Dead Calm

Even longer ago than you realize, a death squad boarded a helicopter fleet under cover of darkness.

The team of 79 commandos (and a very good boy) had a simple task: assassinate the leader of a covert Pakistan Army unit. You probably knew him as Osama bin-Laden.

The flight would take over an hour and a half, and there was little the soldiers could be certain of except that death was waiting for them at the end, likely in the form of a hail of rusty nails.

Yet, many of these battle-hardened marines did what any good soldier does when given a moment to sit; they fell asleep.

For those of us who struggle to sleep on a transatlantic flight, catching forty-winks in a tank hurtling 2,000 ft over the desert towards certain death sounds impossible.

But the US Marines have a secret weapon that allows them to relax in the middle of a suicide mission.

It’s called Yoga Nidra.

And every marine learns it right after they learn how to meditate because control of our mind and body is the single greatest weapon we can arm ourselves with.

A Moment of Frustration

I’ve lost many loves to this moment.

People and things and even bits of myself that I’ve cherished have fallen victim to that moment of frustration, more times than I’d like to admit.

There are lots of reasons that fiery flood of hormones gets unleashed.

We might have been beaten at something. Or maybe it isn’t working how it’s supposed to. Or we have made a mistake and realized it too late. Sometimes, we’re just hungry.

But every time, we feel threatened in some way.

Not understanding the situation, our bodies do the only thing they know to do: fight or flight.

When that blood with all its raging hormones rushes to our head, all it takes is that one sullen word or a flick of the wrist, and we can break something we really love.

Learning how to control that moment, or at least not let it control us, is one of the greatest skills we can learn.

And I’ve still got a long way to go.

Celebrate

Celebrate today,

Celebrate tomorrow,

Celebrate your joys,

And celebrate your sorrows.

Celebrate your friends,

Celebrate your haters,

Celebrate the real ones,

And celebrate the fakers.

 

Celebrate it all because

These are the things that make us

Great.

50:50

Which is better, breathing in, or breathing out?

Is that a weird question?

Every inhale and exhalation from now until we die is 50:50.

Another small part of the Universe’s perpetual balancing act, the constant to-ing and fro-ing that occurs at every level from a wave of light to the spaces between galaxies.

Success comes from failure and must eventually go back to it.

We can have good health and happiness because we must be sick and unhappy sometimes.

If we get too attached to one way or another, when the time comes for change — as it always does — we won’t enjoy it as much as we should.

If we do that with breathing, we’ll die.

Why would anything else be different?

Sunken Costs

There are two ways sunken costs can trick us.

The first is believing that because we’ve already bought something — invested time or money into it — that we must use it to get our money’s worth.

That’s not to say we should be wasteful, but it does mean that we have to drink the rest of the bottle.

The second way they get us is when we think that we’ve put in enough.

We think that we’ve invested enough to be sure that another minute won’t achieve anything.

Often, that’s the moment when a little extra push would bring success.

Sunken costs hurt us both ways. There’s no way to tell the difference.

The best we can do for ourselves is ignore them altogether.

Because as much as we like to draw lines between the past and present, the only connection they have to the future is the one we choose to make right now.

Personal Insult

Not many people want to hear this:

If you’re insulted by something, it’s your fault.

This is my favourite of Don Miguel Ruiz’s Four Agreements because it’s so hard to agree with, and to put into practice fully.

How can it be our fault if we get insulted by someone who is screaming at us or calling us names?

The idea is that we always have a choice; we are the ones who allow words to carry weight, whether we’re conscious of it or not. And of course, often what people are angry about has very little to do with us or what just happened.

It’s one thing to know that it’s not our fault when someone is angry at us. But it’s far harder to remember that when we’re mad at someone else, that’s on us.

Much easier said than done!

No going back

We all wonder what life would be like if we’d done it differently.

We might even wish we could go back to the way things were, so we can do it better or make a different decision; if only I knew what I know now.

If only I’d accepted that Bitcoin back in 2011.

If only we hadn’t walked down that road that night.

If only I hadn’t said that to her then.

But we did. And there’s no going back to change that.

There wasn’t any going back after WWII. Nobody could pretend the housing crash of 2008 hadn’t happened. And the world hasn’t been quite the same since September 11th. Or Trump, for that matter.

But for some reason, people think this time will be different.

Even if we all wanted to, there’s no going back to normal. And the only people who stand to gain by going backward are those selling rear-view mirrors.

It’s time to stop dragging our heels and help push forward.

We’re going that way anyway.

 

It happens

The way it happens is rarely how we planned.

Even when we’ve planned how we’ll react if it happens, for some reason, that never pans out how we intended either.

But it’s important to remember that it happens because it happening is the whole point, not because we’re weak or lazy or stupid.

The best we can do is know that it will happen one way or another, and when it does happen, just be grateful that it did.

Because if it didn’t happen, something else certainly would.

And there’s no telling what that could be.

 

Rules is Rules

Usain Bolt isn’t always the fastest man in the world.

Not all of Stephen King’s books are good.

And even Novac Djokovic occasionally drops a few sets.

All lovers hate each other sometimes.

All parents make mistakes.

Up must come down.

Everything goes around.

Nothing is the same twice.

And everyone gets another turn.

That’s the rules!

 

Damp Days

Perhaps it’s 15 years of school summer holidays drilled into my biological clock.

Maybe it’s 25 years living on a wet, windswept island off the coast of Europe. Or the ice-walled winter that keeps Canada locked inside for six months of the year.

Whatever the reason, it’s tough to work when the sun is shining.

After a weekend soaked in sunshine, this damp and grey Monday makes it possible to sit down at a desk for six hours and tap tap tap out a living, without too much anguish.

So, I am grateful that today is cooler and damper and grey.

Another perfectly sunny day would have been too much.

 

Mind the Grass

Humans sure love a patch of grass.

Maybe it’s because we were born on the savannahs and emigrated to the river banks, where grasses tend to grow.

Or it could be because the human eye perceives more shades of green than any other colour, and grass has every single one.

Grass is such an important part of human culture that we even have a few cliches about it.

Yes, the grass is always greener. But have you ever actually watched grass grow?

Sure, it’s not exactly a white knuckle thrill. But it’s not boring either. 

Checking in every day. Tempting the grass to grow this way or that. A little snip here. A seed or two there. 

Tending grass — or any plant — while it grows is one of the most interesting and fulfilling things we can do with our time.

Watching grass grow: not half as dull as watching paint dry!

But then again, I’m no Picasso.

 

Get over it

Things have taken a turn for the worse.

We made the wrong call.

Wasted our time.

The plan is ruined.

We listened to bad advice.

Made unwise investments.

Trusted the wrong people.

They never loved us.

The world changed overnight.

Nobody saw it coming.

Everything is fucked.

Get over it.

That’s Life.

 

MVP

We don’t say MVP in the UK; we say Player of the Year and give them a golden ball.

MVP has another meaning: Minimal Viable Product. And it turns out that quite often, the simplest option turns out to be the best one too.

It’s easy to get tripped up adding bells and whistles when all we need is something simple that just works.

 

X No Way Out

There was a rollercoaster that got us very excited when I was a kid.

One weekend, my friends and I mooched the entrance fee from our parents and set off down to Staines.

X No Way Out was at the top of everyone’s list. The queue stretched back up the M3 to Hampton Court Palace; a vast crowd, chattering away in the bright summer grey, flashes of blood-red stanchion posts the only sign it was a queue and not a block party.

When our turn finally came, we groped our way to the carts in the thin orange light. As soon as we strapped in, the lights went out and we were catapulted backward through the dark to throbbing bass lines and the occasional spray of lasers.

It was awesome.

And not unlike life:

Hurtling through time facing the wrong way, twisting over and around fate’s peaks and valleys, clenching the hand of the person next to you and screaming all the way.

Knowing that no matter how bad it gets, it’ll always change; enjoying every single second because it’ll all be over in a flash;

And ready to queue up for eternity, just to do it again.

 

Lost Lines

There’s a monastery perched high in the Himalayas, where the monks spend all day making beautiful patterns in the sand.

Then just before tea-time, they brush them away.

They don’t even take photos.

There’s another monastery where the monks paint a circle every day, just to see how close they can get it to perfect.

They never do, of course, and all those paintings are burnt before the sun sets.

Art isn’t about perfect, and it’s not about forever, although our planet is littered with monuments to the contrary.

It’s nice to create for other people. And it’s probably more profitable in the long run. But we always win if we create for ourselves and focus on improvement, instead of being popular.

The person having the most fun is usually the one doing the creating.

If you just create for yourself and you do it often enough, pretty soon people will start turning up — just to see you having fun.

 

Be done with it

Weekends are funny old times filled with all sorts of odd happenings.

Whatever the plan, it often gets left by the wayside after a couple of mimosas and a splash of spring sunshine.

And that’s no big deal. It’s why they’re there.

Whether it was a workout or work that got abandoned among the Cantalope skins and crusts, at the time, it was the only thing you could have done.

And regardless, it was the thing you did.

There’s no more sense in fretting or punishing oneself for relaxing than there is in refusing a top-up on a bottomless mimosa.

It just doesn’t make sense.

As Ralph Waldo Emerson reminded his young daughter, “Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could.”

Today is a whole new day, in a whole new week, and you can do whatever you want with it.

And that’s all that really matters.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Heavy Stuff

Have you ever been in love with a thing?

There are few things in my life that I treasure enough to cling to: a battered old flute; a guitar that doesn’t play; some trinkets that have been pressed into my palm over the years; a box of old cards.

We like to collect stuff, us humans; useful stuff, pretty stuff, and boxes.

We love boxes to put things in. And we love boxes even more if they come with a hidden box inside to put our secrets in.

Stuff is great, but boxes are heavy. We have to be careful not to collect too many.

I’ve always found that the more stuff I have, the heavier I feel; the more it weighs me down. It’s hard to love a lot of things at the same time.

So, once a year or thereabouts, anything that I’m not in love with or don’t use at least once a month, I give away.

And, you know, I never miss it. 

Not once.

 

 

 

 

Who needs to remember?

Recently, something the dead guitarist said hit home and I began to wonder why we bother to ‘remember the moment’ at all.

That punk philosopher said:

“I realized that so many moments in my life I’d been trying to ‘capture,’ to remember and enjoy later. But there was no point in doing that anymore because I was going to die. Every moment, I just had to enjoy for itself because that was it. I wasn’t going to be able to remember them.”

We’ve all done this — trying to ‘capture a memory’ to savour later. I thought that was being present but it wasn’t at all.

Because that’s really it.

That moment exists and then it’s gone forever.

But isn’t the fact you got to see it just fucking marvellous? And not just see it.

You got to feel it.

You got to hear and taste and smell and live it all.

Nobody else will ever live what you lived.

Who needs memories when we get to live them every day.

Fini.

 

 

 

 

 

The girl with one eye

Once upon a beach, a girl with one eye said something about pain that still rings in my ears today.

She’d been flung off a speeding motorcycle and had faceplanted a tree stump. It was a miracle she’d survived. The impact took out half her skull, and I could still feel the steel plates in the back of her head.

Typically insensitive, I asked how she’d dealt with losing half her face at sixteen. She said,

“The worst thing that’s ever happened to me is the same as the worst thing that’s ever happened to you. You just get on with it.”

It wasn’t until many years later that I understood.

There isn’t a human alive that hasn’t suffered. And anyone’s hurt is just as valid as anyone else’s.

We might not be equal in wealth or status, but we’re equal in our experience of suffering. Our individual experiences of pain might be different, but we all share in our knowledge of it.

We all share in our trauma, one way or another.

That’s just what it means to be human.

 

Everything is change

It’s human nature to look for meaning in the world; to attach labels and think up laws to make sense of the chaos.

But there is only one True Constant in the Universe: everything changes.

All empires eventually falter. Our things break and need replacing. Fashions cycle, meanings shift, and one way or another, every relationship comes to an end.

We cause ourselves a great deal of pain by ignoring this simple fact.

Change isn’t just something that happens; it is Life itself.

Everything in existence is just matter changing from one form to another at different speeds. We can influence it, and often we can direct it in our favour, but we can never prevent it.

This eventuality is something to be grateful for when we’re ill, depressed, stressed, waiting on hold, and even if a narcissistic, racist orange with tiny hands runs your country.

Nothing lasts forever.

And I find that oddly comforting.

What if you had to live today forever?

We watched 50 First Dates last weekend.

It’s the one where Adam Sandler gives up chasing all the women to chase one (Drew Barrymore) who will never remember him for more than an afternoon — because she has anterograde amnesia.

Drew can’t remember a single day since her memory was damaged.

She does the same thing every day because to her, no time has passed since her accident (more than a year ago).

And she’s totally happy living that day again and again.

About halfway through, my friend asks: What if she’d gone to the gym instead of the waffle house that day?

She’d be absolutely ripped!

What if she’d played a game of chess or meditated? Imagine how good she’d be after 2, 5, 10 years of doing a crossword for 10 minutes a day.

And what about if she got drunk? Or actually ate the waffles instead of playing with them?

I’m not so sure Adam would’ve fallen for her.

It’s funny to think about, but this type of amnesia can happen to anyone.

You could bang your head on a cupboard one day and: bam—Groundhog day.

So — what would you want to do for eternity, even if you didn’t know it?

And what would that day do for you?

Mind your head!

Did you try restarting?

Beep

Every morning, we’re born again.

What we do today is what matters most.

Your cache is cleared. The slate is wiped clean.

There’s no sense in tripping yourself up with guilt or fantasizing about how things could have been different.

You can’t change the past.

It is done.

Now, forget what did or didn’t happen and decide what one step you’re going to take today.

After all, your future’s in front of you.

Don’t look back.