On Finding Happiness – Reunited

May 6th, 2015
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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
(289)-208-2241

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On Finding Happiness – Accepting Influence

April 10th, 2015
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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
(289)-208-2241

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On Finding Happiness – Russell Williams (The Restaurant)

March 3rd, 2015
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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
(289)-208-2241

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On Finding Happiness – Affection

February 2nd, 2015
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Affection. We all long for it. We tend to receive so much of it when we are young infants. Our parents lather us up with love, warmth and lots of attention as we cry and reach out for more. Affection and touch develops us. Strengthens us. And characterizes the very fabric of who we are and who we become.

As we grow and develop into young childhood and middle childhood our parents might not be as available as they used to be when we were little infants because of time constraints and the competing demands of adulthood. So we branch out and reach out for more from our peers, developing new relationships in school and after school when activities are happening.

But the peer relationships of young childhood and middle childhood are not enough to satiate our needs for affection and intimacy. So again, we seek it elsewhere as we continue to age. Before long it’s time for kids to enter high school and take on entirely new challenges and entirely new relationships. Attraction between males and females continue to increase as pre-teens and teenagers enter of the years of puberty and sexual development. Young kids in high school become easily distracted by their sexual urges and the need and desire to be close with one another.

Even younger kids long to be in each other’s arms in a warm and blissful embrace. It’s just human nature and we have a longing for such affections.

But what is affection at these younger ages? Is it intimacy? Is it touching? Is it to feel the warmth of each other’s skin pressed firmly together? Is it the physical act of sex and all of the other intimate activities that accompany it?

These are many questions to consider when we are talking about affection. The important thing to remember is that younger kids will begin to look for such affections (sexual behavior) when there is a lack of emotional affection coming from a parent or set of parents depending on the marital situation and if the parents are together anymore. During the teenage years, children are still desperately seeking emotional affection from their parents in terms of genuine support and the undeniable need of validation – that what the child is doing is correct and worthy of the parent’s attention and approval.

Validation becomes the substitute for infant-like affections such as kissing, hugging, cuddling and gentle rubbing and caressing of the cheeks. We tend not to do these things to our kids when they become teenagers and so validation and encouraging words stand in replacement. In the absence of it, our children run into the arms of their peers, experimenting with sexual behaviors that can have very serious consequences including pregnancy, STD’s, and the start of very young families that are not ready to be families (because the teenager parents are not yet in the workforce earning steady streams of income).

It can become a very vicious cycle. And this very vicious cycle can be healed through the affection of validation. Validation is also preventative. It prevents our young teenagers from running into the arms of the opposite sex when they are in an emotional state of confusion and bewilderment. The affection of validation is also healing. It can undue emotional damage done through harsh criticisms and emotional unavailability. It’s not that the affection of validation is a cure-all but it can certainly remedy a lot of situations that may have unpleasant results.

The key to remember here is that we, as human beings, have a constant need for affection. When we are very young, helpless and defenseless we need constant feeding, changing, hugging, kissing, cuddling and touching. As we move into the middle school years our affections more revolve around peer relationships and fun activities. However, when we move into the adolescent years and puberty sets in, our needs for affection become more complex and we begin to reach out in sexual ways that can have severe and unwanted consequences if not careful through the practice of safe sex.

Recall that affection needs in the adolescent years are more a kin to validation and the seeking of parental approval and that the teenager is performing daily routines with efficaciousness. This reality tends to pervade into late adolescence, early adulthood and beyond. In our former years we continue to seek affection through validation in our work and who we are as human beings. Some people seek out charitable work and humanitarian efforts. We have a strong need and urge to perform in our daily routines, especially in our former years as we begin to reflect back on who we were and who we are becoming.

It’d be great to hear from you,

Matthew R. Polkinghorne
(289)-208-2241

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On Finding Happiness – Old Friends

January 13th, 2015
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Old friends. We think about them often. We think about all of the special times we shared together. Old friends are special. They helped to make our lives special in some very meaningful ways. It can be hard to isolate the exact memories that made them special but we know deep down that they are there. Whether it be running through the streets drunk having the time of our lives or rollerblading up the Northshore under the warmth of the sunshine, old friends have a special place in our hearts and precise traces to our childhoods.

As we grow older and our lives change in dramatic and dynamic ways, we feel the urge and are drawn to reconnect with them. Sometimes this happens naturally through wedding announcements and wedding invitations and other times it is a direct action by one friend to communicate with another friend (i.e. – picking up the phone and making a very important phone call).

It’s not always easy to pick up the phone and make a direct contact to an old friend because we don’t know how their lives have changed. We don’t know how they’re feeling and to a degree we don’t really know who they are anymore. People change. People’s feelings change. And sometimes our old friends, whether we like it or not, may not like us anymore or have anything in common with us anymore. It’s nothing to worry about too much. It’s just life. This reality, however, should not discourage you as a confident human being to pick up the phone to see how things are going in the life of an old friend.

I have many old friends. Most of them I don’t communicate with much at all anymore. It’s not that we don’t like each other anymore or have anything to talk about. It’s just that our lives have changed in very dramatic ways and we are busy doing our own things.

For instance, one of my very best friends from grade school now lives in Germany with this wife and very young daughter. He has been living in Germany for 7 years and has no intention to come back to Canada at all. He’s happy in his career as a project manager and the distance between us is great. Is it that we don’t have time for each other anymore? No. In fact, a bunch of our old high school chums got together this past summer for a round of golf. And my friend from Germany, Matt, was part of the golfing group. We had some beers, a few laughs and caught up on each other’s lives; asking about each other’s family, new friends and how childrearing is going in a different country thousands of miles away from any immediate family. After this, we all went our own separate ways again.

Another old friend took off to Luxembourg with his wife for 3 years. He and his wife, Katie, had a traveling opportunity with their Big 4 accounting firm KPMG. They took off to Luxembourg while I was living in San Diego and explored much of Europe while there, including Sardinia. Since that time, they have returned home with a very young daughter that was born in Luxembourg. They returned home because of pressures from their families; more his family than her family.

Do he and I talk very often? No. Not at all. But we’re still very close. Just a few weeks ago I was walking the streets in a local neighborhood and he and his wife, Katie happened to be driving by in their brand new Hyundai Santa Fe. They saw me walking, turned around their vehicle and asked me if I wanted to go out for a coffee. I scooted in their vehicle and he, his wife and their daughter and I drove to downtown Burlington for a gourmet coffee and a nice conversation in some very cozy seats. It was a nice catch-up. We talked about friends, what people are doing with their lives and where holiday celebrations were going to be. The novelty of the conversation wore off fast and it was time for all of us to go our separate ways again. So they drove me back to park, dropped me off at my car and we said-goodbye.

Will I see John again? Most likely. It just may not be for a while. Our lives are busy and we always don’t have time for each other. Besides, they are closing on a new house and will need lots of time to get settled as a family in their home just outside of downtown Toronto.

Old friends come and go and re-enter our lives on a regular basis. If you feel like things are going too long don’t hesitate to pick up the phone and re-establish communication. Heck, these days it’s just as easy or easier to send a friendly e-mail to reconnect. Remember, our lives change in dramatic and dynamic ways so communication might not be the same as it used to be and your old friend might be communicating in a different way. So might you.

Another old friend and I reconnected on e-mail some time ago. I developed this relationship in my mid 20’s in San Diego, California. And to this day, it is one of the most meaningful relationships I’ve developed, having some of the greatest impact on my life. His name is Andrew Thorn. He lives in Apple Valley, California. He is happily married and has 7 children. Yes, he has 7 children. He is of Mormon faith, a behavioral coach, public speaker and prolific author. His website is www.andrewthorn.com. He coaches and encourages people to bring their life into full harmony or living lives that are whole, complete and fully finished. Hence the name of his company; Telios Corporation. A Greek translation – to be whole, complete and fully finished.

Andrew touched my life in very meaningful ways and it was done through e-mail and blog posts. We developed a relationship through writing and influenced each other anecdotally, through storytelling and mutual laughter. On several occasion I drove up to Apple Valley to visit him at his business. It was there that he showed me the Game of Life table and talked to me about living life with intention and purpose, constantly searching for meaning while finding happiness. We went out for a lunch a few times together as well. Going out for sushi one time and fish tacos on a different occasion. We forged a strong bond of friendship and he continues to inspire me to write and be a better person each day.

Since first getting connected with Andrew back in 2008, he has written 2 books on his own. He really is prolific and has a knack for writing material people want to read. He writes to get people ‘anxiously engaged’ in what they are doing and challenges people to be their very best each and every day they wake up.

Though Andrew and I don’t talk very much anymore. Now in the year of 2014. We still do reconnect on e-mail from time to time. Our lives are busy, particularly his having 7 kids and traveling internationally for business. So it is often I who is reaching out to him to see what is going on in his life. When I do reach out he does respond. Mind you, his responses are usually brief and to the point. He’s a businessman that has to allocate his time wisely to meet many competing demands. He is also a human being though and I am honored to receive responses to my e-mail inquiries. His guidance has been invaluable and his friendship is very important to me.

Admittedly there is a void. Andrew’s friendship, for a period of time in my life, was very meaningful and helped me grow in countless ways. He also helped me through a very difficult period in my life as I journeyed my way through 2nd year of graduate school at Alliant International University – California School of Professional Psychology. It wasn’t that I was depressed, but some days I really felt down in the dumps and he greatly propelled me toward a psychological and emotional comeback. A spiritual rebirth if you will.

I often struggle to think of how I could possibly thank him for all the ways he helped to improve my life and take it to the next level. I suppose the best way I can thank him is by continuing to write and express my thoughts in the most authentic way possible. After all, Dr. Andrew Thorn is “The Authentic Me” and encourages us to develop into our most real and vibrant selves through introspection and addressing that which frightens us the most and facing it head on.

Andrew is old friend. A very old friend. He and I are a couple of old souls connected through the instrument of writing and the sharing of thoughts. I often miss him. He influenced me greatly and left a lasting impact on my life. I often long to go back to the old days but this would be very immature of me and indicate a lack of understanding. I can always reminisce but I also must forge on to create the things I need to create and share the messages I need to share.

Andrew is just an e-mail or phone call away and I can almost always rely on a response or be guaranteed of a response from him. He’s just that kind of person and stretches himself in some pretty extraordinary ways.

Old friends are a wonderful and beautiful part of our lives. We reach out to them in the hopes that they will, in some way, touch our lives again. Don’t take old friends for granted and remember it is often just a matter of reaching out. Funnily, reaching out is often the thing we are most afraid to do because we don’t know what has changed in the lives of the people we hold dearest. Don’t let this hold you back. Pick up the phone. Send that e-mail that your fingers are so terrified of sending. You may be surprised at the response you get.

It’d be great to hear from you,

Matthew R. Polkinghorne
(289)-208-2241

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On Finding Happiness – Being Prolific & Being Inspired

December 27th, 2014
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I slept in today. I usually do on Sunday’s. There’s nothing like waking up late on a Sunday morning. My Mom always has the coffee brewed and I just have to go into the cupboard for cereal and into the fridge for milk. Apply the milk to the cereal. Go to the drawer for a large spoon. Sit down on the couch and enjoy. This morning there are also shortbread cookies so that goes over well too, especially with a hungry tummy.

Today I’d like to talk about inspiring oneself to write in a prolific way. That is, how do we encourage ourselves to write great volumes of information that is of quality and interest to the reader? To be honest, it’s just plain tough. There are many roadblocks to success. Writing can be a very laborious activity and sometimes it can even feel absolutely fruitless. Amidst the fruitlessness of it all, how do we convince ourselves to approach writing in an inspired and prolific way? Before we can think about doing this, however, I think we need to think about what is standing in our way.

1. Being prolific is hard – we all want to write great volumes of quality information but it’s hard. I want to be prolific right away at all at once. I want to rush and get it all down on paper as soon as possible without thinking. I don’t want to wait days and days, even months and months for the writings to accumulate into a finished product. I just want to spew it all out now!

2. Being inspired is hard – wouldn’t it be great if we could all feel inspired all the time? Every day we’d wake up and want to make an astounding positive difference in the lives of those around us. We’d be singing in the shower, smiling into the vanity mirror and whistling as we dressed ourselves. Not only that, we’d be jovial during our commute into work. We’d wave at everyone and let everyone in in front of us that wanted to cut us off. Now if only we could convert that into our writings. Every day we’d turn on our computer, open up the Microsoft Word program and smile at the empty blank page in front of us. Wouldn’t that kind of attitude be great? Yes it would. But it’s very hard to be inspired like that. It takes mental conditioning which leads us to our next numbered point.

3. I just don’t feel like it – As I said it takes mental conditioning to write in an inspired and prolific way. Often times we just don’t feel like it or are in a lazy mood. Besides, I’d rather sit around, take it easy and watch TV. It takes so much energy to fire up the computer and load the program to begin writing. It feels like I have to fight my way through every page and sometimes I wonder what I am going to write about. It feels like a hopeless battle and I don’t know if I’m getting any better at the craft anyway. In this way, it takes a lot of mental conditioning to plug away day in and day out even when we don’t feel like it. Sometimes the writer just wants to break down and cry because the craft can seem so meaningless. We have to fight the “I just don’t feel like it” attitude because it’s so easy to slip into. It’s so easy to plunk ourselves in front of the TV and let the time pass with program after program. We have to fight the urge and aspire to be more and do more, especially through the craft of writing.

4. What am I writing about anyway? – sometimes as writers we get lost in what we are writing about and wonder what we are talking about; it’s easy to get lost in the confusion and not know if we are coming across as coherent. It’s important to stay on topic and try and convey as clear a message as possible. For this reason it is easy to become discouraged and give up on the process of writing. When this happens it becomes virtually impossible to be prolific and inspired. Try and remain focused on what you are writing about and continue to sharpen your mental conditioning. It requires great mental conditioning to stay on topic and not meander all over the place during the process of writing.

5. I’m not feeling creative – time and again the creative juices don’t flow. We sit down and want to write something but the words aren’t coming to us. It’s hard to be prolific when you experiencing a writer’s block or a shortfall in creativity. When you’re not being prolific it’s definitely harder to feel inspired. We need to share reasonable amounts of information to feel inspired and know that we are adding value to the lives of other people. If you’re not in the most creative of moods try switching up the activity until the creativity comes back to you. This can be as simple as going for a walk, buying groceries, going for a coffee or eating yummy food! When you feel as if your head is clear again try returning to the computer to see where your creative thoughts may lead you.

We all want to be inspired to write in a prolific way. We all want to be prolific and we all want to be inspired. There are, however, many roadblocks that stand in our way to success. We have to acknowledge how hard it is to be inspired and prolific. We have to realize that we as human beings are often just lazy or not in the mood to do an activity. We have to know that it can be easy to become confused. And we have to come to terms that we will not always have creativity within our clutches. By acknowledging these facts we can take a step closer to becoming prolific and inspired and avoid becoming discouraged when we encounter such roadblocks.

Now I have to ask myself: Am I feeling happy? Or have my feelings of happiness increased?

Tough questions to answer. I just finished writing about a very difficult topic – being inspired and being prolific. It was a topic that I was uncertain writing about and I wasn’t sure how much enjoyment I’d experience while writing about the topic. I still have a knot in my stomach and I know I could have added more value during these writings. I have to remain satisfied, however, that I did my best throughout these writings on proliferation and inspiration. I explored many different ideas and shared various thought on the subject matter. A couple hours ago I was on the verge of happiness and as I suspected it was only temporary. As I said, the knot in my stomach is still there and I have to find other activities to occupy my time.

I think I’ll go for a walk.

It’d be great to hear from you,

Matthew R. Polkinghorne
(289)-208-2241

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On Finding Happiness – Online Dating

December 22nd, 2014
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Lately I’ve been investing time with online dating. I’ve chosen eHarmony as the service provider that will take care of my online dating needs. Signing up for the service was a reasonably simple process and was not too intellectually taxing. However, the process was lengthy and I often asked myself “How much longer is this going to take?”

The signing up process asks you a lot about your life; likes and dislikes, career, if you have kids or not, how often do you smoke and how often do you drink. Of course they’re establishing preferences and attempting to find out who your most suitable matches might be. They also ask you for your interest in age range which can make for some pretty interesting profiles.

There’s a rather pricy fee associated with the services and it is charged 3 separate times to your credit card. I’m fairly certain that there are 3 charges of $55.60 and they come out in the form of installments. While I’m not fond of the 3 credit card charges I’m willing to admit that the service is fairly comprehensive and it does provide opportunity to match up with a lot of different people. This is not to say that I’ll get responses for all the people that I’m interested in, but at least I get to throw my line out there to see if there will be any nibbles or bites.

My rate of matching success so far has been limited given how much effort I’ve put in and how many people I’ve reached out to. The math to figure out my success rate is fairly simple. I’ve been at it for 3 months. I view at least 25 people a day. Of the 25 people I view per day on average I’ll reach out to approximately 3. 3 times 30 is 90 and 90 times 3 is 270. So far, roughly, I’ve reached out to a little less than 300 women. Of those 270 women I’ve received nibbles or responses from about 10 with 1 woman giving me her phone number. Let’s do the math: of the 270 women I’ve reached out to, 3.7% have given me a nibble and established communication. However, of the 270 women I’ve reached out to only 1 or .37% has given me their phone number to reach out and actually call them.

Those numbers are staggering and lets me know that I’ve having a very low rate of success in terms of establishing contact and an even lower rate of success with getting phone numbers to make the 1st call. It also lets me know that I might not be presenting myself in the right way. For instance, I list myself as having children in my profile which I do. This might be a major discourager for young females that are looking to start their own families without so-called ‘baggage’. For a younger couple an existing family on one side of the partnership may well take away from the novelty of having a family. It detracts from the mystery and newness of it all.

Additionally, I may not be posting enough pictures of myself on the website. I’ve only posted one and it is a reasonably serious pose of me standing in a backyard with trees and a deck railing. There’s no pictures of me having the time of my life or celebrating with family and friends so it may make a woman wonder how exciting my life may or may not be. In other words, I am just a social deadbeat that doesn’t enjoy the company of fellow human beings?

Not only this, women may be looking at my type of profession to see what I do for work. Right now I’m listed as an insurance agent as I’m in the beginning stages of studying for the LLQP in the hopes of passing the Oliver’s exam and eventually the provincial exam. There may be lots of women that are not attracted to insurance agents or do not want to be with a male that is in the financial sector, particularly if it is the insurance industry.

Plus, I’m not in the best shape of my life right now. I’m overweight by about 30 pounds and you can probably see the weight in my face. I’m 6’0” and I should be around 190 pounds. Instead I weigh 220 pounds. This is not grossly obese but I’m definitely not in the best shape of my life. Yes, I have some back fat. Also, I’m eating too much bread and butter and consuming too many soft drinks – usually cans of Pepsi. Still though, I’m not in the worst shape of my life either. I go on lots of walks and hikes and try and stay as active as I can with our family dog. Should I be at the gym? Yes. Am I? No.

One other factor that might come into play is the short blurbs each person writes related to things like; what are you thankful for? What can’t you live without? Who has been the biggest inspiration in your life? And, what are you looking for in someone else?

Perhaps the blurbs I am writing are not attracting the opposite sex. For instance, one blurb is about “What’s the first thing people notice about you?” I playfully respond “My receding hairline”. I respond and write the blurb this way because it’s true. Baldness runs on my mother’s side and my hair falls out just a little bit every day. Nevertheless, a woman might think my response is insecure by nature and that I am obsessed with the progression of my current rate of balding. Thankfully I still have a full head of hair but it certainly is thinning at a fantastic rate.

I’m sure that there are many other variables that come into play such as automatic attraction at 1st glance and safety for users at the website (i.e. – which users of the online dating service are reputable and who might be a wee bit creepy). You never can be too careful. There are typically many variables at play that most of us are not aware of and they are often subjectively related to the other party whom we are trying to, in this case, attract. People’s subjective mood are always affecting their decisions. Not to mention their relationship status and past relationship status (i.e. – past failures in romantic relationships and resulting insecurities as well as some people who attempt to juggle multiple intimate relationships at one time).

And so after writing about all of this related to online dating – my limited successes and very frequent failures – I again have to ask myself: Am I feeling happy? In short, I am feeling happy when I get nibbles and establish communication. I am even happier when I get a phone number. I am happy to analyze and dissect the numbers for success rate to give the reader a mathematical idea if it’s a worthy online investment.

However, I become somewhat unhappy when I run into a severe succession of failures as I have been lately. The number don’t lie: 3.7% and .37% respectively. Put another way, I have to invest a lot of time and reach out to a lot of people just to establish communication and improbably get a phone number. It’s a lot like public relations and cold-calling, not solid sales leads.

It goes without saying, we have to fight and struggle for romantic happiness, especially if it’s online. Happiness eludes us and we spend much time in the realm of romantic uncertainty.

It’d be great to hear from you,

Matthew R. Polkinghorne
(289)-208-2241

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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
(289)-208-2241

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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
(289)-208-2241

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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
(289)-208-2241

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