Monthly Archives: June 2014

A Good Time to Keep My Mouth Shut

I’ve been thinking a lot about perspective, lately, and how it relates to me, in both my personal and writing life. But over the past few days a few incidents have really highlighted the fact that there are times to relate your perspective, and times you should probably keep your mouth shut. 

It started off in the beginning of the week when my working life imploded in a serious of incidents of unprecedented ridiculousness and violence. Despite what I viewed as the extreme hardship of some of the files I attended with my team, we were highly successful, and in one of the events I was praised for my performance as a leader. That is all well and good, but what I did with that praise is not something that makes me particularly proud.

One of my junior members came to me to tell me a story about something he’d encountered during the shift – something he’d never seen before and forced him into a steep learning curve, but gave him valuable experience and a cool story to tell. He came into my office and laid the story on me, and instead of praising him like I should have, I pulled a, “Oh, yeah, well let me tell you about what I did.”

As I bulldozed over top of his experience with my story, I saw the enthusiastic smile slip from his face. By the time I was done the air was sucked out of him completely. It took a while for the defeated expression on his face to make it through to the interior of my empty head, but when I realized what I’d done I felt terrible and had to think really hard about how to never do that to anyone again.

Due to the difference in our rank and service, our perspectives were very, very different. Was my scene bigger than his? Well, yes it was. Was my scene more dangerous than his? Well, yes, but it’s my job to do that kind of thing. Did any of this make his task or experience less valid than mine? Fuck, no.

I felt bad about the way I’d treated that young constable for a couple days, and I was still thinking about it when and I was on my first day off and noticed several of the authors I follow on Twitter lamenting about their interaction with their fan-base, and how to deal with negative reviews. As I read their posts, about how they only had ten thousand twitter followers, or some one gave them a negative review, I wanted to reply to them and say, “At least someone bought your book, you whining shit!” Then, of course, common sense got a hold of me, (specifically the concept that no one was forcing me to follow anyone on Twitter, and if I was that grumpy I could go elsewhere – and the guy had so many followers he wouldn’t notice the departure of little old me) and I decided not to be the crazy person on the internet.

I thought, after I’d calmed down, about the difference in perspective for myself and the lamenting author. For him, writing is his livelihood and the issues he was discussing were vitally important to being able to feed himself and pay his electricity bill so he could power his lap top and keep writing. I, too, would like to one day make my living from my writing, but I am not going to starve if no one buys my book. His perspective was vastly different than mine, but was also extremely valid.

One of the most salient points I experienced this week came while I was perusing Facebook last night. A friend of mine (who shall go unnamed, because I think he’s done enough verbal fist-fighting over this already) posted an article by another writer. The article had to do with, what the author believed, was a major downfall in modern literature, and he was very focused on a certain group of people that he believed to be majorly responsible for that downfall.

I read the article and I’m still thinking about the content. There were points I agreed with, and points that I thought were a little off-side and had degenerated into nothing more than a rant. I didn’t say anything about the article, because this was one man’s perspective. The thing that bothered me was the string of hateful comments the article generated, many of them directed at the person who had shared it. Many of the comments, from my layman’s perspective, were attacking the article, and the person sharing it, because it went against their own perspective. It did not validate what the commenters believed to be their own monumental struggle, and because of this they felt it necessary to go on a vicious attack. I didn’t weigh in, because I didn’t want to be the crazy person shouting into the internet, but I thought a lot about the perspective of those comments and tried to understand the place they were coming from.

I don’t think I’m ever going to understand, but I know that I can peacefully allow people to have their perspective and not feel the need to correct them for it.

I believed that I actually learned a bit of a lesson today, and I was vaguely proud of myself. A friend started talking about their work place, and the internal politics that were ruining it. As soon as they started talking about work-place politics I looked around for an apple box to stand on, so I could launch into a diatribe about how it was so much worse at my work place; where my friend worked in a place with about twelve employees, I worked in an organization of over twenty thousand people where politics decides whether or not I get proper safety equipment and adequate resources to keep me alive at work and…blah, blah, blah…

Before I could open my mouth and make an ass of myself, my brain actually kicked in. My friend’s perspective, my brain told me, was valid, and important, and deserved my attention. The fact that it was very different than mine did not make it any less valuable. Now, I told myself, was a good time to keep my mouth shut and listen.

Perspectives are much like stories: they are all very different. And it is the difference, I think, that makes them all important. I am not going to like everyone’s perspective, just like I am not going to like everyone’s stories; I can’t stand “Twilight”, but it encouraged a large cross-section of youth to put down their cell phones and actually read a book, so maybe it isn’t as bad as I want it to be.

The thing that has become abundantly clear to me over the last few days, is that even though I don’t like something, or maybe don’t understand it, does not make it any less important. Barring anything that preaches violence against a given group (and there are lots of examples this), I think we need to give everyone enough space to have their own opinion, and tell their own story.

After all, nothing is more important than a story.

As always, thanks for reading.


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A Little Time, A Lot of Emotion

The last two weeks have been rough. Policing in the aftermath of the murders in Moncton has been challenging, but we’re keeping on as best we can. There has been an out-pouring of public support, which makes the burdens a little easier to bear, and I’ve found myself getting emotional at work. One comment, made by an elderly man who happened to be passing me on a rainy sidewalk while I was working on something, almost brought me to tears.

He asked me, “Well, Laddie, you got your head above water?”

I said, “Yes, sir, I’m trying.”

He touched me on the shoulder as he passed, just the lightest brush of his gnarled fingers. “Glad to hear it, son. You make me proud.”

I’m not entirely certain what he was referring to, but it didn’t matter.

I’ve always taken my work life seriously, but after Moncton I’m just a little more cautious than I was before. I am still courteous, and do my best to be patient, but I find myself giving people just a little less space, being a little more abrupt in my responses.

I had an incident at work this week, that saw a man try very enthusiastically to do harm to me and one of my constables. We came out on top, but if I’d been a little less quick, or a little less decisive, we would have probably gotten very seriously hurt, or worse. By the end of the incident I was badly out of breath and had a deep lactic burn in all of my major muscle groups, and I said to myself, as I say at the end of every confrontation that leaves me sucking wind, “I need to train harder.”

I very rarely miss a workout, but they are often approached with varying levels of enthusiasm, and I am not above taking the easy way out (“I don’t need to do squats today”, or “Wind-sprints are for crazy people”). So, I re-evaluated my training program and made a few fiery adjustments.

Yesterday, after hammering through a workout so hard I had serious difficulty lifting my arms, I was walking on the treadmill and browsing through Youtube, trying to find some new songs to add to my gym playlist. I came across a song by a band called Skillet, and you can listen to it here.

While listening to the band, I had a strange, powerful, visceral reaction. The song struck something in me, way down in the center of my chest, like a plucked guitar string. I don’t know if I was over-emotional because of the year I’ve had (the passing of my father, etc), the events of the past few weeks, or the idea that I could have been killed on the side of the road in Whalley at five o’clock in the morning, but I was a flooded with over-powering emotion.

The song made me think about a lot of things. It made me think about how much I miss my Dad. It made me think about my wife, and how she has stuck to me without wavering through the plethora of shit we’ve had thrown at us. It made me think about my friends and my coworkers (who are, in many cases, one and the same), and how we’ve banded together to face the storms that always keep swirling around us. As the song hammered through my earphones I didn’t know if I should shout, or cry, or maybe throw shit and yell at inanimate objects. My reaction to it was so strong that I had to sit on a mat in the corner of the gym and calm down for a little while.

As I sat, I felt like there was a story in the song and if I could lay my finger upon it, then perhaps I could get a hold of myself. I sat there for twenty minutes or so, pretending to stretch, and finally gave up and went home.

Later that afternoon, I pounced on my wife the moment she walked through the door and made her sit down and listen to the song that had so deeply affected me. She is used to me doing these kinds of things, and so sat patiently, and listened to it beginning to end. When it was over, and I was raving about how awesome it was, she shrugged her shoulders and said, “yeah, it’s okay.”

This, obviously, was not the reaction I had expected.

Whatever the story in the song was, it certainly was not speaking to my wife. As much as I wanted to point at her and say she was wrong, that would be a huge fallacy. She wasn’t wrong, she just didn’t hear what I did.

This got me thinking to how subjective stories in general are, whether it be a written work or the story in a song. I’ve had some fantastic reactions to my work from people who have read it, and others kinda shrug their shoulders and say “it could use some work.” My publisher thinks I rock (otherwise they’d not have printed my schlock), but I sent the same story to thirty other people, all of whom sent me form letters or cut/paste emails that contained different variations of, “Dear author, please piss off.”

Does a negative reaction to my story make someone wrong? My initial opinion, while I’m in the throes of self-pity at being rejected, is certainly to say they are, but the truth is that they just didn’t feel it the way I hoped they would.

Stories – songs, novels, poetry, spoken word – is all about emotion; you have to evoke emotion in your reader. Sometimes you’re going to pluck that right chord, like the band Skillet did when I listened to their song and wanted to cry, and sometimes you’re going to miss and get nothing but a bunch of noise.

If you can get your reader to experience a fraction of the emotion I did while listening to that song, then you will be doing very well, I think. But what’s more important, your reader will be doing well, too.

As always, thanks for reading.


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Loss, Anger and Moving Forward

This has been a week of loss, and every cop – really, every Canadian – across the planet has felt it. Three men, three Mounties, were murdered in Moncton, and two more injured, after a man ambushed them with a high-powered firearm.

This incident has left me angry and heart-broken. I am not so arrogant as to say that I feel this loss more keenly than someone else – because there are a lot of people who are hurting more than I am – but the men in Moncton were still members of my extended family, and their loss stings for us all.

Some of the things I am angry about are valid, and some really are not. My valid anger does not need to be discussed here, because it has all been said by people much smarter than me, but I think I need to air some of the more ridiculous things I am angry about.

On Wednesday night I was sitting on my couch, thinking about going to bed so I could get up and go to work for 0600 hours, when my wife looked up from her phone and said, “Three members were killed in Moncton”. I took to the internet and quickly found news of the shooting, all with sketchy details, but all confirming that three of my brethren were dead. I spent a mostly sleepless night looking for updates, wondering if the shooter had been caught, wondering about the condition of the survivors who had been taken to hospital, wishing the whole thing had never happened. I went to work the next morning, bleary eyed and distraught, still searching for updates.

It was about noon when I completely lost my shit and wanted to launch into a hysterical social media melt-down, and it really didn’t even have anything to do with the Moncton shooting. Several of my Facebook contacts, who initially shared the news of, and weighed in on the tragedy began posting things that were not concerned with Moncton: “I pressure washed my deck,” or “It’s time for drinks on the patio”, and “I painted my nails and they look FANTASTIC!”

I was enraged. Several Mounties had been killed in the line of duty, making the ultimate sacrifice for the safety of the people they served, and someone actually had the audacity to carry on with their lives while I was still locked in a shocked state of mourning. The more social media updates I saw that were not concerned with Moncton, the angrier I got, to the point where I began writing a long rant on Facebook that would likely made me appear insane.

After I’d decided that being the crazy person on the internet was not going to serve the fallen, I tried to think rationally about why I was so mad.

The only conclusion I could come to was that I was not ready for the world to move on from the event. I was not prepared that someone could possibly care about anything else when something so obviously tragic had occurred. I did not think it right that people have lives outside of my grief.

As I sit here, thinking about this, I realize that I am wrong. It is not reasonable for the world to come to a screeching halt, and we will not honor the dead by doing so. I also have to force myself to remember that just because people have lives outside of this event does not mean they no longer care about it. It does not mean that they have forgotten.

The grieving process for Moncton – for any loss, really – is going to be slow, and it is going to hurt. But I – we – cannot shut down and call it quits. The cop in me still has to get out of bed, strap my gun-belt on, step out onto the street and face down the things that lurk in the dark. The storyteller in me still has to get out all the stories that live in my heart and the far recesses of my imagination and tell them the best way I can.

It is through our continued lives that we honor the dead. It is in our stories, our memories, our accounts of their heroism and the inspiration we draw from their lives that we keep them best. It is okay for me, for us all, to mourn, but it is also okay for us to live.

I didn’t personally know the men who died in Moncton, but I will remember them. I hope you will, too.

As always, thanks for reading.


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