Sharing with you things that are on my mind...Maybe yours too. Come back to Wrights Lane for a visit anytime!

30 August, 2016

ON BUILDING A TRUST BRIDGE TO INTIMACY

She lived on an island which, over time, had been formed between two rivers. This island was named “Safety” because it provided sanctuary for those seeking its shelter. One river was called “Hurt” because its bubbling rock-laden rapids and swirling whirlpools had inflicted long-lasting injury on anyone whose boat had capsized during a past voyage. The second river, a wider one, was known as “Fear” because its deep, uncharted waters evoked anxiety in any would-be traveler thinking of crossing it to reach the unexplored far shore.

She had systematically built a strong buttress, a stone block wall around her island to prevent the river waters from touching her. Unintentionally, but unfortunately, this defense also resulted in keeping herself isolated from the outside world. Daily life on her island passed uneventfully as she kept busy fulfilling her responsibilities and duties.

Yet, despite her security and hours-filling activities, she yearned for something more, something intimate, a deeper closeness to another human being with whom she could finally be real and transparent. This dream could only be realized on the mainland. There was certainly nothing to be gained by seeking to cross the River Hurt. That would only take her back in a wrong direction and reawaken old pain.

She resolved to attempt a crossing of the River Fear. Several times she approached its shores, only to turn back in understandable panic. What if I drown? What if I get injured in my voyage? I have no map to guide me around any hidden shoals. Several times she convinced herself to stay put, to continue to live on Safety Island. In doing so, she would never have to risk disappointment or worse, if the crossing failed.

Half asleep, but on her knees in prayer, in the middle of a cloudless, moon-brightened night, she at last found the answer. Rather than attempt a dangerous crossing alone by boat, she would build a bridge across the Fear River. But what materials could she find to construct this span?

All the while, an answer had literally been all around her; she would take down the protective stone wall, block by block and use those sturdy rocks to build her bridge. She would name it “Trust Bridge” because she would need to rely on its strength to carry her across to the far shore. This new challenge would now have to be given its rightful priority. She resolved to set aside some routine daily tasks and hurried through other distracting demands on her time. The real work could then begin, albeit not without residual anxiety and doubt.

Meanwhile, on the mainland, another human being, admiring her effort and feeling compassion, began to work on the far end of that bridge, resolving to help by meeting her half-way. In time and with much expended energy and emotion, their work was nearly completed.

As she began to set the last stone in place to close the span, she looked down at the River Fear rushing by far below. She hesitated and might have turned around to regain that familiar sanctuary now behind. But the helper reached out a hand which she grasped and held tightly. Together they carefully laid the last rock in place and rested side by side, being present for each other.

Once the Trust Bridge had been completed, she returned to Safety Island, not to stay, but to retrieve her belongings. In one suitcase she carried her negative baggage: her anger, her fears, her guilt and her sadness, emotions which she had kept locked away on the island. Crossing the Trust Bridge, she now opened her suitcase and unpacked these feelings in the presence of her friend. The friend quietly listened, tried to understand and then accepted these difficult emotions without judgment, condemnation nor rejection.

In her other suitcase, a lighter one, she brought her unmet needs for affirmation, recognition, companionship and love. Her friend again listened, then responded with empathy, reassurance and unconditional love. Together they had discovered intimacy.

As their eyes were drawn to Safety Island, they saw the river waters slowly encroaching on the now-defenseless land until, at last, it disappeared beneath the waves. She watched without concern. She no longer needed its protection. The Catholic theologian, Henri Nouwen, would have understood this allegory: He stated:

"If fear is the great enemy of intimacy, love is its greatest friend."

The “She” in this story is any of us who hides behind protective walls of a self-constructed sanctuary to avoid the pain of past and future hurt. In doing so we also deny ourselves the hope of future love and intimacy.

“Other person” is the helper: maybe a spouse, a friend, a therapist or for some religious others, the Christ figure. To risk intimacy -- to risk being real in relationship, to become transparent -- we must first build that bridge we call trust. We always need someone at the other end, someone who will invite us into intimacy. To walk across that bridge can be scary but almost always well worth the risk.

We are about to move into a new Fall season. May we also, as opportunities arise, be able and willing to enter a new season in our life journey -- a period of time in the calendar year that offers hope and potential for the intimacy we all crave, if only we have trust in building a bridge that will enable us to reach out and grasp a receptive hand...A hand that may well have been there all along.

28 August, 2016

WHAT EVER HAPPENED TO GOOD OLD LETTER WRITING?

Letter writing is truly a lost art -- a vintage skill, if you will. The flow of the pen gracefully etching out your thoughts to someone…

The mere idea of letter writing gives me cause to pause. I fully acknowledge how crazy it is today to think about letter writing in this text-crazed society where attention spans are about five minutes long and where we can’t be bothered typing full words, using proper grammar or punctuation.

Letters used to be a staple of communication. Sending news, keeping war-separated lovers connected, sharing a tasty bit of gossip or a way to make a friend half way around the world. Letters record our thoughts, our history. Letters, in the day, helped maintain life-long friendships and nurture family connections.

There is nothing quite like the personal touch of a handwritten letter -- the paper filled with the ink of someone’s pen; and the handwriting that is unmistakably their own. Handwriting takes effort and a degree of practice (or lack of it).  It is not a font downloaded from a computer program. There is simply nothing quite as personal as someone’s handwriting.

A text or an e-mail is not usually well thought out. It is merely a convenient way to send a hasty greeting, a few thoughts or a list of details of some kind in a business sense. But letter writing takes time, effort and reflection to convey thoughts, emotions, expressions of love and news of importance.

Long after we are gone, no one will care about the million electronic texts we may have generated. But a letter will last like a saved treasure. It can even be passed down to future generations. Can you think of a single email that would be worth printing out and storing away for posterity? Letters are legacy!

I have several letters written almost 100 years ago by a grandparent and an aunt and uncle, all of whom passed away before I was born, but I cherish them as a link to the past and an otherwise missed family connection.  I know them through their written words.
Gladys (left) and Jeannie, life-time pen pals.

I came across a story earlier this week that exemplifies the impact that letters can have in people's lives.

There was a time when people became what was known as 'pen pals' and wrote letters back and forth. In the back of magazines, there were classified ads that also had a category 'Pen Pal Wanted'. You could have the magazine post your name and age and a postal box to which replies could be made.

When Gladys Diacur placed an ad in 1943, little did she know that it would result in a life-long friendship.  "I must have had 100 responses," says Diacur, "and I met approximately 11 of them but we never hit it off. Then I met Jeannie O'Reilly and 73 years later we are still the best of friends."

For 73 years, from the time they were 12 and 13, the two women corresponded almost weekly, although one lived in Hamilton and the other in nearby St. Catherines.

O'Reilly now lives in a Southampton home for seniors and, when she had her own home, Diacur drove from the city almost every summer to visit. A stroke resulted in her not being able to drive her car any longer but, on Tuesday, August 23rd, she was driven by a friend and the two pen pals got together once again to reminisce over old times.

They laughed and talked about all the boys they had written about in their teens ... things that only teenage girls share with each other.  They kept all their letters over the years but, unfortunately, a fire destroyed O'Reilly's copies some time ago.

For Jeannie O'Reilly and Gladys Diacur, now both in their eighties, those good-time days are gone but they remember writing the letters as though it were yesterday and, for them, they've had a friendship to treasure and one that very few people today will ever know.  Good for them!...Too bad for most others who live in today's cold world of electronic technology and abbreviated, impersonal communications.

21 August, 2016

AUGUST 16, 1977: THE DAY THE MUSIC DIED

August is a significant month for fans of Elvis Presley. In August, 1953, a young man nervously entered the office of Sun Records in Memphis. His only ambition was to record a song for his mother. In August 1977, at age 42, that same man died, but far too soon.

Born on January 8, 1935, in Tupelo, Mississippi, Elvis Aaron Presley came from very humble beginnings and grew up to become one of the biggest names in the history of rock 'n' roll.  His early years have been widely documented -- his family’s financial struggles, his unpopularity at high school where he was considered to be “strange”, his belonging to a Pentecostal Church where he was first exposed to lively Gospel music. Like many of us in the 1950s, he slicked back his thick black hair with Vaseline. He loved playing his child-sized guitar.
An original photograph of Elvis Presley autographed
 and inscribed to songwriter and composer Irving
Berlin on auction in 2012 in New York City. 

I can easily recall that hot, afternoon in July, 1954, when I was in my bedroom listening to CJBC Radio 1010 in Toronto on my Northern Electric box radio. Around 4:30, the deep-voiced announcer introduced a recording by some new singer who was beginning to make a name for himself south of the border. "I think we’re going to be hearing a lot more from this new artist,” he advised his audience.

The song was "Blue Moon Of Kentucky", a bluegrass standard which Elvis sang with his own unique styling. (Wikipedia notes an earlier encounter where the youthful, would-be singer was confronted by a receptionist during his initial foray into Sun Studios. She asked him who he sounded like. His laconic reply? “I don’t sound like nobody.”)

My next vivid memory of  hearing an Elvis song comes from the summer of 1956 when "Blue Suede Shoes" was a popular juke box selection in a restaurant I frequented in St.Thomas, ON. I remember thinking how different the lyrics and music were, not to mention the then unconventional, warbling voice of the young man singing it.   Blue Suede Shoes remains one of my favorites to this day.

"Well
it's, one for the money Two
for the show Three
to get ready Now
go cat, go, But

don't you step on My
blue suede shoes You
can do anything But
lay off of my blue suede shoes..."



Blue Suede Shoes was written by Carl Perkins in late 1955. There are two versions of how Perkins came to write the song. Perkins had said that he played for a high school dance in Jackson, Tennessee, on December 4, 1955. During the dance, he spotted a boy with blue suede shoes dancing with a gorgeous girl. The boy told her, "Uh-uh! Don't step on my blue suede shoes!" Perkins couldn't get the image out of his mind. He awoke at three o'clock the next morning with the lyrics to Blue Suede Shoes and wrote them down on a brown paper potato sack. Originally, the first line was "One for the money, two for the show, three get ready, and go, man, go". But while recording the song at Sun Records, Perkins substituted the word cat for man. That opening phrase was borrowed from Bill Haley's 1953 recording What 'Cha Gonna Do (Essex 321).

Interestingly, Johnny Cash told a different story about the origin of Blue Suede Shoes. While Perkins, Elvis, and Cash were performing in Amory, Mississippi, one night in 1955, Cash told Perkins about a black sergeant he had in the Air Force by the name of C.V. White. Sgt. White would frequently step into Cash's room and ask him how he (White) looked and then say, "Just don't step on my blue suede shoes!" (Never mind that Sgt. White was wearing regulation Air Force shoes). Perkins thought that Cash's story was a good idea for a song. While Elvis was performing on stage one night Perkins, his close pal and frequent member of the Presley band, is said to have written Blue Suede Shoes.

Whatever the true story, Perkins's Blue Suede Shoes (Sun 234) was released on January 1, 1956. By March it was #4 on Billboard's Top 100 chart, #2 on the country chart (Heartbreak Hotel kept it from being number one), and #2 on the rhythm and blues chart, the first song in music history to reach all three charts. Needless to say, the first true rock-a-billy hit, Blue Suede Shoes was a million-seller.

I followed The Pelvis' early TV appearances on then-popular programs the Dorsey Brothers, Steve Allen and Milton Berle. Yet, it was his infamous performance during the Ed Sullivan Show on September 9, 1956, which provoked a controversy which has now become a legend of pop culture. Naturally, I am referring to his “obscene” gyrations which Sullivan insisted not be shown to the watching audience. To my deep disappointment, I saw only Elvis’s top half! On that historic night, an unheard-of 82 per cent of all American television sets were tuned in to that show.

One of my few regrets in life was missing Elvis’s only Toronto appearance when he performed in Maple Leaf Gardens on April 2, 1957. Local conservative music critics and church leaders were appalled by the adulation he received from hysterically-screaming and crying young female fans.

Elvis’s army induction, his movie career and turbulent marriage are too well-known to need any review here. I would sooner focus on his tragic final years. My memory this time is that of a morbidly overweight, sequined, drugged, sweating, tragic figure performing in a gospel concert. As he sang the old Thomas Dorsey hymn “Precious Lord, Take My Hand,” I had the distinctly-sad impression that he had at that moment returned to his childhood faith. He was asking God, through this song, to deliver him from the pain and emptiness of his life.

Precious Lord, take my hand, lead me on, let me stand,
I am tired, I am weak, I am worn; through the storm, through the night,
Lead me on to the light: take my hand, precious Lord, lead me home.


Elvis Presley died on August 16, 1977. A candlelight vigil was held at his Graceland home earlier this month. If he were still living, The King would be 81 years old.  It hardly seems possible.

With his innovative and flamboyant piano playing style, the unforgettable Jerry Lee Lewis (left) also emerged as one of rock music’s early showmen in the 1950s, along with Elvis Presley. Lewis eventually ended up in Memphis, Tennessee, where he found work as a studio musician for Sun Studios. In 1956, he recorded his first single, a cover of Ray Price’s “Crazy Arms”. Lewis also worked on some recording sessions with Carl Perkins at the time. While at Sun Studios, he and Perkins jammed with Elvis and Johnny Cash, as seen in this historic, collector's-item photo. The impromptu session by the “Million Dollar Quartet” was recorded at the time, but it was not released until much later. Lewis is the only member of the famous chance collaboration still living. He too remains one of my all-time favorite and controversial raw-talent music personalities...To me "The Killer" represents the epitome of rollicking, infectious, toe-tapping fun music. He still maintains that there was no rock n' roll before he came on the scene and that Elvis was just a country boy by comparison.  Far be it from me to enter that debate.

15 August, 2016

THERE'S A "DASH" IN EVERYONE'S LIFE SPAN

I frequently incorporate a "dash" in things that I write...While dashes are almost never required by the laws of grammar and punctuation, the use of a "--" has become part of my writing style and a convenient way of placing emphasis and combining follow-up thoughts.

However, after reading Robert (Uncle Bob)  William Caster's self-composed obituary in The Toronto Star last week, I will never think of a dash in the same way again.  In fact, I will hereafter remember the late Bob Caster every time I type a dash in any of my text.

In his unusual obituary which took up more than 16 double-column inches in The Star (must have cost a small fortune), Bob talked about the uncomfortable reality of the subject of death.  He recalled listening to a minister speaking at the funeral of his aunt and referring to the dates appearing in her obituary and no doubt eventually on her grave marker.

The minister noted that first came the date of the aunt's birth followed by a "dash" and the date of the her death. Bob went on to elaborate: "The dates told us how many years she lived on earth, but what mattered most of all was the dash between those years because it represented the passing of time she spent on this earth and only those who knew and loved her know what that little dash contained."

This all started our Bob thinking about his own dash -- who he was and what were the highlights of his life -- so he decided to write a brief summary to fill his dash and to represent the passing of time he spent on earth.  That carefully crafted summary, "The Dash in my life", formed the basis of the obituary that stood out so prominently from all the stereotypical others published in the newspaper that day.

Strongly resembling TV producer and host Elwy Yost, Bob's was a simple but busy life, outliving two wives, always surrounded by loving family and good friends.  A committed Christian, he was very active in his church and community.  He received "an average education" and worked by his admission at many different and interesting jobs.

"I never became President or CEO but I experience(d) and enjoy(ed) great wealth -- not in a monetary sense but in the sense that I was able to see, feel, hear, talk, walk and taste.  I never went naked, cold, hungry or without love.  I never experienced war or hatred.  I had freedom of speech, expression, religion and travel, the opportunity to make a living and to enjoy my 20-year retirement," he empathized.

I can totally relate to Bob Caster's "dash."  He lived life to the fullest.  He lived and let live.  He was fair, honest and accepted others as he wanted others to accept him. I never met Bob but he sure sounded like my kind of guy!

At his request, cremation took place before his obituary actually ran for two days in The Star.  He insisted on no floral or monetary tributes.  "If for some reason you wish to remember me, please do it with a kind smile, deed, word, a simple phone call or by a visit to someone who needs you..." were the heartfelt, concluding words in Bob's obituary.

A Memorial Service and Celebration of Bob Caster's Life, more correctly his "dash" (June 4, 1937 - July 27, 2016), was held on Thursday evening, August 11, 2016, at the Stephen Leacock Museum in Orillia.

As I put together this item for Wrights Lane, I realized that while all dashes are identical in appearance, everyone ends up with one that is completely unique.  I wondered too what my own dash would eventually look like...Quite frankly, I have a feeling that it would not be worth a dash, but that's another story and we won't go there!

I hope that you derive a degree of satisfaction from your own dash, dear reader...After all, it will someday represent your life -- start to finish.  It is never too late to add a small legacy to it!

10 August, 2016

SEX THE SECRET TO A STRONG IMMUNE SYSTEM; GO FOR IT IF YOU CAN

If you are reading this and you are 15-20 years younger than me, there is a possibility that you are someone who is committed to a healthy, spiritual lifestyle of meditating, yoga, exercise, practicing loving kindness and eating organic non-GMO foods. Chances are you are focused on supplying your life and your body with things that have the highest-level of nourishment. What you probably don't know is that there is something that quickly wipes out the benefits of all of this.... Having toxic and judgmental thoughts about your spouse!

Research shows that these negative emotions and thoughts actually suppress your immune system.

The latest science also shows that the #1 thing that will extend your life and contribute to the quality of your life, for many years, is a happy marriage!

Known as "the marriage effect" it is now proven that happily married couples are:
-- More likely to live longer.
-- More likely to be physically and mentally healthier and happier.
-- More likely to recover from illness quicker and with greater success.

And for men, this is really important to know: A 2007 study found that the rate of death of single men over age 40 was twice as high than that of married men. Marriage for men it would seem, is a lifesaver.

And for those of you of the generation that would prefer to shack up over getting legally married, you need to know that living together is not the same as being married to each other. It was found that happy couples who are living together in a committed, unmarried relationship don't receive the benefit of The Marriage Effect.

When Harville Hendrix (love expert extraordinaire, whom Oprah calls The Marriage Whisperer) was asked about it, he explained that it has to do with safety and security. On the unconscious level, those committed but unmarried couples do not experience the same level of safety that married couples do. Safety is one of our most profound human needs.

What about those couples who lived together for years very successfully but then got married and ruined a perfectly good relationship? Harville says the reason stems from the emergence of the real work of marriage only after we take those sacred vows. It seems that we have to work for our security, but the pay-off is longevity and a more stable lifestyle.

More good news: Sex can save your life! Just as you commit to eating right and exercising for your well being and health, it's important to make sure you are having sex.... the more the better. According to leading sex expert and researcher, Dr. Pepper Schwartz of the University of Washington, studies shows that for women, sex provides lower anxiety, more vitality, a higher quality of life all while building immunity.

For men, sex one time a month of more will reduce his risk of dying by 60%. The men who had sex twice a week (or more) were least likely to die and sex provides protection for men against cancer and heart disease.

So go for it you youngins!  Love your way to good health -- and a long life!!

I'm assuming that the aforementioned studies and (s)experts are all addressing people who have yet to reach the ripe old 70s and 80s when the mind may sometimes be willing but the body, not to mention the significant other, may not always share the same inclinations.  Perhaps when it all starts to go down hill sexually, we've lived long enough anyway. 

Heck, I don't even worry about meditation, yoga, exercise and non-toxic foods anymore -- what's the use?  It's like putting fuel in a vehicle with a battery that has worn out and no longer capable of holding a charge.