I put in Christianity.  I trusted every other authority figure I met; and the level of trust had eroded to the point where I thought – at least in this case – that I didn’t believe enough.  I thought I could do better, or look for more suffering, or put myself down and then I will be happy.  And don’t get me wrong.  I had a great many spiritual experiences with people over the years hence.  But …

***

According to my plan, everything was going along great at this point.  I learned to avoid my father’s wrath, I kept up my school marks, and I practiced the piano every day (the Conservatory was expensive!).  Oh yeah – I prayed a lot too. Didn’t seem to make much difference though.

I’m sure you can understand how my life could change with this new knowledge.  And I realize I was just a kid, but my thoughts grew with the expectations set upon me from all the adults in my life.  All I know and remember from almost 50 years ago is that it was a common occurrence for the adults to have a plan for me and not tell me about it.

In a great lesson from that, I learned about Fear.  I guess that’s why I have no issues with experimenting, discovering, change, creativity, expression, performance, and all the other great things about living life.

***

As you can see, my world was rocked.  In a matter of about 2 hours one evening in the fall, I had (and wasn’t aware of it, btw) a personal experience that set in motion a path for a journey that would have me take on life with an unquenchable desire to understand the world.

(tomorrow – final part: How the next 40 years turned out …)

The Day My Life Changed Forever

It was after dinner, and everything was cleaned up.  The rest of the time for the evening was mine.

In my tiny attic bedroom, quiet, alone, and free from my 7 siblings, I sat in the middle of my bed with the oversized book across my folded legs.  I leaned over and stared at the full-colour pages glowing under the eerie beam of the small reading lamp.  The moment flushed warmth from my face; and then a large teardrop raced gravity to fall below perfectly into the middle of the bright yellow sun.

weather-supercell-by-Sean-Heavey“No way…” I whispered to nobody else.  And then – time actually felt like it stood still.  No sound, no smell, no breath – not even a thought.  I noticed myself looking around the room without moving my eyes.

Up to this point in my life, I have never experienced anything like this from reading information.  I had never read anything more baffling and completely life-rocking – except maybe from some passages in the Bible or health class.  I figure the only thing that would be worse, I thought to myself, was to actually hear someone tell me that what I was reading was true.  My world was immediately tossed like a leafy dinner salad with just the very possibility.  “…No way.”  I shook my head.

If there was something I thought for sure I knew, even at this tender age of 10 years old, is when I am being duped by adults.  After all, I’d already been abused in many ways and many times by every authority figure I ever trusted in my short life.  All of a sudden, I am reading a book that was putting into question THE last refuge in which I had placed myself to gain and maintain any kind of sanity and hope in my life. Now, it too, shattered?

(I know, I know.  It’s a little heavy thinking for a kid, right?  Yet, at the same time; my life was already tested from the abuses, foster homes, continual trauma, and my (first) medical near-death experience a few years earlier.  These things change a person – even at a young age – whether I knew it or not.)

***

As a little guy fast growing up to quickly (or ‘forced-up’ as little adults, how I always explained it), I was already gaining a reputation in my family, with friends, and within my close community as a “Whyz-Guy”.  I was very extroverted and loved being around people older than me.  With them, always wondering, asking questions, and always asking why gave them a feel-good moment.  I was so fearless back then (and it’s because I didn’t know any better), I would even stop strangers on the street (I still do), and ask them why – or how (my second favourite question).

(Check out my earlier post on “asking why” called: “Asking Why Without The Stress, and have a look at the “WhyzAss Creed”.)

Was it curiosity? Getting an understanding? Being nosey? A vice or addiction? Or maybe a psychological response to other issues?  I know now from an incident a few years earlier, I felt I lost my father’s trust.  So maybe I was trying to prove my worthiness to him.  Who knows?

All I know for sure, is that if something caught my attention – and it happened often, I had to know the answers.  I was, after all, having fun learning all this stuff too. I discovered that life is interesting and can be filled full of excitement all the time if we wanted it to be so. It is just up to ourselves.  I guess that is why I have been to so many schools, training programs, and educational experiences – to keep having the fun! (And just to let you know – I was never geeky or a ‘know-it-all’ towards anybody.)

So, back to the incident and it’s foreplay.  In response to my personal angst, I decided to create a plan for myself to protect me and help me get through these years of continual pain and trauma.  What I did was to I build these emotional and social walls around my world.  I designed a lifestyle for myself that gave me a sense of safety; and a lot of it had to do with a solitary lifestyle.  Not knowing so, but I am an introvert by nature already, so it wasn’t a big stretch for me to be comfortable with the aloneness.  (Where I had the problem was in the loneliness.)

I had already been exposed to too much of life.  For example, I was travelling (on public transit) downtown on my own six days a week and saw some of the darker sides of inner-city life and survival.  I already had my first near-death experience (as memorable now as it was 50 years ago). The emotional and physical abuses at home compounded the secret trauma I was already experiencing from several incidences of sexual abuse by several adults (of both genders) – and that really messed me up that I could tell nobody.

What made it so difficult was the contradictions I saw and experienced about life, family, love (yada-yada).  Because of my treatment by my parents, I had the privilege of seeing and hearing healthy ways of child-rearing and relationships; and I just couldn’t understand why I didn’t have the same kind of lifestyle in my upbringing.  “Why wasn’t my family nice?” “Why was I always afraid?” “Why is it different?”

In my plan, I decided to keep things pretty simple.

Other than escaping to my little cave in the attic (my bedroom) to draw, paint, and read; I also hung around two places outside the home: the local recreation centre – the place that saved my life and molded my ethics, morals, and values; and the library – the window of escape to anything I would ever want to know as a kid.  If there was another thing I was sure I knew – the recreation centre was safe, friendly, nurturing, and fun; and the library was a place where I can trust the information and the people who were responsible for it (the librarians).  I volunteered at both places often there and participated in a lot of great intellectual and personal growth games and challenges.  The library is where I got the book I was currently reading (and causing me great stress!).

As far as I could tell, it was a good plan.  I stayed out of sight like my parents wanted it.  I stayed out of trouble which my parents demanded.  I stayed in line and obeyed everyone.  I thought it was working (even with the acknowledged abuses) because I was getting through it day by day. (How do you eat an elephant? One spoonful at a time.)

At school, I tried my best and did well (much to my peril).  At church, I was an altar boy and went every day.  With recreation, I can always be found at the Rec Centre.  At home, I played the piano (Conservatory scholar), did my chores, and stayed away from controversy.  Alone, in my attic refuge, I usually listened to the hockey games on the radio while I drew, painted, and dreamed of better days.  It was just a matter of time.  I believed that because I was told often.  Patience.  Reward.  Penitence.  Humility.  These were all the things I could look forward to in my young life as I exercised the best logic in my daily habits.  And still …

***

So, here I was on this evening, under the dust of yet another crumbling psycho/social pillar that held my life together; I too, broke down, cried, and shook away certainty once again.

All I want is HOPE.  If there was anything I could count on, it was at least my future and it’s possibilities.  I knew enough from my varied learnings that at least I had some kind of control over that.  (Like I said, I had already seen and done too much; so my level of thinking was more survival-mode than anything else.)

Here I was – reading a book – and now even the possibility of future inner peace and happiness in my life was questioned.  I knew I wasn’t happy, and I wanted to be.  Was I placing my trust yet again in more lies and deceptions?  I felt my life sinking into the pit of misery.  But how could this be so?  All I had to do (according to adults) was to get a good education, go to church, raise a family, and lead a life of compassion towards others.  Now this was even being destroyed – and I put all my trust in this “plan”.

Never in a million years did I ever think that astronomy would be the defining wedge that would shape and direct my life for many years to come.

***

(More tomorrow. K)

Conversations with Mom – Life’s Lessons

There are so many things we learn and live by from our parents.  And from Mom, she gave me her 5 most valuable beliefs about people and life.

In my case, it was my mother who shared her thoughts with me because I’ve only ever had one conversation with my father before I was 45 years old (the ‘condom’ talk) – so Mom was my teacher.

I had many embarrassing convos with Mom (some I won’t share, lol), but other than those, Mom sprinkled her wisdom into my life in many different ways over many, many years.

What I loved most about Mom:

She was a straight-shooter and to the point, so I knew if I wanted to know ‘the way it is’, she was the one to go and get advice. She didn’t mess around with muddying up the lesson with emotional drama or excuses – like I said – just like an unpire (and she loooooooved baseball – Go Jays!).

A point about her opinions and parenting: when I say ‘the way it is’, I am referring to her existential way of looking at life.  She wasn’t an emotional person (and she passed that down to me, drats!), and I think she saw the fakery and illusion life can dish out.  She didn’t say ‘the way I see it‘ or some other attachment, she ‘gave it to me straight’.  There was a strange humility about her because she never really acknowledged her wisdom because she was never aware of her own expertise based on her personal Life Lessons.

She once said to me (as she said to many) as she gave her opinion on her racism (and she was proud of her humour in it):

“I’m not a racist, I hate everyone equally!”

Anyways, back to my point of this post.

She was cynical about life too.  She learned, saw, and did enough living in the big city (Toronto, Canada) to get a taste of everything urban life can offer.  Like most others around her (especially her friends), they were of the same general opinion about life.

Personally, I think some people liked being around her because she spoke for them – for their frustrations, venting, saying something when it needed to be said.  Like I said earlier – she is a straight-shooter, and (like I picked up from her) she didn’t care who the person was thay may have been doing something that wasn’t Ethical, Legal, or Moral – she was going to say something.  She had a saying for it, but I’m getting too old to remember it now, lol.

trelaske_woods

5 FACTS OF LIFE
I LEARNED FROM MOM

_____________________

1 – Everybody WANTS something.

  • She was the one who gave me my first “Sales” training.  She didn’t know it; but in sales, they call it “WII-FM” (no, not a radio station). That acronym stands for “What’s In It For Me”.
  • That’s why marketers are very good at having our average family debt currently at about 165% of income.

2 – Most (if not all) people have ‘something going on’.

  • Mom saw this cynical side of people a hundred times over.  For example, I remember her telling me about all the things she saw at “Maple Leaf Gardens” which was rotten, in her opinion “from Harold Ballard all the way to the basement”.  But she loved working at the former Toronto shrine at Carlton and Church.
  • In her own many travels and adventures she shared with me, she explained how reciprocation worked and the role it played in life.  She practiced it even at home (though we kids weren’t cognizant at the time) – and it was always a reason not to trust someone.
  • The scheming of  ‘something going on’ is the need for a return of the effort/favour/thing you bestowed upon another. A lot of the time, it was an unspoken and understood way of being towards expectations in others.

3 – Everyone looks for the easy way.

  • “People tend to be lazy and they don’t expect much from you.  Put the extra effort in and you could do anything.”
  • She held those views in another rational explanation into why it was easy to impress others (“baffle them with your brilliance or boggle them with your bullshit”).
  • Don’t become THEM.  “Keep working harder – this mark of ‘A’ is not enough – I want an A+!”

4 – Everybody is afraid.

  • If you looked up the word “persistence” in the dictionary, you would see a picture of Mom next to it.
  • Mom knew that everyone was afraid of losing something (a personal thing).  She used threats against systems, businesses, relationships, and every other part of her life where she may have felt oppressed, experiencing a threat to her dignity, and/or finances.
  • In large conflicts with systems and businesses, she often won her issue on the basis that she knew how to fight the battle.
  • Fear plays a big role in life – that’s what I was taught – just not in those words or as eloquent.

5 – Everybody NEEDS something.

  • Mom believed, for the most part, that we are all in this huge struggle – and we are all in it together. If she was political, she’d probably be a NDPer (the left in Canada) or a Democrat (in America).
  • Not only in her life-long critcal battle with health issues (emphasema killed her), she realized that was small compared to the massive number of needs everybody has.
  • She weighed much of her opinion of friendship and other relationships on need. Not overt – but still there.
  • Funny thing – she knew Maslow’s Theory and yet she never studied him or heard of his Needs hierarchy.

Conversations With Mom

Growing up with Mom was very … hmmm … very interesting.  I think she’d sum it up the same way – only differently.

irony

The Storm on the Sea of Galilee, 1633

.

I don’t know if there is any other way to describe our relationship, because she and I were both alike in so many ways; and yet, we were almost as distant as Venus and Mars.  I love(d) her immensely – she knew it – and I suppose she loved me.

I asked her once:

Me: Mom, why have you never told me you love me?

Mom: I thought it was understood?

She was very cerebral.

I never did hear what I wanted (and needed) her to say.

It took a lot of years to get that one.  8-}

.

… to be continued.

k

Past Hurt

dave

I need to know …

When the pinch inside my heart

is pressing, and a nervous rush of fear

recalls a frozen moment of confusion,

will it always void the possibility of a lesson learned?

.

Will THAT THING always be there?

I’m no longer afraid.

But does it ever end?

.

A Life of Freedom Begins Here

Do you really want to be happy?  I mean, really!!

If so, what is it you think will make it so?

Have you pictured what your happiness will look like when you achieve it?

How about the people who will be in your life when this epoch is your expression to the world?

.

May I offer a suggestion?

When we go through life, the most important thing that is going on is our relationships.  They guide us, suggest to us, help us, warn us, attract us, and on and on.

What I am getting at, is that our life begins to transform (not change) to reflect our goals and aspirations (and all those hidden dreams from the world) when we begin to get along with others – and ourselves.

Therefore, I have reposted a pic from a post a few months back.  I am making an assertion that these MAY be the keys to fulfilling the desires of what we want to accomplish in our short life before we go.

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What I have written below is the way I approach everyone I know and meet every day.  I always consider these 3 points when I look at everybody because it makes is so much easier to be in relationship with them.

  • I don’t have to get angry with anybody because I know what’s really going on to make us react and do things.
  • I listen more intently because I can hear the real meaning behind some of the stories (about their lives) they share with me.
  • I can laugh off possible put-downs (through jokes and little comments) because I know they can be true about me.
  • I can be more honest with (most) people because we’ve developed a deeper relationship.
  • I can be more selective with whom I wish to be in relationship because the ‘quality pool’ is much improved.
  • I can go on and on, but I think you get the point.

(Copy and print the pic and carry it with you for a while to remind yourself.  Try out the exercise for a week or so and see what a difference it would make in your life.)

Why We Are The Way We Are

Remember, I don’t suggest I know and believe these thoughts to be the truth.  They are just a culmination of thought, observance, and experience with hundreds of people I’ve met in my life.

Try considering giving a thought to my assertions.  If anything, it will get you to start you thinking one way or the other.

Until next time,

Kevin