On Finding Happiness – For The Love Of A Child

December 16th, 2014
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I’m not feeling the greatest or happiest today. My stomach is all in knots, my head hurts and my back is stiff and sore. Maybe the coffee is too strong or I need to put some cream in it. Perhaps I just need to go on a walk, breathe in some fresh air and give my legs a good stretch. Whatever it is, I am not feeling the best and I do not feel like my day is off to a good start.

It makes me wonder; how will I turn this day around and make it a better day? A more prosperous day? A more fulfilling day? Do I need to reach out to someone in my network and await a motivating, hopefully positive response? If I do, I hope the response will be full and long – it will give me something to read and occupy part of my time.

Reading is a lot about that. Occupying your time with an activity. You scan the lines, ingest the information and turn the pages. It isn’t rocket science. A writer is conveying a message to you and you are reading it. Does reading increase feelings of happiness? That’s a tough question. For some people it does and for other people it’s just another activity to eat up time. A person may read a book with absolutely no enjoyment simply because they want to put in part of the day.

But I digress. I’m trying to increase feelings of happiness and meaning. Right now, I’m attempting to do that through writing. Line by line, I hope to make myself feel better. What lines will I write though that will make me feel better? At this point it is undetermined.

My thoughts often shift to my beautiful daughter. She is 5 years old now and I only see her about 3-4 times a year. She lives in San Diego, California. That’s right, she lives in Southern California, born at La Jolla Memorial hospital on Tuesday, September 22nd, 2009 at approximately 2:24pm in the afternoon. I used to be with her every day, 12 hours a day until she enrolled in Montessori school and my wife and I went through an amicable divorce.

There was a reason I got to spend so much time with my daughter when she was very young. My X-wife had to go back to work when Justine was just 6 months old. Not only that, Sunday (my X-wife) had to take $10,000 out of her Canadian retirement savings plan just so she could be with Justine until the age of 6 months before she inevitably had to go back to work at Scripps Green hospital in La Jolla. There’s the U.S. health care system for you. Maternity leave and employer compensation isn’t so good but the salary and hourly wage is great when you are at work, providing service and care for the patients.

So there I was with a 6 month old in a 2 bedroom apartment or unit 13 hours a day. Sunday was back at work and I was a stay-at-home-dad. Justine and I often occupied our time with fun games, toys, art, the coffee shop, Chipotle’s, the park and walks outside in the surrounding La Jolla neighborhoods.

The sunshine was always beating down on us and she would often fall asleep in my arms as the cool breeze blew down the streets. It was a magical time and the bond between us continued to grow stronger. Sometimes we would just sit together, side-by-side in front of the TV and watch kids programs. I would pop the popcorn, pour some juice and our laughter would boom throughout the apartment. The popping of the popcorn and juice happened around the age of 2. Popcorn and juice became the remedial recipe for fever, cough and cold. It was the cure-all and got Justine better in no time. I miss wiping the snot from her nose as she learned how to blow her nose into a Kleenex. Some of the blows would be half-hearted but she was getting the hang of it.

There are too many memorable times of her very early childhood to count and much of it is likely blocked out or forgotten for self-preservation purposes. Holding onto too many memories would create a lot of emotional pain and sometimes it’s hard to not let it slowly seep back in. Just now, picturing her making her first attempts to walk down the 3 stairs in the hallway to the kitchen almost reduces me to tears. It’s quite something special to witness your child making developmental changes. To see them trying, learning and succeeding is a very rewarding experience and worth all the effort and failures.

Now I have to ask myself again; how am I experiencing my levels of happiness? Did I work myself out of a rut from earlier this morning? Yes. I also ate an orange. That made me feel better too. The few ruffled chips I ate as well didn’t make me feel better though – they made me feel chubbier. Now I have to go out and buy some groceries and bring them back to the fridge for lunch. Will this activity of shopping make me happier? I’m not sure but it’s something I need to do and something I must do for the smooth functioning of the household.

After that, I’ll likely go for a walk in an old neighborhood near LaSalle Park. Then hopefully a few more e-mails and maybe a bit more writing. Who knows what else the day will bring. An important phone call might ring through or I might develop a new relationship that I didn’t previously have. Perhaps I’ll send a letter to an old editor friend to see if she’ll help me with editing and the eventual publication of my 1st book. It’s too hard to tell what the rest of the day will bring yet I’m optimistic that something new and exciting might happen; that my levels of happiness will increase and I’ll experience a deeper sense of meaning.

I’d like to write about my daughter more and may do so in the future! Just today my X-wife sent me a video of her opening a parcelled gift saying “I love it baby!” The words ‘adorable’ and ‘unforgettable’ come to mind. Children are precious and they say the cutest things.

It’d be great to hear from you,

Matthew R. Polkinghorne

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On Finding Happiness: Veal Sandwiches

December 15th, 2014
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Today is a tough day. Last night wasn’t that easy either. My Mom had a meeting with her Sir Optomist ladies and my father and I had to make ourselves scarce. Going out with my father isn’t the easiest. It’s not that he’s not a conversationalist but you have to be careful what you talk about when you’re around him. He becomes bothered easily and most of the time prefers silence and the quietness of his own thoughts.

I’m not sure what this type of behavior can be traced back to. Was it a behavior that has been passed down by his forefathers? Perhaps it was his mother who was a quiet and thoughtful person? I’m not entirely sure. It may just be a genetic or biological trait that he was born with and has no control over.

Anyhow, we drove from Burlington to Mississauga and ordered veal sandwiches from a hole-in-the-wall restaurant called Il Paesano’s. As mentioned, the car ride was mostly quiet with some scattered and unwelcome chatter. We drove through the early dark hours and made our way along the Lakeshore. There were many streetlights to wait at, much traffic to wait for, and many people to observe on the street. Passerby’s living there own life and trying to get to somewhere while staying warm in the beginning stages of the Canadian winter. As we approached Port Credit, we drove by the Suncor plant (lubrications division) and admired its massiveness. Smoke emerging from stacks and lights on towers everywhere.

The novelty of the Suncor plant wore off fast and there we were, driving together along the Lakeshore at a very moderate pace. Port Credit, as we came closer and closer to it, is where my X-wife and I used to live while I was in undergraduate school and she worked as an emergency nurse at St. Michael’s hospital in downtown Toronto. We shared many special moments together in Port Credit, often going out on a Friday or Saturday night in the business and bustle of the city. We would often find a quaint and cozy restaurant to dine at, talk and drink.

One such place was called ‘Thyme 4 Pizza & Pasta’. It was at this restaurant where we began to form some of our most special memories with the help of a very charismatic waiter named Randy. It was a dining place we would frequent most often, sharing laughs, clanking our glasses together and having the most delicious and saucy Italian foods. Yes, it was a lot of comfort food cooked beautifully with thick cream. Man, was it ever yummy and did it ever leave our bellies happy and full. More often than not it was impossible to get through the entire meal.

But those memories, now, seem to slowly be a distant and fading part of the past. There are times when I have strong emotional urges to return to those days yet I realize that such thinking is immature in nature and that those times are gone. If I am unable to let go of those times I think it indicates a lack of understanding on my part. For some or many reasons or another our marriage did not work out, even with our daughter thrown into the mix. We started off the marriage in our early 20’s and had high hopes. Even high aspirations. We did much together and grew together in some pretty unbelievable ways but that still does not change the fact that we parted ways in a fairly amicable manner. To be honest, it kind of bewilders me. It goes back to me thinking that the lack of fighting during our divorce was one of my biggest life regrets. So strong and ingrained in us is the will to fight for something – to hold onto it and not let go.

I was forced to let go though. I did not have a choice. And not having a choice, for a human being, is and will always be one of our biggest life challenges. Deep down inside, we want so much to have our way or have things go our way. Getting our way provides feeling of happiness and satisfaction; that we achieved something through our own clever means. In this instance though, I would not be getting my way and we would not be staying together as a family.

Anguish. The destruction of the nuclear family leads to anguish and despair. It also leads to resolve and that there still may be good, even better days to live for – ones that may be filled with happiness and meaning.

So there we were, my father and I driving on the Lakeshore. Driving down some dark road in a city that I am haunted by with memorable memories. The silence between us thickened as we made our way toward the restaurant where we’d order our veal sandwiches. No snow was in the air. No beautiful snowflakes to stare at as we made our way down the road. But we powered on like human beings do. Forging through the night to arrive at our destination to eat and share a bite of food.

When we got there it was still the same hole-in-the-wall like it used to be when Sunday (my X-wife) and I were falling madly in love. The restaurant owner sat at a front table dining with a beautiful young woman. It has been years since I’ve seen him. When he waited on us, he was always in an upbeat mood delivering impeccable service. Now he was being waited on. Likely after years of hard work and dedication. Now he had other people working for him.

I walked in, placed our order and went back to the car to wait for the food. Again, my father and I sat mired in silence. Not two words spoken between us, just the cold night air and people dressed in their warm, hooded coats; smoking their cigarettes and casting their glances at other people as they passed by. Human beings are always so interested in other human beings. It’s a fascinating phenomenon – our fascination with each other.

We waited for another 10 minutes in the car and I darted back into the restaurant. I picked up our sandwiches and our soft drinks and proceeded back to the car. I opened the door, dispensed the sandwiches and it was time for us to eat. We ate our sandwiches hungrily and did not say much to each other at all. Both of us were amply satisfied with our food. After finishing, my father went into the variety store and purchased an ice cream bar for dessert. We switched seats, I turned on the ignition and we slowly made our way home. Another night with my Father. The words spoken between us. Very few.

The question re-presents itself: Am I happy? Again, I just don’t know. Sometimes my memories from the past keep me happy. Other times I can’t seem to find enough of them to keep me going. I write, now, in the present. The activity of writing, especially if I think it’s meaningful, like I do now, creates feelings of happiness and satisfaction. How will I find happiness throughout the rest of this day? What do I have to do for the rest of this day to propel me into tomorrow? How will I be feeling tomorrow? Will happiness escape or elude me? Only time will tell.

I ask again. What activities will keep me going today and propel me into tomorrow?

It’d be great to hear from you,

Matthew R. Polkinghorne

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On Finding Happiness – My Daily Activities Are Limited

December 14th, 2014
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My Daily Activities Are Limited – I wake up and eat breakfast. It’s almost always cereal. I’ll have a cup of coffee, gingerly sipping it to its last delicious drop. Then I’ll watch TV for a while, enjoying the Weather Network and the Golf Channel. Fumble around for a while, get a shower and then think about writing or taking our family dog to the park for a jaunt.

If I go down to the park with our family dog, it’s almost always a 1 hour walk in the park and accompanying neighborhood. She’ll sniff the grass, the trees and step through the leaves with the many crunching sounds. Unsuspecting squirrels are subject to ferocious pounces and heart-wrenching pursuits. The ducks, the geese and the swans are potential victims as well but they always manage to escape back to the chilly winter waters of Lake Ontario.

After the dog walk, it’s back to the computer for a session of writing. Writing is a difficult beast because you never know what may or may not pop into your head. Sometimes it is very difficult to isolate a subject matter that will be very interesting to write about and very interesting for a reading audience. The writings and dialogue have to be engaging, succinct and to the point. As a writer, you don’t want to waste the time of the reader. Nothing could be worse.

Once the daily writing is finished I have to find a way to put in the afternoon and I usually do that with online job searches. And let me tell you, online job searches are often miserable and a dead-end. Nowadays, there’s so many different search engines to explore and so many job websites that it’s enough to make one’s head spin (i.e. – Indeed, WowJobs, Workopolis, Monster to name just a few). The options and selection seems unlimited. Sometimes there are too many selections and it leaves the individual feeling inundated.

These are only a few numbered points to think about and each numbered point has a direct relationship and correlation to my current feelings of happiness. Being unemployed detracts from my happiness. Being alone makes it seem harder to achieve feelings of happiness (i.e. – there’s no one out there to share my life with).

Limited daily activities taxes your feelings of self-efficacy, making an individual wonder if they are still or are competent in what they are doing on a daily basis. Limited daily activities also makes you wonder if you are missing out on anything (i.e. – business trips abroad, business meeting with colleagues, personal vacations in selected and desirable destinations, etc). This, correspondingly, affects your levels of personal happiness because you wonder if your life might be being sold short.

It’d be great to hear from you,

Matthew R. Polkinghorne

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On Finding Happiness – I Am Unemployed

December 13th, 2014
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I Am Currently Unemployed – not having a consistent and reputable job taxes your self-confidence and self-esteem. In the wake of being unemployed, you begin to question yourself. As in “What’s wrong with me?” or “Is there something wrong with me?” Better still, “How come I don’t seem to fit in with anyone, particularly colleagues?”

I feel like I’d be a good match with many different prospective employers, how come I keep on striking out? Do I not have the right qualifications? Do I not have the right credentials? Perhaps I have the wrong types or lack of experience? Whatever it is, I don’t seem to be fitting in with the occupational world and I’m not making any money besides the disability check I receive each month from the municipality. And it goes without saying that a disability check can get spread thin fairly quickly. On the job front then, I’m currently burning in a slow hell that has no signs of reprieve or escape.

It’d be great to hear from you,

Matthew R. Polkinghorne

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On Finding Happiness – I am Divorced

December 12th, 2014
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I Am Divorced – my marriage came to a screeching halt sometime in the year of 2013. I was issued divorce papers. All I had to do was sign and the marriage was dissolved with my former spouse retaining custody of our one and only child – our daughter. We are now living in separate countries. She resides in the United States of America with our daughter and I live in Canada.

Communication between us is sparse but the divorce, overall, was amicable. I chose not to get into fights. The few times we did argue yielded unsavory results in the form of hang-ups and unkind short words. There was a part of me that wanted to fight in an emotional way but I was thinking about my daughter and the negative effects it might have on her. Not fighting during the process of divorce is one of my biggest life regrets and I thought fighting might in some sick way salvage the marriage or reignite a flame that may have burned out.

Each day I try and forgive myself for not fighting harder or more but I always and inevitably think about my daughter and her well-being. I fear that any fighting would greatly unsettle her feelings or rock the boat of her emotions having a negative impact on the early years of her development as she is only 5 years old now, absorbing our divorce just after the age of 3.

It’d be great to hear from you,

Matthew R. Polkinghorne

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On Finding Happiness – I Am Alone

December 11th, 2014
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I Am Alone – I have been alone for more than 2 years now. Not having a single date from October 2012 until this day. I’m not sure if this reality is having a negative impact on my levels of self-confidence but sometimes it sure doesn’t feel good to be alone and I wonder what effect it has on my overall health. I’ve read and heard that people who are married for long periods of time live happy and healthier lives. I’m not sure if this is true yet there are many times when I wonder if my loneliness can be equated to unhealthiness.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve enjoyed many nights of great sleep. Nonetheless, it does become lonesome and tiresome staring at the empty 2nd pillow beside me each night. There has to be a better life than this and it must involve the touch and warmth of another human being beside me. It’s been such a long time since I’ve savored such moments and sometimes it feels like I’m slowly fading or withering away into dust.

It’d be great to hear from you,

Matthew R. Polkinghorne

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December 8th, 2014
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Investing is a good idea at any point in one’s life. Investing makes way for the idea of growth, that you as an individual entity can take a sum of money, park it in a certain type of investment vehicle and see your money grow over a period of time and varying rate of return.

The rate of return of money is based on the concept of risk (an entirely different subject matter altogether) and an individual’s ability to tolerate risk. Risk tolerance is typically categorized 3 ways: low, medium, and high. The lower one’s tolerance for risk the less likely the individual is willing to incur losses. The higher the risk tolerance, the more willing an individual may be to part ways with their money or incur losses.

But risk and risk tolerance is a topic for another blog post and can be discussed in greater detail at a future time.
For now, let’s just stick with the basic idea of investing and why it’s a good idea.

For one thing, wouldn’t it be great if you could see your money grow over time, in a vehicle that doesn’t necessarily guarantee growth or return but encourages it? Wouldn’t you like to see your money parked in a bond, GIC, equity fund, segregated fund or annuity? Something that is going to work for you and encourage variable or fixed rate of return?

Don’t be fooled though, there are investment vehicles that can guarantee a certain rate of return over a fixed period of time, but they typically have a lower rate of return and are for risk adverse investors. These types of investments are GIC’s. There are other types of investment vehicles that guarantee a fixed rate of return but they, at this time, do not need to be discussed here as it is beyond the scope of knowledge of this post.

But back to the main idea of this post: investing is a good idea at any time in one’s life because it indicates that you as an investor, are willing to put money away for the future and retirement, for your financial security when you reach the more elder years. Part of the reason as to why this is such a good idea, is because there is more uncertainty in our former years as health concerns arise and our physical well-being comes into jeopardy.

Perhaps you want to save or invest for that world-trip after you retire? Perhaps you wish to put your kids or grandchildren through college one day? Whatever your intention or desire, investing, done the right way, can get you there. Sometimes it will get you there faster than you may think and sometimes it will get you there slower than you may think.

Again, it depends on what type of investment vehicle you are using and how much risk you are willing to assume. If you want to go big, maybe international equities are the way for you to go. If you prefer to go not so big, maybe a set of international or domestic bond purchases are in order for you.

Nevertheless, investing done the right way is intended to have your money grow over a period of time and enhance your financial security and provide for yourself and the ones you love and hold dearest. This is a very basic look at investing. It doesn’t include topics or subject matter like; trading volume, market segmentation, volatility, market capitalization and earnings per share.

In future posts we may took a more intricate look at investing concepts and how we get into the fruitfulness and excitement of investing, no matter what your tolerance is for risk.

Wishing you happy and healthy investing whether you do it with an institution, an LLC, a fund manager or all of your own as a trader throughout the daily trading hours.

Thanks for reading,

Matthew R. Polkinghorne

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December 3rd, 2014
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Life is a lot about the acceptance of living with and in adjustment or adjustments. There are always going to be periods of adjustment in our lives that will challenge us and push us to the limit. We never know when and for what reason these adjustment periods will happen, yet they are and always will be there, reminding us that life is a struggle.

One example of a certain type of adjustment is an individual that is struggling with finding employment or landing a job. When a person is not in a career, they are in the midst of an adjustment phase. The adjustment phase challenges the individual to how they will allocate and make use of their daily time (also known as time management skills). As such, the individual’s daily routine changes. Perhaps the individual spends more time at the grocery store or cooking and cleaning.

One way or the other, the day has to be put in. We just have to figure out how that will happen. Or, that same individual may use more of their daily time hunting for jobs, perusing online websites or going door-to-door until they find a suitable employer that will help them earn a living and pay the bills.

Another example of an adjustment period of adjustment phase is when a more elderly person has to be transitioned into a long-term care facility or assisted living. This can become very difficult for the transitioning individual as various freedoms change and the dynamics of familial relationships change. The individual may not be as capable as they used to be, relying on staff to help them perform daily functions. In addition, family relationships might not be as consistent, with more time in between visits or less frequency of visits.

This, in a way, can lead to a deterioration of the familial relationship in the form of unavailability which is altogether a different type of adjustment – an emotional adjustment that may result in the hardening of feelings and increased family tension.

On way or another, we are always in the middle of an adjustment. Maybe you’ve had a recent string of successes? If you have, this is also an adjustment, particularly emotionally. Plus, your relationships will likely change. People may begin to look at you differently or treat you differently. Friends you once thought you had may no longer be your friend and it may be because you’ve had so many successes. You may also be riding a high or on cloud nine (emotional adjustment) as a result of your successes. It’s nothing to be afraid of but it may be wise to make note of it and how it may be affecting your life.

You may, a result of all the positive emotion, begin to make irrational decisions that are beyond your awareness. You may also begin to take unrealistic chances that you previously did not. Emotional adjustments take time and they are always affecting us in various and unseen ways. They effect our thinking and feeling, our judgments and the decisions we will make.

Adjustments, in all their shapes and forms, are very complex and not to be taken lightly. Adjustments are a constant and continuous part of our lives.

What adjustments are happening in your life?
What adjustments do you anticipate you will need to make in the future?
Do you have any stories to share with respect to adjustments or adjusting?

It’d be great to hear from you,

Matthew R. Polkinghorne

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When I’m Not Writing I’m Lost

October 4th, 2014
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I love to write.
It helps me to express myself and share thoughts with you that I would normally not be able to.
But on most days I have a whole bunch of activities that must be done that prevent me from writing. It is during these times that I become ‘lost’.

I lose my way. It’s not that I don’t like doing other things or that I don’t like working. It’s just that writing has a special place in my heart and I don’t feel like myself when I’m not doing the activity.

It’s so easy to feel lost.

Do you ever feel lost?
What do you do when you feel lost?
Do you know how to find yourself again?
Do you know how to make meaning again?
Do you know how to contribute again?

I’d love to hear from you (matthewpolkinghorne@hotmail.com) – 289-208-2241.,

Matthew R. Polkinghorne

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Missing Your Daughter

September 15th, 2014
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It’s tough being separated from your daughter.
The time apart pulls hard on the heart strings and has a tendency to leave you in the state of bewilderment and resentment.

I long for the days to be back with my daughter when she was a little baby.
Changing her diapers on the change table and singing sweet lullaby’s as the days passed.

I was with my daughter from a very young age as her mother had to go back to work when she was just 6 months old. Our bond, therefore, is very special as I nurtured her and loved her to the age of 3 years old. There is something about the sparkle in those deep blue eyes that I can’t get over and can’t get past. It is a sparkle and look that touches my heart to the core and reduces me to tears when our separations grow long.

I don’t know why were separated. I was a very special daddy to her and gave her enough love to flow with the capacity and volume of Niagara Falls (Canadian side of the falls). I miss her. The days apart are long and arduous. I wonder if she knows how much I love her? About to turn the age of 5, does she have a firm understanding of the world around her? Does she understand the separations? Does she know how much I long to be a family again, reunited, repaired and brought back to life?

I hope she does. And I hope her world makes sense to her and that she succeeds and excels in her 3rd year of Montesorri school. I firmly believe, that like her paternal grandfather, she has a very high spatial intelligence. She seems to understand space and shapes very well and knows how things go together and fit together.

It goes without saying. I miss my daughter dearly. The separations are hard and I love her. She is and always will be my “Sweet Babe”.

Every once in awhile, if I listen very carefully, I can hear her heart beat from 3000 miles away. I can hear if it is beating softly. And when I can hear her heart beating softly I have to find a way to dry my eyes because her heart beat is strong and it massages and caresses mine.

Can you hear me my beautiful daughter?

I love you,

Matthew R. Polkinghorne

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