Sep 202013
 

“Here I come screaming out of childhood’s burning barn on a leash too short to reach the person I was meant to be”

Photo by Anindya Chowdhury

by Anindya Chowdhury

Written by Canadian poet Phil Hall, these words come from the book ‘White Porcupine’.

In my mind’s eye, as I re-scan these words, I can see many images.

Initially, as a warning to school teachers: they have – together with parents and society such a large part to play in seeing that our children reach their full potential. What an awesome responsibility!

The author told me his words were written as a result of an old lady – with her writings in hand – asking him if she might have been successful if she’d started earlier in life?

Like someone running a race and coming up short of their expectations … panting from exhaustion … you can almost sense the released energy propelling itself across the finish line, yet without them. So sad is the futility of “success” when we do something, first and foremost, for external recognition forgetting our fundamental obligation to the common good. These wins will ring hollow.

“Oh, Oh, the damage done” – Needle and the Damage Done by Neil Young

Paraphrasing Phil Hall, he said that his outstanding book, Killdeer (2011 Governor General’s Award , 2012 Trillium Book Award, and shortlisted 2012 Griffin Poetry Prize) was written to give hope to aspiring authors: that it was okay to be imperfect … be themselves. 

I can also see how important it is to have a positive atmosphere in which to live – young or old.

I remember how, as an accomplished young athlete, being “crucified” – in front of my peers by the excessively negative comments of a coach . I’ll never forgot it and it affected my confidence after words … resulting in declining performance … with no one back home to care.

Is it just because they can, that some people misuse their authority over children? Do they not realize the long-term potential influence they have over young minds, for good or for ill? Although the vast majority of coaching volunteers provide outstanding service to their community, it only takes one… whose careless use of power can undo the fine example set by others.

To some parents, their kids can’t do anything wrong, but all parents should be involved in their children’s pursuits – to aid in positive development and protect them from any form of abuse. Paying for the activity – music, sports, drama, etc. – is not good enough. Parents can’t afford to stand on the sidelines of their kid’s lives. Once kids feel they can’t excel, they won’t.

Of course, at any stage in life, we have to be careful not to push our own agenda onto them and mistakes will be made but there will be no mistaking our love for them, now or forever.

May we always be able to affirm: “… I was meant to be.”

Fred Parry

www.fredparry.ca                                   Sept 2013

Sep 152013
 

I was re-visiting a 25 year old poem I wrote and was intrigued by how those words have, for me at least, stood the test of time.

 

The poem is called Two Things and begins:

 

Two things I have learnt in life, I wish we all could be.

To neither desire untold riches, or the dearth of poverty.

 

Who wouldn’t want to be rich? Yet, we’ve all heard stories of the “relatives” showing up as soon as someone comes into a great deal of money. For example, consider the instant millionaires created by government lotteries. I almost feel sorry for them. Now that they’re rich, they have a hard time measuring people’s true motives: are others interested in them or their money?

 

On the other hand, who can say that they want to live in abject poverty?

 

“With no loving in our souls and no money in our coats / You can’t say were satisfied” Angie by the Rolling Stones.

 

My father-in-law’s simple homespun philosophy was one that stated: a person can only put on one pair of pants at a time … can only eat three meals a day.

 

After that, they then have the opportunity to give back to others.

 

But rather to be content, with what’s right for us today.

And learn to share, in every possible way.

There’s a big difference between wants and needs; and when we really look at it, most of us want a great deal more than we need.

 

“Only a life lived for others, is the life worthwhile.”Albert Einstein

 

For who needs a God, when we have our hearts content?

Yet who do we blame when we can’t pay the rent?

 

I find that in times of trouble, it’s easy to be a believer. It’s when things in life are sailing along nicely that it’s harder to stay in touch. 

Photo by Anindya Chowdhury

Photo by Anindya Chowdhury

“Do you ever wonder just what God requires? / You think He’s just an errand boy to satisfy your wandering desires.” – When You Gonna Wake Up? by Bob Dylan

 

And both lead to vanity with the lies we say,

Where our lives are so dark by night or day.

When we have no purpose in our lives – except just to serve ourselves – we lose that light that is within us … that defines our humanity.

“You remember only about the brass ring/ You forget all about the golden rule”Gonna Change My Way of Thinking by Bob Dylan

But tomorrow’s a new day, and may it always be.

Thank God for that; it will set us free!

 

What’s your new day? Hopefully, it’s filled with second chances. Then what?

 

There are many reasons to justify our inactions, until we compare our situation to others – those, often with the least, who give more. Why? Perhaps they can better relate to the plight of others. Or, as Holocaust survivor and psychiatrist, Victor Frankl said, “Life is never made unbearable by circumstances, but only by lack of meaning and purpose.”

Fred Parry

www.fredparry.ca       Sept 2013

Sep 082013
 

Time guru and author, Stephen Covey, famously described the difference between important versus non-urgent matters that bog us down.

Turns out, the things most important in our lives are also the things we don’t have time for. Things like crisis prevention, relationship building and skill improvement.

Why? Well, we get all tied up with non-urgent things – both important (necessary) and non-important (unnecessary). And, what’s really sad is that we’re putting aside all the things that make us happy.

Ask yourself: what are the things you love doing … that make you happy, excited and proud? Now, ask yourself: why aren’t you doing them?

“What you doin’ on your back/ You should be dancing, yeah!” You should be Dancing by the Bee Gees

Now, ask yourself how many years do you have to live … 10 … 20 … 50? And, how many of those years (if you’re lucky) will be truly healthy – for traveling, hobbies or your choice of lifestyle?

And, since we’re not an island unto ourselves it means getting along with others. I should know, I’ve blown it so many times, I feel like a downright hypercritic. At such times, am I happy? Hardly!

If you’re like me, I know how you feel, but this is what I’ve found out … the hard way. There’s a predictable contradiction when it comes to implementing Covey’s important ‘relationship building’ and ‘crisis prevention’.

I mean, sometimes, as you look ahead, you’ve got to cry out, “iceberg!” But, what if the response is one of indifference or (particularly irksome) no reply at all. 

Now, there is nothing wrong with an emotional decision, once you’ve looked at all the evidence, but there is such a thing as being right … and wrong … at the same time.

Sound confusing? Well, it’s all a matter of degree and how you relay the info. There’s no sense going overboard, upsetting others or failing to keep calm in a crisis.

“If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you”

“Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!”

(poem excerpts from) If by Rudyard Kipling

Now, this isn’t easy to do; it’s a skill that needs developing – keeping cool under pressure. Yet, wouldn’t you want to deal with someone that’s asking all the right questions and is logical and organized, in the process?

Photo by  Anindya Chowdhury

Photo by Anindya Chowdhury

Biting your tongue can be a painful lesson to learn, but so can ‘ruffling feathers’… of the very people you need to help you. Instead, you can show a little respect and be seen as one of those people who always seem to get their own sweet way. Also, saying a heartfelt, “I’m sorry” goes a long way – which can be honestly therapeutic.

It’s your life, how do you want to spend it? It’s a simple choice.

 

Fred Parry

www.fredparry.ca      Sept 2013

Sep 052013
 

It’s now been two years since ‘Maverick’ passed away and getting on with life has been our main concern … without him.

Photo by Anindya Chowdhury

Photo by Anindya Chowdhury

I’ve seen fire and I’ve rain / I’ve seen sunny days that I thought would never end
I’ve seen lonely times when I could not find a friend/ But I always thought that I’d see you again”
Fire and Rain by James Taylor

You’ve probably heard people say that losing a pet is like losing a member of the family. Of course, it may feel like that – one does go through the same grieving process – and, sooner or later, one must push on with life, regardless.

So, it came to be that my wife and I have gradually talked about getting a new dog. Before this it was just impossible to consider, or even talk about, but now…?

Now, there are lots of pets looking for homes. For example, according to the 2011–2012 APPA National Pet Owners Survey and estimated by The Humane Society of the United States, an estimated 2.7 million healthy shelter pets are not adopted each year, and only about 30 percent of pets in homes come from shelters or rescues, with approximately 66% of all pets in America being either cats or dogs.

So, if like us, you’re looking to get a pet, it’s probable that there’s a lot to choose from at your local Humane Society.

To help us out as we consider the transition, I talked to veterinarian Dr. Gord who practises in a small town in Southern Ontario. A family business, Dr. Gord has 37 years experience; and, with him, one feels a gentle wisdom that seems to come naturally to this county vet.

Firstly, after thanking him for his time, I wanted to know what other ‘Baby Boomers’, like us, do in this situation. I mean, we’re not exactly young anymore, and being newly retired, travel plans are beginning to take shape.

Other questions included: do we still have the patience for house training a new pet?  Should we get the same breed of dog again? What about having a smaller versus a larger dog? And, do we want to go through the inevitable pain of having to say good bye … all over again.

His answers were both philosophical and practical.

Starting at the beginning, Dr. G explained that his family shares the responsibility of babysitting pets when family members take a trip. If that is not a realistic option for you, you could look for a good boardering kennel. However, he also cautions, “If they don’t let you in the back door, don’t go in the front door.”

In regards to having patience to go through house training, Dr. Gord’s advice is to consider getting an older pet that has been trained already. Checking around, you can give an already great pet a second lease on life.  Perhaps, another family – due to changed circumstances – are looking for a new “good home” for their pet.

As for getting the same breed, our country vet reminded me that none of our own kids, who live under the same roof, are the same. “Why would you put old expectations on a new pet?” he asks.

I know it can be a setup for disappointment. Our son-in-law found out the hard way that just because certain dog breeds have the same general characteristics; it doesn’t mean they’re even close to behaving similarly.

Reading this so far, you might have guessed what Dr. Gord’s view on owning a small versus large dog might be. You love them for themselves, right? Other than that, you still may prefer one over the other based on external reasons like home size or landowner’s restrictions. Everyone’s situation is different and you still have to be realistic.

Of course, the biggest heartache of all comes when you have to say that final goodbye. The good doctor says that within his lifetime, he has seen the average dog age increased from 8 or 9 years to 17 or 19 – with some living on into their 20s. This is due to: improved diet, regular vaccinations and spaying or neutering that additionally deters different types of cancer. The truth is, however, “That final day will come to us all.”, he reminds us. When it comes to euthanizing our pets – of which less than half of owners actually stay to witness – with a two-step process that includes anesthetizing, the pet really has no idea what’s happening. Dr. G adds,“It’s done humanely.” So, why would we deny ourselves something beautiful, like the love of a pet, in the first place?

Finally, Dr. Gord cautions us to remember that you don’t have to walk out with the first pet you see. It must be the right pet for you and your situation. 

Wikipedia describes the bestselling 1908 novel, Anne of Green Gables, by Canadian author Lucy Maud Montgomery, as being about how a “young orphan girl mistakenly is sent to Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert, a middle-aged brother and sister who have a farm and intended to adopt a boy to help them.”

The next day, Marilla informs Mathew that she’s going to send Anne back to the orphanage. When Mathew suggests that that Anne might be company for her, Marilla fires back that she’s not suffering for company and adds, “She’s no good for us, she has to go straight back where she came from.”

“Well”, said her brother, “we might be of some good to her.”

I suppose that’s what Dr. Gord was getting at with his ‘seeing it from the other side’ attitude of life – when it comes to considering adopting another pet.

“And you’re the only one who is all alone / The only one whose love is gone
The only one who has given in / The only one who will give again”
The Only One by Roy Orbison

Recently, I met a lady who had a little dog that her husband once refuse to consider owning because of their plans to travel during retirement – plans that never materialized. Over the last four years, however, that little dog has captured her husband’s heart … even though he doesn’t like publicly admitting it. She says she also shares her joy by dolling up her pet with hair berets and taking her to long-term senior’s homes, where they look forward to seeing her and her little dog every week. And, the dog seems to know who is in need of extra attention – often staying on the bed of certain residents longer than others. Although I didn’t ask, I wondered if that little dog would not also be considered as a needed companion, if she or her husband were to pass on.    

How about you? Have you made the decision to open your heart again? If so, why not “choose adoption”?

“And in the end, the love you take / Is equal to the love you make”  – The End Lyrics (Abbey Road) by The Beatles

Fred Parry

Fred Parry / www.fredparry.ca Sept 2013