5 Diplomats, Barefoot, drinking whiskey and talking politics

After 7 years of my early life being abroad, my first experience of Canadian wilderness was at our family cottage. Having had no freedoms, having never seen a forest or a clean lake, we spent a hot ride in our Ford Ltd, packed to the brim with bedding, food, water and books. My Father would be anxious to get up there, wanting to leave the house as early as possible. My Mother, dragging behind slightly, needing to make sure we didn’t forget anything, including dog food. The first time, my first view of this beutiful piece of land, I noticed how quiet it was, how, how dark it seemed with the clouds rolled in, and just how happy my parents seemed. My Father, happily away from phones, electricity and politics, would unwind with a stack of books. The book pile would decrease in size each day, and my Father would get more cheerful by the minute. He wouldn’t put on shoes, would wear old shorts, and t-shirts. He would shed his diplomatic distance and let go, just a little bit.

It would happen mid week. Another diplomat, who my Father was good friends with would show up to fish, and stay at the next cottage, another would join. Soon there would be 5 senior diplomats. 4 happened to be newly retired, except for my Father, who wwould sit politely asking about the fish, full well knowing, they weren’t there to fish. They would laugh, then break out the whiskey. My Mother would get us all down to the dock, to keep swimming. We could hear the laughter from the dock. My Father rarely let go, always slightly guarded, worried that someone would overhear. The cottage was different, there was no one around, no electricity, no way anyone could hear.

I would take breaks to run up and get Oreos, or water, and hear bits and pieces of war stories that no one knew about. Wild stories of defections of famous people, incidences that would make your blood curdle. Between the laughter, would be serious conversations about loss, about stress, about safety and security.

The first time I did it, I felt rather guilty, like I was eavesdropping on something so intimate, I crouched beside the open window that looked onto the screened-in porch, and overheard them all talking about guilt. The guilt that no one outside of the diplomatic circle would ever understand, keeping secrets crippled them, made them hard, made them unable to bond with their kids or wives. They had split personalities, and were relieved when they could retire, but also missed their sense of belonging in the department. My Father, never saying anything, listened. I had wondered if that is what he felt. He was distant, and often times, sentimental yet removed at the same time. A strange combination for me to understand as a child.

There it was, 5 men, dressed in cottage clothing, no suits, no shoes, sharing whiskey’s, while talking about their experience. From an early age, I knew this yearly ritual was important. I didn’t understand why, until later in life. It was group therapy. The only kind of therapy a group of ex diplomats and a then current one could have, away from civilization, away from ears (except for mine), away from the department. They never fished, they would bring their bottles of whiskey in their tackle boxes. The ice that they claimed would be for their caught fish, was for their whiskey.

As I get older, I realize how much more important those times were for my Father. Being able to let go, and express some sort of emotion as a release. I wonder if there are groups of diplomats today that meet, and do the same thing up at a cottage somewhere!

Dip Kid

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“Busy”

I am not sure what it is about this word, but it always seemed to haunt me, and never in a good way.

When I began to work for the government, everyone around me attempted to one up each other on how “busy” they were. You were only busy if you were writing briefing notes, Q’s and A’s, and of course reports. I grew up with a Father who never said he was busy, he never told me he was too busy for me, mind you, I don’t think I ever dared ask him to play with me. It just seemed like a very odd request, I mean, he played chess with us, and goodness knows he was an incredible opponent, he never once turned me down when I needed his help with any school work. My Mother on the other hand, always said she was busy. We will get back to that shortly.

At work, it annoyed me that people said they were busy. I couldn’t figure out why they were doing the same job, and yet, spent a long time in the office during non emergency international incidents. For years, I got sucked into the idea of busy. Once you become a Mother, it just seems like everyone is “busy”. It still bothered me, using that word.

My Mother, always complained how busy she was, she always helped with our homework, and was always there at every play, don’t get me wrong, but her excuse for most things, was that she was too busy. What always struck me, was she was always too busy to really accomplish something, and see something through to the end.

It wasn’t until a Tim Ferriss podcast, that Tim himself made an off-handed comment that struck a chord, if you are busy, you aren’t organizing your life properly, something is just wrong with what you are doing. Wow, and I mean wow.

So, in a quest, I decided to spend 3 months re-wiring my brain. I ignored when other Mother’s complained they were busy, and wanted to complain about how busy their lives were or are. That took a lot, if the inside of my cheeks were any indication of how painful it was to listen and ignore without sympathizing or saying something like “shut up”, it was simply painful. ¬†For 3 months I have not used the word busy. I have not once told my son I was too busy to play with him, instead, I have told him “let me finish up what I am doing, and then I can give you all of my attention. How about I put on the timer?’. When it comes to my writing, I have set aside time to write, and if it doesn’t work out, fine, if it does, it does, but I am never busy. Being “busy” is no longer an excuse to accomplish what I want to and need to accomplish.

With the simple act of eliminating that word, I have become more positive, more present, and more effective human being. It surprised me just how an elimination in my vocabulary has changed my outlook on life.

I dare you to try eliminating it from your vocabulary, and see how it works for you!

Dip Kid