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Public Penitence - Part 1 - Background


"Of or related to conduct or character from the point of view of right and wrong, concerned with the goodness and badness of an action, characteristic, disposition, etc." (American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language)


"The principles of right conduct, especially with reference to a specific profession, mode of life, etc." (Standard College Dictionary, Cdn edition)


"Honesty implies truthfulness, fairness in dealing, and absence of fraud, deceit and dissembling." (American Dictionary)


"Uprightness of character; probity.The condition or quality of being unimpaired or sound. The state of being complete or undivided." (Candadian Dictionary)

[I need mention at the beginning here that this entry is going to be very long.....too long, in fact to probably even include in a blog. You can skip over it, read it in installments, or do a marathon skim. Whatever. This time, I'm not much worried about that, because this entry is written to me, not to you. But I feel totally driven by the compulsion to say what I have to say in a public forum, and this is about the only public one I have. Please don't be offended. Just warning you ahead of time!]

Uh-oh! Sounds like this may be a serious, belly-button examining entry, eh? Well, for me, it will be. In fact, in an incredibly serious personal way, it will be. There are going to be a lot of "I's" and me's" used in this blog. You see, as I said above, I'm writing it for myself, not for you (although I certainly hope at least some of you might give it some mind!). No, just check the title again....."Public Penitence".

I have made a dozen or more attempts at writing drafts of this entry already, and then my plan was to just do minor edits as I typed in the "final.....yeah, THAT's what I want to say" version. But I've discovered that, no matter how I've tried to say what I want to.....what I NEED to....well, it just doesn't work that way. It makes it too detached. So folks, I threw them all away, and what you'll be reading here is straight from the heart. It will no likely ramble and wander a bit, I have that tendency, but underneath all the superficiality of the words which I will eventually end up choosing will be a description, a feeling, a piece of me which I never knew existed, and it's scared the shit out of me that I've found out now. It's not at all pleasant.

One who belongs to the Catholic church, I believe, goes to confession and says something like "Father forgive me, for I have sinned", and then they go on to dump their problems on a priest assuming somehow that will make things right, and whatever the sin, or problem was, will just go away, and they can have their "conscience" back, safe and sound again. I'm not mocking Catholics here, I simply use that as a common example of how we often attempt to deal with the meaningful, serious things that make life worthwhile. Skipping a church service, or pulling your kid sister's pigtail is really of no consequence. I have often very comfortably been able to talk with complete strangers on planes or trains about things I would never think to say to someone I personally knew, lest it hurt them in some way. I know I'll never see this stranger again, so there's almost an implied permission to imagine them as the "travelling priest".

Having said that, I'd ask you to look at the four words I chose to start this blog off with. Now, I loved, love, and forever will love my parents dearly, although I would have done (and insisted they do!) things radically differently if I had it to do over, and they were back in charge again. We weren't terribly well off, but we comfortable. For instance, if we had company for a meal, often Mom or Dad would quietly say "F.H.B." There were 5 of us kids in the family, and we all understood that FHB meant "Family Hold Back". It meant don't ask for second helpings, because the first priority was to make sure our company had their fill, and left our house with full bellies and memories of a good evening.

But dammit, at 8 years old, you don't truly understand that sort of thing, and I wanted that extra piece of cake...my Mom was a great cook, by the way. We had our own vegetale garden because it was cheaper to can them ourselves than buy them. Let me tell you, 5 decades later, I can still taste the jam made from wild strwaberries that I, myself, had picked, or blueberry pie fresh out of the oven. It was just that there was always a budget that had to be paid attention to. But I didn't understand that, and quite frankly didn't care. All I knew is that I was being denied something I wanted!

Again, that's but one example of thousands I could give, but won't, because I suspect there isn't a soul alive who would have parented themselves differently had they the opportunity to be their own parent. I have often complained that my Dad never paid me much attention. He didn't throw a ball with me, take me to a hockey game, not even have "the talk" with me. At the time when I was just a "kid", I pretty much accepted that the big guys (i.e. adults) always got the final say. (As an aside, when I was a kid I had it drilled into me that if I ever got lost or into trouble anywhere at any time, I should go up to the nearest adult for help. Now we have "street-proofing" courses in our schools).

Anyway, back to my train of thought (I told you this would ramble....part of that, honestly, is that I'm "putting off" getting to the current pain I'm feeling.) I can't recall a single incident when I so much as raised my voice at either of my parents in anger or disagreement, and I certainly never heard them argue with each other. Ever. (In a conversation much later in life with Mom, I mentioned that point, and she almost puked. She said there were times when their marriage was close to being on the rocks, but they both felt so strongly that we, as kids, never see that in a loving, caring relationship that they kept their disagreements "out of our scopes".

To this day, I still am incredibly uncomfortable when I see two people who I thought loved each other argue or shout at each other. I instantly feel the need to leave the room, I get knots in my gut, because I feel I'm intruding on a very private moment. It's like accidentally walking into a bedrooom and finding three people having fun together!) I know how stupid that is, but it's entrenched as a part of me. It's no doubt, one of the reasons I've never allowed myself anything more than a "let's take in a movie on Friday night " relationship with anyone.

There was one exception, and I have only realized very recently how deeply in love I am with that man, my Dad. He died in 1975 of what is now called "Mad Cow's Disease", back then, it was Jacob-Creutzfeld Disease. In 1975, absolutely nothing was known about it. At that time, I was working in Montreal, and I got the call (just after Christmas), and managed to get a late flight home to Sault Ste Marie, my hometown. My brother picked me up at the airport, we reached the hospital just after midnight, I took Dad's hand in mine, leaned over and kissed him on the forehead, and almost whispered, "Dad, it's Rick. We're all here now." Although it's no doubt just in my imagination, I will swear to the day I die that I felt a very weak squeeze on my hand, and then he simply stopped breathing. As easy as that. I have always felt that he was just waiting for me to get there, so we'd be our complete family one last time.

Now, I know I've talked a lot about "family" here. And I appreciate that there are countless many that weren't as privileged as I. But, I remind you again, this is to me about me.

Everytime I hear the lyrics to the song ""In the Living Years" I have to fight back the tears still.

Every generation
Blames the one before
And all of their frustrations
Come beating on your door
I know that Im a prisoner
To all my father held so dear
I know that Im a hostage
To all his hopes and fears

I just wish I could have told him in the living years

Crumpled bits of paper
Filled with imperfect thought
Stilted conversations
Im afraid thats all weve got
You say you just dont see it
He says its perfect sense
You just cant get agreement
In this present tense
We all talk a different language
Talking in defence

Say it loud, say it clear
You can listen as well as you hear
Its too late when we die
To admit we dont see eye to eye

So we open up a quarrel
Between the present and the past
We only sacrifice the future
Its the bitterness that lasts
So dont yield to the fortunes
You sometimes see as fate
It may have a new perspective
On a different day
And if you dont give up, and dont give in
You may just be o.k.

Say it loud, say it clear
You can listen as well as you hear
Its too late when we die
To admit we dont see eye to eye

I wasnt there that morning
When my father passed away
I didnt get to tell him
All the things I had to say
I think I caught his spirit
Later that same year
Im sure I heard his echo
In my babys new born tears

I just wish I could have told him in the living years

Say it loud, say it clear
You can listen as well as you hear
Its too late when we die
To admit we dont see eye to eye

- courtesy of Mike and the Mechanics

But, as I said above, there was one exception. Our family ALWAYS ate every meal together as a family, and that's when we talked about our day, and shared, we'd play word games.....and learned. Actually, I'm wrong...there were two. Sunday afternoons were ALWAYS spent together as a family in the living room, reading, playing board games, petting the dog, it really didn't matter what....we were a unit. Both my parents were incredibly active in the community. They gave of themselves more than anyone else I have ever met. I'm biased, of course. There are countless thousands who do the same. I won't begin to list the organizations and activities they were involved in. Again, as a kid, I didn't understand at all why they would spend so much time with others, but not with me. Was I selfish? No, I was just in the process of growing up. Nonetheless, I felt terribly cheated.

As I broke away from the need of parents to guide me in my life, and started assuming that mantle for myself, it hit me on the head like a piano dropping from the 40th floor of a building. Amongst all the little, insignificant, sometimes traditional, sometimes simply whimsical or habitual pieces that make all of us up, and make all of us so beautifully different, they instilled in me those four things that I listed at the start of this blog as the basis to build me....my character...my being....my soul....my essence....call it what you will, whatever word you choose; they infused themselves into me simply through their example and conduct. It was never a discussion or debate or talk. It just happened. It was who they were. And, as best as I might, it's who I've tried to become.

Have I ever crossed my "Morality" line?

Guilty, as charged, your honour..

Have I ever crossed my "Honesty" line?

Guilty, as charged, your honour.

Have I ever crossed my "Ethics" line?

Guilty as charged, your Honour.

Have I ever crossed my "Integrity" line?

Not that I'm aware of personally, your Honour, but I came so damn close within the past couple months, I panicked. You see, your Honour, that was the one pillar which I believed I had never in my life even come close to, so I have never considered the consequences of crossing it.. I'm sure others have seen that I've crossed their lines. They most likely have entirely different pillars of character. After all, again, we are unique, and I would never be so so presumptuous as to suggest, let alone imply that mine are "the best". Just, for me they are, that's all.

My purpose was simple, to never compromise on my moral code.....but I got to make up what I thought it should be. I certainly wasn't told. Those became, over time, and maturation, what I now consider to be my personal "touchstones". The "lines" I draw and won't compromise on, no matter what the price. And, of course, I'm guilty of not being perfect (perfect by my definition) every day of my life. But it provides a homeplate for me. It allows my conscience to sleep as soundly as I do at night. In spite all of my bitchings, and shortcomings, and self-criticisms for which I'm famous, I'm still not a bad egg. It used to have to be that if I wasn't "perfect", then I was a total failure. Black or white. Choose.. Now I'm learning to settle for "pretty darn good".

But I (excuse me) fucked up royally over the past several months, and I'm crying about it because it has affected other people, and I don't know what else to do.......except put it out there as a confession.

You may have noticed that, after all of what I've written so far, I've still been beating around the bush. It hurts me that much. I just now changed the title to "Part 1 Background", not only because it's getting much, much too long, but the pain is still too overwhelming for me. I'll try again tomorrow.

My purpose was simple. I was to be ethical in all my actions involving others, but I got to learn and understand what 'ethical' meant. It is NOT just a dictionary definition. None of those words are.

My purpose was simple. To be honest and fair in my dealings with others. Never try to bring gain to myself at the expense of another. It usually involves some form of compromise or negotiation. A handsake was as solid and sincere as a 500-volume transcript prepared by 30 lawyers over 3 years, in order to decide ......get this.....how to word an apology to an Indian band in southern Ontario for having broken a treaty that was made a few centuries ago by people long since forgotten. (Of course, I just made up those numbers to emphasise my point, but it emphasizes my point!). To me, a simple, "on behalf of our forefathers we're sorry that you feel mistreated now. Is there anything reasonable that we can do at this point to set things straight with you?"

One person, 30 seconds;
30 expensive lawyers, 3 years.
Take your pick.

My purpose was simple. To live my life with integrity. To simply assume what the greats such as Mother Theresa, Nelson Mandella, and Martin Luther King lived; to that to the best of my limited abilities, in my own humble way, in my own humble existence, in my own humble corner of the world. It's not rocket science, folks. EVERY SINGLE PERSON ON THE FACE OF THIS PLANET IS ENTITLED TO EXACTLY THE SAME DIGNITY AND RESPECT AS EACH OTHER. No exceptions. None. Ever. My unshakeable belief. It is, oh so easy to daily disagree or disapprove of the actions of other people, I can't imagine anyone getting through a day without doing that dozens of times. But it, until the very last few months, has just been an unthought of assumption of mine that I had the above attitude towards every one.

Now I'm coming to the hard part. And, yeah, I've started to cry now. I have learned something about myself that I couldn't ever remotely imagined before. It has scared me, and it has scarred me. As a result, I've lost a great deal of my personal direction, as witnessed by a lot of the things. I've said and alluded to in my last several posts, that I have thought of solutions up to and including considering the possibility of suicide as the only available, viable, remaining solution. Now, whatever you believe the word 'god' to mean, I certainly honour and respect it. Although I've "gone there (i.e. considered suicide) with my thoughts" several times in my life (blaming it mostly on my bipolarism), fortunately I consider that I'm deeply spiritual, and so that's not ever a decision I would or could take, or would ever want to take.. My 'spirit god' simply would never, ever allow it, sick or otherwise. As you'll see in the next entry, however, I'm discovering that now I might be capable of things I never thought remotely possible before. That's what is scaring the shit out of me now. Not for me. Read the postscript. It's for them. My god will take care of me as is appropriate.

I'm going to end this here now, and hopefully be able to pick it up again tomorrow or the next day. I'm considering you my "Lady on the Train", that faceless, unknown stranger who is taking the time to not only listen, but to hear.

For that, my beautiful friends, I will always be indebted.



P.S. Just so I don't leave you guessing, this indescribable pain that I'm feeling comes from how I totally mishandled and mistreated the young lads I mentioned in this earlier blog (towards the end, in the paragraph starting with "Considering that I end virtually all my blogs with PEACE......... I guess I thought I was some kind of 'god' myself, and was justifying breaking ALL my foundations, thinking I was helping them, when in fact, I shocked myself when I realized recently that quite the opposite was happening. I was indeed speeding up their "decay". I was hurting them. And I was doing it intentionally. I have never been able to understand how or why one person could or would want to hurt another, physically or emotionally, and I was doing it in spades. The part I can't find forgiveness for me is I KNEW I was doing it all along, and that was making a mockery of my entire life and everything I thought I stood for. Now I'm so adrift, I don't know where to go or what to do next. It's ripping me apart.


Oh I see.....so now you say it is all your fault. Shane is your victim?
Ummm...no. Ain't buying it, sorry.
That's just the way I see it.
It's simple math my friend.
Lend person $$$$$$.
Person is to it pay back.
Don't hear from person from over a year.
Only get a response when you put up an outraged post about it.

I hate to see this cause you even more pain. It's gone from bad to worse.

I think you are a great person Rick. Don't try to convince us or yourself that you aren't.

I have said my final word re: this situation.
((((hugs)))) to you.

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  • I'm Evydense
  • From Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
  • And I'm tired of living in the shadow of narrow-mindedness and ignorance. So here's the fax, Jack! "The Bible contains six admonishments to homosexuals and three hundred and sixty-two admonishments to heterosexuals. That doesn't mean that God doesn't love heterosexuals. It's just that they need more supervision." - Lynne Lavner*** I'm confused; curious; satisfied; realistically resigned to being a frustrated idealist; usually at peace with myself, but not always. Amazed at how little I know, and wondering how much I need to understand.
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