Autumn, day 50. Turning a corner, question mark, question mark.

Gosh it’s hard to believe that it’s been 50 days since I started to focus on blogging and this season’s theme of communicating.  My life is changing for the better folks, I’m not ready to say that I’m out of the anxiety woods but I sure and beginning to feel like my spirit is returning.  It’s a nice feeling to, again, want to connect with friends and also to meet new people.

It’s great to have been to the doctor for a good check up and have the all clear BUT ‘less salt and work on your blood pressure.’  Thanks Kathryn, for just booking me that appointment and being bossy boots about it.  Now, I just need these stitches on my head removed… and get back to the gym, and I should be in good shape for relentless flirting in Maui this winter.

I’m thinking of setting up a home gym since Roman has moved to Calgary.  Although, I may be interested in finding a new trainer. If anyone can make a recommendation I’m interested.  I really like working with someone my size, so… that makes the referral harder.  Or if anyone knows of some rubberize hex dumb bells that someone needs to rehome…. I know just the place.

I sure appreciated the help that a number of you have been giving me in making this shift.  I really want to return to being the positive and optimistic person that I was before I saw the dark side of politics, and battled this economy and the shift the retail market.  So many things collided when I wasn’t paying close enough attention.  Darn it — me, the futurist wasn’t seeing what was happening in my own back yard.  I feel positivity returning, and increasingly when I hear complaints about anything, I have less and less time.  The complaint department remains closed.  

What has been helping is reengaging philosophically and writing. 

This past week was one of the more rewarding ones.  It felt full of accomplishments, with solid healthy openings to the next steps in the weeks to come. I’ve mentioned that I’ve been focused on catching up the accounting and restructuring the businesses.  I made great progress on both of these this week.  My accountant has been coaching, and it’s been so helpful.  I enjoyed being able to get some philosophy on paper this week as well.

What am I expecting this week?

  1. We should have the listing contract signed with Davin in the middle of this week and then the Sunworks building with will up for sale.  I’m both very sad about this and also know that it’s the best thing to do.  It will open up new possibilities for us.  It’s going to be nice to refocus Sunworks by moving into a smaller space with an emphasis on product you can’t buy on the internet, or wouldn’t shop for on the internet.  Items like greeting cards, cookbooks, journals, leather bags, candles, art, jewelry, perhaps even some clothes.  It’s probably time to refresh the branding and identity of the store as well.
  2. More accounting and government reporting.  I’ve got two major projects left.  If I can get through one of these this week that would be fantastic. 
  3. The final week of the sale at Sunworks and a lot of orders and new inventory to arrive next week just in time for the holidays.  I’m thinking that we’ll take one of the rooms in Sunworks and start a bit of an ongoing garage sale.  We have so many fixtures, and props, and things from 20 years in the store that just need to find new homes.  Not to mention some clothes and books and things that need to go as well.   Someone take this bread maker off my hands!  
  4. Write another instalment of the book.  I’m thinking about next writing about our relationship to place and things.  Such a big topic that will need to be focused on the relational aspects.  What place does for and and to us?  Here are the previous two instalments.

Well folks that’s it for Sunday.  Time for a glass of repasado, peanut Thai curry tonight and maybe some comedy.  Tomorrow another day at the desk… and this time I’m looking forward to it.  Mid way in the day I think I’ll try out the circuit gym in town… come on Scott let’s go, let’s go, let’s really go!  At least I’ll be doing something other than sitting on my fat ass all day.

Am I turning a corner?

Use a stick if you have to, but be thoughtful.

In painting we use various pigments, types of paint and methods of applying colour and texture to surfaces be they canvases or brick walls. When I first started painting again in my forties, I went back to school and studied with Dave More. He’s since become a life long mentor and friend. I recall him telling me that it doesn’t matter how we get the paint onto the canvas: ‘Use a stick if you have to.’ The point was to begin, to make one stroke after another in a thoughtful way. Carl Grimm, one of the world’s top conservators of the world’s masterpieces of fine art, told me that every stroke on a canvas should be applied with meaning, that it’s there to do something. These two ideas,  to begin and to be thoughtful, apply to all forms of creative expression. Combined with experimentation and practice these ideas provide us a useful metaphor for creating and shifting our identities in the world. Nuance and skill take time to learn and develop. Practice is essential as we learn any form of creative expression, identity expression is no different.  

In every creative practice there are tools that we use to create masterpieces. In music we have a framework of scales and tones which develop rigorously, and rather beautifully, from the mathematics of soundwaves, through systems of notation and a vast range of musical instruments which produce an almost unlimited range of sounds.  At one extreme is the sound of the symphony orchestra, sometimes with soloist, producing an extraordinarily complex soundworld. There are decades of practice and training behind each performance. In contrast,  we’ve all heard people sit down at a piano with no training and hammer the keys in a way that makes us want to plug our ears and hope for silence to return.  So it can be, when we are around people that haven’t tried to master relational skills. How can we develop our skills towards the relational equivalent of symphony orchestra, chorus, and solo singers and players?

If we imagine our identities as composites, developed from the many relationships that we are in, then we can think of them like we do painting or music, each composition rich with textures, and layers, and colour that give us each our own unique aesthetic and make us individuals like no other. To create our own personal masterpieces of identity we need to consider the materials and tools at our disposal. And then we need to practice and develop skills that enable us to shift our identities in ways that are unique to us and express what we might call our divine selves, an expression of ourselves that rises close to our ideal imaginings. 

The raw materials that make up our own personal masterpieces – our individual identities – are indeed the various and shifting relationships in our lives. The skills and abilities we use as we interact to create meaning in these relationships could be conceptualised as our relational aesthetic.  

I suggest that we engage in four distinct types of relations. These influence who we are in the world and can limit or enhance our ability to realize our divine selves, particularly if we are unaware of their influence.

four primary relations

We might think of these relations as: 1) people – who we know, 2) place/things – where we go, 3) activities – what we do, and 4) ideas/concepts/words – the tools we use to make meaning.

If we take the above diagrams and write in our strongest relations for each of these four types we might begin to see the underpainting, or hear the melody, of our relational aesthetic. Who we are might be just a little clearer and begin to raise questions about the importance of each relationship to our well-being and challenges.

You can read the introduction at: An identical paradigm shift. This is the second post of this series. As always I invite you to connect with me below by engaging in discussion, and by signing up for future posts at the bottom of this page.

Autumn, day 46. Completion leads to renewed energy.

I want to write today and have wanted to for the past couple of days but ‘doing’ keeps getting in the way of sharing and ‘being’. I’ve been neck-deep in accounting and catch-up mode. You’ll recall that I’ve written about how much had ‘fallen off the desk’ during my time on council, and how much catch-up there was to do. It’s this week that I’m really starting to see the progress that I’ve been working on over the past year.  

I can’t begin to tell you how excited I feel to have one of the business’s accounting completely caught up.  It’s fired me up to keep going.  This one success has given me renewed energy to carry on with the next challenge. With my accountant coaching me every week I’ve been able to tackle and sort some difficult issues. I’m onto the next of the five companies, and making great progress on it. I hope to have it mostly done by the end of the day, it is the easiest of them all. I’ve been in touch with a number of government agencies to sort out some of the government filing issues. Everyone has been so helpful. Communication has been my theme for this season and when I’m feeling anxious I’ve taken the bold step to communicate that anxiety. It’s helping me to not create bigger monsters than necessary.

A goal has formed over this past couple of weeks:

As I leave for vacation at the end of December all my accounting and reporting is up-to-date.  Accounting for all four companies can be delivered by the middle of January to the accountant. As I proceed into 2019 I am completely current and will work on the big tasks of bringing all of the debt we’ve incurred, through this past couple of years of growth and struggle, under control.

When I leave this winter I don’t want to take anything with me. Perhaps my winter theme will be creativity … creative writing, and painting and new inspiration. I’d like to refresh my greeting card line and start working on a new one to launch when we move the store.  And of course a book is rattling around in my head and it’s coming out in spurts. Tomorrow I will attempt the next piece it will explore four relational types that influence our identities.

It’s nearly official now – Sunworks will move around the corner to the Metropolitan Block in February and March, to be open in April, just in time for Spring. A new tenant is taking over the space we are currently in and we are so very happy to put a new lease in place. Everything should be confirmed by the end of the week. 

And … on top of it all, on the tip-top highest point on my head, I had a little fatty cyst under the skin that developed when I ran into a tree branch about four years ago.  It looked like I was sprouting a horn.  I finally made time to have it removed… now there are three little stitches.

An identical paradigm shift.

James Thurber said, “Don’t get it right, get it written.” And so I begin this book about identity and change. It is perhaps the very essence of my blog, conscious evolution. How do we evolve as individuals, communities, and society as a whole? Can we be conscious about how we change over time? What are the questions we need to ask of ourselves and the world around us? Are there things that we can do to help ourselves be happier, well, and more fulfilled? What factors might be a play that enhance or detract from our ability to change in the ways we’d like?

First let’s address a debilitating assumption: in much of the world, but primarily the west – although likely spreading – we hold a belief that, as individuals, we are wholly autonomous in our actions, decisions, and choices, that our identities come from some inner source that makes us unique and different from everyone else. For most people I think that this belief is held unconsciously. There is ‘us’ and then there is ‘them’. With this thinking we are solely responsible for our own success or failure.  It all rests on our shoulders, just as we believe that the problems of others rest on their shoulders.  With this assumption we are alone but we are fully free to do what we like and create ourselves as we wish.  As I write this, I think to myself, how can we possibly believe this? Yet when we watch the news or engage in conversation we use words that reinforce this assumption. Perhaps it’s time to move past this idea.

We might consider a different view. What if there is no ‘us’ and ‘them’? What if all of our actions, decisions, and choices are influenced by, and flow from the relationships we have with other people, with place, ideas, and things? What if we think of ourselves as a composite made up of those relationships? It may still hold true that we are unique and different from everyone else, but the source of that difference is derived from the relationships themselves. In this view we would not be solely responsible for our success or for our problems but we would share them with everything and everyone we are in relation with.

You can visualise those relationships as a diagram, a painting with multiple colours, shapes, and layers, or as music with various instruments working together and in harmony or dissonance. The image you construct of these relationships, their strengths, closeness and distance, volume, and texture could be thought of as your identity. How they influence you and how you influence them over time we can describe as the aesthetics of living.

By thinking of our identities as composite, made of relationships, we can begin to see how we might evolve through consciously choosing which relationships to activate, enhance, feed, develop, starve, sever or weaken. The possibilities for change are then nothing short of magical.

In this work I hope to share with you a way of inquiring about our identities, and the aesthetics of living, so that we might become more aware of the influence we have over our own happiness and well-being, and also more aware of the influence that the world has on us and we have on it.

The universe will unfold for you with the questions that you ask. Our goal here is to ask the very best questions, the ones that have the most power to invite what is good and useful for yourself and the world around you. I’d like you to discover your superpower and to put it to work in the world. I invite you to explore together how to bring it to life.

As always you are welcome to comment. I appreciate questions that help me clarify and write more as we go. I invite you to subscribe to the blog so that you’ll receive notifications when new posts are made. There is a place to comment and also to sign up placed below.

Autumn, day 41. One boring post.

Friday morning I’m wide awake in the middle of the night thinking about all of the changes that hopefully will happen over the next few months. Snow has arrived and yesterday was the first day this season that I started the morning in the dark.

I worked hard Thursday and felt like I got nothing accomplished whatsoever. The same piles were on the desk at the end of the day as at the start of the day.  So what did I do?

  1. I wrote a newsletter to all of the customers of Sunworks and let them know that we would be having a two week clearance sale. Then, Terry and I worked with Kathryn for a bit to hang up the clearance banner and decide on the discounts to apply to everything in the store.
  2. I met a friend for coffee and offered encouragement as they find stability after some very troubling times.
  3. I set up a time to work with the realtor about the sale of the building.  That is moving so slowly. I’d just like it to be done already.
  4. We had our wrap up meeting with our new insurance broker and signed the documents to consolidate the nearly 10 policies that we have. It will save us literally thousands of dollars. Some of the policies were reduced by over half. That felt like it was a piece of work that is finally coming to a close. As I think about it, it may be the highlight of the day. The feeling of having something completed, organised, and back on track.
  5. I chatted with a possible tenant for the book room at the back of Sunworks.
  6. Oh yes, I spent a couple of hours downtown today at the media event for the RCMP. They launched a new downtown initiative with a dedicated downtown unit. I really think that will be help and I’m glad that City Council supported this change. It’s long overdue.
  7. And I guess it was the first of the month, so there was endless banking and accounting that needed to be done. Not very fun tasks to be sure.

That was Thursday in a nutshell. The task list that I wrote at the beginning of the day had only a couple of these things completed. Although the day was full of the stress of unaccomplished and urgent tasks, I handled it rather well I think. I admit that I’m concerned about the darkness and all the changes that will happen during the winter months which are just arriving. Friday, was spent almost in its entirety working on the back log of accounting and paper work, which seems never ending but surely I’m starting to make headway.

And, one last thing today. I really want to write things that are useful and inspiring here and feel like most of the posts fail to inspire. As always though, there is a spot for comments below, and also to subscribe to updates.

Autumn, day 40. The aesthetics of identity and living.

My time away was really beautiful and I made some good personal progress. I’d committed to some self care, and so travelled free-form with few plans. My friends put absolutely no pressure on me to plan too far in advance. Patty and I went to Thermea spa and relaxed on Monday evening. Some time to chat with Patty is always engaging and inspiring, and thought provoking.  We were both a little tired and so didn’t make any major decisions in the if-we-were-in-charge-of-the-world sort of way. Lots of silent and reflective moments.

Jenny’s quitter’s party on Tuesday night was lovely. Just the right amount of speeches, food, and laughs. It was good to see some of my political mentors and friends. I met friends for late breakfast or lunch each of the three days away, and in-between-times walked around the city and sat in my flat at Alt hotel reading a novel – which I finished on the way back. I didn’t desire drinks while I was there, although I did have some wonderful repasado, there were no runaways or hangovers. This trip was very good for my soul and body. A nice balanced time alone, with old friends, and some new friends. Thinking, walking, reading, playing.

This time away gave me time to think, but not about the things that I planned on thinking about. I had thought I would work on the projects from home. Do some business writing required for bank proposals, leasing arrangements etc. Instead, I spent quite a lot of time thinking about a book that’s been rattling around in my head for years trying to get out.

Over lunch with Jenny on Monday a lot of my thoughts spilled out onto the table between us. I suppose as we both make major decisions about the future of our lives the conversation flowed easily. My thinking over the past couple of decades about identity and societal change seemed clear and it was fun to explore concepts using the things on the table in front of us – glasses, water jug, bottles.

Later, in a text conversation with my friend Alan, I roughed out some chapter ideas and some thoughts about about the content. This month, I’ve been challenged to write 50,000 words this month by Kathryn but I’ve decided that this may be too much additional pressure given all else that I need to accomplish in this season of communication and change. Last night however, Fran, another colleague, mentioned that she’s appreciating these posts and suggested that I lift some of things that I’m writing here for the book. I’m not sure there is anything useful so far… but I could write some of the chapter ideas here over the next month, and perhaps that will help me begin to get the concept onto paper.

A working title: The aesthetics of identity and living. It may be a framework for personal, organisational, and societal change that helps us understand who we are and how we can gently transform ourselves and the world around us.

You are always welcome to subscribe to my blog, or to leave a comment.  

Autumn, day 37. Hoping for a future sighting.

I’ve left town for a couple of days to see a friend quit in Winnipeg after 20 years on their City Council.  I can only imagine the questions that they have about the future.  I was only on Red Deer City Council for seven years and still the chaos that I’m dealling with is incredible.  As I said, I had no idea the amount of life that had been put on hold.  Let me also say that the experience was worth it.  I met some of the most lovely and beautiful friends that life has to offer.  I also came face to face with the darkness of society, and our different ways of being in the world.

I’m glad to be here in Winnipeg to celebrate a change, life after politics, but also because it gives me a chance to sit and reflect on my own future.  

While I’m here I’m hoping to experience a ‘future sighting.’  This is a glimpse of oneself in the future, doing and being.  Almost like a guide that beckons you to come hither and enjoy. 

Here’s the draft of the question that I’m playing with:

Here’s the draft of the first question that I’m going to work with.

Dear past self,

It’s February 2020, and I wake up today, look around with awe on all that has changed since Autumn of 2018 when I made those brave decisions to make positive changes in my life which would take me toward the future I enjoy now.

Let me tell you about my life now after all that the end of a wild decade, and the truly creative and forward looking effort that brought me to this new place.  In this letter I’ll tell you where I live, what it’s like here, who’s around me, what new interests that I’ve discovered, how my soul feels and what it means to be me in the world now.

I’ll share how I made sense of the journey that brought me to this place where change was needed and became possible…

With love and admiration for the work you are doing and are about to embark on.  

— Future self.

In my meditations and wanderings this week, and as I explore future possibilities,  I hope that this future self will call to me and help guide me past my fears toward better times.

Autumn, day 35. The magic and chaos of life changing decisions in relationships.

Let’s start with my anxiety levels.  Interestingly enough they have been up and down for the past few days but I haven’t hit many debilitating patches that have forced me to make evasive manoeuvres.

After we made the decision to sell the Sunworks building, and to turn over the operations of our other businesses, everything is in a state of flux.  We suspected this would happen, and perhaps this is why we’ve put off the decision until now.  

We are entertaining new business arrangements with some folks that want to move to our location, all of whom we believe will benefit the existing businesses and add new life to the street.  We’re very excited about these connections.  I wish we could say more but until things are formally known, and it’s time for them to announce their plans, we will work to find the right match for the street and the neighbours — for the benefit of all of downtown.

We’ve hired a realtor and he is working on the valuation and listing.  More will be known next week.  What feels certain at the moment is Sunworks will move to the Metropolitan Block.  This will be a fresh start for us.  We’ll focus on product and services that you just can’t, or don’t want to, buy online.  We are thinking about the move in January/February.  This will depend on the work our realtor does and the decisions of new tenants.

It’s a crazy activity for the dead of winter.  Yikes.  I’ll need a warm break after that for sure.  Thailand or Greece perhaps.  Hmmm.

My goal at this point is to do a little every day to keep all of the changes moving in the right direction and to quickly address any issues that arise as a result of our decisions — course correcting will be needed… as well as communicating as best we can through the entire transition.

I may have mentioned this before… the strange part about the anxiety I face is, if at the beginning of the day I have energy, I don’t know when it will run out and when I’ll want to hide under a rock.  In the past couple of weeks that’s sometimes been a few minutes, or a few hours, or a couple days.  It’s a mystery, and I’ve noticed that any emotional turmoil sinks me quickly.

As a result, I’ve closed my complaint department.  I chatted with Roman this week about the nature of complaining.  He suggested that complaining could be purposeful and involve action, perhaps even be healthy.  I really am not sure.

I used to be a positive person, and want that back.  I used to believe in humanity and want to believe in goodness again.  Part of that for me is to stop my own complaining, letting my bitterness go, and embracing some new possibilities.  These changes and decisions may be part of that.

I’m not sure what complaining is but I feel badly when it’s coming from me, and when I’m hearing it from others.  There has to be a time and place to be critical without being toxic.  Since what we say alters our relationships, and as a result our own identities, it’s important that what we choose to engage with strengthens what is good and hopeful.  How to distinguish complaining may come down to tone, and motive — why are we saying something, and how are are saying it.

To those of you that did very nice things for me this week, hugged me, said hello, shared your support and encouragement, invited me ahead in the grocer’s queue — thank you.

I continue to share this journey with you this autumn, in as brave a way as I can muster, with the hope that I might find a way to connect with you in a real way, and that you might find ways to connect with the world as well even as it faces more fierce chaos.  It’s not my best, shining self, that I share, all polished-up and glistening.   Instead it’s a journey, that I as a middle-aged human, of a certain background, with a certain set of relationships, undertake in which I try to figure out how to get to my preferred future — hopefully I can do this by shifting my relationships with friends, colleagues, ideas, places, and things.

Autumn, day 32. Growing clarity.

It’s hump day and I’m up early.  I lay in bed at 5 a.m. this morning thinking about the day and how difficult it is to overcome habits (or maybe addictions in this case).  I really wanted to flip on the news, check my iPhone, etc.   You’ll perhaps recall a post at the beginning of this season where I am attempting to shut my phone off at night, then in the morning, do my planning and morning tasks before checking the news, or email, or bank accounts etc.  It’s hard to change this.  As, I’ve said before, once I engage with the world outside then it’s really difficult for me to have clarity on what needs to be done during the day, and to prioritize the right things.  My dreams were forward looking last night, no scary monsters.  When I woke this morning I had that feeling of being able to accomplish the day well.

I stuck to my guns this morning, left the phone and news off, did my planning and prioritization.  Three pages of tasks today.  Yikes.  I’m going to have to be very efficient and organized… and also know that I probably won’t get through everything.   I’m feeling good today.  My anxiety levels are lower than they were a week ago, and I feel like I’m making progress toward the goals Terry and I have set to divest and start a new chapter in our lives together.

Yesterday a friend shared news that they had that takes them toward their goals, perhaps in a dramatic way.  The conversation we had strengthened my own resolve to carry on the path we’ve chosen.  I feel inspired.

Yesterday I also met with the, soon to be, realtor and the leasing agent for the Sunworks building.  Soon the building will be on the market.  He offered great advice and helped me find clarity in our decision.  It’s looking more and more like we will move Sunworks into the Metropolitan Block after the holiday season.  Our agent suggested that renting out the Sunworks space to a new tenant may be very attractive to some Red Deer businesses, particularly those who want to be owner operator. Sunworks itself is on the brink of recovering from the past two years of economic downturn.  Things are looking up but we sure do need the holiday sales to hit the mark.  We need to be in the black this year.  The red ink is tiresome.

And so the day begins.  Clapping and cheering are always welcomed.  

Autumn, day 30. Charting the week.

Where will the week lead?  How can I be in relation to this week and steer it toward success?  How much ability do I have to chart this course?  I suppose that much of this has to do with planning and properly following through on my plans. There are so many moving parts right now.  I’ve started to design a planning tool to keep track of all of my projects … courses for horses perhaps.  It’s a play on the Brits saying horses for courses.

My idea is to document each of the various projects that I have on the go, and to define the next step to take on each. I’m hoping that what I’ll be able to accomplish is more than a list of to dos, but a way to hold a space open for multiple things to happen at once and to perhaps recognise the interconnectivity of the projects themselves. With each of the projects I’m thinking about who, and what, I need to be in relation with in order to give the project energy to move. These ideas are not fully developed but I’ve started to put together the bones of what I think could help me, and perhaps others.

This morning it feels good to have let the world know about our plans to divest and explore some new opportunities. I’ve heard only good things about our decision from friends and customers.

The weekend at Tribe was okay. We had some new patrons and we had some returning patrons. It was fun to work with my friends this weekend. Several people chatted briefly about getting the Sunworks newsletter and hearing our plans to move the store, and hopefully sell the building.

This week we interview the third realtor who has expressed interest in helping us sell; perhaps this one will go somewhere. Terry and I really want the path to open up soon so that we can take our next steps.

So how about that anxiety? The last four days have been pretty good. No long blue patches. Some moments here and there but that is to be expected. Hopefully I’ll be able to keep on top of the work this week and make progress toward healing. Today, I’m back to the doctor for the complete check up. I’m hoping for good results.

Next Sunday, I head out to Winnipeg to see my friends there, and to celebrate Jenny’s retirement from politics. It’s an exciting time. I’m looking forward to spending some time with her and my other friends and also to relaxing a little bit. It will be good to have space away to think and plan what happens after the Autumn is over, and to make sure that it is successful.