The Fundamental Problem With ‘Us’ Vs. ‘Them’

November 22nd, 2015 No comments

It’s no revelation, as human beings we compare. We compare everything and try to relate on some level.
The fundamental problem is this:

They ask “Who is she?” – ‘she’ with emotional emphasis during speech.
They ask “Who is he?” – ‘he’ with emotional emphasis during speech.

Then they also ask with some scorn “But who are we?” – ‘we’ with emotional emphasis during speech.

And then rage ensues as we try to figure out who is more popular and who will be remembered.

This is precisely the reason why we don’t ‘get together’ as a couple or pair. We can’t get over ourselves and can’t stand it when the attention isn’t on us. It divides and separates us. It degrades our behavior and makes us say and do things we would not otherwise do. It results in much social injustice as individuals and groups collude. It breeds nasty and virulent war! It encourages war away from our domestic soil and lives are lost because we fail to sort it out among ourselves and fail to take care of each other.

And so the social sayings emerge “I can’t hold this in” or “How dare they do this!”

Yes, we evolve. But we evolve futilely and slowly.
We wallow in our disgraces and lament the thought of meaningful change.

I will search for the positive and try to fight away the negative.
I’m hoping you will give me a chance.

It’d be great to hear from you,

Matthew R. Polkinghorne

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Mourning On My Own

November 13th, 2015 No comments

I’ve lost my family although not completely. I am divorced and separated from my daughter. She lives 3000 miles away from me (about a 5 hour flight).

There is a wide range of emotions you go through when you become divorced and separated. Sadness, anger, despair, anguish, hopelessness, powerlessness just to name a few. We don’t have to make the list too comprehensive. Each emotion is complex enough as it is.

I wrestle with these emotions almost on a daily basis and admittedly it leaves me feeling depleted, especially after a long day of work. Effectually, I mourn on my own. Really with no one else. There is no one else to share it with. Besides, I tell myself, no one else will understand what I’m going through and they cannot possibly empathize and make me feel better in any way. The pain is my own and I am the only one that has the ability to deal with it.

So I pretend like I’m Ok. I know I’m not. This ties back to a previous post where I remark that I’ve lost the passion so to speak. When you lose your family a piece of your heart goes missing – like it’s been surgically removed. It’s an awful and empty feeling with no feeling of resolve to take on the day ahead of you. You say to yourself “What is the point? Or, this is pointless”. Further, you stipulate that you don’t want to live anymore and would be better off six feet under the ground. This is part of the reason as to why I tend to sleep in a little later nowadays. Although I start work at 12, I’ve lost the verve to spring out of the bed in the morning and tackle the day. When I was a stay-at-home-dad in San Diego, I used to leap out of bed in the morning. My daughter, and infant at the time, would walk from her room our room and stand beside the bed, smile and jump up and down with excitement as if to say “Ok Daddy, let’s get the day started, let’s do something!”

But those very happy days are gone. I hold onto those memories so tightly though. It takes me back to a better place when my life was bliss and I frankly didn’t care about anything else. All I had to worry about was taking care of the household and taking care of my daughter. I’d change her diaper on the change table and see the beautiful golden sun come in through the window and light up the wispy hairs on her head. She really was an angel. The way she smiled at me so lovingly when I changed her diaper. She knew how much I loved her. She could feel how careful I was when I changed her.

And so every now and then these memories come back to me, flooding in and taking over my thoughts. It can be so overwhelming and intense. This little piece of writing doesn’t even begin to do it justice. I wouldn’t dare let my real feelings come to the surface as I write this. It’s just too painful. But I have developed mechanisms to protect myself in an attempt to ensure my survival.

Yes, I mourn on my own. All by myself.
But the memories and images I carry around in my head are positive, not negative. This is how I get through the day. This is how I carry on and try to enjoy my life.

Daily, I think about when I will see my daughter again. I tell myself ‘soon’, and carry on with what needs to be done next. This is the best I can do. This is the best I can hope for. I have to hope that she is happy in her life with her mother and trying to do her best each and every day she wakes up.

Justine, my daughter, once told me (after our divorce) “Daddy, I don’t cry very much”. I thought to myself for a moment “I wonder what some of her nights were like after I left?”. She wouldn’t have felt the effects right away but there would be a time when she realized that something was wrong and the reality would set in. How I would have longed to hold her and let her know I was still there for her. The thought is almost unbearable. It kills me. I wasn’t there. She had to manage on her own. She had to stare adversity in the face and overcome it (without her Daddy that loved her more than anything). But this was to be part of her life. This would be a problem that she would have to face on her own at a very young age. The experience will shape her and make her the person that she is today. I have to make peace with this. I have to make peace with the fact that my daughter could have been happier if I hadn’t failed.

But I did fail. The odds weren’t in my favor. As a result, my daughter suffered. Yet, she also fought through and persevered. It has been 3 years since our divorce. My daughter still smiles. My daughter still laughs. She has friends in kindergarten and she is taking steps toward efficaciousness. For me, this is what matters. Time will tell if she is able to win and seize hold of her independence. Whatever levels of independence she will achieve will be good enough for me. I know she will do her best to succeed and I will always be proud given what she had to endure at such a young age. It’s traumatic. She has fought through it.

I mourn on my own. I wonder if my daughter does too. She may mourn in the presence of those around her. I’m not sure. As far as my X-wife goes, I can only wish her happiness and the very best for her life ahead. She is the mother of our child; of my child. That bond will always be there despite any interpersonal tensions.

As for me, I can only wish that I find ways to become happier as time elapses. I am dreaming a lot in my sleep again and I think that may be a good sign. Some of my dreams are positive and some of them are negative. I don’t know what it means yet I think about them analytically and try to decipher a meaning.

Right now, I’ll wish for your happiness and wonder if you’ll find it.

It’d be great to hear from you,

Matthew R. Polkinghorne

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You Have To Go Harder, Faster, Longer

November 8th, 2015 No comments

To achieve the results you want to see physically. Given there are no medical constraints to your fitness regiment, you really do have to go harder, faster and longer to trim away the fat and increase physical fitness.

For instance, I exercise on the treadmill for part of my workout. For me to see results, I have to run at a faster rate for a longer period of time. Only by doing this do I see the belly fat trimmed away and an increased tightness to my overall frame. This may well be harder on my joints but it must be done to see the results we want to see.

‘Harder’ is the grit and determination you put into the exercise. It is the mental toughness you ascribe to what you are doing in terms of fitness. This component has to be there for the ‘commmitment’ to ring true. You have to be totally committed mentally and not give in to the desire to give up and live a life that is ‘easier’.

Now I could get into aerobic and anaerobic exercise and the difference between slow-twitch and fast-twitch muscle but this tends to go beyond the scope of this post. The point is is that we want to activate certain types of systems in our bodies to achieve desired results. While sprinting is not an aerobic exercise, the quick bursts of speed for as long as we can go helps burn away the fat incrementally. Whereas a slower more moderate pace on the treadmill strengthens our cardiovascular muscle, overall endurance and conditioning.

Trust me, if there are no medical constraints please go harder, faster, longer. Let the sweat pour down your brow and over top of the rest of your body.

This is one way to increase your fitness dramatically. Remember though, this approach isn’t the best for your joints, particularly the knees. There will be stiffness once you reach a certain age.

These thoughts are intended to help and be a starting point. Please take them with a grain of salt.

I’d love to hear from you,

Matthew R. Polkinghorne

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I’ve Lost The Passion

November 7th, 2015 No comments

To write. To expand on my thoughts. To bring new thoughts, to you, my readers. I actually really don’t know if I have any readers but that’s Ok.

But again, I’ve just lost the passion and lost the drive to convey a message. Maybe I think it’s fruitless. It’s meaningless and a complete waste of my time. Maybe I’ve just become lazy and lethargic. I’d rather spend time with my dogs and give them lots of loving. Or maybe I’d rather allocate my time perusing eHarmony and After all, I’m looking for a new mate and a way to make my life fuller on an emotional level.

I just don’t know anymore. I still feel the urge to write but think part of the passion is gone.

Do you ever feel like this? Like you’ve lost the passion? Lost the magic? Lost that special something?

My life feels benign. It used to be so exciting. Perhaps I’m just a burnout.

I’ll try and write again soon.

I’d love to hear from you,

Matthew R. Polkinghorne

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On Finding Happiness: Pauses

August 25th, 2015 No comments

Pauses. Pauses are very important. They allow us to assess what is going on in our lives and how our lives are currently evolving. Pauses provide reflective moments that help us to see inside to who we are as human beings. A pause is a lot like deciding to sit down in a chair and just ponder about the happenings of life. In other words, an individual sitting down in a chair and putting one finger to their chin and saying “Hmmmm….I wonder what would happen if I did this or I wonder what would happen if I did that”. As the individual scratches their chin repeatedly they simultaneously arrive at decisions and conclusions even realizations.

Very often, when sitting down in a chair and scratching one’s chin, we have earth-shattering realizations that propel us forward in our lives. Some people will say “I didn’t realize that just until now in this very moment”. These are called ‘a-ha’ moments because we grab a hold of a new piece of information and make a step forward. We grow as individuals and see a new reality in front of us – a reality that is blessed with sacred and newfound knowledge.

But why do we have pauses? Are they natural occurrences? Or do we do them purposefully and with intention like it’s an in-born trait that periodically comes to the surface? Why are pauses so important? How do pauses serve us and in what capacity?

To think about it more clearly let’s compile a numbered list for assessment:
1. Pause because of over-exertion: this pause tends to happen because we have simply done too much. We have over-committed ourselves to either too many projects or too many people. We have to stop, think and recalibrate ourselves for restorative purposes. If this is not done, the obvious risk is burnout and complete depletion of self.

2. Planned Pause: this pause happens because we planned in that way. It’s not necessarily introspection but it’s a conscious effort to stop and take a break to plan for what is ahead in the future. This can be as simple as sitting down before the start of the New Year to make resolutions that are going to help us have a better life. The important part to realize is that pauses imply stopping. When we stop we relax and take a deep breath fully breathing in and soaking up the pause. It doesn’t have to be an introspective moment, but it likely is and it will help you feel better.

3. Pause because I feel like it: this is a spur of the moment type of pause. It is done on a whim and completely natural – like taking a 5 minute break from your day job and focusing on a completely different activity such as taking a sip of coffee or talking with a fellow colleague about the weather or one of the latest sporting events.

4. Forced Pause: these types of pauses will often be issued by professionals, particularly medical professionals that are looking out for your health concerns. If a medical doctor is telling you to stop because of a medical reason it’s probably best to follow orders and do what the doctor says. Medical doctors have extremely esoteric knowledge and are looking out for your best interests. That being said, doctors aren’t Gods and they don’t know everything. Sometimes it is suitable to get a 2nd or 3rd opinion if you believe the medical advice being given to you is faulty or untrue. After all, we only have one life to live and we don’t want to be unnecessarily hindered or limited if we don’t have to be. Trust your feelings and intuition to possibly avoid a ‘forced pause’.

5. Spiritual Pause: these pauses are often the best type of pauses because it allows you to recharge your battery and really take a look inside to who you are as a human being and who you are becoming. You don’t have to have the input of other human beings to know who you are as a human being. Perhaps all you need is a pen and paper to jot down your thoughts and make thoughtful lists such as lists related to strengths and weaknesses; areas that need improvement and areas that are already solid. The point is that you need the extra down time to figure out who you are becoming and how you will become your very best self in the future. This type of pause may well be equated to an introspective pause.

6. Pause because of confusion: a complete lack of direction and uncertainty about what to do next is a good reason to have a pause. Think about it, if you were feeling confused while driving on the highway or freeway wouldn’t you want to pull over and stop to take a moment to think about what is going on? You would likely do this to avoid getting into a collision. Better to take a moment and wait for your head to clear and for the confusion to lift than to keep on driving and increase the chance of getting into an accident. All of us become bewildered for various number of reasons. As such, it is not uncommon for all of us to take pauses to wait out the confusion and for clarity to return to our heads.

These are just a few numbered points related to different types of pauses. I’m sure there are many more types of pauses. Perhaps you can think of new ones and add them to the already existing list and enhance the value of the list.

Pauses come in many shapes and forms. All different types of pauses are very important for a various number of reasons. Pauses can serve as warnings to avoid and overcome burnout. Pauses can be spontaneous because we need a brief break and want to take them. Some pauses, however, can be prescriptive and indicate that we need to take time to heal, receive treatment and get better. Better still, other pauses can be very spiritual and introspective as we try and begin to identify who we are, what we are doing and who we are becoming as human beings. Sometimes, however, we become completely confused and lose our way. In these instances, it is imperatively important to once again take a pause and reposition ourselves for what lies ahead.

When we pause it allows for an opportunity to take a breath and think about who we are. Although pauses are invaluable for fanning the flames of the soul, it is important to not stagnate for too long otherwise we might fall prey to the problem of being or becoming stuck. We all need downtime. Pauses allow for this.

It’d be great to hear from you,

Matthew R. Polkinghorne

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On Finding Happiness – Stuck

July 28th, 2015 No comments

Stuck. That is what I am today. I don’t feel like I have any new ideas. And I don’t feel like I have any new information to share. This is a disconcerting feeling. I just want to pull the new ideas out of thin air and share them with you but I can’t. Something far more complex is going on here and I have to find a way to work myself through it.

How often does getting stuck happen to you? What do you do when you are stuck? What does it mean to be “stuck”? These are some of the questions we ask to get unstuck.

First of all, what does it mean to be stuck? Does it simply mean that the individual is in quicksand and cannot move? Has the individual been bound in rope and handcuffs and cannot move? These are some of the graphic images that come to mind when we talk about being stuck. It is an unenviable place to be. Concern and worry tend to wash over us when this is happening. The well is dry. Where will the life-giving water come from now?

Do we have to look for a new source? If we do, how long will the search take? How much effort will be required to find and share a new source?

Will we have to make a dramatic change in our life such as re-enrolling in school in a different program to once again expand our knowledge? If we already have earned 3 degrees will we have to earn a 4th to attain the knowledge we need in order to share enough ideas?

These are all questions to consider when we think the well of knowledge may be drying up. Of course, re-enrolling in school is a huge investment and time commitment and requires much thought and deliberation before a decision can be made.

Then again, an individual may just be encountering a lull in creativity and may need some time to pass before the creative juices return. It may have nothing to do with enhancing one’s education and may only require additional research at the library or online to expand one’s knowledge in a significant way. Once this is done, an individual may forge on again sharing new information and backing it up with sources so as to avoid plagiarism. But it’s not as simple as a shortage in creativity or enrolling in a new school program. Something else may be going on. We may be tired in a spiritual way and feeling burned out. We may have lost our zest. Our gusto. Our verve. Our spiritual being may be completely drained and unready to carry on.

I think this is a big part of it. How strong we are feeling spiritually. If our spirit is drained and unready to carry on then how can we expect it to be ready to share new ideas and new thoughts in an inspiring way? How can we expect the very core of our being to exert output and deliver in a big way? The simple answer is – we can’t. We have to find a time and place to recharge our spiritual battery. The well isn’t necessarily dry. The spirit is tired. Bruised. Battered. Beaten up. Left for dead on the side of the street. It’s been kicked around when it’s down and its hair is all a mess with no idea of what to do next.

Our spirit is stuck, neglected, deprived. We have to find a way love it, nurture it and bring it back to life. We have to find a way to give it caressing strokes and hold it lovingly in our arms. In a way, our spirit is our child – we have to treat it with tenderness and great care. We have to shower it with praise and attention through each of its developmental stages; which is ongoing and never-ending by the way. We have to hold our spirit up on a pedestal and worship it as our God – a greater being that guides us much like our children do. There are not enough ways in which we can coddle our spirit and strengthen it with love and tenderness. Think about it, how would you want to treat the very core of your being?

It’s entirely different from your body. Your body is something uniquely different than your spirit. Your body carries you around physically on a day-to-day basis whereas your spirit indirectly and unconsciously guides your actions and decisions that eventually brings you to your ultimate destination. The end game of the summation of all your actions and everything you’ve done throughout your life.

Getting unstuck or not being stuck anymore is a plea to your spirit. You have to pose a question to your spirit. As in, what do I need to do today to re-energize my spirit? What words will I use to best elucidate how I am feeling? What images will I find in my conscious memory that will inspire me to continue to write in an inspiring and positive way? How will I reach inside to find something new that will keep me going and happy; with a zest and verve toward life that may be deemed as unstoppable and completely enduring?

Again I say, what words will I find to best demonstrate how I am feeling inside? How will I catapult or leapfrog my spirit to the next plateau – the next realm of being or existence. Since there are higher realms of being, how will I get there? What do I have to do? How many websites to I have to explore? How many different passages do I have to read? How many different people to I have to speak with until I arrive at the spiritual destination that will keep me eternally happy and fulfilled?

How many questions do I have to pose? How many statements do I have to make until someone notices the spectacular reality of my work?

If I do get unstuck, will I become stuck again? Well I think so, yes. Getting stuck is inevitable and part of life that forces us to grow in remarkable ways. If we didn’t get stuck how would we ever have the time to introspect to grasp the full gravity of the situation? We must look inside somewhere deep to move forward in a prolific and noticeable way. It is only by looking inside that we are able to temporarily seize greatness and hold it in our hands above our heads in a transcendental manner.

It begs the question though, where does the creative drive and force come from? Where are its beginnings? Where does one start the journey and where does one end the journey? And what if the creativity well does dry up? How do we refill it again?
Like technology, knowledge becomes obsolete. We have to replace old knowledge with new knowledge in the hopes that we aspire and evolve into higher beings. This takes time, patience, research and collaboration with other people. We have to share our knowledge’s to create and build greater knowledge’s.

One of the easiest examples of this reality is Wikipedia. Wikipedia is a collaboration and building of knowledge’s through extensive research. It is a massive database that keeps us informed of people, events, science, literature, dates and just about anything you can think of. It is a reservoir of information that has unseen depths. And all the website asks for is some very modest donations from the masses to keep it up and running on a year over end basis – to prevent it from being a publicly held corporation.

Yes, knowledge does get recycled fairly quickly and people share information (especially from the internet) at fantastic rates. With the great recycling of information and knowledge comes the great pressure to create and dispense new knowledge. Which, in turn, puts great pressure on our spirits to remain fully charged and ready to create and dispense. After all, when we are stuck we tend to move into recessive periods of time that can have unforeseen negative effects and impact on our economies. We only have to look back as far as 2008-2009 to the calamity of the Great Recession in which we went through a major and heart-bursting financial crisis.

Does the Great Recession financial crisis have anything to do with being stuck? In a word, yes. Planned obsolescence and the S-curve would argue so. Yes, there was a banking crisis that saw the bankruptcy and absorption of several financial institutions but it was also a time of rebirth and reshaping of institutions and corporations. In a way, the spirits of the financial institutions and corporations were tired, perhaps burned out and they needed time to be recharged.

Unfortunately, a by-product of this reality is being absorbed by another corporate entity in the time you needed to be recharged. It’s like saying ‘Ok, I’m going on a vacation”. And when you come back from your holiday your job is no longer there and your place or work is gone or acquired by another entity in which case you have to identify with another culture (that is if you were one of the ones that was lucky enough to keep your job). And if you were one of the ones that was lucky enough to keep your job you still have to adapt and forge your personality into a new one to merge with the new culture where you’re now working.

Always so many implications and so many spin-offs. We are always effecting each other in remarkable ways. The stagnation of one person or one entity has a direct influence over the current state of another person or entity. We are always influencing each other in dramatic ways whether we like or not. As well, the creativity of one person or one entity has a direct impact over another individual or entity. Our spirits and their currents states are always effecting and affecting each other. We act and react to one another and a reality is formed in front of us. Sometimes good things happen and sometimes bad things happen. It is always a matter of what the day will bring and what will unfold in front of us.

It’d be great to hear from you,

Matthew R. Polkinghorne

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On Finding Happiness – The McD’s Setback

June 14th, 2015 No comments

The McD’s setback. What is the McD’s setback? Well first, McD’s stands for McDonald’s just in case you were wondering. But secondly, the McD’s setback happens in conjunction with all of the New Year’s resolutions we are making, particularly as it pertains to weight control and weight loss. The McD’s setback is a breakdown that happens as we give in to our appetitive desires. For me it was the large fry, the 6-pack of McNuggets and a small coke.

I placed the order January 3rd, 2015 just 2 days after I had been making all my resolutions about weight control and weight loss. As I made the order I feel slightly bad and I knew I was breaking my resolutions in such a short period of time. I was also spending extra money I didn’t have which broke another one of my resolutions to save more money in the New Year.

But as I drove around the bend to pick up my order and drove around another bend to find the parking lot and eat, I wasn’t feeling as bad. I opened up the bag of McDonald’s food and let the smell of the greasy food waft up to my nose. I breathed in deep and relished the aroma. I let out a huge sigh of relief as I knew soon I’d be devouring the delicious food that was just handed to me by a young girl that was working the drive-thru.

I savored every salty bite of food and thoroughly enjoyed the greasy golden nuggets as I dipped them in the provided sweet and sour sauce. If I felt I was eating too much food too quickly I’d stop and take a sip of sweet and sugary pop. The meal just kept on getting better and better down to the last savory bite.

As I ate though a feeling washed over me and I said to myself “Here we go again” or “I’m doing it again”. I’m doing what I said I wouldn’t do. Luckily I went for a nice brisk walk just before but that didn’t change the feeling I was feeling as I stared at the McDonald’s building from my car. I was stumbling down the old familiar path of giving in to my feelings and chubbiness.

Let me explain. As I was walking I felt a weakness in my bones and a wave of hunger come over me. I should have forged on to make my walk longer but I cut it short and headed toward my car to drive to McDonald’s. Again, I felt a weakness that pushed me toward my car. I don’t know what it was but it was very unpleasant. I gave into it instead of forging on and depriving myself of food. Even in the car on my way to McDonald’s I knew I shouldn’t go but my car just steered itself to the location where I could place my order.

It may not come as a surprise or a shock that this is about will-power and not giving in to your appetitive feelings. It takes great will-power to say ‘no’ to the appetitive desires we have. We want so much to consume grease, salt and sugar. They all taste so great and leave our bellies with a feeling of fullness. It almost brings tears to your eyes as you consume the McD’s food. That is how good it is and that is how good it tastes. I’m not grossly overweight either and it’s not as if I’m a McDonald’s junky – I hardly ever go there. When I do though, I like to indulge with at least a large fry and a 6-pack of McNuggets. This is where my will power occasionally breaks down and I give in and say yes to my appetites.

It’s the negative feelings and guilt that result from consuming the food that are concerning. There are accompanying negative thoughts that are turned inward as we consume the food. We know we shouldn’t be doing it for numerous reasons but there we are consuming to our heart’s delight. And yes, consuming the food does almost bring tears to one’s eyes. It’s not just that it tastes so good but it’s the accompanying feelings. We know we can be stronger but how come we can’t in the moment? How come we give in to our whims? How come we give in to our desires? How does the greasy food overcome us and have a stranglehold on us?

I wish I had the answers. And it’s more than clever marketing by these big chain restaurants. Yes, it goes much deeper. I think it’s something chemical, biological or neurological. It’s more than just the waft of grease into the air and it’s more than patterned behaviors and the expectation of what will be in the bag when we order it and buy it.

If anything, it’s just the McD’s setback. Even after all of the New Year’s resolutions have been made, it’s still the McD’s setback. It’s the thing we so much want to avoid doing but we do it anyway. And we see streams of cars rolling into the restaurant to do the exact thing we are doing. Everyone, it seems, is indulging in their desires at a fanatic and fantastic rate. Everyone is susceptible to the McD’s setback, no one is exempt.

What do we see then – a lot of people giving in to their appetitive desires? It’s not just the French fries; it’s the fancy coffees and the milkshakes. It’s not just the sweet pop, it’s the ¼ pounders and Big Macs. It’s the never-ending amount of choices and guilty pleasures that are available to us. We are surrounded by temptations. At every driveway. At every corner, the temptations are there right in front of our eyes and right in front of our faces. Everywhere we drive, everywhere we walk the streets are booby-trapped with the next guilty indulgence that is going to make us feel better, if only for a brief moment or in the short-term.

Then, after the last savory morsel is eaten, reality sets in; we feel bad about ourselves. We’re unhappy with who we are. We are ashamed of ourselves and know we can do better in terms of self-control and maintenance of self. We have just victimized ourselves again and taken another step closer to the ultimate enemy – obesity. We have just devoured another meal that will discourage us from stepping on the scale to guestimate our body mass. When we do step on the scale we look depressingly downward to see a number that disappoints us, perhaps frightens us. We know we can do better given the right circumstances and the right amount of will-power.

As we know though will-power is the governing issue at hand and it’s something all of us are trying to exercise at varying degrees. We need the will-power to overcome the desires that are put so amply in front of us. We need the will-power to say ‘no’ to all of the temptations that wait for us at every corner. And we need to will-power to stay and stick firm to a plan that works toward discipline and improvement of self; toward a self that is the very best representation of us as determined and goal-oriented human beings.

It’d be great to hear from you,

Matthew R. Polkinghorne

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On Finding Happiness – Reunited

May 6th, 2015 No comments

Reunited. Reuniting with a family member can be extremely difficult, particularly on an emotional level. I, for instance, have been reunited with my 5 year old daughter yet again. This time around, our separation was 3 and ½ months. The separation was a difficult one in that I felt the strain on my emotional systems and felt my tolerance stretched in ways that I did not think possible. There is a certain type of pain and emotional discomfort that is associated with being separated from your closest family members; including your son or your daughter. The emotional discomfort is born out of an uncertainty – wondering whether things are Ok or not and somehow trusting that things are Ok even without your presence.

Yes, there is a worry. After all, how will the day-to-day routine be achieved if I am not there to help execute all of the tasks? There are so many uncertainties and so many variables to consider when it comes to daily living. Also, there are so many fears and perils to overcome on a day-to-day basis. At times it can be overwhelming. And it is the daily fears and perils that concern us the most as parents. Innate in us is the drive to survive and we want to make sure our offspring are thriving as much as possible on a daily basis. We want to see our children succeed and do well and be efficacious throughout their daily lives.

With separations and reuniting comes the fear of losing control of all of this. The longer the separations the more we fear we are losing control over the daily functioning of our children. Nothing could be worse. The thought that we have no control over how well our children are doing on a day-to-day basis is absolutely frightening. We begin to lose touch with our children, especially in an emotional way. This tears at the very fabric of our being – who we are as people. We begin to question ourselves and wonder if something is wrong us. How come we aren’t involved with our children’s lives anymore? Is it because we’re an unfit parent? Is it because we don’t have a job and don’t make enough money? Has society retaliated against us in an emotional way as some type of perverse punishment for behaving in a certain way?

These are thoughtful questions to consider as we think about and discuss separations and being reunited. There is a certain type of subdued joy that comes with being reunited. It’s a joy that lingers beneath the surface and is extremely hard to get to the surface. So much has happened during the separations and it makes it hard for the real feelings to emerge. Perhaps there is a fear that there will be an overflow of emotion so everything becomes subdued or held back. An excess of emotion can be extremely damaging if expressed in the wrong way and so we have to be careful of the waterfalls that build up inside of us.

But what do we mean by waterfalls? Is it just an avalanche of emotion? Or is it the convergence of great quantities of water that spill over an area of higher elevation to lower elevation? No. What we are talking about here, metaphorically, is the building up of intensity of emotion in a human being. The building up of intensity of emotion or convergence of water is equivalent to the natural phenomenon of a waterfall. The building up of intensity of emotion can be frightful, especially if not expressed in the right way. Enormous damage can be done to the individual and relationships if unleashed in the wrong way; much like the waterfall that can be very erosive to surrounding structures of land. And the intensity of emotion tends to be a function of how long the separations have been. Yes, there does come a time to be reunited but we can grow apprehensive as the time to be reunited draws near.

There are so many thoughts, expectations, hopes and dreams that circulate around in our head. We wonder who are children have become during the separation. We wonder how they’ve grown and who they’ve developed into. They’re not the same human being anymore and have likely taken on many new influences in their life. The anticipation can become unbearable. We drive to the airport to see them again for the very first time and they burst through the gates and hopefully into our arms with love and joy.

But it isn’t the same love and joy anymore is it? It’s just not the same. It’s not the same as when we used to hold the precious bundles of joys in our arms, caressing them and loving them until they fell asleep lovingly in our arms; purring like kittens into the later hours of dusk. The separations, physical distance and emotional distance have changed the dynamics of the relationship. Our loved ones have matured faster than we can possibly believe and have matured in ways that often leave us speechless.

For example, upon picking my daughter up from the airport last time she flew in (December 16th, 2014), I began to cry as we drove back toward grandma and grandpa’s house. She looked at me and said “you’re not going to give me the pouty face again are you?” I just kept on crying and she said “Wait, let me see it again”. It had amazed me how much my daughter had hardened in the last 3 and ½ months.

Perhaps the separation had been harder on her than I thought or maybe she had grown in some pretty unbelievable ways that I wasn’t aware of. Her feelings had become more mature and it felt as if she almost resented me for crying. Later on that evening as I got her ready for bed I said “Justine, I want talk”. She replied “What are you going to say to me Daddy?” She cut the conversation off even before it began. Maybe there was nothing to say. Maybe I wasn’t aware of how hard our divorce had been on her on how hard the separations had been on her. After all I was her Daddy and I do think that she loves me dearly. I was with her and taking care of her from a very young age until the age of 3.

Needless to say separations and reuniting are very hard and it taxes us emotionally especially as the separations grow long. We are stretched in remarkable ways and tested as to who we are as human beings. It brings out the best in us and the worst in us.

It’d be great to hear from you,

Matthew R. Polkinghorne

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On Finding Happiness – Accepting Influence

April 10th, 2015 No comments

Accepting Influence. Accepting influence is a very challenging task. At our very core each of us wants to be the leader of our own lives. We all have our own opinions, beliefs and ways in which we would like to go about life. In this way, we all seek to forge our own path with as little influence as possible from external sources. It’s not that we don’t like the opinions and beliefs of other people it’s just that living our own little life is to be done in the way we want to do it.

Sometimes we don’t have a choice and have to accept influence from other people in our lives. This can first be seen in our early childhood’s when we are conditioned by our parents to behave in certain ways and perform certain activities to make our way through each and every day. For many of us this can be a very scary thing as we don’t have control over who our parents are and how they act toward us. Some parents have the capacity to act in very abusive and neglectful ways and are not in the best interest of the child.

Not having a choice then shifts to various other caregivers and teachers as we make our way through the early childhood years. We begin to receive instruction from those that have been given the power and authority to do so. Again, we have to perform daily functions and meet certain requirements to make our way through each and every day. This reality is the very beginning of efficaciousness (a concept we discussed earlier on) and how competent we are and feel about making our way through each and every day. External influences such as other caregivers and teachers become the judges of how well we carry out daily tasks.

You can see how we have to accept the influence and judgment of others as we make our way through our lives, particularly early on in our developmental years. This pattern continues as we make our way throughout the rest of our lives. When we enter high school and post-secondary education we again see that the decision-makers above us have the ability and duty to judge us and grade us on our performance and how well we understand certain concepts. They are gatekeepers to the next levels of our lives and get to tell us if we get to ‘go’ or have to ‘stop’. Sometimes criteria have not been fulfilled and movement to the next level cannot be permitted.

It’s not that we’re being controlled but the decision-makers are influencing the next steps of our lives. If a gatekeeper is saying ‘stop’, there likely is a reason for it. And bear in mind that the decision makers above us are not trying to limit us (at least in most cases) but they are trying to protect us. Think about it, if an individual does not understand a certain concept then it may not be a good idea to permit them to study advanced concepts of mechanical engineering, aerodynamics or chemical engineering.

Some people are suited for science and engineering programs while others are more suited for social sciences programs. And there is a whole gamut of other programs to choose from and explore at various levels of the educational curriculum. There isn’t a one or the other in terms of educational programs. These days there tends to be an unlimited selection to choose from and ultimately make a decision toward a career path.

Nevertheless, along the way external sources will continue to influence us and we have to accept those influences to successfully make our way through life. There is no other way. We must accept influence in various shapes and forms even if we think in the moment that it may be inappropriate or unwarranted.

And the acceptance of influence doesn’t stop there. In our family life we again have parents, brothers and sisters, step-brothers and step-sisters, cousins, uncles, aunts and various other family members that shape our lives from very early ages. Not only that, we develop close personal friendships with people outside of our nuclear and extended family. Our close personal friendships develop us in significant ways that leave a great and noticeable impact on our lives. We grow through the pains of adolescent development with our close personal friends, sharing many of our biggest disappointments and successes.

Later on in life, some of our close personal friends may become our peers in the workplace and this will significantly change the dynamic of the friendship. It’s not uncommon for some of our close personal friends to become our bosses or our subordinates. This reality has undeniably complicated implications as feelings related to rank and order become very intense, affecting our thinking, feelings, actions and judgments. We may find ourselves acting in cruel and unusual ways if given a position of power and may feel we are being treated unfairly if put in a subordinate position.

Either way you cut the cake, feelings will be involved and it will be a significant challenge to juggle them as we again ponder what it means to be influenced by other people and how influence from other people is effecting and shaping our lives.

As stated earlier, we all tend to want to be the leader of our own lives. We all have certain ways that we like to get things accomplished. Along the way, though, we have to satisfy demands from external sources and external people. These are the people are circumstances that are influencing us and shaping our actions. This reality can frustrate us as we believe we have the ability to navigate our own lives, performing daily functions in a successful and productive way. If you were given a compass to go in the proper direction(s), would you constantly want to consult other people on how to use it and find the right direction or would you like to be able to operate the compass all on your own and charter your own course?

This may be an unfair question, I know. No one wants to sail the voyage on their own as the waters can become very lonely. At the same time, however, no one wants to be overthrown and capsized by a plethora of captains that are attempting to sail the ship in a multitude of directions. Perhaps we all want to be part of a crew that is on a voyage or a journey. It’s just that along the voyage we want to be able to perform our daily activities with as little interference as possible from external sources. A little bit like being part of a team without having to accept excessive influence from any one member of the crew. We have to remember, though, that external sources and external influences often have practical advice and tips to offer us. Input from outside parties can help us in invaluable ways and provide us with solutions that we may not have been able to arrive at on our own.

There will always be gatekeepers and ‘correctors’ for those of you who might hail from the country of Pakistan. They are often there to help us and protect us from things we cannot see or may not understand. They are good people to have as part of our crew as we may be faced with a daily task that is beyond our comprehension and execution. It’s not that we’re shucking responsibility but we’re diverting a task to a higher power that may well have a greater ability to reason and solve a problem. Each member of a team plays their part and one team member may have a greater mechanical prowess than another. We all have different talents and we all have to figure out how our talents contribute to the completion of tasks to make the vessel steam ahead as smoothly as possible.

You as the individual have to figure out how you will become part of the crew and contribute on a daily basis. In the process of doing so you will have to figure out how you will learn to accept and incorporate influence without losing your cool. At the same time, you will develop and flourish as an individual, becoming the leader of your own life and forging your path in only the way you know – perhaps free of any other influences if only for an infinitesimal amount of time.

It’d be great to hear from you,

Matthew R. Polkinghorne

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On Finding Happiness – Russell Williams (The Restaurant)

March 3rd, 2015 No comments

Russell Williams. Since 1932. It’s a local and popular breakfast establishment that’s been serving food from morning until night for close to a century. It’s located in the community of Aldershot in the province of Ontario in the country of Canada.

I think people go there for the eggs. The eggs are excellent, especially if you’re ordering them over-easy. Mostly though, I think people go there for the atmosphere; bustling and quaint with lots of activity and chatter happening. There’s always a freshly brewed pot of coffee and it’s not unusual to order a chocolate milkshake with breakfast. The chocolate milkshakes are thick and creamy, rich to the heart’s delight.

But what has made this establishment so successful for so many years? Is it the greasy smell they’re wafting into the air for miles? People just naturally flock to the smell of grease and indulge their appetites to their heart’s delight? Or is it the waitresses and the waiting services? Always polite and fast never mixing up any of your orders? What magical formula have they formulated to inspire such loyal and happy customers?

I really think it’s the food. Without a doubt, it’s greasy. It’s not that the bacon arrives on your plate dripping with grease but it isn’t exactly patted dry with paper towels either. The eggs aren’t slimy which is great yet they do arrive on your plate with a touch of butter; that is the eggs have enjoyed a light bath in butter before they arrive on your plate. Plus, the toast isn’t skimpy on the butter either. The toast isn’t drenched in butter but the bread isn’t dry. If you order breakfast sausage they are arriving on your plate in a somewhat greasy fashion. It cannot be questioned, people go to Russell Williams for the food.

Also, the service is second to none. Waitresses are always carrying coffee pot in hand ready to freshen your cup of coffee at a moment’s notice ensuring that your cup of coffee never becomes cold. Their pen’s for writing is always stuck in the back of their hair. Typically an excellent sign that the service is fantastic. I don’t know why but the “pen is the back of the hair” always tends to be an indicator of high quality service and high quality food. The waitresses walk with an heir about them. A swagger if you ask me. And they swagger around rightfully so. As stated above, orders are rarely mixed up and taken with a smile in the absence of any traces of indignation. Each waitress proudly marches to the back and drops off the respective order to the line cooks and before you know it breakfast is at your table piping hot and ready to enjoy!

There’s also the issue of location. Russell Williams is situated right on the city border of Hamilton, Ontario and Burlington, Ontario. The main intersection is Plains Rd. East and Waterdown Rd., right across the street from a Royal Bank of Canada where you can go get your money to pay for this wonderful dining experience. The location is excellent. It welcomes crowds from both the city of Hamilton and the city of Burlington plus neighboring communities that have heard it’s a top notch “greasy spoon”. Really, people come from all over to delight in the wonderful breakfast dining experience that leaves bellies full with accompanying glowing smiles. There are those few that just go there to eat and leave with a sneer on their face but these types of people are few and far between and most often do not dine there.

It seems to get busier and busier there as the morning hours press on. The later the morning hour, the more people tend to be there. Perhaps many of the diners are arriving there hung-over and looking for tasty food to soak up all the alcohol that was consumed the night (early morning) previous.

I’m sure there are innumerable reasons that people are arriving there later and later and it may have to do with busyness. Maybe the early morning hours attract the most traffic and biggest crowds and so the younger crowds tend to show up later to avoid them. Or perhaps the more senior crowds enjoy dining in the earlier hours of the morning and so naturally show up at the corresponding times. Certainly there have to be some demographics involved and certain percentages of people show up at certain percentages of the time. I’m not going to bore you with the statistical breakdown of it all because I haven’t invested the necessary time to give it to you. Let’s just say that the more senior crowds show up there during the earlier hours of the morning and the younger crowds tend to show up later.

Nevertheless, the location is excellent being on the border of the 2 cities and people show up for the breakfast from all over. It is a renowned and embraced greasy spoon that has gained remarkable popularity throughout the years.

What other factors may contribute to Russell Williams being a winning and popular breakfast eatery? It’s hard to tell. It could just be excellent word of mouth and perfect and quaint location, conveniently adjacent from the popular strip club – Solid Gold. But mostly I think it’s the food. People just keep on coming back for it to feed and fill their ravenous bellies. Let us not discount the service either, the pens are stuck in the back of the waitress’s hair and they take your orders promptly without a smidge of scorn.

Hands down, it’s a historical breakfast establishment to be reckoned with and not to be taken lightly. People have been going there for years and years and will continue to go there for years and years to come. There are no ifs, ands or buts about it.

It’d be great to hear from you,

Matthew R. Polkinghorne

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