man stuff


This week as I traveled about, visiting the lives of others along the way both online and in-person, I was struck by a few things I’d like to share with you. Specifically, I want to talk about narrowing thinking and how it lies at the crux of the best of human experience.

When I think of those times in my life when I was firing on all cylinders, it’s when I’ve been able to focus at such a deep level my total being was engaged in living in the moment. It’s when the distractions of my surroundings are inconsequential to what’s before me. It’s when time seems stands still.

I’m not sure if you know what I mean, but if you think back, you’ll quickly remember a scene from your history where you were so engrossed in what you were doing that all else didn’t matter. I wonder if you realize it’s at these moments when we are at our happiest.

Let me qualify that statement.  I surely don’t mean a form of bliss where we are like Snoopy just grooving to Schroeder’s piano. Though this is sometimes a part of it, it’s by no means the template against which we should judge our affective experience in these circumstances.

What I mean by happiest is more like we are blissfully unaware of feeling at all. At least, the tyranny of emotion is lost for the moment, and we leave behind all feelings of inadequacy. Our usual level of vigilance changes, but it’s not that we let our guard down. No. It’s because something else takes over.

That something is a feeling of almost limitless power, or better, power being expressed at the limits of our abilities. This is when we hit a zone, or our zone, and whether we hit it accidentally or on purpose doesn’t matter. What counts here is a condition which lies at the pinnacle of human expression. It’s as if we know it’s where we belong, a place where good things, sometimes great things, happen.

It’s a serious manifestation of our gifts coming together all at once, without being aware of limits or constraints which might cast doubt on our competence. It’s more than confidence because it’s a blend of the mental and the physical, a symbiosis, the meaningful whole of an action. It’s the Gestalt.

The quick and easy way to hit zones is to practice over and over so new competence is ingrained in the cerebellum, like never forgetting to ride a bike once learned. Being able to shut out distractions is next, narrowing down focus to what is before you, so time is lived second by second, or not noticed at all.

When the first two conditions are met, the longer you linger there, the more chance you have of hitting the heretofore impossible. That’s when you stretch, using your powers of concentration and emotional equilibrium to push the boundaries of your skills. It’s a time when we truly get out of our own way, allowing whatever talent we have to sing fully, to express itself at its peak and beyond.

I’d sometimes get like this after a few years of shooting snooker. In my best games, I wouldn’t even notice my surroundings except for how they were needed to play the game. It didn’t matter who was watching, or what my opponent did. My eyes were on the green table cloth and the balls. My whole body and mind was an extension of the cue and cue ball and I could make that ball do my bidding without regard to limits. I’d control the game in a way far above my normal play.

I say the zone is also when we feel most alive. The connection between our existence and the world around us blends seamlessly, acting as one, without boundaries and without fear or need to explain. We are poetry in motion. We are the poet.

It’s as if we are nodding to the Universe, acknowledging its wisdom in choosing us, in bestowing a chance at life to this very being. It’s when we are fulfilling our promise, the pact we have with life itself.

Sadly, I don’t think we get enough of it. And the peace and power derived from visiting our zone has such appeal that we often try to recreate its essence in other ways. Unfortunately, these are often maladaptive, poor substitutes for the real thing causing more harm than good. What lies at the heart of these coping mechanisms is the desire to narrow thinking, to thin out the complexities of life and simplify what occupies the mind.

Drink a few beers or haul on a joint and watch your thinking narrow accordingly. You’re in some kind of zone alright, but it’s not a celebration of your personal power. It’s a artificial hijacking of your sympathetic system, putting your physiology into a fear state to narrow your focus to escape danger. Whereas the real zone slows your heartbeat and focuses your power, this effect increases the heartrate and scatters your competence.

And it works—soon all your thinking of is pizza, or pussy, or fighting. Or you have slowed your body down, frozen, like a deer standing on the road staring at headlights. Or the rabbit you see on the neighbours lawn, immobilized, heart beating as fast as a snare drum, hoping it blends in.

For some, TV, food, porn, gambling, cigarettes, shopping all have the same capacity to narrow focus artificially, from an external view but without engaging the internal power and talent which exists in all of us. The suicidal try to do the same thing, narrowing their thinking down so effectively to escape the pain of life until, tragically, their options run out.

The eyes see out, I like to say. So much of what we do is triggered by what the eyes can take in. Like all of our gifts, sometimes our qualities can become faults. Too often we see and respond without considering what we really seek. We all need to narrow our focus, to feel alive and celebrate our gifts in the moment. Too often we seek to do this by taking a pill of some kind, by relying on the environmental, the external solution to what really can only be solved internally.

You might expect I’ll speak now of finding more adaptive ways of narrowing thinking, of recognizing it’s draw as a fundamental expression, and encouraging you to make better choices. But here’s what I was taken with this week:

Turns out we don’t need 10,000 hours to become competent at something. See, the way I just wrote that represents the impression I took from reading MMalcom Gladwell’s famous missive about learning a new skill. It’s my own nonsense and represents the way I, along with most people I know, have misinterpreted the commitment he writes about. He’s talking about elite level mastery, world class level competence.

In a TedX talk I watched this week, Josh Kaufman talks about researching Gladwell’s misunderstood recommendation and finding it takes around 20 hours to learn a new skill adequately. Of course, I thought when I watched him, I’ve learned plenty of things in less than 10,000 hours! Kaufman breaks it down further, suggesting just 45 minutes a day for about a month will do the trick. This is a refreshing antidote to the Gladwellian notion that it takes 5 years of hard slogging to achieve respectable competence at something.

I have 20 hours. 10,000? Not so much.

In just under an hour per day for a month, you could learn a reasonable amount about something or get good enough at something to then decide if you wanted to learn more! Piano enough to play Fur Elise, a language well enough to visit a foreign country, how to weld so you can make… anything. It just goes on.

Well, there are twelve months in a year, and how many in a lifetime? If average lifespan is 80 and we take just 50 of those years as potential months of learning, that’s 600 months of opportunity. Or 600 new skills we could potentially get good enough at in our lifetime.

Oh my, where have all my excuses gone now?

I was thinking about this when one of the guys in my men’s group told us a family friend killed himself on Tuesday. Booze was a big contributing factor. These are always tragic. People will say the suicidal was selfishly passing their pain on to the living. It’s possible. Though suicidal people who have lived through attempts tell us they thought they were doing everyone a favour. There are no good answers.

Every day I run into folks who are affected by this scourge—attempting to narrow thinking by taking short cuts—using drugs and alcohol to kickstart adrenaline and cortisol in their system, not realizing that this IS their addiction. It’s not so much the booze or drugs, it’s these fear hormones which create an emotional state providing relief from the complexity of their existence.  While in fear, your focus is on survival, a much simpler scope, aimed at satisfying much baser needs.

And food and porn and gambling all do the same thing to a degree, using intermittent reinforcement to distract and narrow focus, attempting to gain a reward by way of a shortcut. Our eyes see out. But it’s here where the maladaptive breaks down: it’s like a dog chasing its tail. We never quite catch up.

And we don’t grow. Confidence wanes further for there is no competence in these.

There are no new skills to be found in that box of donuts, the next six pack of booze, the next shopping spree at the mall or the hardware store, the next pack of smokes or cannabis dispensary. You could argue there are skills to learn from the next porn clip you watch but that really depends how long you’ve been watching, doesn’t it?

What if we all realized this is what we were trying to do: narrow thinking. It’s our natural way of shutting out all the noise. Done right, it’s escapism with benefits. And it represents the only true way of meeting the need to live fully engrossed in the moment.

All sorts of things are like this. Watch any teenager who has mastered a video game at a high level. They get into a zone and if there wasn’t a clock on the screen and levels, they’d make time stand still. Look at their eyes, and they never leave the monitor. A friend of mine use to fly fish with such concentration that rather than go ashore to take a piss, he’d let it go in his neoprene waders and rinse them out later.

Neither of these extremes will kill you. Some of the other ways we narrow thinking can and will.  Yesterday I came home from a rather challenging week. Though I’m grateful to find myself alive every morning, I’m no more inured to the pain of life than anyone else.

Rather than go blow my mind with dope or booze, I instead sought ways to just calm myself and heal. Oh, I know there’s still pot kicking around here somewhere. And the beer store is a few blocks away. Heck, I could swallow a few Percocet, bumping up my occasional quarter tablet dosage to two or three full tabs and I’d be nodding in no time.

And these would have left me hung over this morning, feeling dissonance for having compromised my pact with nature, knowing I was ungrateful for the life I have been lucky enough to win. These would have eroded my confidence, which in turn, would affect my competence. This is the truth.

And that’s what meditation is for. No wonder it’s so popular. Even if you’re not a meditator, a walk will narrow thinking just as well. Perhaps I’m at an advantage because I have a slew of cognitive behavioural strategies I can implement to narrow my thinking. Well these have come with practice. I also slept very well last night.

Come to think of it, I had to learn to drink in a dysfunctional way too. In fact, I worked hard at it over time, just as I did with the rest of it, from dope smoking to heroin use. Geez, it took me years just to learn how to roll a joint. Cocaine definitely took some getting used to—fed my paranoia. I puked my guts out first time I did heroin.  All of these things took concentration and trial and error before I could successfully use them to… narrow focus. When measured up against all these, it’s actually easier to learn to narrow thinking internally, by far.

So try to think of those times when you entered into a zone of competence, and remember how good that felt.

These days, when things get to me and I feel like I need a break, knowing the secret, the real impetus of my condition, that what really begs my attention is just to narrow my focus, I have other choices.

And in a month, looks like I might just have one more.

You could too.


Advisor to Men, Counsellor at Large

©2018, all rights reserved

Kaufman’s TedX talk:


5 Love Languages Part Three

Something like 70-80% of divorces are initiated by the woman. Google why women divorce and these articles will show up.

– The Good Men Project article lists infidelity, boredom, fantasizing about others, wanting equality of work, and women’s expectations for more as main reasons.

– A collective Huffpost therapists piece lists being taken for granted; having the same argument over and over; not being satisfied with their sex life; not enough talking and connecting emotionally; and having outgrown their partner and seeing divorce as the only way of putting themselves first again.

– says it’s often about losing connection when the kids are grown; a realization that life is finite and slipping by, especially in middle age where caring for elderly parents brings new stresses that often test a couple’s coping skills.

Just summarizing this sampling tells us something of what might be going on. Connection is our greatest need. For most men, it’s enough to be respected let alone be loved.  Love’s meaning is different things to different people.

And it is here where 5LL and its ilk are wholly inadequate. For it’s not about love at all. Leave love to the poets I say, the secret to good marriages has more to do with lust.


Listen to me here: everyone wants to be someone’s chosen. And in most cases, it is women who do the choosing and orchestrate things so you end up pursuing her.

Nature affords preciousness to women not accorded to men. She has twenty of years of reasonably safe fertility; you have twice that or more. There’s a 90 year old farmer in Rajasthan who fathered a little girl in 2007 at age 90.

And yet, it is you she chose, for your power and your ability to conquer her soul. And for this, she has given herself completely to you, revealing bits of her mystery in the process.

Just because she has children, and perhaps a job and other responsibilities, does not diminish, in the least, who she is as a sexual being. Of all the men she could have chosen, you were it. It was your power as a man which gave you access to her body and mind, to her inner world.

This is what captivated you, captivated you both in each, your power and her mystery. This must always be honoured.

Each time I take my woman sexually, the clock resets to zero. The pursuit then starts all over again: the teasing, the flirting, the complimenting and the rest of the way we play the game between us. I date her for the first time again and again.

Though we realize we’ll give in to each other in time, it is never taken for granted. I must earn her once more; just the same way I did when we first dated. That is a truer basis for the pair-bond cycle and one which all men should keep in mind.

She is your Queen.

Missus and I did the 5LL test. What we found was most of the questions were things we already did. On any given day I could have answered differently to the 30 questions. She said the same thing.

Sometimes, I could use a pat on the back, other times a little help with a chore. Whatever. No one needs to tell us we need to encourage each other, help each other out, hold and hug and love each other physically or spend time together. So many questions she said she wanted to answer “both” but had to choose one.

She went Quality Time 10; Physical Touch 8; Words of Affirmation 7; Acts of Service 5; Receiving Gifts 0.

I went Acts of Service 9; Physical Touch 9; Words of Affirmation 8; Quality Time 5; Receiving Gifts 0.

Looks like today I needed to spend time with her, say nice things and touch her. She sure liked it when I accompanied her to the phone store to upgrade her I-phone this morning, entertaining the kids in the truck for an hour while she took care of her business.

When she finally finished she was pretty impressed I had gotten her a coffee at the McDonalds while we waited. Does that count as a gift according to Chapman? I suppose it’s at least partly the little things, you see.

We might take the test in a month and get new results, but following the usual, significance for men, emotions for women, generality. Obvious to me perhaps but I concede not to everyone.

As it was, my little girl has stomach flu and has been vomiting all day. It was a bit of an “all hands on deck” time as we both attended to our sick child, her taking the lead. As the baby whisperer, I backed her up and put our four year old boy to bed.

The other implication of 5LL is that you can’t figure out how to treat your lady well on your own. That you are so clueless something as basic as encouragement, hanging out together, helping each other and remembering to get her a coffee is beyond you.

In my opinion, it’s a bit of a red herring. The real issue is to treat that woman of yours like you did when you first met and leave 5LL as a cute Facebook post without discounting it altogether.

Better still, remember Gottman’s 7 principles and dream together. Often.

Maybe you have children or are planning to, or maybe you don’t. Each other’s investment in rearing offspring will factor in your attraction to each other. I know I based my acquiescence to missus at least a little bit on how she spoke about her own upbringing.

Above all, remember your relationship or family is a consequence of your personal power as a man. It’s what gets you access to her mystery.

Stay powerful, she needed this from you then and needs this from you now.

The secret to relationships is to put lust first.

Do that and love will take care of itself.

Christopher K Wallace

© 2017 all rights reserved

If you have any  questions or would like to work with me, you can find information under advisement options on the main page. Thank for reading along.

5 Love Languages Part Two

According to attachment theory proponent and developer of Emotions Focused Therapy, Professor Sue Johnson from Ottawa University, there are two main inquiries we need answered in a relationship. Are you there? Are you with me? These both must be answered affirmatively.

To me, the first question speaks to the feminine need for presence, listening, and being there fully for your partner. The second question is perhaps more masculine, referring to being on the same team, and having each other’s back.

Answer these two questions in the positive and you’ve got a good basis for a love that will last.

I think most women are irresistibly attracted to men of power. Your status in your woman’s eyes is a key marker of her happiness in the relationship. Less important is how your power manifests itself, whether you are the boss, well-off financially, intelligent enough to show potential, physically strong or even the bad-ass type. Power signals to a woman certainty. If she needs it, you’ll be able to provide, protect etc.

Men are attracted to women for looks first, and stay with her out of loyalty. Part of that loyalty involves how well she’ll mother his children if that’s in the cards.  If she’s loyal, she becomes his standard. When he thinks naked, he sees only her.

It is a testament to his adaptability that a man can learn to love almost anyone when the conditions are right. Furthermore, a man with a loyal woman by his side will defend her to the death.

I think this fits Johnson’s two queries. She needs his presence and power; he needs her looks and loyalty, and there is some of each of it in both.

In my decades of observing couples and living my own relationships, I note there’s something of a well-honed bullshit detector in most women. After all women are generally more empathetic and better at reading emotions on a man’s face. If a woman senses a man is being weak for no good reason, she will either rub salt in the open wounds of his weakness or hold him in silent contempt.

At this point, sex is pretty much out. Sound familiar?

Over two-thirds of conflict in a marriage is “perpetual” according to John Gottman. He’s the guy who can watch a couple talk for 15 minutes and predict with over 90% accuracy if they will break up within five years. The rest of conflict, “resolvable” stuff, is challenging but small change comparatively… so savour those communication victories for the sweetness they are.

In his book, After the Honeymoon, psychologist Dan Wile says you are inevitably choosing a set of unsolvable problems for the next decades when you choose your partner. The problems you choose are the ones you can cope with.

So how do you survive this dead-end? You live, you learn, and most of all, you laugh about it.

I like to put stuff back where I find it, or keep things in predictable places. Saves time and makes me more efficient. I don’t want to spend my life relearning when I do regular things.

Keeping our stuff in the same places is less important to the missus. Not a priority. It’s sometimes like a treasure hunt to find stuff in the house. While mildly annoying at best, a bit frustrating at other times, it’s not a deal breaker.

I chuckle at her, wondering what she was thinking when she tucked my stuff away to the point where I think I’ve lost it for good. When I find it again, it’s like a reunion. Over the 12 years I’ve been with her, she’s gotten better. Just like I’ve gotten better with money under her influence, though still working on it.

No complaints here, I don’t want to jinx the progress.

Want to read a good book about how to make marriages work? I recommend The Seven Principles by the aforementioned Gottman. When approaching a solvable problem, follow these steps (my notes added):

  1. Start-up soft rather than harsh. (How many times does flying off the handle not work for us to learn not to do it?).
  2. Learn to use repair attempts. (Take a shot at a solution as soon as possible. Then, listen more carefully and try again).
  3. Monitor your body for how tense you’re becoming. (Emotion is predictive, not reactive, and from interoception, experience derived concepts and social reality).
  4. Learn to compromise (make a deal; you can make those right? Give a bit; get a bit; look for the win-win).
  5. Tolerate each other’s imperfections (they become endearing after a time. Who wants to live with a carbon copy of themselves?)

Gottman contends it’s a myth you have to resolve all your marital conflicts to survive and thrive in your marriage. The key is to be constantly working things out good-naturedly.

The other big key is to dream together. Pillow talk might be a bit cliché but a version of it is essential in all marriages. In fact, Gottman’s principle number 1 is the idea of a love map.  Nothing beats dreaming together for big picture peace.

He follows it with 2. Nurture fondness and admiration; 3. Turn toward each other rather than away; 4. Let your partner influence you; 5. Solve solvable problems; 6. Overcome gridlock; and 7. Create shared meaning.

This bit about turning towards each other is a good point, also fitting Sue Johnson’s and her Emotions Focused Therapy briefly mentioned above. For example, rather than a guy getting freaked out about his gal’s relationships at work, it might be better to stand in front of her, gently touch her shoulders with both hands, look her in the eye with a slight smile and tell her you don’t want to lose her.

Turning towards each other sort of fits Chapman’s Love Languages. Knowing what missus appreciates just as she knows what I like can help make a relationship sail along more smoothly. That alone is not enough.

How do you overcome gridlock, those times when you’re both going nowhere on an issue? Gottman says you must be willing to explore hidden, root cause stuff.

It’s by uncovering and sharing the significant personal dreams you have for your life, as these unrequited dreams are most often at the core of what makes people stuck. He goes further to say endless argument is symbolic of some deeper difference crying out for attention before you can move on together.

So talk about your dreams, your aspirations together over a longer timeline.

Knowing this is such a precious gift.

Christopher K Wallace
©2017 all rights

5LL part three coming up. You’ll want to stick around for this.

5 Love Languages   Part One.

5 Love Languages? Give me a break.

I ask you: what kind of unfounded sorcery is this preoccupation with love languages?

It seems wherever I turn of late, in whatever forum, as soon as relationships come up someone asks the question: “what’s her love language?”

My, my, how far we men have fallen in just one generation.

Why in the hell would I want to know my wife’s love language? Does such a thing exist?  I have no intention of anticipating her every whim and desire trying to tailor my approach so that I become her best girlfriend in the process.  I know that’s an impossible dream. Wrong guy.

First out in 1995, Chapman’s book was rightly ignored for almost a decade and a half and did not take off until 2009. I’m not sure why… it took off at all. Oprah?

Only now, in addition to the original work, he’s also got versions for men, for singles, for teenagers, and for children, along with a 5 love languages book summary and a 30 day minute devotional. It may be out of control.

And all that’s in addition to another half dozen relationship books with his name on them. I’m pretty sure they’ll be an improvement. He’s an enterprising sort our Mr. Chapman, a marketing genius.

The author contends if only you knew your spouse or partner’s “preferred” approaches, magic between you will surely ensue. Fill her “Love Tank” by doing essentially what you do anyway, common expressions of devotion and appreciation for each other, only now named languages of love.


A kindly but fully indoctrinated soul on a post recently explained how he’s distilled Chapman’s game into the acronym CHAAP, with each letter corresponding to a 5LL equivalent , as in:

Compliments: 5LL Words of Affirmation

Help: 5LL Acts of Service

Attention: 5LL Quality Time

Affection: 5LL Physical Touch

Presents: 5LL Receiving Gifts

Is there research to back any of his claims up? Not much. The name is suspicious. (“You bought me a car? Now you’re talking my language, honey!!!”) Huh?

I suppose the good news is if your gal is the Receiving Gifts type, you can decide on the spot if that’s going to work for you longer term. (“I thought you wanted presence not presents, dammit!”) Everyone likes a gift, no exceptions. Duh..

Moreover, how many kids have a Love Language that includes Receiving Gifts I wonder? Isn’t that how Santa was created? Isn’t trading and receiving goods an imbedded trait in a culture dependent on each other for survival?

I think the idea of relying on 5 Love Languages as anything but a novelty pop quiz is weak. It’s the same kind of silly exercise we see on Facebook walls all the time. My friends and I find these amusing for the parts of them that are slightly true.

For example, only recently, I found out my dog personality in just a few moments of analysis: “You know about your loved ones’ needs very well and attack anyone who hurts them. The only way to get away from your power and strength is to never cross you. You’re as loving and as deadly as a Rottweiler.”

(Appeals to my protective instinct as a father and over-exaggerates the rest of it but I’ll take it on a slow Internet day).

Then I found out I was 31% undate-able, and 69% date-able. (Don’t remind my missus of what she already knows).

Oh, and I have an asshole quote: “I’m not an asshole. I am actually one of the nicest people you will ever meet. You’re just pissed because I can see through your bullshit.”

(I help people see through their stories and rarely piss people off doing it).

I’d put Chapman’s theoretical foundation on love languages in about the same category as these: cute, entertaining, and perhaps helpful to a degree, but casting a wide net with limited foundation.

Seems to me Chapman is taking obvious heuristic and repackaging it as if it’s the Shangri la of relationships, an ultimate panacea for what ails marriages, men, teens, and children.

And, well, everyone else too by the time he’s done. My advice is to skip the books and take the online test one time. That will tell you all you ever need to know.

I figure it’s only a matter of time before pictures start appearing of gullible souls flashing bookshelves with Chapman’s Complete Collection, all nicely arrayed by order of importance (or half read).

Anyone who studies these things knows an approach like the 5 LL is at best a way of getting people talking, and, at worst, a stretch into balderdash.

Should you try and be more sensitive to your partner’s needs? Duh. Does that need an answer? Should we try to understand each other in general? Again, stupid question. In what some call the age of empathy, this is yet another example of empathy run amok.

And that’s the problem with empathy in general. In a recent book, Yale University professor Paul Bloom cautions us by saying “if you are absorbed in the suffering of others, you’re less able to help them because achieving goals often requires inflicting short-term pain.”

Better to have something like compassion, or a version of cognitive empathy. That is, as Bloom continues, the “capacity to understand what’s going on in other people’s head, to know what makes them tick, what gives them joy and pain, what they see as humiliating or ennobling.”

Right about now you might be thinking, “Aha! That’s exactly what 5LL does!” Well, yes and no.

It’s just that 5LL is like the Myers-Briggs test given out all over corporate America: replication is weak and unreliable.

One day you’re an ESFI and a month later you’re an MBTI. In the same way, people’s life contexts change, and circumstances and maturity over time mean trivial preferences like those found in 5LL no longer hold up. They are a lousy way to go about things except on a very short term basis.

Relationships, and especially the differences between men and women, are challenging enough without imposing a “here-today, gone-tomorrow” rule of preferences, set like a trap to go off when you least expect it. What guy needs that aggravation? (“But I thought you liked chocolates sweetie? I’m on a diet asshole!”)

As human beings we are categorizers and meaning-makers. 5LL is a lot like following the Horoscopes: a little obvious bullshit for everyone.

Stay tuned. In 5LL parts two and three, I’ll speak to what really works in a relationship.

Christopher K Wallace
©2017 all rights reserved

Need help with this stuff? You can reach me at under advisement options



Where have all the real men gone? That’s a question that comes up often lately.

Not just from women. No. I worked hedging farm energy costs all last winter and met a lot of real men. Tough and grizzled career dairy farmers who knew precisely their role lamenting the same thing: where are all the “real men?”

Out east of Ottawa, all the way to the Quebec border the French farmers call our feminized men “les hommes rose.” Pink Men.

I get this query about good men from women practically every day. Just last week I did business with a formidable lady at an iconic city establishment. A divorcee, we got to talking: she’d be a catch, a real tour de force. “I’m not giving up” she says. “There’s a real man out there for me.”

And there is. I’ll keep my eye out for her.

It’s a confusing time to be male. First we went from an agrarian society to an industrialized one. Then the vote was expanded so all men got a say in how government is run. Reward for the privilege of dying for your people I suppose, which men have been doing forever.

After the Second World War, women’s enrollment in universities rose each year, to where there are now more female graduates than male. Laws were rightfully changed so that inequalities in the workplace were addressed.

Only now, it’s gone bananas. Men can’t open their mouths without risking offending someone and being sent off to sensitivity training. Or worse….

Men have been stifled like no other time in history. The very culture men created has turned on them and is now biting them in the ass.

Qualities in men revered for all time are obscured by a system devouring itself from within. It’s counterproductive.

Where are the Brave? The Courageous? The Decisive? The Protectors?

I’ll tell you where they are: hidden among us. Perhaps a little subdued of late, but every once in a while a crisis occurs and some exceptional man reminds us of the ideal.

Today missus was returning from a shopping excursion with two kids strapped into car seats in the second bench of our Honda Pilot. Behind the passenger seat sat our little girl Charlotte, behind missus was our boy Howie. All children are little miracles but in Howie’s case, maybe a little more so.

Having spent his first six months at Sick Kids, he’s been in and out since. He’s doing better now. If scrambled eggs, mashed squash, pieces of pork fat and the odd cheese and skinned apple are considered, then half his diet is solid foods.

My father had five sons. He had no namesake among his grandchildren until that little boy came along. I tease dad it’s because he was a drinker as a young man and it’s taken this long to forgive him. Dad can take a joke; he’s been a teetotaler for over a half century.

I know the Kurdish will name a child after a relation but only once deceased. However, while flirting with our family’s genealogy, I discovered it’s a Catholic tradition to name a son after his grandfather. I chose to honour my father.

Now aged eighty-eight, dad loves that little boy.

Mother Nature makes more boys than girls outside of times of famine for good reason. Boys die in childhood at a far greater rate. If they survive birth, the risk of death by misadventure or accident is a sad corollary to a boy’s existence.

When my first son reached age 25, I breathed a big sigh of relief.

In addition to Howie’s medical challenges, at one time he’s also been surrounded by a dozen specialists at a hospital trying to dislodge something he swallowed. His throat is very narrow, about as wide as a good sized pen. Not much room for choking mistakes.

He’s fallen off a swing and moved his bottom front teeth back. Another time he actually got stuck in a toilet toddler seat, bent in two, wedged in tighter and tighter as time went by, and had to be rescued by fireman.


Of course, I wasn’t there at the time. The pictures tell the story.

As a man, I realize I cannot be around all the time. There are long days when I’m away from my wife and kids working where they must fend for themselves. All I can do is provide for them as best as I can, making sure they are safe when I’m at home, holding them close to my heart when I am near.

But today we almost lost him. While his mom kept her eyes on the road travelling at speed down the highway, the boy grabbed the unused seat belt from the middle spot, twirled it around and around somehow until the full length of it was unfurled from its spring-loaded mechanism. Then placed it over his head.

It locked down tight. The more he moved, the tighter it became. There was no slack with which to back it off. It wasn’t a matter of unwinding it from his head because he’d twisted it over and over first, the way you tighten a tourniquet, and then inexplicably put it over his head while his mother drove down the road.

His thin neck and airway were encircled, being crushed as if in the grip of a snake.

Luckily, just as his big sister Charlotte alerted her mother, missus glanced in the mirror and immediately noticed his colour.  In her horror, she barely registered her daughter’s words for what she saw struck her like a bolt of cold fear.

Her boy was gray, on his way to blue. She saw the belt wrapped around his neck.

At three, whimpering sounds emanating from his mouth, he couldn’t countenance the gravity of his predicament.


Missus pulls over and springs into action. Yet, for all her efforts, she can’t get that belt off him. It won’t back off because it’s fully extended. By some unlucky fluke, he’s wound it around his neck in just such a way his every movement or any attempt to loosen it only made it tighten.

The belt had turned into a python refusing to relinquish its prey.

Mel knew the only way out was to cut the strap. She searched frantically for scissors or something in her console. Finally, with the boy fading, in a panic she jumped from the car and attempted to wave down passing cars.

The first ones going by waved back.

Just then she realized 911 help would never arrive in time; moreover, she was overwhelmed with crushing defeat considering that little Howie could come to this: a self-imposed death choke on the side of the road.

She was trapped helplessly trying to hold off some of the pressure from the kid’s neck, unable to release for an instant to call for help, a situation made worse because her phone was out of reach in the front seat.


However, someone had spotted her wild gesticulations from way down the road.

A lone driver pulled in behind her.

A young soldier in combats emerged from his vehicle.

And like all young men who live their lives ready for action, he came prepared.

One look at the boy and a tug on the belt to assess the severity of the locking choke and out came his weapon: a hunting knife used to “cut up tires at work.”

A couple of efficient slashes at the belt and the tightened noose released its fatal grip on little Howie’s neck.

The frightened toddler returned to his distraught mother’s arms.

Of course, she was a mess by this time.

Contemplating the death of her child, one she’d nursed and kept from the grave for nigh on four years,  a veritable soldier for motherhood herself, the next few minutes passed in a blur. She’s unsure if she even blubbered inadequate thanks to the mystery man.

She took some time to compose herself while sitting in her driver’s seat, no doubt glancing behind her to look at her children for reassurance.

When she finally dried her tears to see well enough to drive, pulling away she noticed the rescuer had stayed there too. He waited patiently in his car parked behind her as she gathered herself, as if still on duty, gallantly ensuring he was the last to leave the scene.

She hadn’t even asked him his name.

Well I found out his name is Shane Chafe. A heavy duty equipment mechanic from Newfoundland newly posted to Ottawa in service of our nation at National Defence Headquarters.

My mother was born in St John’s, Newfoundland.

The island’s history and culture have been part of our clan’s fondest remembrances of her. She had 10 pregnancies in 12 years, bearing nine healthy children. Her entire lifetime was spent singly devoted to her family.

She knew our little boy before she passed away a couple of years ago. It was at home, surrounded by all her adult children and husband of sixty-two years. She had supported us in so many ways in Howie’s first few months of life, seeing him through his roughest patch.

Unfaltering throughout her life in the practice of her Catholic faith, my mother sent us an angel today.

Not a pink cherub with a glorious set of wings floating on a cloud looking sweet and pure and full of God’s grace. No.

She sent us a man.

Charlotte calls him a warrior. “Daddy a warrior came and rescued Howie” she told me excitedly from the upstairs window of our house almost as soon as I pulled into the driveway this evening.

It’s not often that one gets the opportunity to thank someone for saving your boy’s life. I’ve had to do it before. There is no limit to the depth of gratitude I feel for this young man and his exemplary actions.

What are the chances the universe would put this exact person with these skills in this place at this critical time of need? This was divine intervention if there ever was such a thing.

While others drove on by, sedated, unaware of the life and death drama at hand, this man acted like men do.

He had the courage to stop, to bravely assess the situation while panic ruled, and then acted decisively to protect this little boy’s life.

And his words to me later?

“I’m just glad the boy’s fine and it worked out,” he said. “I’d want someone to stop for my gal if she was in trouble and I wasn’t around.”

You betcha soldier.

Mr. Shane Chafe good sir, I owe you one.  You deserve a medal.

You’re this family’s hero and we’d like everyone to know it.

Corporal Shane Chafe: Hero

© CKWallace 2017

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Apology’s Gift


They say to forgive others, if not for them for you. This is so you won’t have to bear resentment into the future. The secondary benefit of letting someone off the hook is just a bonus. It’s higher-self stuff.

Whatever anger or frustration or disappointment a situation causes, failing to get past it maintains those feelings indefinitely. There they lurk in the shadows of our minds, influencing us in ways we cannot tell. It’s hard to measure the effect your lack of forgiveness has on others; its effect on you is assured.

We are born with a sense of justice; however, it is imprecise and fallible, having been personalized as we live. My sense of justice and yours might be significantly different, though we probably embrace morality themes somewhat similarly.

Under threat we look around for allies. If we find none, our defense systems will dump cortisol and adrenaline into the bloodstream. Eventually, if the menace is unresolved, we may collapse into powerlessness.

When our sense of justice is transgressed, it is natural to use anger as a punisher to correct things. Anger will raise your shoulders, bring your facial muscles taut, tighten the spine and abdominals and leave you in an elevated state of readiness.

Powerlessness is a cousin of depression. Hopelessness is its permanent form.

Fritz Perls of Gestalt fame asked why carry around a gunny-sack of anger? If you allow it in general, he said, soon your sack will become heavy and unwieldly.

Anger takes a toll on your beliefs, your body and your happiness; meanwhile, your list of perpetrators may feel nothing. Or at least, nothing you can be sure of.

It’s too easy to trap ourselves into a never ending loop of unfinished business.

I have not yet encountered a situation for which forgiveness did not help or was unwarranted. I have seen plenty of harm in my days. I have sinned and been sinned against.

A time may arrive when I will not be able to forgive. Intentional harm of my loved ones would be a hard one to shake. For all concerned, I hope it never happens.

There is great relief to be had in forgiveness. It can feel like a 180 degree turn, from anger to resolution in one key decision.

The body, once tense, relaxes; the mind, once pre-occupied, is freed; the knots in the belly dissipate; fear is replaced by courage; where there was darkness now shines with the light of love.


But what if you are not called to forgive but instead, to seek forgiveness?

What if you are willing to prostrate yourself on the altar of truth and admit your wrongdoing? Abandoning an untenable position—and its thoughts and feelings—is itself a great relief.

They say Canadians apologize as a matter of course, as a matter of pride even. I’m not sure if this is truly our culture. If it encourages people to apologize more, I’m all for it. Count me in.

I resisted for a long time how much to apologize and when. Now, if there’s a possibility of my being in some kind of error, I say sorry, albeit, maybe imperfectly.

Apologies are like insurance you take out on friendships: from little ones oft said to big ones where we were really out of sync, contrition is a key skill.

It’s free to be nice, I like to say. It’s also free to apologize: freeing for us both.

Letting an opportunity to apologize pass you by can be tragic. Tragic I say.

Then it is not so much anger that uses up your energy, rather regret.


Who are these people who profess to live life without regret?

Is it wishful thinking or I am I doing it all wrong? (which is quite possible). I don’t regret waking up in the morning, each day is an opportunity to learn and serve.

But regrets? I’ve had a few. So goes the song.

How could I not? I have some lasting most of my lifetime. Too numerous to list here, I’ll save you the tediousness of my confession. Undoubtedly, you have your own to consider, or try and forget.

AA’s Big Book has been around a while. I have an old beat up copy gained when I attended Spofford Hall in New Hampshire in the 1980s for heroin and cocaine addiction. Its pages are filled with handwritten encouragement from my fellow travelers. Reading it now, I realize they saw in me potential when I saw little in myself.

I’m not an AA member and don’t attend meetings. I may never drink again because I realize I don’t drink socially in any regular way. I may drink tomorrow. The inclination to over-drink is instilled in me deeply, like never forgetting how to ride a bicycle.

Say what you like about the “program,” as it is known. It has helped a lot of people turn from a spiral of self-destruction to leading fulfilling lives.

Its message is straightforward: give up booze, face the facts about yourself, ask for help, make amends to those you have harmed, admit when wrong and repeat as necessary, and serve others as a path to spiritual enlightenment.

Steps numbers 8 and 9 are key endeavours: 8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all. 9. Made direct amends to such people whenever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.

Long before Gestalt Therapy and the popularized version of unfinished business, Dr. Bob, Bill W. and cohorts realized how critical addressing old stuff we carry around was, as a building block to effective living.


I think attachment is our greatest psychological need. Our emotions are set carefully in youth by the quality of our connection to others. As we age, patterns from those early years can really screw things up.

And if not right away, maturity and personal growth can eventually sober one’s perspectives. Sometimes that means living with more than a little regret.

The idea of reaching out to someone and taking responsibility without expectations is a powerful way to empower your sense of self. As simple as saying, “I realize I was wrong, you were good to me and I fucked it up. Sorry. ”

Unfortunately, it’s not always possible. People move away, we lose touch, they die. Even if alive, they may not be interested in opening old wounds.

It’s good to remember that we forgive first for ourselves.

In the same way, making amends is done to clear our own side of the street first. Should it benefit someone else, great. That’s ideal. But it’s not always necessary, nor is it possible or even likely.

Successfully forgiving yourself cannot be predicated on the acceptance of another. That’s too shaky a ground upon which to build your new construct. But keeping this idea of redressing past wrongs as a guiding principle, every once in a while it’ll pay off.


I moved back to Ottawa last year to be near my ailing father. Of course, I can barely drive down a street in most of the old city without being triggered in one way or another. Circumstances and faces impose themselves on my mind, often like mini-episodes played at high speed as I drive by.

I found an old business partner of mine from the early 80s through LinkedIn. We met for lunch. I apologized. All he said was “don’t worry about it; we were all fucked up back then.”

That’s it? Damn it, I carried that guilt for 35 years for fuck’s sake.

Now I see him weekly, went up to his cottage with my kids. Or I meet him and his grand kids either here at my farm or at one of those indoor playgrounds.

I’m privileged to advise him on business, a modern version of something we were working on way back. He closed me on that one by saying, “Isn’t it about time you came back and finished what you started?” He had me there.


As a teenager, at one point I lived collectively with others at 165 Laval Street in Vanier. It was a drop-in for many a runaway in the North-East end of the city. We sold hashish and other recreational drugs while attending every rock concert available. There I met a beautiful young gal who became a good friend. Through her, I met her brother.

Pat was a few years older than me and he became a stand-in for my own brothers. I did a lot of that back then, recreating my family of origin, sometimes with consequences I hadn’t thought of. Pat was good to me.  And we partied like rock stars, though, unlike me, he kept a job and even had a car.

At one point, I was torn between two groups of friends, allegiance to Pat and his sister on one side, to my current peer group on another. Something went down and I was forced into a quandary. I hadn’t the finesse to negotiate the divide. We lost touch and never addressed things between us. It wasn’t even my fight.

For over 40 years I have carried the regret of having chosen wrong. It has eaten at me a bit, knowing I was weak when I should have been strong.

It’s one thing to live this way, despising the self at some level, and being able to escape identity by drinking and drugging yourself regularly into oblivion. When this option is removed by choice, what remains is wistful regret.

Pat’s a pretty masculine guy as I remembered him. I held out little hope of ever contacting him through social media. In the ten years I’ve been on Facebook, I have searched for him occasionally to no avail. Something made me try again recently by looking for his sister first. I scored a possible hit.

In 40 years people’s faces and bodies change so I fired off a message that read:

“Not sure if I’ve got the right person. Are you the Pat I once knew in Ottawa when I was a scared kid all messed up on drugs? If it’s you, I’d like to apologize. You were good to me and I was careless and more than a bit of an asshole with that precious friendship. I’ve always regretted those times. I was in a loyalty conflict and didn’t have to balls to stand up for myself or our friendship. If that’s your sister, she was also always a doll with me. I was simply too screwed up to trust anyone. I apologize to you both. Best wishes. CW”

To my surprise, after a few days he answered right on my wall.

Hey well never thought I’d hear from you again Chris. I hope your well. We will be in Ottawa soon for the big party. Hope we are able to talk. Nice to hear from you.

Well that was too easy. Decades of self-loathing at stake and he says nice to hear from you? Where are the recriminations? What about at least agreeing I was an asshole? How many ways can I help you tell me off?

Instead, nothing. Just forgiveness.

Later he explained the bit about never hearing from me again.  Sister had informed her brother decades ago I had been killed in the 1980s. Not surprising given circumstances, and, lucky for me, an understandable exaggeration. For all Pat knew, I was gone. He’d made his peace with that episode of his life long ago. So my reaching out must have freaked him out a bit.

And they were coming to town in a week or two for Canada’s 150th. Turns out the festivities in the capital kept everyone busy but on the day before Pat left town, I was able to pick him up at his hotel near the airport and drag him out to the acreage where I live with my missus and children.

Mel kindly made us a wonderful steak dinner which we ate out back while watching the kids and animals gamboling about. And Pat and I caught up on close to 40 years of life until well past dark.

It was wonderful. It was truly something I’ll never forget. More so because I realize those opportunities are fleeting. We can be filled with good intentions one day about fixing past wrongs, and then rationalize it away the next.

In the end, I believe it’s best to take a shot.

I have advised others to do the same over the years. You just never know what can come of it. It could come to nothing, in which case you have done your best.

But it can also re-open old friendships as if they were never gone. What goes on in your head is only the half of it. You see, the other people grow up too. Not always, but mostly they do.


Perhaps good things do come in threes (omni trium perfectum). Not long after I made my first overtures to my old business partner, I received a message from my brother one evening.

He’d moved into a place in the Byward Market and upon meeting a neighbour, was recognized as a Wallace “by the eyes” I’m told. Turns out it was a friend of mine of more than 40 years. In fact, he knew our whole family back in the day, had met my parents and the rest of it.

When we eventually met up, it was he who apologized to me. It doesn’t matter for what, just that I was able to offer him forgiveness. We both won.

It’s our expectations that drive disappointment. Therefore, it’s best to have none. In my case, I reached out because I thought it was the right thing to do. How my attempt is taken is mostly none of my business. I felt I owed an apology regardless, and I would have felt at least a bit better no matter how it was received.

I was fortunate. In fact, almost every time I’ve done this kind of thing, it’s turned out reasonably well. These last two apologies, better than ever. Here I am with two good men my age nearby as friends again, and one to stay in touch with and visit on the west coast.

If you have people in your life you feel indebted to in some way, why not drop them a line and tell them so, without any expectations.

You will feel better at the very least. And you could get lucky too.

It’s apology’s gift.


© 2017, all rights reserved

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Real Man-Cold Manifesto


Thank you, Oh Universe, for this virus.

It was brought to me upon the wheezing, coughing, and sneezing wings of friendship. As such, it is not purposely malicious; but instead, a sign of communion with my fellow man.

Far worse it be to never have a cold. For this would mean my gifts to others were never shared, neither their gifts with me. Sadly, this could mean my demise, at first in spirit, later physically, leaving me a hollowed-out shell of self.

If I never caught a cold, it would mean I was isolated and alone: Death to a human.

No. I realize you are but one of a legion of cold viruses that circulate my world, forever re-combining with bits and pieces of each other. I fear thee not… for each time we meet my body learns to defeat another foe.

Though, it takes a week or two to best you, your specific kind never possesses me again. Each time, you and your malevolent symptoms are banished from the kingdom of my being for evermore.

You are but an inconvenience.

And neither shall I feel much guilt in transmitting your existence to others. Though, I take great care to protect the weak, the old and the very young from your trials.

For myself, rather than see you as harm, I see you as opportunity. To me, you are an exercise in immunity, and I am up for that task.

The occasional lament overheard, those times when what seems like complaint makes its way past these lips, let me explain: It is because my work is being interfered with, nothing more.

For this is what men do; work in many ways defines us. Though the interruption is temporary, it is not tolerated. A cold is often cursed for daring to detract from our noble cause.

Let no one be mistaken: a cold is nothing to a man.

Nothing at all


Christopher K Wallace       ©2017 all rights reserved

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