This past week I read a Facebook post by someone I used to consider a dear friend. We don’t see each other anymore. He’s moved on.
I find that often happens when a friend starts to date someone or even more dramatically, when they move in or get married to the love of their life.
It can be a little melancholy.
It got me thinking about what makes friendships last. And even more basic, why do we become friends with someone in the first place? What glue keeps us together? What tears us apart?
We humans are funny.
This week I also talked to a friend about the importance of speaking up and telling your truth. We talked about how that’s important in building relationships; real relationships and not just casual acquaintances.
It all leads to thinking that a good friend would listen to what you have to say and believe you. In a world where we need people to “have our back” I think it should start with a simple trust.
I’m blabbering a bit here… but stay with me.
We need our friends. Real friends. People that know us and love us. The people that you can call at 3am and they will come running. No questions asked.
These are best friends.
Yes, some friends will be around for a while and then slip away. I think that’s natural. It says something about what the relationship was built on and the fact that we are all changing all of the time. Life changes us in ways we could never expect.
I’ve been lucky to have a few really great friends. I understand how rare and precious they are. I would not be here if they weren’t in my life. You would be surprised to know who they are.
I’m also lucky to have many of the other kinds of friends and blessed to be surrounded by some outstanding people. If for some reason we part I will know my life is better for the time we shared.
My Buddhist teacher, Lama Tara, gave the best antidote to heal the pain when I lost that cherished friend that moved on. She explained that I had stopped the story in the wrong place. Instead of continuing the narrative to the sorrow of not spending time together, in my mind, I should end that chapter of our friendship when our time together was filled with laughter and comradery. Stop the story there. It will allow you to move forward and look back with affection and gratitude.
It’s a good plan and has served me well.
Lama Tara also reminds me that nothing lasts forever.
But just maybe a best friend makes you believe they will be around for a very long time.
I’ve said this before but the message isn’t getting through.
I was again struck by the outpouring when a celebrity dies. A mass amount of tributes and stories takes over social media. It happened last week when Tom Petty died. If the death is unexpected the jolt is real. One day you’re dreaming about seeing him in concert, the next you’re listening to all his old songs with tears running down your face.
What always surprises me is that people talk about all the memories they have, all the moments a song has gotten them through a tough time. Maybe the music reminds them of the best time of their life.
People reminisced about what Tom meant to them.
My advice is always the same.
Don’t wait, say it now.
Tonight, go through your record collection, your bookcase, and if you still have them, your old VHS tapes. Even better, think about that special teacher or neighbour that helped you when you were a kid. Recount the times in your life when someone did something that formed your world.
Then find that person and send them a note. Do it now. Tell them how much their song meant to you or how much what they said mattered when you were in pain.
We all have those memories. Don’t wait until the person is dead and tell everyone else what they meant to you. Tell THEM.
And before I forget…include your friends and family members on that list.
Days ago the legendary broadcaster, Rafe Mair passed away. The tributes started soon after the notice circulated. As I mourned the loss, I was thankful for an email conversation years ago. Rafe didn’t know me, but for a few moments, he did know how much I appreciated him.
Tom would have loved this but maybe we should have done it sooner.
“Charles Hillman was a true gentleman.”
That was the comment most heard at Charles’ memorial service this past weekend.
Saturday would have been his 100th birthday and Charles would have loved the hoopla!
Charles passed away on June 28, 2017 (obituary)
In August of 2013 I wrote a blog about this great man.
Today, as I read it again, I can still hear his laughter.
“I wish Winifred was here listening to this.”
It was the only time during the evening I thought I might cry.
My oldest client will turn 96 next week. A truly lovely man and an iconic Vancouverite. Winifred was his beloved wife. I am his personal trainer. We met in the elevator in his building. He hired me on the spot. He wanted to keep physically fit. We laughed at our first meeting and have laughed during every workout session since.
During the past year things have become more difficult for Charles. The aging process is horrendous and cruel. Even music has slipped from his life. He has not played his ukulele and sang to me for months.
There is a pallor of sadness and resignation filling his room.
“I have a friend staying with me, he’s just moved here from the UK, he’s a musician and actor. I’ll bring him over to sing with you.”
So last week I got to sit with Charles as Andrew pulled out his guitar and started to play. With the first notes Andrew sang I witnessed Charles’ face light up. And I swear I watched the colour return to the room.
At the end of that first song Charles applauded the performance and proclaimed, “He’s marvelous!”
Andrew coxed Charles to join him and before I could have predicted there were both strumming along together. Sheet music appeared and the concert began. The joy oozed from Charles even though his voice was weak. Andrew was the perfect catalyst to make the songs singable. They sang together for the next hour.
When Charles said, “I wish Winifred was here”, I knew Andrew had made magic happen.
It’s rare to get the chance to bring someone true happiness.
And I got to witness it all.
On April 10, 2013 I wrote my first blog. It was all about Intent. I blabbed on about what the word meant to me and the people around me.
I also proclaimed it was my intent to write a blog every Wednesday.
One hundred and eighty-three blogs later I can safely say I did what I set out to do. I made sure at least once a week I wrote something for the public. Some weeks it was easy… some weeks the ideas wouldn’t come and I scrambled late into Wednesday evening trying to put some words together.
I’ve talked about everything!
And you’ve listened.
That alone is the reason I write. You will never know how grateful I am to you and the time you’ve invested here.
Now it is my intent to revise my book (again). On Monday, The Long Game got an insightful review from one of my favourite people at the Surrey International Writers’ Conference. The only way forward will be to invest my writing time into the revision.
And since it is my intention to get published I must move in that direction.
Or I could quit. (Which is still an option, but not this week.)
So my new intent will be to post a blog every second Wednesday.
I’m sure that the Wednesdays when I don’t post I’ll be in a corner wondering what to do with the ideas in my head.
This might seem like a holiday to my faithful beta readers that have been with me from the beginning. Gerry and Debbie have been amazing and their critique and cheers have humbled me. And Jim… well he found my grammar errors and would send a polite email to point out the mistake. He was always right.
It’s a hard decision to give this up. And before you say, “Hey, you’re still going to be blogging!” Yes, I know, but this weekly endeavour has kept me sane through some of my toughest days.
I’m not good with change.
So let’s start again.
It’s my intent to write a blog every second Wednesday.
“Soon I’ll be 60 years old …”
That’s a line in the song I’ve been listening to lately.
I started this blog three years ago and commented on the merits and drawbacks of turning 55. Nothing could foretell I would be here again, on my birthday, writing another week’s blog.
And before you jump in with comments about me not looking my age, let’s just agree that this is what a 58 year old looks like.
I can prove it with my driver’s license (which if you saw it makes me look like a 68 year old convict.)
I believe people can’t guess my age because of my immature actions and style.
But I digress.
Or maybe not.
Back to the song.
It’s Lukas Graham’s 7 YEARS (you can watch it here)
My favourite line is, “I made a man so happy when I wrote a letter once.”
I don’t know who Lukas was thinking about but I love the way he throws the line in and then moves on.
Have you ever done this, written a letter just to make someone happy? And the trick is; the letter doesn’t have to be to that person. It could be written on their behalf. It could right a wrong. It could change a mind. Or maybe make up a mind.
Here’s an idea… if you want to do something for me to celebrate my birthday, write a letter to make someone happy. I don’t mean write a letter to me, though that would be nice. Write one to make someone else happy.
It’s simple to do. I am confident you will do it well.
All this talk has made me think about my most popular blogs. They are always the ones that tell someone else’s story.
Sometimes the story will make you cry.
I hope most of them make someone happy.
In the end that’s all that matters because…
“Soon I’ll be 60 years old.”
I just got back from the doctor’s office. His last words to me were, “Now you can stop worrying.” Dr. Ho knew I had been going crazy with the stress of “what if…” Dr. Ho can sometimes read my mind.
I hadn’t shared my health scare with the people around me. Right now it seems that everyone is dealing with some sort of loss, so there was no sense in adding in my little issue.
But this did remind me of a blog I wrote a couple years ago… and since I’m sore from today’s very minor medical procedure, I thought I would just re-post one of my favourite blogs…
Raise Your Hand
The only good thing about a loss is what it might teach you. I hate that we are meant to look for the lesson when things go bad. Fuck that. When things go bad there is nothing good to say. Bad is bad.
While you wallow, it might dawn on you how much crap there is all around us. There is pain behind so many smiles. People go through shit all the time. Sometimes it’s easier to deal with and sometimes the pain will cripple forever.
I watch myself cry each day. And I’ve done that for the last 97 days. No one else knows. The world only sees me carry on. I work, I play, I write, I even laugh. Then when I least expect it there is a flash of what I’ve lost and the tears come. My grief has become a silent pursuit. It’s not that I believe no one cares but I believe no one needs to be a witness. My story has become boring and not worth the counsel or examination people offered three months ago.
I inwardly cringe when asked how I am. There is no need to tell the truth. Lying is the way to cover the grief. On my worst days I feel anger at having to carry on and pretend all is fine. Quit asking me questions and forcing me to lie to you. Please stop. My wave of self-pity can easily turn to thoughts of hate and revenge.
When is the line, “I will never be happy again” not a cry for help but a simple statement?
So what am I learning? I am not alone. At least I’m not alone in what I’m going through. Now when I look at people I try to grasp what devastation is behind their smiling face. I can’t stop taking the extra second to search for a glimmer of truth of what is really going on inside each person I meet. What pain are you hiding? Have you had to cry today? Is your heart so broken you may never be whole? Is your loss stealing every ounce of joy? How are you surviving? And what the hell do you answer when asked “How are you today?”
One day I’ll ask for a show of hands of who is hiding their pain.
He gave me a little smile and said, “I don’t know if you’re serious or not.”
“What? Of course I’m serious! As far as I’m concerned, we’re going to compete and probably win a gold medal at the next Winter Olympics.”
Then I gave my classic, disbelieving, shake of the head. I do this to show how offended I am when someone questions my intent. I use it often.
His wife said, “And that’s why your company is called Go Big Or Go Home?”
I’ve only known him for 4 months. He’s a new client, 83 years old, with Parkinson’s. My job is to make him stronger. We’re getting there… slowly.
Pretty early on I added in this idea of the Olympics. Everyone needs a goal. Why not aim for an Olympic Gold medal?
I thought the two-man bobsled was our obvious sport. He said we should ski. I told him that is ridiculous since it’s a solo sport AND I don’t know how to ski. He just shrugged his shoulders.
I pushed for the bobsled idea. He said I was an idiot.
It is our on-going conversation.
I will not give up. We’re doing the bobsled.
This comment gets a big smile. Maybe people just like Brad Fay?
At our next workout session he tells me I’m delusional.
Maybe I am.
But my history has told me that dreams do come true.
The trick is to aim high. Know what you want. Work hard. And throw in a little good karma.
Then sit back and appreciate the journey.
Many people spent this past week talking about Mohamed Ali. They spoke about his courage and how he battled against this debilitating disease. The grace in how he handled his decline.
I spend two hours a week with someone still waging the war. Every day he must fight to move. To me he’s a hero in how he handles himself with grace and a stubborn resilience. He does not give up and pushes when all hope is draining away. What more defines an Olympian than that?
I bet there are people all around you that are fighting. Some are winning, some are just hanging on.
And some are thinking about a gold medal.
Forty-three years ago I gave my brother a hug before I walked out of his life. I was 15 and he was 10. It was a quick grasp without much meaning. Little did I know it would haunt me for decades.
Life rarely gives us a “do-over” or a chance to make something better.
Last week I got to do both.
Last week I got to hug my little brother again.
For all the complaints about the internet, it can be pretty darn amazing.
And because of a random late night google search and a few haphazard clicks, I connected with my long-lost brother.
A few more clicks and a couple of emails and my brother was back. Or should I say, I was back.
It wasn’t until we met in person that I realized how much my casual goodbye had crippled me.
I was young and stupid and had no idea how much I would miss my closest companion.
It wasn’t until I saw his face that I understood my own guilt in having left.
Yes… I was young and stupid and only looking after myself.
Now I am wiser.
And my little brother has grown into a handsome, successful, and kind man.
What a relief. I can breathe again.
The collateral damage from the adults that surrounded us back then was horrendous. We still have the scars. My brother and I didn’t have to explain or hide our wounds. They bond us.
Have you ever wondered “what if”? Have you ever wished you had the second chance to say what you were thinking? Have you ever wanted a “do-over”?
If it’s not too late to get off your ass… get off your ass. Make the call, send the email, knock on the door.
It might not work out, but then again, it might.
Last week I got to hug my little brother again.
This time I held him for a really long time.
Why would I ever post anything on YouTube?
Why do I make the trek to visit the Victoria Highland Games every year?
Why do I endure the long weekend ferry line ups?
Why am I such a big fan of the SFU Pipe Band?
It’s become a tradition. I visit some of my friends that live there and reconnect with the good people that put on this amazing event.
And it’s not just my yearly selfie with Jason. (Yes, that’s Jason Paguio, the world champion Drum Major for the SFU Pipe Band.)
It’s not just eating a “double” portion of haggis! (And then coming back for more!)
It’s not just having my camera ready for an iconic picture that receives thousands of views when I post it on Twitter.
It is “being in the right place at the right time” and opting to start a video recording.
[embedvideo type=”youtube” id=”5GHSTl7IPwQ”]
A highlight of the Games is the impressive massed band at the opening and closing ceremony. I positioned myself to be on the side where the SFU pipe band would be.
Little did I know they would invite this young man to march with them?
Playing alongside a world famous pipe band is like skating with Sidney Crosby or cooking with Rachael Ray.
And so worth a post on YouTube.