Monthly Archives: January 2015

Hump Day: Basic instinct: going squirrelly in the eye of a snowstorm

Hump DayHump Day
By Brian Cormier
Wednesday, Jan. 28, 2015
Moncton Times & Transcript

Humans often portray themselves as quite more intelligent than other species, but sometimes I’m not so sure. For all intents and purposes, we’re just another animal.

Don’t think so? Just stand in a lion’s cage at the zoo while covered in barbecue sauce and see if the lion wants to strike up a conversation about Shakespeare or hold your head in one paw, your feet in another paw and eat you like corn on the cob.

We wouldn’t make it easy for the lion, though, I’m sure, because we’d most certainly make quite a racket with all our screaming and crying – kind of like when we eat really crunchy chips. Sure, it’s loud, but the taste is oh so delicious.

The same goes for our most basic animal instincts, one of which I seem to share with squirrels. And I think many others share this innate, unstoppable urge, too. You see, whenever I hear there’s a storm coming, I turn into a hoarding squirrel. Along with many of you, I show up at the grocery store and act like the stores will be closed for the next month. I leave with a cart filled to the brim with junk I shouldn’t eat – and which will probably just end up getting tossed when I come to my senses when the skies clear up 24 to 36 hours later.

The urge to hoard for a storm is strong among many people. And it bears noting that no one has the urge to hoard lettuce, either. We’re talking junk, here. Chips. Chocolate. Candy. People were posting photos online before our latest storm that showed the chips aisle well picked over at the grocery store. I’d also been to the grocery store (just in case we were stuck inside for a week, of course) and I stayed away from the chips aisle on purpose, but I can confirm that the vegetables section remained well stocked. No one pigs out on carrot sticks on a storm day.

‘Honey, let’s stock up on parsley, lemons and water. We should start a cleanse! I feel like eating a big salad during the storm. Let’s buy some cucumbers!’ Not.

groceries manActually, it’s more like we search frantically up and down the aisles for stuff that’s bad for us. ‘Get the candy! Find the chocolate! Fill the carts up with chips, kids! It’s Snowmageddon 2015! We need to fatten you all up so you survive for the next 24 hours in a nicely heated house while protected from the elements!’

Of course, this doesn’t make any sense in the least, but instincts sometimes don’t make sense. The instinct to hoard food before a storm is something that was probably developed inside of humans when we were just tadpoles in the primordial soup. It’s something we feel in our bones. It’s an urge – and a strong one.

Of course, we can resist it and reason ourselves out of it. Thinking about it logically, we have pretty good weather forecasts and we all know approximately when a storm will start and stop. We know within a very close margin how much snow we’re supposed to get. Road crews are usually pretty good at keeping main arteries open so that at least emergency vehicles can get by. Barring the most gargantuan of storms, most of us would not be trapped in our own homes for days on end with no other option but to pull a Sophie’s Choice by flipping a coin to determine whether we eat the cat or the dog for supper.

I do indeed try to talk myself out of the illogic of hoarding. It makes no sense in our society to believe you won’t be able to leave the house for days on end – especially if you live in a well-populated area.

But, like I said, instincts are hard to ignore. That strong, invisible, internal tugging often wins out and we find ourselves at the checkout with 16 large bags of chips instead of lettuce and chicken. During my most recent storm-hoarding visit, I was quite pleased with myself that I managed to talk myself out of the ridiculous urge to fill the cart with garbage. I knew what I had at home. I knew the freezer was full and so was the refrigerator.

Hoarding junk food before a storm can be fun, though. It’s almost like having chocolates at Christmas. It’s Christmas! What’s one chocolate? Same can be said of a storm! Hey, it’s only one day! Sure, until they find you a week later passed out naked in a ditch and covered in ‍icing sugar.

Hump Day: The only truly perfect time to start a difficult project is now

Hump DayHump Day
By Brian Cormier
Wednesday, Jan. 21, 2015
Moncton Times & Transcript

I have a weekly newsletter that goes out to about 600 subscribers. In it, I have a section that includes a number of inspirational and thought-provoking quotes from a variety of business, entertainment, community, literary, government and spiritual leaders. This leads me on a weekly search for some of the best things people have said not only recently, but throughout history.

One quote I used this week struck me. It’s a quote by Alan Cohen and it goes like this: “Do not wait until the conditions are perfect to begin. Beginning makes the conditions perfect.” If you’re like me and like to put off things you’re not really interested in doing,this may speak to you, too.

There’s nothing that guarantees a clean house more like putting off another project I don’t want to start. I’ll tidy up here and there, get some cooking done and then do some work before I tackle the unwanted item. I’ll wander around and do this and that – and that and this – and then a little of this and that again. The house would be spotless and long-neglected chores taken care of, but that one nagging little project is still sitting there waiting to be done.

Most of the time, it’s a writing project and I’m waiting to feel inspired. I hear that from a lot of writing friends. They have to write something, so they clean their house instead. It could be anything, really. Most of the time though with me, it’s a writing task as I wait for some unseen spirit to come down from heaven, stick its cold dead finger into my ear and inject me with brilliance from the great beyond. I wait, and I wait. But alas, I just have to get the job done.

I usually write this column on Monday nights. Most of the time, I have an idea of what I want to write about, but sometimes I’m sitting at my computer wailing like a banshee at 10:30 p.m. because I’m drawing a blank. Then I stare angrily at my pets. Why couldn’t one of the cats have done something silly so that I could write about it?

Why couldn’t the other cat cause some sort of unfathomable horrors to the house like in 2006 when Charlotte, a cat I used to own, did $10,000 damage to the house after she played with the filter on the aquarium and caused 35 gallons of water to overflow onto the hardwood floors and seep through into the basement? Now that was a thoughtful cat! Always happy to help her daddy with his column writing by causing havoc. Although I had to re-home Charlotte because the other two cats – Cindy and Casey – tried to kill her one day (that’s a whole other episode of Dr. Phil!), at least she gave me something to write about.

As for the dog, Milane, well she just sits there and looks adorable. What am I supposed to do with that? So selfish. Give me something to work with! Get possessed by a demon or something. Sitting there looking cute and sweet with those big eyes isn’t going to bring home the dog treats!

procrastination 2Once I start something, though, whether it’s a decluttering project, writing or shovelling snow, it’s never half as bad as I had made it out to be. It feels good to be accomplishing it. And the end result is never has difficult as I had imagined it.

Which brings me back to the quote at the beginning of this column. There’s never a perfect time to start anything. Just start it.

In the past week, I’ve made a bunch of decisions about the administration of my website, email and computer backups. It feels very good to have finally made them. I also got some new graphics designed for my website and newsletter headers. If I told you how long I’ve been thinking about doing just that – well, I’d be too embarrassed to tell you, actually.

Now, at least, all my precious photos and work files will be backed up into what they call ‘the cloud’ and I won’t have to worry about losing it all like I did many years ago when a computer crash led to years of work and memories gone down the drain. It’s no fun having to start over. And these days, there’s absolutely no need of it!

It’s funny. After I read that quote last week, it sparked something in me that got me going on a number of fronts. The timing will never be perfect. Sometimes, you just have to start – and that makes it perfect!

Hump Day: Lying on a beach waiting to die is for sick whales, not people

Hump DayHump Day
By Brian Cormier
Wednesday, Jan. 14, 2015
Moncton Times & Transcript

I read an interesting quote the other day by Sanjeev Saxena, the chairman and CEO of POC Medical Systems based in California. “If you don’t know what to do with your life, do something that saves lives. The world is full of people in need. Be the part of their life that fills that need.”

I don’t think I’m wrong in assuming that if you asked many people – even perhaps most, “If money was no issue and you could afford to sit by a pool or a beach for the rest of your life, would you?” – that the resounding answer would be yes. We seem to have some romantic notion that permanent relaxation is quality of life.

I’m not saying a nice retirement and doing what you want to do after a 40-year career isn’t earned. Of course it is, but to sit and stare out the window (or on a beach) waiting to die? What kind of life is that?

I’ve talked to people who are barely 40 years old and, if they could, would sit by a pool for the rest of their lives getting a tan. How boring… and what a waste of a precious life. I like the way Mr. Saxena thinks. Perhaps we don’t have to choose to save lives, but the gist of the quote is to do something that matters.

Each person’s perception of what ‘matters’ is different. If you work in retail and love providing good service to people so they find the things they need, that’s great! It’s something that matters. If you work as a cook and love to prepare good food for people, that’s great, too! Doing something with our lives doesn’t mean aspiring to win a Nobel Prize. It just means being happy in your career or making the best of your situation. If you’re not thrilled with your job, then choose some fulfilling volunteer work in your spare time.

There are always choices. The world can be a big scary place. There is illness. There is crime. There is fear. There is illiteracy. There is hunger. There is war. There is violence. It’s hardly a time in history when we can afford for people who have yet to find a grey hair on their head to put their feet up and retire. The world needs you!

I read a quote from a business leader the other day in which he said the thought of going on vacation and doing nothing was repulsive to him. Sitting around a pool? Hanging out on a beach all day? Not for him. He may have chosen other things, but he did not have the ‘doing nothing’ gene. And he’d probably never retire, either.

I can ‘do nothing’ with the best of them, and I certainly appreciate quiet time alone on the sofa with just me and my thoughts. This may sound silly if you haven’t already contemplated the notion, but just the act of thinking is hard work. Figuring out problems. Making life plans. We need to give more respect to the act of thinking during quiet time. Turn off the television. Turn off the music. Find some place to do a bit of contemplation.

sunbathingYes, that’s a healthy thing to do. And yes, even beside a pool or on a nice beach somewhere – but not for the rest of your life! I mean, how much thinking do you need to do? You have to take action to make things happen. No magic genie is going to appear and drop bags of money at your feet.

All I’m trying to say is that the world needs everyone to do their part as long as they can. If you’re 65 and have worked for 45 years, well consider yourself off the hook – up to a point. I mean, 65 is still practically a kid these days. You still have a lot to offer!

But honest to God, if I hear one more person (mostly on Facebook) start pining away for retirement on a beach when they’ve barely hit 40, I think I’ll hand them a garbage bag and tell them to start cleaning up that dirty old beach! Make yourself useful!

There’s way too much going on out there to sit back and do nothing. Each one of us has an obligation to contribute to society as long as we’re healthy and able to do so. The world doesn’t owe us a thing, but we sure do owe it something. At the very least, we owe it our best self, not lying on a beach for 30 years when there are starving children in the world.