Monthly Archives: January 2016

Hump Day: Seeking good karma in a negative world – even from ad jingles

Hump Day 2 croppedHump Day
By Brian Cormier
Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2016
Moncton Times & Transcript

During the recent Powerball lottery craziness in the United States when the jackpot hit an incredible $2.1 billion in Canadian dollars, social media was filled with superstitious people trying to increase their so-called ‘good ‍karma‍’ by promising to split their winnings with anyone who’d share a photo of their ticket online. Somehow, they believed that the lottery gods were up there checking everyone’s Facebook account.

Desperation often gets people to try to change their ‍karma for the better. I’ve been trying to get to church more often in 2016 than I did last year. I managed to go for three weeks in a row until my streak ended last weekend when a headache kept me at home. You know you don’t go to church often enough when the Virgin Mary’s statue’s jaw drops open in shock and she clutches her pearls when you walk through the front doors. Surely, that’s a sign you need to go more often.

I joked with friends that I was only going in order to increase my chances at winning the lottery, but if that’s the only reason on-and-off-again churchgoers returned, everyone would be winning the million!

Short-term good deeds or habit changes aren’t much good for changing one’s ‍karma – if we can change our ‍karma at all. I do believe we can. I’d hate to believe that sending out good into the world is worthless. Surely, doing good and helping others helps us – maybe not in lottery winnings, but in other aspects of our lives.

What drives me crazy, though, is when I see complete and utter jerks seemingly living the high life. Nice job. Nice house. Nice car. Nice vacations. But are they truly happy by running over everyone in their path to get ahead in life? Of course, not everyone who’s successful trounces over other people, but it irks me to no end when I see people are who are just downright mean achieve success – at least on the outside.

Maybe they’re miserable behind closed doors, I’m not sure. Would I bring bad ‍karma upon myself if I said I hoped they were just a little bit miserable? A bum knee? Bad breath?

I’m sure we’ve all seen colossal jerks enjoy the finer things in life while people we deem much more worthy – because of their kindness and good deeds – get the shaft in all things life-related. I just hope that ‍karma catches up to the jerks at some point – even when it’s time to go through the pearly gates in heaven. ‘Sorry, Mr. Smith,’ St. Peter would say. ‘You may have sailed through life being a big meanie, but we do things a bit differently up here. You’ve been selected for our deluxe cavity security check before you’re allowed in. During the exam, we’ll have a little chat.’

I don’t know if going to church more often increases your good ‍karma. It certainly can’t hurt, as long as you follow it up with nice deeds, kind words and generosity. This is difficult, though, in a life that sometimes throws us curveballs. It’s hard to keep being positive and super nice to everyone and everything when things aren’t going your way. We’ve all fallen into the ‘pity party’ trap. ‘Oh woe is me! The world’s out to get me!’

In reality, nothing could be further from the truth. The world isn’t out to get you – or me, for that matter. There’s a tonne of opportunity out there. We can create our own good ‍karma by taking action.

glass half fullI’m naturally an optimistic person. I don’t like cynicism. I prefer to trust people before I mistrust them. With that said, I’ve learned to also follow my gut feelings. More often than not, I regret it when I don’t. But I have to say, all this doom and gloom about the economy – local, provincial, national and international – is getting to me.

After this austerity is over, I hope we can start being a bit more cheerful again. Cut this. Cancel that. Close it. Lay them off. This negativity is permeating our very psyches. I’m an optimistic person, but this constant bad economic news is starting to affect me. What ‍karma did we send out to deserve this mess?

Without wanting to sound like a hippy, maybe it’s time for a bunch of us to stand on a hilltop, crack open a few bottles of Coca-Cola and start singing, “I’d like to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony.” If our ‍karma caused all this wretched doom and gloom, we’d better do something now to change it – even if we have to rely on 1970s advertising jingles for help.

Hump Day: Long-expired medicine means it’s time to declutter again!

Hump Day 2 croppedHump Day
By Brian Cormier
Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2016
Moncton Times & Transcript

In 2007, I wrote a number of columns extolling the virtues of decluttering one’s home. At the time, I’d just gone through a massive purge of stuff I no longer used or needed.

I was ruthless – maybe a bit too ruthless – but once I started, it was like a freight train going down the tracks. I could not easily be stopped. I would literally go through rooms with a garbage bag and not stop until it was filled.

I gloated. I told everyone how good it felt. If I went to your house and saw a piece of scrap paper lying around, I’d roll my eyes and lecture you on how clutter was destroying your life. To make it even more annoying, I’d lecture you using a fake British accent. I was unbearable in my snootiness – even more than usual.

Fast-forward nine years later to 2016. Little by little, the clutter has returned. After so many years, I guess it was inevitable, especially with my terrible habit of not reading books that I’ve purchased and my addiction to kitchen gadgets that get used only once and then tossed aside because they haven’t changed my life like I thought they would. To my credit, there are few hard-copy books coming into the house these days now that I’ve owned an e-reader for a couple of years.

Any books – read or unread – now reside next to my bed on my trusty Kindle device which gets opened every night when I read before falling asleep. Sure, I still buy some books that never get read, but at least they’re not contributing to the physical clutter since they’re electronic. For now, however, my nightstand remains a graveyard for hard-copy books which have never been read. There are three stacks teetering on the edge of collapse – one of which is more than two feet high. When the decluttering happens, those stacks will be the first to go.

Unless you’ve successfully kept up with the clutter over the years, I suppose it’s inevitable that things will accumulate after nearly a decade. If you’re a minimalist who’s rejected materialism, it would be easy to stop the growing mounds of stuff, however I don’t fall into that category.

clutter deskThe truly tragic area of the house is my office. There are files, boxes, books, piles of paper and just miscellaneous stuff in every nook and cranny. And as any office does over a number of years, old office equipment is stacked up here and there after it’s replaced. I always mean to sell it or give it away. I never seem to get around to it.

As it stands now, I must put aside my snooty fake British accent when admonishing others for the clutter in their homes. I feel a bit like an addict who fell off the wagon. Maybe I’m not a candidate for that TV show Hoarders, but give it another 10 years. At least I’d probably get professionals into the house via the show’s producers to clean the place up for free, eh? That’s an idea.

While I didn’t think things had gotten that bad, my ego was dealt a blow last week when I was rooting around my dresser for something when I found a bottle of some elixir meant to cure an upset stomach. For the heck of it, I checked the expiry date. June 2006. Yes… nearly 10 years ago. When you find stuff that expired a decade ago, you start to think that maybe you have a problem. Clearly, the time to purge has come again.

Every corner of the house – at least the upstairs for now – will have to be decluttered sector by sector in a methodical pattern. Closet by closet, drawer by drawer, room by room, I will fly in like a stealth bomber armed with a garbage bag and a few empty boxes. For my sanity, it must happen.

To my friends, I look forward to seeing you all again soon so that I can once again point out the untidiness of your homes and the useless objects strewn hither and yon. I’ll have to enjoy it while I can, because 10 years from now I’ll most likely have to hang my head in shame after the clutter returns and I must once again find the courage to purge.

Until then, though, I’ll have to speak in my normal, shameful Canadian accent since I’ve now returned to live among mere mortals whose clutter-filled lives lack meaning. I look forward to the glorious day soon when I earn back the right to use my snooty fake English accent.

Hump Day: Bitter pill of defeat tastes better with a slice of humble pie

Hump Day 2 croppedHump Day
By Brian Cormier
Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2016
Moncton Times & Transcript

It’s that time of the year when it seems like there’s an awards show on every week. The People’s Choice Awards, Golden Globes, Grammys and a number of others ending with the pinnacle: the Academy Awards. There’ll be winners. There’ll be losers. There’ll be snubs. There’ll be surprises. There’ll be shoo-ins. Happens every year.

Although it’s difficult feeling too sorry for a multi-millionaire for losing out on an award, the public aspect to it has got to hurt. After all, in everyday life, we don’t have a billion people from around the world staring at us on television to see our reaction when we’re dealt a supreme disappointment. Being rich doesn’t mean your feelings evaporate, but the knowledge that you can just hop into your limousine afterwards, be driven by a chauffeur to your mansion and end the evening by taking a bath in a gold-plated tub filled with caviar and champagne must take a bit of the sting out of it, I’d hope.

I’ve always wondered what they’re thinking with their million-dollar smiles, million-dollar dresses, jewelry and tuxedos, when they hear another nominee’s name announced as the winner. They sit and smile. The cameras pan back to them throughout the winner’s speech to see if they’re crying yet. Nope, still smiling.

Most losers are quite gracious. Do they have much of a choice? Well, of course they do, but bitterness won’t do them much good. Besides, they can always slink back to that gold-plated bathtub filled with caviar and champagne and sit back while they’re hand fed grapes by a servant.

While it’s important to be a good loser, it’s also just as important to be a good winner. No one likes to see someone boast of a victory – unless you’re a professional wrestler. A bit of humility never killed anyone.

In politics, it’s especially important for winners to gather in others and make them part of the team. This is where many politicians fail. The stick with their old familiar campaign teams, especially after a hard-fought party nomination process, and then forget about their opponents’ followers who would be more than willing to help if they were just asked. With that said, there’s always bitterness among losers, too, and often they’ll take their marbles and go home regardless.

There’s nothing so profoundly sad as a bitter loser. In my mind, all it does for me is to justify in my mind that the right person won. A loser can be disappointed, but there’s no place for bitterness. You had just as much opportunity as the winner to emerge victorious. The blame game rarely works.

I’ve run for positions in various organizations I’ve been involved with over the years. From time to time, I’ll win. Most of the time, I’ll lose. I could not win an election if my life depended on it.

Obviously, that’s not the right mindset, but I’ve just come to accept the fact that I should not partake in elections as a candidate. Unless I’m the only one running, I rarely win. If for some reason I ever decide to run in any sort of election in the future, personal experience tells me that I’d better be prepared to work on being a good loser.

awardBut being a good winner in politics – or in any other domain – is just as important. Who wants a winner who’ll gloat and stomp around town sending all the people he defeated to the guillotine? Oh, the temptation would be huge, I’m sure, but it’s always best to try and make peace and move on. I’ve been on the losing end of various competitions – be they business, political or a number of other areas – and I’ve never regretted taking the high road afterwards.

I’ve also sat back and watched losers take the scorched-earth approach, namely burning everything in their path as they retreat. The problem is that often they’ll also burn their own reputations to the ground, too. Put that fire to good use and use it to bake a nice, juicy ‍humble pie. And when it’s done, eat a big piece of it. It may be bitter at first, but it eventually nourishes the soul and protects against future heartache.

Throughout our lives, we’re going to have glorious wins and humiliating defeats. If we accept that from day one and decide here and now to be the best winner and the best loser anyone’s ever seen, life will be so much more pleasant for everyone.

Of course, if you actually have a gold-plated bathtub filled with champagne and caviar, feel free to ignore this sage advice and sharpen up the guillotine!