The Right To Choose

The choosing I am referring to is the right to choose how and what I think. That may sound like an easy quest, but if it is “easy” then it is not a “quest”. With all the pressures, opinions and criticisms of absolutely everyone and everything in our lives, at times it may seem impossible to remain true to our principles.

It is all about choices. As a non-conformist, loner type of individual I assumed it would be easier to adhere to a principled path. The reality is that the pressure to conform, especially in this “social media” age, is greater than ever.

My most important choice or choices refer to my sobriety from gambling. Gratefully, I was a short term gambler, only four and a half years. Addictions are incurable. The compulsions can be controlled or arrested, but it is a life long effort. In thirty-four days I will reach my tenth “birthday” of gambling sobriety. Truly, ten years of sobriety is 3,650 days of “one day at a time”. We learn in recovery that today is the only day that we can master. Yesterday is gone, tomorrow never arrives.

Life with sobriety is good. It is wonderful. Sobriety is not a “Holy Grail”. My life still has challenges. Mostly little ones. Occasionally, life imposes terrific challenges very suddenly. That when I need that toolbar of principles to help me make the right choice. Everything is a choice.

“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” Viktor E. Frankl


Choosing To Produce

For a good part of my working life I was a workaholic. It was not a positive choice. It was a form of escapism. Indeed, in the latter part of the twentieth century it was seen as a good attribute. Like I said the reason was not for improving myself or anything really. It allowed me to be lazy in spite of all the work I did. It allowed me to be lazy when it came to dealing with my character flaws.

Take a slow comfortable breath my friends. I accept that my parents did the best that they could do. Blaming Mommy and Daddy is not what this essay is about.

It is about learning to produce in a planned, positive paradigm. It is now about scheduling and planning without only working incessantly. Taking and making time for things, important things, like health and healthy relationships. Or some other worthwhile endeavour.

University life came late in my life. Studying and memorizing take time. I do two to three hours of study then I take a half-hour or an hour off. Or I go for a one hour and fifteen minute walk and a fifteen minute ride on the métro to return home. My eating habits have also been adjusted for the better. It is early in the new design but already the benefits are apparent.Yes I am busy. But I am not in a hurry and I am not under pressure. I still take time to meditate. To be fair I am retired. That does allow for the paradigm I am working with. Not having to worry about finances relieves much. True.

Working in order to put in the time to secure a pension was necessary then. Thank goodness I am still alive to now enjoy the benefits of that plan. Attending university part-time is a wonderful way to enjoy retirement. There is still time for other things. The word balance comes to mind.

Changing thoughts now. I used to work for a Canadian Class 1 railway, the smaller of the two. I live about six blocks from the tracks I used to bring trains down to the Port of Montréal on. It is enjoyable to see what I used to do. The money is good and the benefits are okay. Still, it is a demanding life style. It is not a forty hour, Monday to Friday occupation. There is no schedule. You get a two hour phone call. That’s it! It is all about choices. Life is all about choices.

There are always challenges. Some are difficult to overcome. If we are blessed enough to be able to endure ad survive, it really is a beautiful life. I never had to live in Auschwitz. Nor prison. Not in abject poverty. My children are adults now. They are busy. With life. With choices.

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,

The courage to change the things I can,

And the wisdom to know the difference.

I am grateful.

The Right To Be Quiet

Philosophi-a, philosophi-ae f philosopher (feminine), philosophy. Definition from The New College Latin and English Dictionary by John C. Trauptman, Ph. D.

Many of us do believe in philosophy. We believe in morality. The ability to control our behaviour. To choose to behave well. My question to myself has always been, “How will I behave when the world goes against me?”. Another way to state the question is: “If someone treats me in a manner that is contrary to my personal principles; my personal value/character set, is it acceptable for me to abdicate my beliefs in the name of vengeance?”. No! Those events are the ones that demonstrate to us our true beliefs. They show us who we really are.

Does my correct behaviour give me the right to publicly criticize? No, of course not. That in itself would de-value the good works. There are no bragging rights for good behaviour. Indeed, Mandela and Ghandi made their points with silent, passive behaviour. Mother Theresa did not attempt to elevate herself by talking about what she did, she just kept doing it sincerely, because she wanted to help, to love.

How long did Mother Theresa work with the diseased and disadvantaged? And Mandela, how long did he sit in a cell designed to hurt his body and his mind. What insults and assaults did Ghandi have to bear because of his principles. I believe there are many good people like the fine examples of character mentioned above. They do their good works quietly, humbly and they are grateful for the opportunity to serve.

I don’t even know my true heroes and I will never see the price that they paid to help. Kindness and love are are not marketing ploys. They are evidence of strength of character. When I express my gratitude, I should also be grateful for my anonymity.

The best things in life are the simple things that can mean so much. Thank you.

University Life

There are a lot of good events that occur here at university. Yesterday evening I was able to hear a talk by Tom Mulchair about the state of democracy in the world today. At sixty-three years of age I know I wasn’t part of his target audience. Out of the group of forty people about twenty-five per cent were senior citizens. Mr. Mulcair’s messages were pertinent to all of the audience.

He spoke about democracy under attack. His example was personal democracy and he used the new premier of Québec as an example. The CAQ has promised to not allow “religious symbols” to be worn by persons working in the public sector. Of course the examples chosen by this new premier are hijabs and other items worn primarily by Muslim women. Mr. Mulcair was very clear that the intent of democracy is not to protect the majority from the minority, its intent is to protect the minority from the majority. Of particular concern are the groups in society that choose to engage in Islamaphobia.

Mr. Mulchair also spoke about climate change and how the federal and provincial governments in Canada are are either abolishing or ignoring commitments to address this dire problem.

Lastly, he reminded us how acts of goodness and/or conscience have always made the world a better place. He reminded us how people like Mandela or Ghandi rose from obscurity and prejudice to perform major change without resorting to war.

Even though Tom has “hung up his skates” he continues to work for good in this province, country and the world.

He inspired me in my own situation.

Do It! Whatever It Is! Do It!

There comes a time when one must stand for the truth, for what is right, no matter the personal cost or sacrifice. We are not all Nelson Mandelas or Mahatma Ghandis as far as fame or intensity of struggle is concerned. I am not a Martin Luther King or a somebody like that who changed the course of history, or a great nation in order to make something right.

There weren’t any guarantees for Mr. Mandela that after nearly three decades in prison he would emancipate a nation in bondage and become an admired and loved leader of the human race.

Those that I think of today are the ones that I have never heard of, or heard of the good that they did. These good people silent or famous have helped many of us whether we are aware of it or not. Indeed, a number of those good people have insisted in anonymity so that the focus would stay aimed at the cause, the goal.

Mother Theresa didn’t live with the diseased in slums to become honoured and famous, she did it for her love of people, for her love of humanity. She did it for a promise she had made or an oath that she had sworn.

People of that high calibre adhere to their principals, they stay true to the character values that hey have developed in themselves. Those are the examples that inspire me. The example of those good people can be applied to my life. I do not have to re-invent the wheel to become a good person. I need to choose the right heroes and apply their good habits to mine.

The struggle they endured was not treated as a struggle by by them. I believe they didn’t do it for heroism, fame or martyrdom. From where their inspiration came, I cannot say exactly. For sure, I think we are all capable of incredible acts just like those whom we honour.

Then there are the wrongly convicted. Those that are deprived of their freedom due to a combination of incorrect behaviours by the judge, witnesses and/or police. How frustrating and painful it must be to be wrongly convicted and incarcerated.

Of course, there is a litany of girls and women that are kidnapped and abused for years or decades at a time, yet they survive. It all takes me back to Viktor E. Frankl and his writings. The self psychology of survival in extremely adverse conditions.

Smile, breathe, believe. But above all, survive.


Another Wonderful Day

Yes, it is a wonderful day, a fantastic morning! I woke up this morning. I did. The last scene of the dream was fading away as I gently, peacefully was awakened by my brain. That beautiful brain, the gift of life, handed back control to me of mind and body. The bathroom. Maybe it was my bladder that welcomed me back to the conscious world, not my brain. But I am glad to be alive. I am glad to choose the way I will enjoy my life today. There is still work to do but there are choices. That’s what life is … choices.

Happiness is a choice. Deciding what moods are healthy for me are choices. Free to choose how I respond to the situations that will be my day, be my life for this day. It makes me think of those wonderful quotes by Viktor E. Frankl.

Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.
Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.
He states it so clearly. It makes so much sense. It is helpful to me. To the choices I make to keep this life good. A good life. Growth.
I didn’t get as much accomplished yesterday as I would have preferred; I have now. I can do it now. Today has already offered me a choice. “Are you a writer?”. I am writing. I am a writer. For me, To write is to think.
The saxophone player was in the station yesterday. I had change, but not much. Last time I only had a five dollar bill so that is what I tossed into his case last time. I imagine that he puts the money collected in a jar. For musical expenditures. Or perhaps asthma medication so he can keep playing. I don’t know why he plays in the subway station, but I enjoy tones, the tunes. Happiness is all around me just waiting for me to enjoy it.
I have had a light breakfast. The floor has been swept and two windows washed. A little every day.
Even in the mundane patterns of living there is pleasure. The freedom to choose.

Fun For All In Montréal!

Every day is a fun day! Today is always the funnest day, lol.
Yesterday was a long day. Thank goodness I had that hour long nap at the EnRoute service centre on the 401. Yes, up at four in the morning and then to bed at quarter to one this morning.
The things got done in spite of the long drive from Montréal to Napanee and then Perth to Ottawa and back to Montréal. Because of the low volume of traffic I was able to figure out the detour at the west end of the Ville-Marie Tunnel, finally!

I watched seven hours of DVD’s. Sworn statements from the four witnesses. I nominate them all for the creative writing award. And a lot of driving.

One assignment due tomorrow at midnight, another midnight Monday, an exam Tuesday evening, and be in court 9 am sharp Wednesday morning after a 4 hour drive to get there. I still have to do the questions for the cross-examination and my closing argument. My first case to boot!

I sincerely enjoy it! I mean it! Well, I have stuff to do.

Keep well.