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Things: Part Two

Things I learned from some people who happened to be men.

The Hidden Distance:

When I first moved to Vancouver, a time long ago, when people of all ages had disposable income, I started taking Kung Fu. It was a lot of fun, but foreign in the regimentation and commitment expected from me, towards what I considered a hobby. Initially, I was extremely creeped-out by the ominous phone calls from Grandmaster Mike. In what I considered to be a social call where his levity seemed to be lacking he would ask, "Will you be in class today?" When I missed class he would also call, his dark demeanor wafting through the receiver of the phone, like black smoke, "Why did you miss class tonight Miss Stoby?" I still get culty vibes from these memories.

It was equally inappropriate for me to develop the size of crush that I had on Sensai Karl. He was small and muscular, like most of my favorite people. He had a short buzz cut and swam around in his gi just enough that in the right moments, I could catch a glimpse of his bare chest. But his thick Czech accent is what really got me, "Ok Miss Amberr, stay caLm and try to ewade yourrr attackerr." He was absolutely cute and almost never smiled except at the end of class. I was smitten, in a most unprofessional way and I don't hide things well.

One day, during a one-on-one class, he showed me something he called "the hidden distance". I don't know if it is 'a thing' in martial arts, because eventually I quit Kung Fu to dedicate more time to drinking. But what Sensai Karl taught me, is that when you think you have hit a wall, or something is out of reach, there is always more available to you, if you know how to work the angles.

I can't show you what he did and, I know you are wondering if it was sexual. No, sadly no… But it's really just a pivot, in place, where you don't move so much as gain some reach. Being less tall, the hidden distance has been important in helping me reach things I've wanted throughout my life, physically, but also mentally. Remembering my ability to pivot so I can juust reach far enough to punch life in the crotch when necessary has been valuable.

I've have always wished I'd stayed on at my martial arts studies, and I have never forgotten that little move Sensai Karl showed me that day. I use it all the time.

Don't Work Against Yourself:

I went to pastry school. It weren't nothing fancy, M'Lord. One of my favorite segments of the program was "Breads". Bread is amazingly fun once you get the swing of it and it's definitely its own thing, as people who are good at it will tell you.

One of our teachers was a Chinese guy named Toby. The instructors all worked, or had worked in the baking industry throughout their careers. Toby worked in Safeway, baking bread on the days he wasn't teaching. He talked about the union and you just knew he had a big wad of cash socked away in a bank account, or secret underground chamber somewhere. He talked about money a lot as he walked around the classroom instructing us. As both of his jobs were unionized, I expect he had quite a bit of it.

Toby was happy-go-lucky, and laughed a lot. I admired that. Toby always took pride in his breads and buns and would sometimes hold his loaves up for us to look at while he grinned at his own talent.

Toby had a sort of 'blunt' way of instructing us. He would walk around the room, full of student bakers and point or indelicately advise us. When he would come around to my station he would move one thing, or two, loudly setting it down out of the way, and simply say, 'Don't work against yourself.'

There is a flow to industry, and this advice, from a successful Asian bread baker and college instructor became meaningful to me. This little piece of advice is something I always remember whether I'm setting up workstation for myself, or just thinking about how to get something done efficiently. What is in my way? What's blocking me? Am I in the flow? How can I get there?

Look where you want to go.

When I decided to get my motorcycle license, I took a course to learn how to be a defensive driver.

Matt was the name of my instructor. He seemed only barely comfortable in the skin he was in, but pulled it off with nonchalance and a really dry sense of humor. I have to hand it to him as I realize now, it can't have been easy being a young, male instructor to a class full of eager and inexperienced female riders, dressed mostly in tight jeans. I don't know how he did it, but he did. He'd lead us through the streets of North Vancouver somehow keeping us all safe and zooming up beside us, to let us know when we'd left our blinkers on too long.

It's weird, once you've done it, it's so easy to ride a bike or a motorcycle. But if you over think it, that first go is just scary and hard, and balance becomes a foreign concept. I am definitely prone to overthinking, usually with a thick glaze of anxiety. When I first sat on a motorcycle, with the intention of driving it, I'm sure I got that donut-faced look. But Matt simply said, 'Just look where you want to go'. He may have "just one of the guys" slapped me on the back, to shake me out of my stupor, and just like that, and I was a motorcyclist.

Without a doubt, I spend way too much time looking down, getting crushed by the minutiae of my day-to-day problems. But, it has been helpful at times to review my desires and goals and recognize the distance I see between reaching them, is often only in my choice of perception.


I have a financial advisor. I'm pretty sure when he thinks about our relationship, he just considers himself an advisor, as the financial side of things is pretty cut and dry. I need more finances. But he is a mentor of sorts and given me a look into the mind of a person who knows how to make money, which has been a valuable perspective to measure against my own, which isn't always "returns focused".

One time we were chatting, and I was complaining about how I felt overwhelmed by how many people are always trying to tell me what to do in my own business and life,- what to do next, what to pursue, how to proceed, what I'm doing wrong.

He grabbed a piece of paper and flipped it over, took up his fancy pen, and in block letters wrote, "N-O-I-S-E". Then he looked at me and said, "Right?" Well, I'd probably die of embarrassment to see what my face looked like at that moment. I spook easily, and the eye contact in combination with the fancy pen and fast movements took me right off guard. So it took a little time for it to sink in, but I suppose no one ever told me to listen to my intuition before.

I was extraordinarily shy growing up and well into my adult life. I realized at some point, a really easy way to navigate social situations and not seem like the crushingly, social inept introvert that I am (was), was to just keep constantly asking people questions about themselves. That, and drinking half your body- weight in alcohol worked quite well, for a while. But learning to filter the noise works much better.

But even now, with my slightly improved social graces, I find I'm often still overwhelmed by noise. Sometimes at parties or when someone really irritating is telling me how I could be so much more successful

, I picture myself as the tall blond in a white flowing dress, riding a white horse at the beach, in a Timotei commercial. The world of words and intentions is the wind blowing all around me. I just let it go by, and it's whipping my hair and the horse's mane. The waves are crashing, and a light sea mist of the letters n-o-i-s-e fills the air.

I don't really do this. But sometimes I meditate and I guess I think if I'm really 'doing it right', life would become like a Timotei commercial. Dreamy filters and shampoo (brain climate) so mild you can wash your hair (deal with everything) as often as you like.

There really is so much noise coming at us all the time. It seems we are trained to listen to every possible thing but ourselves. I really got this information late in life. Things are much simpler now.


rough copy

©2018 by Amber Stoby