Monday, November 5, 2018

A Week of Remembrance: Beny-sur-mer

I remember watching this Bell Canada commercial in the early 2000's, I think. It's set in the French town of Dieppe, but it always had a profound effect on me. This commercial brings me to tears every time I watch it. Perhaps it was the catalyst that propelled me to visit the Normandy coast, and the Canadian landing at Juno Beach.

I walked Juno Beach at low tide looking out at the hundreds of yards of beach out to sea where the Canadian soldiers would have landed. After an over night crossing of the English Channel in a flat-bottomed boat tossing them around with undoubted sea-sickness, they ran into oncoming machine gun fire burdened with their sea legs, back pack and the untold terror that would have been exclusively theirs.

I simply can't even imagine the horrors they saw that day.

What I can imagine is courtesy of the Juno Beach museum which keeps their memory alive from that day. I spent a couple hours inside of the museum trying to keep my eyes dry, because it was just so gutting. What a horrific business war truly is.

The Juno Beach Centre, which had just been newly constructed when I visited it in 2006, is located in the small town of Courseulles-sur-mer. Outside of this small town is the Canadian cemetery of Beny-sur-mer, a few kilometres inland. It is the final resting place of some 2100 Canadian soldiers fallen from the Normandy campaign set in the middle of a corn field. I took a taxi from the town out to the cemetery, and the driver waited while I went inside to pay my respects.

The grounds were absolutely immaculate, with row upon row of headstones perfectly aligned the length of the cemetery. 

I was there in the beginning of May, a month before the June DDay ceremonies but there were flowers from every small town across Canada. A pleasant reminder that Canada and its citizens are eternally grateful for the sacrifice given 70 years before. I've stood at many Canadian memorials, but this one really left me eternally grateful for being a Canadian. 

I walked back toward my waiting taxi and when I arrived back into town, the driver didn't charge me for the fare. It seems the sacrifice that Canadians made before me are still paying our way in this part of France. It made me so immensely proud to be a Canadian...

Lest We Forget

Monday, September 17, 2018

Losing a Friend to Mental Health and Addiction

Years ago, I was away for a weekend at a volleyball tournament. I saw a young man on the beach court and he had some kind of writing on his ribs. Upon looking more closely, I ascertained that it was some sort of script written tattoo.

Later that night, I ended up talking to this young man. I asked him what the tattoo on his ribs was about. He went on to tell me that it was a letter his father had written to him. His father had suffered from addiction issues, and because of this, the young man rarely saw his father. So one Christmas, his father couldn't afford to give him anything, so he wrote his son this note. And this note was the tattoo the young man placed on his ribcage. I read the note, and it was enough to bring tears to your eyes. It was a heartfelt plea of understanding from a tormented father to his son, telling his son how much he Loved him, while being incapable of a logical explanation of why he can't be a better father. Truly heartbreaking. I asked the young man if his father was still alive, and sadly his father succumbed to his demons and passed away.

Mental health and addiction are probably the least understood issues human beings deal with in this day and age. We seem to want to use logic to understand the patterns of trauma and abuse, which are contributors to addiction and mental health. Instead of dealing with the root cause of the issues of trauma and lack of connection, we seem to want to blame, or demonize the tormented people for the drama and impact they bring into any situation with their behaviour. I mean, it's easy to dislike the person for their behaviour and the impact it has. But too many of us dislike the person, instead of disliking the disease which controls the person. That's the big difference.

Today, I found out that a friend of mine hung himself. This is the third person I've known that has hung themselves this year, unable to cope with the addiction or mental health issue they faced. Each person, I incorrectly assumed had the coping skills to be "better" than I thought they were being. I looked at how intelligent they were, and this told me that their logic would win over their trauma.

How wrong I was...

A person's trauma isn't logical. In fact, it almost always defies or overpowers logic, making it a moot point. We seem to judge their trauma with our own ability to problem solve or cope and minimize their situation, rather than accepting that their inability to deal with the root cause of their trauma is taking every single piece of clarity they have. This then creates the repetitious hell they live and deal with on a minute by minute basis.

Mental health is exhausting. It is often too much for us to deal with, even with people we Love. We resent the energy they take from us, and blame them as if they do it intentionally. They don't. I can't choose to believe that addicts or mentally ill people choose to want to be this way, given the choice. It's the hardest way to live life. In fact, 3 people I've known this year proved it by taking their own life, rather than dealing with the trauma in their life. When these people can't deal with the trauma, and their coping mechanisms are depleted from the years of abuse they've endured, death is more preferable than living.

This is simply heart breaking.

I can't help but wonder how alone they must've felt in the final moments of their life knowing that they were going to end it all. I can't imagine what that must feel like, but I know that it's probably more common than we want to admit. That's why we need to be putting more resources into mental health and addiction. This is an epidemic that just isn't going to go away because we don't want to address it. In fact, it's only going to continue to get worse.

I think mental health and addiction affects us all. As human beings, we should want to understand this disease, its algorithm and its preventable impact. To allow any human being go through this, is cruel and unacceptable.

So to you, my tormented friend, I say goodbye in this form. I know you are now free, but I can't help but refrain from missing our chats and walks. I'm sorry for your pain and suffering and that it couldn't seemingly be helped. I will miss you and I will think of you.

To where you are...

Friday, August 24, 2018

Celebrating and Remembering Herb Weidman

When I turned 30 years old, my now, ex-wife put together a collage of my most favourite pictures of beloved people and meaningful moments in my life up to that point. She put all these pictures together in a large frame, and it was one of the most beautiful gifts I’d ever been given. I treasured that picture, and I hung it in my office for years.

At the very bottom was a small, rectangular picture that made its way into the collage. If you knew me well, it might have seemed to be the one that stuck out to be the random, isolated pictures when portrayed next to all the others. But truth be told, it was one of my favourite. This was a picture of me and my Uncle Herbie playing a game of crib in his house. Herbie wasn’t my uncle by blood, but his youngest son, Barry was one of my childhood best friends, and seeing that I’ve known him since I was about 8, he was Uncle Herb. Together with his wife, Leona, they were surrogate parents to me for almost 40 years from the small, rural town of Beausejour, Manitoba.  When I was about 13, my family moved from Beausejour, to Toronto but we never lost that connection. 

I would make trips back over the years to see Barry and old friends. When I did visit, I often stayed at Uncle Herb’s and Auntie Leona’s home. When I stayed elsewhere, I always found the time to come back to sit and play crib with Herb or have coffee with them. If it seemed a little weird that a young man in his 20’s who was always chasing the ultimate party would make time to sit with his elders, the weirdness never landed on me. I Loved spending time with them, because they were so kind, so Loving to me. They treated me like a son, no matter how much time had passed. In fact, I know I was back in that small town when my name seemingly changed from the “Chuck” I am used to, to the endearing, “Chuckie” that I was called by them. This is my childhood name, and very few people have the ability to use it. Obviously, this was one of the occasions when I was Chuckie, not Chuck.

Whenever you hear of the passing of people who have been beloved in your life, it hits with the force of a night train. A flood of memories cascade, visions, audio clips, memories, videos, pictures. They all become the medium of grieving and remembering the departed. When I heard the news of Herb’s passing, my body immediately began to respond without my consent. I began to sob uncontrollably. It was such an immediate loss that I couldn’t explain why I was crying. In fact, I still can’t.

Herbie had a herculean work ethic, like world class. For a man of his generation, he was one of the most empathetic, compassionate men I ever knew. He was a calm presence that left a lasting impression on me. He was champion Father, husband and friend. I mean, his kids actually really, really liked him!! (For reals…) Leona, his wife Loved him. Not to say Herb was ideal or perfect, but damn, that man did his very best. A good marriage is hard work, and Herb worked hard on his marriage. Seeing him together with Leona was inspirational because you really saw what a lifetime of Love and commitment looked like. Herb was committed to his wife, his kids, their kids, to his community and to his faith.

I will remember Herb as a pillar of Love wrapped inside a moustache that always smiled at me. I will remember many versions of Herb over the 5 decades I knew and Loved him. He was a wonderful and Loving man I could only aspire to be. So I am bidding goodbye to the man I knew. Herb has graduated ahead of the rest of us, and he has finished his journey. I am overjoyed that his legacy will always be remembered in the actions he took in his life. That brings me good feelings and memories of him and the Love he showed me, and the countless others he knew.

To where you are Herb Weidman, and thank you for your Love and light.. Enjoy your new freedom. You are Loved and we will miss you. But you will always live on in our hearts and minds, so I know you will never be so far away.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Journey of a Lifetime Social Media Tour

1998 Backpacking at the Running of the Bulls in Pamplona, Spain

So it's been 20 years since I went on the backpacking trip which changed my life. On that trip in 1998, a 26 year old Chuck Bastie left Canada for 10 weeks in Europe alone, and on a quest to find myself.

During that journey, I wanted to write a screenplay, a movie or a book. However, when I got to Europe, all I did was party until I ran out of money in Budapest, Hungary. That was definitely the low point of the trip, but it ended up being the necessary shift that I needed. I met a person on a night train that I had no business meeting under the most unusual circumstances. This chance encounter became the basis for my novel, Journey of a Lifetime.

When I returned to Canada, I was deeply disappointed in myself for not having written a word for my screenplay. In fact, it wasn't until over 10 years later, in 2009 when I actually started writing the novel which was to become the genesis of Journey of a Lifetime.

So here I am 20 years later. I am travelling the same timeline of my original trip, and let me tell you how surreal this is. The places look the same, but obviously the experience is different. At each point, I am now surrounded by a host of memories and feelings which feel like I am being charged with 100 volts of electricity. Admittedly, that 26 year old Chuck Bastie is long gone, and I am the replacement which feels like being a distant cousin to myself, which is to prove to be a reoccurring theme.

Speaking of themes. One of the themes in my novel is serendipity. -A fortunate coincidence, if you will. These coincidences occur in the most magical ways by manipulating and creating sliding doors of time lines. Back in 1998, I had no idea what these phenomenons were. They were more frustrating annoyances which blocked what I thought I wanted.

Now, I welcome and accept them. For example, I had originally wanted to leave on this trip on July 1 to keep to the original timeline of the novel. But life happens, and I ended up booking my ticket for July 16. When I went to fly out of Toronto, there was in climate weather and the flight was cancelled. This cost me an extra day in Paris, and after the delays so far, this was going to really make my timeline even more challenging. But in each of these sliding door moments, you have a choice to accept that The Universe has something different in store for you.

So I instead took a connecting flight to Halifax, and I got to see my Father and my aunt and have lunch together and have a wonderful visit for the afternoon. So instead of operating on the original timeline, mine seems to be Lovingly guided in a continuing series of serendipitous events which will ultimately lead me to the timeline I am supposed to be on, and not the timeline I thought I was supposed to be on.

And to start this trip, I've already been re-routed (and re-rooted lol) a couple times. So I am very excited to see how things shift as I play the role of Tristan Kelly in a social media adaptation of my novel, Journey of a Lifetime.

So I landed in Paris. Stay tuned :)

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Joachim Low and Understanding Vs. Accepting

In 2016, German football coach, Joachim Low was caught on camera scratching and sniffing himself during a game. In an explanation after wards, he spoke at a press conference explaining why he did it, and then offering a hapless apology without taking any responsibility for his gross conduct.

After watching it, I bet most people who watched this were wondering why Joachim Low was doing this. This is the difference between understanding and accepting.

You could waste a lot of energy and time trying to understand why people do the stupidest things. You can ask them, and they can answer and give you their reason. But at the end of the day, it's not about understanding why they did it. It's about whether you can accept the behaviour they exhibit is who they really are, and not who you'd like them to be.

You'll rarely understand illogical behaviour in people when looking at that behavioural pattern logically. People often make emotional decisions based on how they feel, and that's rarely logical.

So the next time you try to understand the behavioural pattern, ask yourself whether or not you can accept the behaviour of Joachim Low, instead of understanding it. 

Monday, January 22, 2018

Love Will Save The World

I remember watching the movie, "Invictus" with Morgan Freeman, and Matt Damon. It was a movie that brilliantly used the theme of the 1995 World Cup of Rugby, and incorporated the story of post-apartheid South Africa with Nelson Mandela. It was a great movie so many reasons. Yet for me, one reason more than others.

One of my favourite scenes from the movie, (and there were many to chose from) put Nelson Mandela in a position where he was reasoning to his people. Mandela had just won the election, and was elected the first Black leader in the history of a country that openly celebrated racism. Yet what Mandela was explaining to the Black population was incredible. He was telling the Blacks that this wasn't the opportunity to lash out against the white people who had oppressed them for centuries. I'm quite sure a lot of Black people voted for Mandela so that he would do exactly that. But Mandela knew it was power, not force that provided the ability to grant forgiveness. His higher Love for his country came before his ego.

I can only imagine the restraint Mandela must've had to exercise. The whites imprisoned him for 27 years of his life, and shattered all of his family relationships. All of this was taken away from him. Now as Prime Minister, he had the power to exact his revenge, and he chose not to do it. Furthermore he asked that if he could do it after everything that had been done to him, the Blacks should too. When Mandela was elected, the white population was terrified. It was their worst fear that Mandela would treat them with the same contempt, as they had treated the Blacks.

The same can be said of the white, patriarchal society today. It fears a feminism movement which will treat them with the same contempt they have treated Women for thousands of years. But like Mandela's choice, Women must not use the same aggressive, masculine energy that men have used to abuse their power. Instead, the divine feminine must prevail so the healing of mankind can flourish. The human experience is broken because of the aggressive masculine actions of fearful men, and it cannot be fixed with the same aggression. Only the power of Love and forgiveness can do this.

This affects the liberal mentality as well. Just as certain that the far right doesn't work, neither does the hurt and abused left wing. The governing energy needs to balance itself in the compassion and empathy of the human experience, and not take its place in the divisiveness of human identity.

Human identity is the basis for all division. It attaches one's self to a religion, a nationality, a language, a team, a political party, a skin colour, and the list goes on and on. This is the game that's endured for thousands of years. It's safe to say that if it could've worked, it would've worked.

But it hasn't.

The left can't be any more defended than the right. It now has to land on the balanced energy of left and right, black and white, feminine and masculine and it has to be anchored with Love, not fear.

So when equity and equality finally shows up, it needs to be met with compassion and understanding, not with contempt and bitterness. Just like what Lincoln said about the civil war...

"With malice toward none, with charity for all..."