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All the way up into my 20’s and early 30’s, I wanted to be someone that could lift others up. I wanted to be a metaphorical hero that strode around on horseback, sword drawn ( I almost gained employment as “The Red Knight at Medieval Times in Maryland in 2007 ! ) ready to right the wrongs of the world.  As I built my little business and continued to seek out best practices for training, I found myself plunging head long into what I thought was just juvenile ambition. Instead, I revisited old books I had read, consumed many more and networked and trained with some of the best in my industry. As my class roster began to inflate, I suddenly found myself receiving sweet pictures,colored by hand, from my younger students. From my adult learners, I found myself gaining fantastic workout partners and friends.  I never nourished those friendships like I could have. I held a belief that it was not appropriate for me to do so since I occupied the role of their instructor. Make things too casual and you lose your credibility. Nonsense!!!! That idea was fed to me by another teacher and I have long since abandoned many of those practices and beliefs.  Certainly, time and place of conduct and decorum are paramount to a successful training relationship. The same can be said of friendships.

I have been told that I am difficult to get close to. This is probably very true. All my life I was content to be alone, at play or in reading or more often, tramping about the woods with my dog. I was happiest in those places and catch myself very often wishing to be in those moments again, if not forever somehow.

So, to those who know me personally, if you have ever felt pushed away or if I seemed disinterested in spending time with you. Please accept my apology. Being an introvert with a business is hard! I am taking active steps to be more social with more people across many spectrum’s.

Living an open life is far more rewarding than living behind a closed door.

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Heat

As a teenager, my first major mode of employment was in a lumber yard. I remember arriving for my first shift on a Saturday and feeling a bit intimidated by all the rough men staring at me as I made my way onto the loading dock. Chop saws and panel saws were constantly running, the whirring and beeping of forklifts filled the air, men swearing, hollering and slamming materials around composed the atmosphere. I was there to work, to learn and prove something to myself. I didn’t want to run a cash register or work a fast food drive in job. I wanted something different. By the time summer had arrived, I was already able to operate all the major equipment. I had a better grasp of the materials and had begun to pick up on the slang and terms used by my coworkers as well as local builders. The local accent often confused me and it took some time for me to figure out what people were saying.The same was true for them with my “yankee” vernacular and “accent” as they understood it.  On one occasion, I was wandering around the dock searching for a material I had never, ever heard of.

“Chamberland! What the h… are you doing?” My boss loathed idleness

“I’m trying to find the ment’.” I said. He laughed and shook his head.

“You damn New Englander, you probably say “Saah-ment” don’t you?

He was right. People on the docks pronounced it as  “See-ment.” I figured other materials had a grading system of numbers and letters, I just assumed “ment” had a “C” grade and I simply couldn’t find it!

Mid-Atlantic summers are hot, humid and at times unbearable for someone like me who hails from a northern state. So many days and nights in those yards had me feeling like I would melt. I’ve spoken of him here before and I am happy to write about him again, John Bishop, my foreman and friend had an excellent way of showing us ” young bucks” how to get work done, stay cool and work smarter rather than harder.

John loved to bring in two coolers loaded with water, soda and snacks. On the hottest days, we were under orders to simply do what needed to be done. Nothing extra. Grab some air conditioning, drink lots of fluids, don’t work too hard. When we were hot, so was he. When we were cold, so was he. His work ethic was amazing and I could easily write a book about what he taught me and the example he set for so many of us with his deeds.

Rest in peace my dear friend. Thank you for all the hard work and hard won lessons you taught me.

The Gentleman

In keeping with the theme of mentors that I have written about lately, I would like to highlight someone else in my life who played a critical role. My eighth grade homeroom teacher, Mr. Byron lockhart was a stellar teacher and an old school gentleman.  He had a quiet authority and rarely, if ever, had to raise his voice in class, even with the most difficult of students. By the time I was in the eighth grade, I had a pretty good idea of what my interests were. Mr. Lockhart always encouraged my interests and really helped put me on a path that would eventually lead me to where I am today. His sense of grace, intelligence and upright character were an inspiration to me. He was an English teacher and having him for homeroom was a Godsend for me. We discussed books, poetry, stories etc. It was during this time that I began to run in the mornings before school and then run/walk in the gym after school during the winter. Several years later when we had connected again, he had told me that he used to watch me work out in the gym and that he always admired my devotion to achieve the goals I put ahead of myself.  One of my fondest memories is from a time when I “went out with” a girl for a whole day in our class. I held her hand at recess and then promptly wrote her a poem during study hall. I gave it to her at the end of the day and she broke up with me on the bus ride home.  The following day, I faked being sick and asked if I could stay inside rather than go to recess. I poured my soul out to Mr. Lockhart about my crashed in flames day long romance with the girl in the third row at home room. I can recall that he stifled a small grin as I laid out my woes. He put his hand on my shoulder and reminded me to ” never apologize for who you are Michael.”  After that discussion, I avoided girls from the third row in any homeroom I found myself in.

I could go on about Mr. Lockhart and perhaps in another blog I will. For now, I’d like to thank him for having always been there for me at such a pivotal time. He retired to a beautiful part of my home state of Maine. My mother assisted with the closing sale of his home and reminded him that he had been my teacher. She thanked him for his influence and then told him all about the things I had done with my life since we last spoke. She said a few tears formed around his eyes.

Mentorship is hard. Being mentored is a challenge as well. I’ve been honored to have mentored and continue to mentor several young people. I plan to pay forward what everyone has ever given me. We are the sum of the people we spend the most time with. Look closely at your own circle. Do these people lift you up or push you back? Those who push or hold you back on account of their own agenda more than likely no longer have a place in your life. It’s tough to cut the cord but when the length of the chain begins to choke you, its time to sever and move ahead. Those who lift you, inspire you and motivate you are the ones you want to nourish and hold dear.

Go out there and build a tribe. Be there for those who need you. Thank the people who took the time to shape you.

Strength In Spirit

In the eighth grade, I was determined to do all that I could to get myself in the best shape that I could. Tired of being a heavy kid, I wanted to feel good and look good in my clothes. I grew tired of hearing “you would be kinda cute if you lost some weight….” from a few girls in school. So, I began to get up early in the morning and go running before school. I loved the cool mornings and the sound of the dirt and autumn grass crunching under my feet in September. In the winter, I would stay after school and run in the gym and continue to pound my heavy bag without mercy in the basement of our home. I would box the heavy bag so hard and so often that my knuckles would bleed, form callouses and then bleed all over again. My hands carry those callouses to this day. I hoisted weights on my Joe Weider bench and would spend my allowance on curl bars, workout clothes and exercise equipment. My mentor, Mrs. Laura Bull served as my sounding board as I cried to her about troubles in school, crushes on girls and all of the other trials adolescence brings us. One particular morning, Mrs. Bull’s daughter had called the house and asked if I could come up and help her get her mom back into bed. Mrs. Bull’s health had been fading and she had fallen from her day bed some time during the night. I don’t remember my feet touching the road as I ran up to the house, burst into the kitchen and found Mrs. Bull ( Mum ) as I called her, laying motionless on the kitchen floor. Her daughter in tears, looked up at me, ” I can’t lift her, my back is bad” she said as she wiped the tears from her eyes. I knelt down and gently put an arm under her neck and an arm under her legs. She groaned softly when I picked her up. I was shocked at how light she was, her skin was smooth, cold and she buried her head into my chest as I laid her back into bed. Covering her in a blanket and positioning her in a comfortable spot, I kissed her forehead and whispered that I would be back after school. I cried as I walked back home.

I would never see “Mum” Bull alive again. That was the last time I saw her, held or touched her. I was glad I could be there to lift her as she had lifted me so many times in my own life. It has been through her influence that I have chosen a life to help lift others too. She was, without a doubt, one of the strongest women that I have ever known.

Our bodies may give out. We may find ourselves pining for the days of when we were able to do this and that. Our spirit, however, can constantly be honed, forged and shaped. Let every action you take be decisive. Take time to forge your spirit and replenish your heart. Find the joy of sharing a cup of coffee or tea with a good friend. As the Japanese say- ” Ichigo ichie” pronounced- eee—chee—go-eee chee–aaay, this means “one encounter, one chance” tea masters and expert swordsmen often used this quote to explain their teachings and philosophy. Mum Bull didn’t speak Japanese but her spirit certainly reflected this philosophy. She was a master at savoring every moment, every breath.

Ichigo Ichie my dear reader.

Now, go do something miraculous.

Totems

“Are you this place or is this place you?”

I was thirteen years old and sitting at a small kitchen table with my mentor, my friend, my employer, Mrs. Laura Bull. Already in her 80’s, she was thoughtful, tough, intelligent and compassionate. No matter what kind of work I did for her, my payment was always a crisp $10 bill ( she kept her money in her refrigerator ) a can of potato sticks and a Hershey bar. She had served me a cup of hot chocolate while she sipped on a cup of tea. Her constant attire was a small black dress, blue slippers and a hair net carefully framing her small, narrow face. I had just wrestled a large barrel from outside and moved it into her kitchen. She loved to wash her hair in rain water and often kept the barrel inside her home. It was late fall, the autumn leaves of Northern Maine had put on their yearly performance of showering the landscape with dazzling reds, yellows, oranges, pinks and greens. The air smelled of wood smoke and the soil was already crunching under your feet. Winter loomed large as our skies began to take on the color of polished metal. I love the fall season back home. My father had informed the family that Loring Air Force Base would be on target to close now that the Cold War had ended. The chance of us leaving was very high yet my parents entertained the idea of staying in the area. Our entire family was there, the whole clan on my mother’s side, the majority of my fathers family in residence as well. My Acadian heritage lands run just to the north of the town I grew up in. Staying or leaving had to be a hard choice for my parents, of that I am certain. I was telling Mrs. Bull through teary eyes that I might be leaving soon.

“Are you this place or is this place you?”  Mrs. Bull looked at me carefully from over the rim of her tea cup. I knew what she was asking me. Whether I knew it or not, the time to leave would come  ( only a few years later ) and when that day came, I could be proud of my totem, the bear. The wandering spirit of the woods unafraid of leaving tracks and savoring the landscape that I loved so dearly.  Yet, an eagerness, a restlessness was brimming inside of me. What really did lay beyond all these hills?

At the birth of the sun and the moon their mother died. The sun reached into his mothers body and pulled out her spirit and cast it to the heavens bringing us the stars as a totem of her love. When the moon wept in her sadness, her tears became the great waters, the oceans, the lakes and rivers. The sun smoothed back his mothers hair and upon warming her cold flesh, the rich soil was created. When the soil and the waters began to mix, trees began to grow and from the soil and the branches of the trees, the people came. – Mohawk Indian Legend

I was every branch, every rock, every hill, every river and my body, my blood, my breath were born of that land. I could hear the winds whisper to me when I ran in the woods, training my young body to get into shape. I could feel the weight of my ancestors propping me up as they sang to me through the cadence of the wind in the trees and the gentle murmur of a quiet rapid on a peaceful brook. Like their memory, like those lands, I WAS that place. I AM that place and like that place, I am immortal.

If she could hear me now, and I believe she can, I would tell my beloved Mrs. Bull, I AM that place. I am her and she is me. I can still hear her songs when I visit home and run down the road, past the house I grew up in, past her old home and back into a part of my life not forgotten but lived so long ago.

What is your totem? What part of your life is deep enough to give you time to pause, reflect and move forward?

Are you in your place or is your place in you?

Plan your life, map it out, do not deviate, abstain from adventures, don’t crave the random beautiful. If this makes sense to you, I grieve for you. Yes, planning is necessary and important. We need to know where we are going yet we must be unafraid to bump and bumble a bit in life. To bumble, to make mistakes while learning from the experience creates immense value to our lives. To bump about and try new things serves to enrich our life’s experience.

Have you had the occasion on a lazy summer day to watch a bumble bee fly about? The constant flitting and fluttering around flower after flower is nothing short of relaxing. I know this may sound strange to some of you, I mean, who has the time to be all hippy like and watch flowers and bees right? Ditch that mindset and let yourself get engrossed in the every day functions of the universe. We are not so important as to not pay attention to the inner workings of a miracle.

Don’t be afraid to bumble about now and then. Plans are good, they serve their purpose. Don’t lose your sense of wonder and discovery just because its not on the agenda.

 

Our Five Minutes

Everybody wants a shot at the big time. Even a guy like me, content to be by myself with a book or a blank paper, pen, coffee and an open ears to hear the whisper of the creative muse enjoys the thought of popularity and likability. Some of us, quietly, want to be the “it” guy or girl in our community, industry, profession. So we take selfies, announce the contents of our day, start a blog maybe, load our Twitter and Instagram, Snapchat accounts with comments, content and anything else to get us liked, noticed, loved and paid attention to. Is it a bad thing? Its interesting to note that the mental health community has begun to conduct studies on this new mode of communication and connection we are all living in. There is a greater amount of evidence through research that shows that the more “connected” we are via social media, the more depressed we have become as a society. We look at our social media content as a direct reflection of ourselves. If we post something that we deem meaningful and get only a few “likes” or responses, we take it personally. Deep down we start to question if anyone is really paying attention at all. I know someone who created and then deleted a Facebook page because his “friends” were not engaging his posts as much as he thought they should. How is that for ego? I had a client who never got my notifications on social media for classes, schedule changes etc. I knew he was on Facebook, we had connected but he never bothered to “scroll” his landing page. “I don’t pay attention to all that stuff…” was his gruff reply when I asked him he checked up on my business page to stay up to date on current happenings. Yet, he flooded his own page with photos, updates, selfies etc and was taken aback when he found that fewer and fewer people engaged his content.

Our communication modes have changed as a result of social media. It takes ZERO effort to maintain “friendship” status on Facebook and recent studies show that the psychological effects of being “unfriended” can run deep. If someone can’t be bothered to stay connected in a fairly passive social media relationship, what does that say about the real interpersonal relationship? I had someone friend/unfriend me six times in less than two years. Immature? You bet. Did I maintain the “real” relationship? Nope. I washed my hands of that person and moved on. Time is precious and I don’t have time for games. You don’t either.

On my personal account with Facebook, I get silly and post random, wacky comments. Its my way of making light of social media and at the end of the day, I’d like to make people laugh a little. We all fight a battle with ourselves, with the world, every day. A smile can be contagious and I want to do what I can to spread a positive infection.

Do I want my five minutes? Sure do! There is no shame in seeking the lime light. Living in the darkness is something we all struggle with. Don’t be blinded by false light or the touched up images of lives imagined. Be bold, be creative, seek adventure, embrace challenges, stay humble, enjoy the accolades, bask in the light, give people a good reason to talk, understand you are a part of something bigger.

Please click “like” if you can accept the above challenge.