It has been exactly two months since the first day I woke up in this house. The differences between then and now are, as I think about them, quite astonishing.
For most of my adult life I have been running. Expending energy at a substantial rate, pushing hard, moving fast, dodging bullets, nailing deadlines, often running on adrenaline … all the stuff that most of us do.
Several years ago, I found out that the accumulation of stresses I was exposing myself to were starting to affect my heath. My weight had ballooned along with my blood sugar levels. My nerves were more or less shot and I really wasn’t happy about anything.
It Was Time For A Change
You can go through a lot of your adult life feeling that something is bugging you but never quite sure what it is. My best advice is to find out what the hell that is and deal with it.vI have had tics manifesting in different ways for most of my life. But as I grew older and needed to be able to relax more, I discovered, or at least hypothesized that it was my tics that were at the root of my discomfort.
Long story short, I ended up being diagnosed by a neurologist with Tic Syndrome, which was a mild, but thankfully static, form of Tourette’s Syndrome, which can be extremely nasty.
And also true to my belief, it was indeed a condition exacerbated by stress.
Knowledge Is Power
Once my doc (Earl The Pearl) knew what I had, he prescribed Ativan, which was basically a mild relaxant. He told me that I should take one anytime I started to feel overly stressed. He also told me to lose weight and increase the amount of exercise I was doing, in order to burn off more stress.
This was all good advice and after two years I was down 50 pounds, feeling great and had reduced my Ativan intake to one a night in order to relax me into a good night’s sleep.
While I had not cured myself, because this condition is with you for life, I have managed to get it under control.
The Environmental Factor
Once I had mastered all the things I could do for myself from the inside out. I started thinking about external factors.
And the first thing I thought about seriously was Toronto itself. Toronto has, in the forty odd years that I have been here, grown into a much larger, much busier place.
But this growth has been marred by a real lack of vision. The infra-structure of this city is having an almost impossible time keeping pace with the population growth.
As a result, the city, while culturally pretty vibrant, is a pain in the ass place to live and travel around in. Rush hour is pretty much all day long. The major arteries are always jammed and the number of hours that people have to spend in traffic has gotten has become absolutely insane.
Although I didn’t really travel that much by car, I found that when I did, it was always stressful and that, in turn, made me very uncomfortable, and caused my tics to flare.
The Quiet Place
On the weekends, especially in the summer we would go to visit my sister and her (late) husband in Fort Erie where I grew up. Fort Erie is basically a bedroom community for Niagara Falls and St Catharines. But one of the things I liked about it was the tranquillity.
Since I grew up there I had very little curiosity about it. And so whenever I was there I was able to relax and genuinely enjoy myself.
One day, on the way back to the big city, my wife and I were having yet another one of our discussions about finding a place to live outside of Toronto.
We were just crossing the Garden City Skyway and the smaller city of St Catharines was spread out before us in the mid afternoon sunshine. So we got off at Lake Street and headed north.
We ended up going through what later turned out to be our new neighbourhood and then turned west to a beach community called Port Dalhousie where we first started our search in earnest.
At one point we drove up to the lake and looked out. There, thirty miles north of us as the crow flies sat Toronto, small and shimmering in the September sun.
We drove around some more and realized that though were were in the far north end of the city, getting downtown on the other side of the highway only took matter of minutes. (5 to be exact), with very little of that pesky traffic around anywhere except close to the highway.
The Decision Was Made
The rest of this story is history. I have written about it ad infinitum. But the bottom line was that my wife had wanted to get out of the city for a long time, and I needed to reduce my stress levels even more and so had to get out of the city.
In today’s world, doing what I do, I don’t actually need to be anywhere except in front of computer with a good high speed connection.
So today we celebrate two months in our new house. In our new city. In between the bridges (The Burlington and Garden City Skyways). A short ride from my siblings, And about an hour from my kids.
All our bills are paid at the old house. Our contractor has all the work we want to do on this house (for now) underway,
I have figured out several good routes to get to the various places I need to go for shopping on my bike. I have a thousand little things to do around here to make this house our own. And although I thought there might be some big city withdrawal from leaving Toronto, nothing has really manifested.
In point of fact, I am a hell of a lot better off here in St Catharines on just about every level imaginable.
My sister, who knows me almost as well as my wife, has told me a couple of times that I am nowhere near as amped up as I used to be when I came to visit from Toronto.
I can’t disagree.
I don’t begrudge the time I spent in Toronto. It gave me a career that has been, and continues to be, both spiritually and financially rewarding. I learned to be a professional communicator there. We raised our kids there and they turned out just fine. I found out how to control my health there. I made a lot of good friends there. A lot of whisky under the bridge there.
But I am a Peninsula boy. I am ‘of this land’ here where I live now. A land of apples and plums and cherries and grapes and beautiful gardens all sprouting from the rich earth here. I am close to the people I love and I am finally able to feel the true stillness that has evaded me all of my adult life.
In this stillness there is real clarity. And in this clarity I will plant my thoughts from now on. Here on the Quiet Side of The Lake (thanks Kevin Pashuk)
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