The Life Stuff Guy

Lifer. Weirdo. Thinker.

What just happened to me?

Fifteen minutes ago I walked down the stairs to the kitchen in the basement of my office. They keep cookies in the cupboards there—about seven or eight different kinds. I opened the cupboard and had a dark chocolate covered butter cookie. Then I had another. Then I had two Chips Ahoy cookies. Then two Oreos. You can see where this is going…

In less than fifteen minutes I had eaten two of every kind of cookie we keep in the basement. Ginger snaps and oat crunch cookies. Chocolate, cream filled—my indulgence knew no limits!

I was Noah and these cookies were the creatures I was saving for the beautiful new world I envisioned after the flood of guilt and fat feelings passed.

This was totally unplanned, and beyond out of character. I went through a fat phase in my last year of undergrad. At 5’11” I was 240lbs of pizza and ice cream eating magnificence. But now, I’m a muscular 200lbs. I eat vegan and vegetarian as much as possible, and I probably haven’t had a cookie in months.

And the worst part is…I loved it! It became a challenge for me: can I really do it? Can I really eat two of every cookie? Will I get caught? It was thrilling.

Unfortunately, I don’t think there’s a lesson here. Maybe this is the start of a slow spiral into madness? Maybe I’m trying to stuff the unfulfilled-at-work feeling in my gut with enriched wheat flour, sugar and cocoa powder? Maybe the FFB (Former Fat Boy) inside of me broke through in one glorious moment of vengeance?

All I know is, until I figure this thing out, I’m staying out of the basement. And tell your Girl Guide daughters not to come knocking on my door.

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Arbitrary Banana Day

In lieu—or maybe in spite—of Valentine’s Day this year, I’ve come up with my own unofficial, counterculture holiday: Arbitrary Banana Day.

Here are the rules:

1)    Pick an arbitrary day during the year; and

2)    Give someone a banana.

You don’t have to give the banana to someone you love. In fact, I would encourage you to give the banana to someone you don’t even know. Then tell them about Arbitrary Banana Day, and watch as the magic of the season (?) spreads.

The importance of adventure

I blame it on growing up in a military family. Moving to a new city every two or three years stirred something in me as a child that has transformed into an implacable desire for newness. New people, places, experiences—I want them all.

This desire has been has been mostly satisfied over the last few years. I’ve lived in three different cities, spent time in Antigua with my family on vacation, travelled to the UK on exchange for school, gone on a road trip with my best friend from Calgary to San Francisco and back, and taken countless day trips with friends old and new. I’ve met so many amazing people, and have had enough experiences in the past five years for two lifetimes.

And yet, it’s still not enough.

The issue now is that the predominant feeling in my life is stillness. I have a steady job where I work traditional hours, and this is where I end up spending the lion’s share of my time and energy.

I’m grateful for what I have. There are hundreds, probably thousands of people coming out of law school who can’t and won’t find work because of the glut of lawyers in the market. Beyond that, there are people unemployed everywhere who would kill for the opportunity to work an unexciting but permanent job somewhere.

I’m lucky, and I know it. But it’s something like Newton’s Third Law: the more comfortable and still my life becomes, the more I want to break out of it and create chaos for myself.

So I bought a ticket for Sasquatch. Come the end of May, my best friend and I are headed to Quincy, WA for three days of camping, amazing live music, and meeting beautiful people from all over North America and the World. I live on the East coast, so I have a bit of flying to do. If everything goes to schedule, I’m going to spend about 60 hours travelling (round-trip) for the 72 hour experience of the three-day-long festival. But I don’t doubt for a second that it will be totally worth it.

In the meantime I’m applying for a job in Yellowknife, planning my new band’s first show, and spending as much time as I can snowboarding and exploring in the woods on my snowshoes. Maybe someday I’ll feel satisfied…but I hope that never happens.

Five things we shouldn’t have to give up as we grow up

Why is it that as we grow older we have to give up some of the best parts of childhood? The obvious answer is social acceptability: if you continue to act like a kid into your twenties…well, actually, that’s probably not totally unacceptable. But as you round the bend into mile 30, people suddenly expect you to be, and act like, “an adult.”

Adults are mysterious creatures. What are they really doing in those office buildings from nine to five? What stimulates their insatiable need for weather updates? When were the “good old days” and why didn’t you invest your quarters in Apple stock instead of chips, pop, and movies?

Now that I’m at an age (twenty-six) where people expect some level of adultness from me, I’m realizing that adulthood is a choice. You can choose to be a big, important, grown-up person who talks about the stock market and mortgage payments, or you can choose to stay a child.

For everyone’s sake, I’m going to suggest that the best idea is to find a balance between these two extremes. If anything, even err to the side of adultness. But while you’re sitting there being a job-working, tax-paying, classic-rock-radio-listening citizen, here are five things we shouldn’t have to give up as we grow up:

1) Running really fast for no reason

Kids are so great at this. Breaking into a dead sprint for no reason other than the joy of running really fast. And showing other people how fuggin fast they are.

2) Colouring

Wasn’t colouring awesome? Sometimes I borrow children to bring to restaurants just so the waitress will bring crayons to the table. Don’t worry, I share. 

3) Forgiving your friends immediately

Have you ever noticed that kids can get viciously angry with each other, and then go back to being best friends almost immediately? Grown-ups could use a little work on their forgiveness skills.

4) Cartoons

As exhilarating as watching the ticker-tape scroll along the bottom of the screen on BNN can be, I’d rather watch an episode of SpongeBob SquarePants.

5) The ball pit

You really should have stopped climbing in after you turned twelve, but I know some of you were sneaking in there until your late teens. We’d probably need to make an adults-only ball pit though, so as not to scare the children.

Towards minimalism, and tiny house living

When I moved back home in May to start my articling year, I was considering a number of potential living situations. My mother suggested to me that I should buy a tiny house. She thought she was being funny, but I did some research, and was pretty immediately taken by the idea of living in a home with less than 200 square feet of space that I could tow with me wherever I go.

One of the things I fear is ending up in a situation where I start to feel stuck. I don’t want to be limited in what I’m able to accomplish by the commitment to a single place that comes with having a mortgage or a long-term lease agreement. Owning a tiny home strikes me as being liberating in that sense.

The freedom from clutter and from stuff is also appealing. Owning less stuff would mean spending less money on non-essentials, and having to commit less time to taking care of the things you do own, which would ultimately result in more time and money for awesome experiences (which are really what life is all about).

The most immediate problem was having to fit all my stuff into a very limited amount of space. I’ve been doing a lot of reading up on minimalism, and on how to most effectively pare down your belongings to only the essentials. In doing so, I’ve been critically reassessing the things I do own, and whether or not they are necessary for me to live comfortably and functionally.

Here are some of the things I’ve started letting go in an attempt to reduce my possessions to only the bare necessities:

Books – As a former English major, this was a bit difficult at first. My library was a huge source of pride for me in my early twenties (GAH! THEY’RE OVER!). But I don’t need all those books. A lot of them were just sitting on the shelf, sad and unread.

I listed the books that were worth selling on Amazon. The rest I’ve got boxed up to donate to the City library, and guess what: going to the library is free! So if I ever miss my books I can go and visit them, but I’ll probably just continue to borrow other awesome books that I haven’t read yet.

CDs – I haven’t bought a physical CD in a long time (I use iTunes), but I still have a fair sized CD collection. I’ve been loading the albums I own onto my laptop so that I can still have access to the music, and then putting all the CDs in a big box. When I’m all done, that big box will be going to the library. The old ladies there are going to love me—until they see all the classic Hip-Hop albums with “Parental Advisory” stickers I’ve donated.

Clothes – When I’m not at work you can usually catch me wearing one of two pairs of jeans, and a black V-neck t-shirt, or a blue plaid button-up. There’s a reason this isn’t a fashion blog.

I went through my closet, and everything that I don’t wear regularly was donated to the Salvation Army. I still own too much clothing. EXCUSE ALERT: I do a lot of outdoor stuff in the winter, so I have all kinds of cold weather gear: base layers and pullovers, hoodies and jackets, mitts for every temperature range you can imagine, and more toques than a Great White North sketch. But I’m working on it.

I don’t own a tiny house yet, but I’m preparing for the transition. In the meantime my living space is slowly growing as I’m getting rid of some of the things I don’t need to own. This is really just a warm up though. What’s going to happen when it comes time to get rid of guitars and music gear I’ve been using in bands since I was a kid? Stuff that I’ve got more emotional capital invested in. I can see the process becoming more difficult, but for now I’m focussing on the small steps I can take immediately towards my bigger, long-term goal. It’s like that saying about eating a whale—you’ve gotta take it one bite at a time.

Imperfections

I don’t think it’s necessary that we strive to accept other peoples’ imperfections. I think if we focus exclusively on coming to terms with our own imperfections, eventually what we see in other people will be the same as what we see in ourselves: small, beautiful differences that make us the unique creatures we are.

Giving and receiving

Many of us have been taught from a very young age the importance of giving to, and sharing with, others. So why is it that we sometimes have so much trouble letting other people give to us?

I have a friend who I’m slowly working through this problem with. We’re both guilty of it. She has at various times had trouble with things such as letting me buy a tea for her, or going just a little out of my way to come pick her up so we can drive somewhere together. My biggest issue has been letting her say anything halfway nice about me—I habitually cut her off before she has a chance to finish her thought.

Why do we do this? We understand the importance of giving to others, and how good that can feel, so why do we impulsively prevent other people from giving to us?

I’m sure there are a multitude of reasons, but it seems to me that at the core of this dilemma is an issue of perspective: we see accepting anything from someone else as taking from them, rather than as receiving something they are offering to us freely.

The notion I’ve come to is that receiving graciously is a kind of giving. When you accept a thing offered to you with thanks and kindness, you are in the same instance giving that person the opportunity to experience all the positive effects that come with the act of giving. If you try to prevent them from giving to you, you rob them of the chance to have that experience.

This is something I know I’ve been doing for years, but I hope to break from the habit. My intention moving forward is to accept and thank people for the many kindnesses they offer on a daily basis, rather than politely declining them.

As with any habit, I’m sure this one will be hard to break from, but I think it’s only fair that if you hope to share with, and give to, the people in your life that you should allow them the opportunity to do the same.

Eliminating the unnecessary noise in your life

Noise is loud, confused sound. It distracts us, but offers nothing in return for our attention. It clogs and congests our ears and our minds, and can sometimes be unavoidable.

Something I’ve been considering lately is the amount of unnecessary noise present in my life. I realized one evening that the TV in my kitchen is always on. For the most part, there’s no one there actually watching it. Even if someone is in the room, it’s only on as background noise. Then I thought about my drives to and from the city for work: I always have the radio going, but I would be hard pressed to say that I’m ever actively listening.

The chatter of my coworkers at the office, the steady hum of traffic, the music coming through my ear buds at the gym—it all adds up. Even as I write this, my cat is at the door meowing because I’ve locked him out to try and focus on what I’m doing.

And these are just examples of the external noises I experience day-to-day—the noise created by my racing thoughts can be so much louder and more persistent.

So how do you eliminate all the unnecessary noise? Here are some suggestions:

Turn it off! – There is plenty of noise that you can control, often with the press of a button. Two changes I’ve made recently are: 1) breaking from the habit of turning on the TV while I prepare and eat meals, and 2) intentionally turning my car stereo off during my drives to and from work.

Find a quiet place – Find a time and a place every day where you can enjoy a little silence and solitude. Once you arrive, try a few minutes of meditation to start, or just sit with your thoughts and let the craziness of your day settle.

Go for a long walk – This may not eliminate the noise in your immediate environment, but it can help you sort through any of the million things you think about through the day and help bring down the volume inwardly. A radio emits static as the dial is turned from station to station: so too do our brains as our thoughts race from one idea to the next. Give yourself the time to fully process your thoughts. Create the opportunity to work through whatever it is that’s on your mind.

Early morning walks

It’s been a rare morning in my life that I wake up early enough to go for a long walk before I have to dig into my daily routine. This morning was one of those rare mornings.

I was up at 6 a.m., a full two hours before my alarm was set to go off. I considered going back to sleep, but I felt well rested and wanted to test out the potential of all that “free” time.

It was snowy this morning, and cold, so I clothed myself appropriately and made a cup of coffee to bring on my walk, which I thought was a great idea–and it was, after I had finished half the cup and the coffee was no longer sloshing all over my mitts.

It was so private to be out at that hour. I live in a small town just outside of a small city, so there was no one else around. A few cars passed along the highway in the distance, but for the most part the only sounds were the humming of street lights and the crunch of my boots on the snowy ground.

Setting aside time everyday for peaceful contemplation has made a huge difference lately, not just in my mood, but in the way I react to, and interact with, people and my environment. Whether it’s a long walk, some yoga, or meditation, giving yourself time and space for reflection is an investment that will always bring a great return.

Marble Mountain, New Year’s Day

all you need

is a few inches of fresh snow

and a way up

the mountain,

and maybe you still can’t fly,

but you can float

and that’s enough freedom

to satisfy most people.

 

so staying in New Year’s Eve

while the wasteheads got wasted

and sweat dollar bills out the linings

of their off-the-rack

department store suit jackets

was worth it.

 

watch me

see the panorama of my descent from fifty feet up

and the thick lines I’m carving

through powder,

their curve and

the camber of this moment

like something winged.

 

I promise this won’t happen again,

nor will anyone

or anything in the same way,

so feel until you are sickened

or lifted, and then

let

go.