Naden Band of the Royal Canadian Navy at University of Victoria in Victoria on 02/08/16

30-day Writing Challenge – Day 26

Write an area about your life that you’d like to improve.

I look at where I was four years ago when my life kinda blew up and the kind of progress that I’ve made, and I’m fairly astounded at the progress. The progress part we’ll get to tomorrow, but for today, I’m going to have a go at an area I’d like to improve on.

Time management is an area where I’ve really, really struggled over time. I have always had the capacity to get lots of shit done, but I’ve never had the organizational wherewithal to make it happen. I have been less good at prioritizing tasks, and definitely not good at making time for myself.

I’m as guilty (or more) as the next person of losing hours on social media. I have to admit that the Screen Time function in the recent iOS update was a very telling thing, and it’s caused me to think about my own screen time. I’ve had a couple of periods where my social media consumption patterns changed – focus more on Instagram, less on Facebook, less time reading the news, times where I’m off the grid completely. Lately, the trend has been ticking downward. I’m still spending north of an hour and a half on my phone every day, but a good chunk of that is text messaging, thankfully. FB and its politicized drivel is pushing me away, and Instagram, well, the photos are cool from time to time, but it’s often just mindless.

Not spending time on social media gives me some time to do other things, like read, or take up writing (ahem). Maybe even spend more time doing things like score study, and practicing. Things I’ve maybe subconsciously been avoiding over time.

I’m making inroads through planning out my days/weeks/months, looking at over-arching projects and tasks I need to take care of, and trying to not get overwhelmed by the day-to-day things that are (or aren’t) getting done around here.

The B-side to my time management issues also tie in with my natural tendency towards slovenliness in my household. Admittedly, I’m doing much better than I ever have, but it’s tough, too, when I have three extra humans in the house who consume and don’t necessarily do much in return other than leave messes for me to clean up. I’m not great at ensuring their tasks get completed, and they know that they can just put up a fight and eventually I’ll just do it myself, sometimes angrily. Nobody is winning in this situation.

Tomorrow’s topic of conversation is the opposite of today’s – the discussion of things that are going really well for me right now. I much prefer focusing on positives.

As an aside, I really notice a difference in trying to write at 9pm vs. writing at 6am. I’m SO much fresher first thing in the morning. Right now, the words are there, but it’s pretty noisy in my head from a day’s worth of input. With this post, it took a good half an hour to get going, and this after agonizing somewhat over yesterday’s post.

30-day Writing Challenge – Day 25

Think of any word. Search for it on Google Images. Write something about the 11th image.

Anxiety and ADHD have really taken the forefront of my oldest child’s life. The anxiety portion, while undiagnosed in me, is something that I’ve dealt with for an awfully long time. Most of the time I can keep a lid on things, but this image really sums up quite nicely how I feel when I get trapped into an anxious thought.

I see this most prominently in Elijah though, and he’s been having a large number of anxious days. He’s not been getting the kind of help that he needs, and it’s been a tremendous struggle for everybody involved, especially us as his parents. It affects everything for him – his ability to function, relationships, work, school – and it’s problematic for everyone around him as his behaviours are really disruptive.

Having Kristy in the scene, though, is helpful, as she’s dealt with a tremendous amount of anxiety on her own, and has found ways to deal with it in a manner that it doesn’t affect her nearly as bad as it once did.

The next big question surrounds medication and additional therapy to help him sort out his ability to function in a way that will see him prosper. One day at a time…

30-day Writing Challenge – Day 24

Write about a lesson you learned the hard way.

Probably the toughest thing to learn is to try and tackle fears head-on. My instincts for self-preservation through life are deeply rooted in fear. One of it comes down to vanity and the desire to maintain what meagre standing I have in the world, as nobody likes to be seen as the person who doesn’t know or who comes across as an idiot. The other side also delves into relationships, where fear can prevent growth in so many ways.

On the learning side, when I was much younger, I was at once brimming over with ideas, and on the other side, completely terrified of demonstrating what I knew (or didn’t know) about the basics. I hated opening my mouth and asking questions, because I had natural talent, and therefore would not want to look like a fool for asking a question to which I didn’t already know the answer. Completely stupid, yes. One special side skill that came from this, though, was the ability to quickly extrapolate information from incomplete data sets. Later in life, I’ve been able to use this to good effect to keep pace of conversation in a room full of people I don’t know discussing things I have no idea about in the military (or musical) context. I’m better able to keep pace and track what’s happening. It still comes up, though, where I’m in a room full of near-academics and I’m just not in my element. It’s uncomfortable, and that’s the point where I just hang back and listen. Listening is key.

On the relationship side, I just didn’t ever deal with issues, and that in turn spiraled things out of control. Much like with educational fear, I had places that in my mind I wanted to go, but was afraid to communicate with partners for fear that I would be deemed unlovable, and end up alone, which would then spin off into its own kind of special hell. I would often not deal with issues (“put my head in the sand” as was told to me), but I would also know that a situation could be remedied over time through patience. I got through a good decade and a half of not dealing with stuff before it all came crashing down on me. Therapy helped a lot. Having good friends, and now, a partner with whom I share even the deepest, darkest secrets, is tremendous.

Letting go of fear has allowed me to give love and receive love better. It’s also the scariest shit I’ve ever done in my entire life.

30-day Writing Challenge – Day 23

Write a letter to someone, anyone.

Dear young Brayden,

Hello from the future! Wisdom is gained through experience, and so I wanted to impart upon you a few things that got learned along the way – not that what was done was bad or wrong, but that the path of life can be so different if you look at things through another lens.

Quietly driven. That’s probably the best way to describe the last twenty-ish years. I haven’t always been satisfied in the present, which explains my great tendency to plan for the future, and revel in the past. Don’t get me wrong, there have been plenty of moments along the way that were most enjoyable, and they have been the result of planning, and remain in my memory as joyful, but remaining in the here-and-now is so, so important.

In that “driven” part, too, is the need to be just slightly off-kilter in your thinking and how you do your things. It’ll serve you well over time as you work hard to find your way in a world that doesn’t know quite what to do with you. Even by the time you get into the Regular Force, the system loves you, but you’re not like the others. There’s a hunger for knowledge, and, like dad, you know how to leverage it so that the next great thing comes around.

The last piece of advice I want to offer is two-fold: Don’t be afraid to be yourself, and don’t be afraid of the future. It took too long for me to feel confident enough to really know who I am, and I didn’t spend enough energy trying to stand up for myself and go after what I wanted. Fear is powerful. Don’t let it take over.

The rest is easy – you’ll do just fine. Be good to yourself.


30-day Writing Challenge – Day 22

Put your music on shuffle and post the first 10 songs.

Music, obviously, is a major driver in what I do. I also have a very large and very eclectic collection of tunes. I’m personally curious to see what will turn up…

  1. She’s Out of My Life – Michael Jackson (Off The Wall)
  2. Bonus Mystery Track – Black Crowes (Shake Your Moneymaker)
  3. Design for Living – Flanders and Swann (At the Drop of a Hat)
  4. Oh Girl – The Chi-Lites (Soul Box)
  5. Human – Tank and the Bangas (Think Tank)
  6. Spring High – Ramsey Lewis (The Wonder of Stevie)
  7. Angel of Small Death and the Codeine Scene – Hozier (Hozier)
  8. Mister Magic – The Philadelphia Experiment
  9. Go On – Jack Johnson (Sleep Through the Static)
  10. Rock Wit You – Alicia Keys (Songs in A Minor)

Personally, I’m surprised, but not surprised. All of these are tracks I’ve had in my library, most of them for a long time, a couple that I’ve never ever listened to either. Now, if we had to post my personal top-10 right now, here’s what would likely show up:

  1. Lost Without You – Will Sessions & Amp Fiddler (feat. Dames Brown)
  2. Love is a Beautiful Thing – Vulfpeck (Hillclimber)
  3. Never Will – Terra Lightfoot (Every Time My Mind Runs Wild)
  4. Tints – Anderson .Paak feat. Kendrick Lamar (Oxnard)
  5. Peaks & Valleys – Dan Mangan (More or Less)
  6. All Ashore – Punch Brothers
  7. Ain’t Nobody – Chaka Khan
  8. Lonely Town – Vulfpeck (Hillclimber)
  9. Troubled Mind – Dan Mangan
  10. What It Is – Will Sessions & Amp Fiddler (feat. Dames Brown)

Much more narrow in scope, but very much in line with what I’m digging on these days.

30-day Writing Challenge – Day 21

What three lessons do you want your children to learn from you?

Very timely, this one.

  1. I want my children to learn to be kind to themselves. This can take so many forms, but the way I want them to see it is that they need to be good to their bodies and to their minds. Take the time to nourish the body and the soul. Find healthy ways to sustain yourself physically and mentally. With my kids where they’re at these days, I’m starting to see some progress, but it’s slow.
  2. I want them to know that it is more than ok to make mistakes. I’ve long been a supporter of honesty and coming clean when something happens. Acceptance of responsibility is a tough one, but it’s so much easier for everybody if there isn’t the burial of secrets and errors, only to be uncovered later. This one is particularly difficult, as no one likes to be in the wrong, but I’ve tried to emulate this behaviour with them, so that they can see that I can apologize, work to make things right, and make change for the better.
  3. I have tried my best to show them that they are not a product of their circumstance, and that they can really choose their own adventure. If they want to achieve something, they can set goals and work towards it. Also, they need to realize that goals can change along the way, and that shifts in their path are just that, and not something that will necessarily derail the entire operation. Giving my kids the freedom to explore who they are and what they want to do has led to great growth in all of us.

30-day Writing Challenge – Day 20

Post about three celebrity crushes.

Really? I can’t say I’ve ever been super-enamoured with celebrities, so I’m going to instead pick three people I had crushes on over time, and omit some names.

M.C. – She and I took a semester or two of French class together when we were in college. We became friends, and spent a fair amount of time chatting over the internet. We parted company as I left school but reconnected many years later, just prior to me moving to Ottawa (and the advent of Facebook).

S.K. – An original crush. I think we met when we she moved to town and we were in Grade 3 or so. This crush remained throughout my high school years, and we keep in touch to this day. At one point, we worked together, and as I was getting ready to pack up my life and move away, I told her that I’d had feelings for her this whole time.

A.M. – I always admired her brilliance. We’ve known each other since we were six. She’s always been strong, incredibly intelligent, kind, driven, focused.

All three of these wonderful people have gone on to great things in their lives, and I’m thankful that we had the chance to cross paths along the way at some point.

30-day Writing Challenge – Day 19

Discuss your first love.

I’m very susceptible to reading deep into these prompts. Are we talking about someone I loved or an activity I loved? Today, I’m going to explore the former.

Like the army says, “no names, no pack drill”.

We met, literally, this one time at band camp. There wasn’t a flute involved, but she was this blonde girl who caught my eye and that I managed to find myself in a gazebo with late in the evening along with a group of friends. One by one, the others dwindled, and then it was just the two of us, and before I could even realize, there was a kiss involved. My first kiss. It took until the age of 14 to get there, but it was monumental in my mind. We started dating immediately. It was the spring of 1993. I was in Grade 9, she in Grade 8.

I know that I was a giant ball of teenaged hormones, and honestly it’s hard to know anything about love at that age, but I really learned a lot about the feeling of love with her. As a kid who felt like he didn’t get a lot of positive attention from folks, to have someone, and especially someone I was attracted to, spend time with me willingly, and who actually seemed to like me, this was something absolutely out of this world.

Our relationship didn’t last long – three months, I think – but it was three blissful months where I realized just how intoxicating love could be. I still remember the smell of her shampoo, the shape of her hands, how she kissed, all manners of little details from 25 years ago.

Our lives orbited around music and each other for the rest of our high school days. We dated again for a brief period a couple of years later, again with the same blissed-out feeling for me. Alas, it didn’t last long again.

She and I shared a bed for a spell once, although nothing ever happened between us. We were at band camp, staying at my aunt and uncle’s place in Kelowna, in their guest house that they lovingly referred to as the Bates Motel.

We both ended up in post-secondary in Vancouver, but didn’t see a whole lot of each other. We went to separate schools. I’d joined the army by this point and was starting to forge that whole part of my life. She wound up marrying my best friend, and I attended their wedding.

She moved off to Saskatchewan, and later the Kootenays, where she’d taken up jobs teaching. Many years later, we were both in Calgary – she there with her husband while he was undergoing cancer treatment, and me being on the road and performing at the Calgary Jazz Festival. It was a night where it would have been so simple to re-create that scene under the gazebo, and even a chance for things to go further (or maybe that was just my read). We didn’t, and that was okay. But there was this one moment as we’re standing outside my hotel and “Reelin’ in the Years” was playing:

You been telling me you were a genius since you were seventeen

In all the time I’ve known you I still don’t know what you mean

The weekend at the cottage didn’t turn out like you’d planned

The things that pass for knowledge I can’t understand

Steely Dan – “Reelin’ in the Years”

There was something so incredibly poetic and/or cliché about that scene, a song from one of my favourite groups of all time playing while I was with the girl I’d first fallen in love with.

After I got posted away from BC, she’d drift into my thoughts from time to time, and get stuck in my head for awhile. Finally, once I was posted back to BC, we regained contact. For a brief moment, I had it in the back of my head that there might be a microscopic chance that we might reconnect, but alas, it wasn’t to be. Eventually, we got a chance to meet over drinks, again, while I was on the road, and it was wonderful to see her after all these years. She really hadn’t changed at all – still beautiful.

30-day Writing Challenge – Day 18

Post 30 facts about yourself.

Without ado, here we go!

  1. I don’t think I can go back to riding anything other than fixies.
  2. Tattoos fascinate me. I’m nowhere near done collecting, either.
  3. I’m insecure about a lot of things.
  4. I’m disorganized, but I’m trying to fix that.
  5. I work well when my environs are in flux. I love my home and my situation, but change of location feels good. Transitory.
  6. I almost had a career in IT.
  7. I love making crazy situations come to fruition.
  8. I’m on a perpetual quest to go further. Faster. It’s like I’m secretly a trumpet player or something 😉
  9. Despite the rapid pace of life, I’ve learned that doing nothing is also a really great place to be.
  10. I like leadership. I’m getting better at leading and not doing.
  11. One of the toughest things I’ve ever had to do is to learn to let go.
  12. I’m scared to consider what it is I’ll do when I actually need to grow up and leave this job I’m in now.
  13. I like brewing. It’s a calming activity.
  14. Being outdoors keeps me grounded. Running, hiking, whatever.
  15. I dream a lot about being chased or followed, and I’m perpetually trying to get away from something – a situation or a feeling or someone.
  16. I still have nightmares about college.
  17. I love classic soul and R&B. I came really, really close to crying at the Motown Museum.
  18. I was pretty much blond up until the age of five.
  19. I’ve rediscovered reading. I was a voracious reader as a kid and there are always words going past my eyes, but reading for fun and learning has come back to the fore lately.
  20. I have a certain someone in my life who makes me weak in the knees.
  21. I don’t have a whole lot of deep dark secrets left. I’ve gotten most of them out to at least one other human (including a very, very big one today that kinda snuck out on a hike).
  22. I like sugar. It wreaks havoc on me, though.
  23. Coffee helps.
  24. The job I’m in right now is the one I feel most comfortable with out of all of the jobs I’ve held previously. I really feel like I’m where I’m supposed to be.
  25. The breakdown of my marriage was unbelievably difficult. Conversely, I’ve grown in ways I couldn’t have even imagined over the last four years.
  26. It’s taken me a long time to come to terms with the state of my mental health. I’m getting so much better at paying attention to what’s in my head.
  27. Come to my house and if I’m home I will feed you dinner. Try me.
  28. Hockey is how I chase the crazy away. For three 20-minute periods, all I have to focus on is not getting badly injured.
  29. I have amazing friends and family.
  30. I get so caught up in the future that I forget about the here and now. I’m working to make a change.

This prompt was a lot harder than I expected. Sure, I could’ve rattled off some figures and some facts, but none of them really seemed to resonate.