Four Months

Four months ago today, at six o'clock in the morning, I gave Nozomi some breakfast, said my goodbyes, and left the house for what I thought would be the last time. This is probably true, in a manner of speaking, as there was nobody remaining when I returned later in the afternoon. In the eight or nine hours that I was out, Reiko packed up as much as would fit in the car and left for her parents' home with our son and dog. I've not seen nor heard any of them since. It's been said many times before and its truth remains: this house is far too quiet without them.

Routines have changed quite a bit. Some preferences have, too. Yet what I find most interesting is how some old routines have quietly returned, revealing patterns in my past that I've been blind to for decades.

In the winter of 2001 I had exited my first long-term relationship with a woman named Jen. It was quite a challenge to parse because, as a 21 year old guy, none of your friends are much help with processing these things. They would always respond with typical guy-isms that sound nonchalant and/or macho, but accomplish little beyond being utterly dismissive of a person's need to communicate. So, as my friends were of little help, I invested a little money into a Sony Discman, burned a CD with some of the popular tunes of the time1, and started walking. A lot. I would be out for anywhere from an hour to 90 minutes every evening after getting home from work. After returning home, I'd shower then sit in front of the computer and chat on IRC until midnight before heading to bed because there was always work the next day.

The walks were incredibly helpful. I had gained quite a bit of weight during the relationship with Jen and I wanted to lose it so that I'd be less disappointed with what I saw in the mirror. While there wasn't a great deal of weight loss as a result of the exercise, the effort paid off a few months later when I moved 4,300km to the west coast of Canada. I didn't have a car at the time and money was tight, so I walked just about everywhere for the first couple of years. This allowed me to lose a great deal of weight and feel better about myself as a result.

And then the pattern repeated.

In the autumn of 2005 I had exited a relationship with another Jen who I had fallen head over heels for. While my friends were a little more help at this point, there would still be the dismissive guy-isms tossed around and not very much done in the way of processing. So, just as before, I invested a little money into a set of headphones that I could use with my Palm Tungsten T2, which would act as a portable music player while I went out walking for an hour to ninety minutes after getting home from work every day. After returning home, I'd shower then sit in front of the computer to chat on IRC or play Need for Speed until midnight before heading to bed because there was always work the next day.

Just like the winter several years before, these walks allowed me the time to think things through and lose a small portion of the weight I had gained during the failed relationship. The effort paid off again, because in the early months of 2006 I met Reiko and in August of 2007, I moved 7,700km across the planet to be with her. Shortly after getting a job2 and walking several kilometres a day to get from location to location, I became really sicktwice … and lost just over 30kg as a result. Stepping on the scale and seeing a number lower than 80.0 for the first time in a decade felt great, though I wouldn't wish the double-illness experience on anybody.

And now the pattern seems to be repeating again.

In April of this year Reiko and I split. My friends have been far more helpful with this situation, as we've all grown into adults3. And, just as before, I've invested a little bit of money in an Apple Watch that can track far more details of the walks that I embark upon twice a day. Because it's summertime, the total walking time is about 100 minutes per day, but in the springtime I was averaging about double this. Working from home means that the time that could be used for commuting is now used for power-walking. In the mornings I'll usually listen to podcasts while in the evening Paul Van Dyk or Nora En Pure will belt out the fast-paced techno that encourages greater calorie burns. After returning home, I shower then sit on the sofa with a book and read until eleven o'clock, which is the ideal time for me to get to bed so that I can start walking the following morning before seven to beat the humidity.

Just like in Canada, these walks allow me the time to think things through while losing a little bit of fat, building a little bit of muscle, and challenging myself to be a little faster with each lap of the walking course.

There are no plans to move, though. Not yet, anyway. There are still so many responsibilities here that I must tend to.

This pattern of fitness and relocation after each break-up strikes me as interesting because it's not something that I've consciously recognised before. Many men will certainly join a gym, start jogging, or otherwise try to improve their appearance after a separation in order to have some visual means of saying "Look, I'm making improvements", but the consistent pattern I've observed in my past has me wondering if there are some additional big changes coming up.

Every breakup preceded me leaving an employer by about six months and, after every job loss, I moved a remarkable distance to start over again. The first move was 4,300km and the second was 7,700km. Will the next one be 11,000km? That might mean going to Buenos Aires (11,400km), Rio de Janeiro (11,550km) or Cape Town (9,200km). This seems unlikely, though. I have responsibilities here in this part of the world. Moving elsewhere would add needless complexity; particularly if it would involve moving to a country I've never been to.

A lot has happened over the past four months. A lot will happen over the coming months, too. Will the pattern that I've observed from the past breakups continue, though? Only time will tell.

  1. I remember there was Eiffel 65's Blue, Kylie Minogue's Can't Get You Out of My Head, and Nickleback's How You Remind Me, but not much else.

  2. I still work for this company, too. The current role is very different from where I started, though.

  3. Very few people from North America (or Japan for that matter) under the age of 30 are adults. They're just kids who – ideally – have jobs.

The Wrong Direction

For much of the past few months I've been investing a great deal of time in power walking. The pedestrian paths that surround the local neighbourhoods are excellent resources for people who want to move about by foot or bicycle without worrying too much about motor traffic. Not only are these routes paved, but they have a great number of hills and slopes that allow a person to really work up a sweat while burning some calories. My goal is to get outside twice a day and cover about 12 kilometres; a little more than five in the morning, and around seven in the evening. The purpose is simple: to drop my body weight to 80 kilograms or less.

This exercise plan was first put into place around the end of April, when the weather was still quite enjoyable. The air was cool. The insects were few. The step count was plenty. By the end of May the morning trek was extended to just over seven kilometres in an effort to consume more calories and enjoy just a little more time outdoors before the summer heat would force a shorter course. Ignoring June1, July saw a lot of progress towards shorter kilometre and longer distances. By all metrics, I am burning thousands of additional calories per week via these power walks and couldn't be happier with the numbers.

Before and After

Unfortunately, there doesn't seem to be any weight loss taking place. In fact, the progress I'm seeing is in the wrong direction.

Going Up

Despite the healthy diet, the reduced portion sizes, the elimination of most sugars2 (including my beloved potatoes), I've gained over three kilograms. Am I building muscle and not losing fat? Or is there something else going on?

Based on a lot of the fitness articles I've read, this weight gain is to be expected and can be the result of water retention, delayed onset muscle soreness, an increase in blood production, and other factors. People who are exercising with the intention to lose weight need to change their expectations from weeks to months, and months to … perhaps a year or more.

This can be a little disheartening, but anything worth doing is going to take time and demand perseverance. Originally I had planned to reach 80kg by the end of December. While this is still plausible, it makes more sense to aim for 85kg first and 80kg by next summer. So long as the routine can be maintained, it's certainly within the realm of possibility. Of course, some additional exercise types couldn't hurt for those days when an hour-long power walk is not possible.

  1. No need to go into why, I think.

  2. The only sugar in the diet now comes in the bread I bake and the bit of jam that goes on my morning yogurt.


Human beings are social creatures and there's no denying that many people feel an absolute need to be surrounded by others, even if they are not actively communicating with everyone. A person who does not have an opportunity to be in the presence of – or, more importantly, to interact with – others will often slide into depression. This can certainly explain some of the low points I've experienced over the last four years as human contact has been primarily limited to a handful of people, with most interactions being required to end within a matter of minutes. Some of this had to do with the restrictions expected on account of COVID-19, but this was not the only limiting factor. However, over the last four months, I've found myself interacting with several dozen people in person and calling family on a regular basis. Interestingly, I've also noticed a marked improvement in my outlook on life.

Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.
– Mahatma Gandhi

The past 120 days or so have been quite the rollercoaster. There were times when I felt lower than low. There were times when I felt as though I were floating above the clouds. Recent days are not nearly as heady anymore but, with the daily patterns starting to feel routine, there is a sense of contentment and forward progress. One welcome result of this positivity is a feeling of happiness that is strong enough to push away the negativity that occasionally encroaches on the day. I can think honestly. I can speak honestly. I can act honestly.

Happiness Is …

Asinine as it may seem, this has completely transformed how I perceive the world and people have noticed.

There's no denying that I miss the people I once shared a home with. That said, I do not believe it would have been possible to dedicate the time necessary for the thought and introspection that has resulted in this new worldview without the chaos and uncertainty that marked the darkest hours of these past four months. Even my time in detention – including the last day when I had all but given up hope – was worth the stress and anxiety. Because now when I look in the mirror I no longer see a coward without direction. Instead there is a person who is voluntarily taking on responsibilities, interacting with people to accomplish goals, making new friendships, and moving forward.

While life will continue to throw curveballs my way every so often, I'm hopeful that this new perspective and the additional friendships will reduce the stress and anxiety I would have felt previously.

Approaching The Burn

Half a lifetime ago, when there was ample time for everything, I would typically spend about 4 hours per day walking from one place to another. There were numerous reasons for this, but one of the lovely aspects of investing in physical exercise is that a person has a great deal of time to think. Being me, I would invest time in measuring distances travelled and average velocities. This was well before smart watches, pedometers, and other modern tools were available to the general public (for a reasonable price), so I would often measure distances using a map book while time was left to a stopwatch. If memory serves, I would walk an average of 7.1 kilometres per hour when I was 22 years old; which is faster than many people ride their bike.

For two of the past three months I've been trying to get back to this speed while out for my twice-daily power walks. In the mornings I tend to average about 9m01s per kilometre, a velocity of 6.65km/h. In the evenings it's a little slower at 9m18s per kilometre, which is 6.45km/h. To hit the average I enjoyed two decades ago, a kilometre will need to be completed in 8 minutes 27 seconds.


That's just fifteen seconds away from today's best split.

The average person tends to move around 4.5km per hour, so one of the questions that people will ask when they see me not speeding by is why I like to walk so fast. There are multiple answers, such as wanting to beat a previous speed record or losing some weight, but one of the more difficult-to-explain reasons is the "high" one can get when they push themselves really hard to walk and not run.

When a person moves really quickly, the body instinctively knows when it's time to switch from walking to a jog or an outright run. This tends to happen at around the 7km/h mark for many people. However, if you resist the urge to run and instead push the walk, then you will consume more calories and begin to feel a combination of light-headedness and exhilaration. It's like a runner's high without the running, which is a nice reward for a job well done.

While there is no plan to enter myself into one of those brutal 50km speed walking competitions where it looks like everybody needs the bathroom RIGHT NOW, I would like to work myself up to a 15km per day routine. Eight in the morning before breakfast, and seven in the evening after dinner1. If I were to do this at the typical speed that people walk, I would need to dedicate more than three hours to outdoor exercise. However, if I can accomplish this in a little over two hours, then that burns more calories, results in a "walking high", and leaves more time for other activities. It also allows me to feel a little better about myself, as this 43 year old me may not be as young, but I'm still able to compete2.

At some point in the future I will be forced to slow down to something approaching a "normal" walking speed. I just hope it doesn't happen for another quarter century at the very least.

  1. The way the pedestrian paths around the neighbourhood are designed, a person can choose how many kilometres they'd like to go and plan a route accordingly. Adding an extra kilometre is usually as easy as choosing to cross the next bridge before returning to a point of origin.

  2. Rule 4: Compare yourself with who you were yesterday, not to who somebody else is today.

Pen and Paper

There have likely been a million different To Do applications written since the 90s by people who wanted to reduce their reliance on paper notes. I've probably tried at least a hundred in this time as well, but have always returned to the battle-tested method of using an pocket-sized notebook with a felt-tipped pen to record action-based information. There is nothing special about how I handle To Do lists, and there's ample records of me using this sort of application to keep track of grocery lists, bill payments, and the like. However, when it comes to planning the next day's work, nothing beats the skritch-scratch of a pen over paper.

Nothing Magical

The current set of note-taking tools:

  • an A6-sized Mnemosyne N197A rolled notepad
  • an Arteza Inkonic 0.4 A104 felt-tipped pen
  • any source of light

All in all, it's maybe $4 worth of stationery that needs replacing every month or so. Being able to quickly flip back over the days to see what's been checked off each list and what gets carried over the most often is invaluable for determining which tasks are in greater demand than others. This allows for more accurate prioritising of new features over time.

Are there better ways to do this? Probably. Are there more collaborative ways to do this? Most likely. Will I give up the pen and paper anytime soon? Nope.

Slaying Dragons

The goal for today was to slay two dragons and, by mid-afternoon, I had slayed three. These are metaphorical dragons, of course, but they're just as real us as those that battle the heroes in works of fiction. For years I have been told that I can't do a thing. This was always said with two meanings: (1) I do not have permission to do a thing (2) I do not have the ability to do a thing. Listening to this sort of denigrating comment will wear a person down over the years to the point where trying becomes a challenge. If a person believes they have neither permission nor ability, the goal may as well be guarded by a fierce dragon. So it is with great pleasure that several of these mental blocks were shattered and goals achieved. Now I have more reasons to smile when I look in the mirror.

The last few months have been quite challenging, as many of the posts on this site will attest. What I find interesting, however, is the fact that each challenge was met head on and vanquished. There are more still to conquer, of course. Yet the number of "impossible" tasks that lay ahead are far fewer than the number that have been overcome. Years of negativity are being overturned, one dragon at a time, and it's exhilarating.

Why did I let myself forfeit agency? Why did I believe the disparaging statements? Why didn't I fight back sooner?

One of the questions I have been thinking about lately is the difference between who I am and who I want to become. There's no denying that my confidence has taken a hit over the years and this has directly impacted other aspects of my personality. This is something that will need to be rebuilt carefully, as too much can lead to an insufferable ego. With a higher degree of confidence, taking risks will hopefully result in less anxiety. By taking risks, I will push myself to learn new skills and become slightly more competent. And a higher degree of competence is certainly better than the alternative. But is this all I want to be? Competent?

No place so sacred from such fops is barr'd … Nay, fly to altars; there they'll talk you dead; For fools rush in where angels fear to tread.
– Alexander Pope

Competence on its own can lead to foolishness. I have been a fool for many years, and wish to change this. Without good sense or judgement, people will not hesitate to rush into a situation that someone wiser would avoid. As such, this is what I want to compliment competence: wisdom.

May I stop making the same mistakes over and over.

There Are No Bad Questions

Stuart Langridge made a guest appearance on Linux Downtime episode 50 to raise a concern regarding the topic of the previous episode, where four very active members in the Linux community wanted to discuss the definition of a Linux distribution. The issue has to do with gatekeeping, which can be best described as being a spiteful jerk to anyone who doesn't share an opinion in the hopes they go away and never appear again. There's no denying that Linux groups have struggled with these sorts of malicious actors for decades, though they can be found in any community that shares a common appreciation for a given subject. Stuart – and everyone who was part of episodes 49 and 50 – have voluntarily spent years encouraging people to participate in Linux communities and have rightly called out self-righteous gatekeepers for their unabashed behaviour. So I was taken aback when he went on to state that episode 49 was empowering callous individuals. He then went on to effectively say that there are some questions that simply cannot be asked; a position I vehemently oppose.

My issue here is not that you were going about the business of gatekeeping, […] it's that putting the discussion on the table at all is a bad idea because it only serves bad means. Literally no one needs a hard, bright-line definition of what a Linux distribution is. The only people who want that are people who want to be able to point to something they don't like and say "That's not a Linux distribution". […] The issue is not how you address the question, it's that you address that question. Because putting that on the table at all, first of all, so we come back to your "What is a Linux distribution?" question; no one needs an answer to this. As I say, it's not that you're doing gatekeeping. It's that people want that question so they can do the gatekeeping. And the fact that you, a bunch of influencers […] You are people who are looked up to by the community. And you're putting questions like "What is a Linux distribution?" on the table, which means that people will take away from that that "This is an okay thing to discuss". But, actually, no one needs an answer to this question. And you, putting it out there, empowers the sort of people who want to ask it because they want to be able to say "That thing you're doing, that is not a Linux distribution". That's gatekeeping. It's not that you're doing gatekeeping, it's that you're empowering gatekeepers. You're encouraging people to think that gatekeeping is okay. And that's my complaint.
– Stuart Langridge: Linux Downtime - Episode 50 (1:21 ~ 3:36)

Regardless of who is asking a question, be it "influencers" or just two people at a coffee shop, to suggest that asking a question at all should not be done is absurd. It prevents discussion. It inhibits examination. It actively blocks someone from thinking something through. Conversations such as the one Stuart has an issue with are a means of active thinking, of discovery and exploration. To suggest that some questions simply cannot be asked is to encourage ignorance at best and prejudice at worst. We cannot allow this. We must not.

We can already see the effects of "taboo questions" on various topics du jour today. We cannot ask questions about certain matters without fear of being cancelled, even if these are honest questions to better understand a legitimate issue. We cannot question definitions of certain words handed down by those "more virtuous" without fear of being cancelled. We cannot disagree or seek clarification when some aspect of a current issue seems to contradict itself. This is madness and I am loathe to see this sort of compelled censorship creep into the few remaining subjects that bring me joy for the sake of imaginary assholes.

Taking just one piece of Stuart's opening salvo:

But, actually, no one needs an answer to this question. And you, putting it out there, empowers the sort of people who want to ask it because they want to be able to say "That thing you're doing, that is not a Linux distribution".

By this logic, we shouldn't ask any questions. Ever. Because doing so will allow another human being – and remember, there are over 7.7-billion of us – to be a jackass to someone else.

Here are some questions that I have seen create some intense arguments over the last 25 years online:

  • Is J.J. Abrams' Star Trek actually Star Trek?
  • Is a parsec a unit of distance or time?
  • Is Star Trek better than Star Wars?
  • Is Dumbledore actually the villain?
  • Why do skyscrapers exist in the Marvel Universe when supervillains (and heroes) have been destroying cities for over half a century?

Or how about some more serious questions?

  • Does God actually reward a man for istishhād (martyrdom) through jihad with 72 virgins?
  • Is it a sin to work on the sabbath if your family does not have enough to eat?
  • How does one honour their parents to fulfil the 8th Commandment?
  • How did thousands of people hear Jesus' voice when He delivered the Sermon on the Mount (or on the plain)?

The list goes on, and an argument can be made that the vast majority of these questions may not matter in the grand scheme of things. But they should be allowed to be asked. If there are gatekeepers – or fundamental orthodox individuals – who will use these questions to deride someone's love of Star Trek, Star Wars, Harry Potter, Marvel comic books, or God, then it's up to the community to address those bad actors and correct their behaviour. Hiding questions from view simply to prevent at asshole from being an asshole is no way to go through life, and it's no way for the rest of us to learn more about a subject.

Stuart Langridge is an intelligent, funny man with a keen insight on a lot of technology-centred topics. I like the vast majority of what he says on his own podcast, Bad Voltage. However, this complaint is something that I cannot agree with. For better or worse, speech must be permitted. If we are going to start censoring ourselves for fear that "someone, somewhere might use our words as justification for being a dick", then we may as well stop communicating altogether. Otherwise, let's stop being cowards and stand up to the handful of individuals in our communities that seek to discriminate and disrespect those who just want to learn about and rejoice in the same things that bring us joy. Maybe by growing a bit more of a spine, we can discriminate against the discriminators and make our communities a more welcoming place for honest and truthful conversation.

What Is My Why?

While tossing a salad today my mind started asking questions, as it's wont to do while the body is operating on auto-pilot. The plan for this past weekend was to rest and do zero work, including the weekly cleaning1, and it couldn't have gone better. The ultimate goal was to watch baseball, read thoughtful books, and answer a single question: What is my "why?"

We all need a Why. This is the reason we get out of bed in the morning. This is the reason we work. This is the reason we don't hop on the next midnight train going anywhere. For the longest time my answer to this question was simple: I will provide for my family any way I can.

This answer probably seems over-simplistic given its vagueness, but it conveys the ultimate purpose of every action I have performed since the summer of 2007. As a foreigner in a foreign land, I needed to be flexible enough and responsible enough to ensure everyone had what they needed. At first "the family" was just Reiko and I. Then it expanded to include Nozomi. Many years later the boy came along. However, as I went around the house this evening to close the blinds and mindlessly talk to the few remaining stuffed animals, this answer no longer seemed valid. There's nobody here to provide for. Suffice it to say, I need a new Why. Ideally one that is more challenging.

Providing for a family is no simple matter. A remarkable amount of commitment is required and people are often better off as a result. However, with the prospect of being denied access to my son until his 18th birthday (or longer), there is a giant question in front of me that is demanding an answer: If I am unable to see my son for at least the next thirteen years, does it make sense to stay in Japan? As one would expect, this is the question that requires an answer. Everything else is secondary.

Will I continue to work for my employer or move to another? Will I start a business? Will I stay in my home or sell it and live in something smaller? Will I buy a car? Will I replace some furniture? Will I seek companionship? Will I adopt a dog? All of these questions will change drastically if I decide to leave the country.

And, if I were to leave Japan, would I return to Ontario? Would I consider moving to another country in order to further broaden my knowledge of the world? Regardless of where I go, economic security will be paramount as the boy will need financial support. Backpacking across Western Europe will not pay the bills.

As important as these questions might seem, though, a very pragmatic statement rose out the subconscious within seconds of the salad being set on the table: These aren't the right questions.

Indeed. These are the questions that a person can ask when they've fulfilled all of their responsibilities, including the ones that have seemed too large to address properly. These are the questions that a person can ask when there is nothing left to do where they are; when the frayed ends on their tapestry of life have been sufficiently mended. I have a long way to go before this claim can be made. There's a divorce to finalise. Paperwork to file. Weight to be lost. Relationships to repair. Leaving is not an option. These dragons2 need to be faced.

So where does this leave me in the search for an answer to the ultimate question of Why? Believe it or not, it answers the question. What is my "Why"? It's the conquering of these new challenges; these responsibilities. I will need to stand up straight with my shoulders back. I will need to look after myself better. It will be necessary to meet new people and, ideally, make friends with those who can help me grow. Do the meaningful things. Listen carefully. Speak clearly and truthfully. And to be mindful before critiquing things that I may not fully understand. There is very much a theme here; one that I've been on for several years now. There is still much to do and learn, but this is to be the new answer to Why for the near future.

I'm lead to believe that overcoming the obstacles before me will open golden doors of opportunity; ones that are completely invisible to me today. To open those doors, though, I need the golden keys. And those keys, for all intents and purposes, are currently under guard by dragons that become larger and stronger the more I avoid them.

  1. Rather than compress all the effort of cleaning the house into a single day, I spread it out over the weekdays, allowing for an actual day of rest on Sunday.

  2. The dragon is not literal, of course.

Love and Loss

Eighty-five days have passed since my family left and everything points to several hundred days more before any decision involving visitation rights with my son or custody of my dog will be made. As one would expect, the house has been a very different place these past weeks. Gone is the barely constrained commotion of raising a child and the joy that comes from their play. Outdoor exercise is still part of the daily schedule, but Nozomi is not here to enjoy the nearby parks. What was once a home has become an abode of solitude.

The LORD God said, "It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him."
– Genesis 2:18

There is a lot to be said for living independently. Being able to effectively look after oneself and all of the accompanying responsibilities means that a person has their house in order. Between the summer of 1999 and 2007, I managed to survive just fine while living solo. There were certainly a number of trails and tribulations that had to be overcome, but it was not an impossible feat thanks to the remarkably safe world we live in1. One of the biggest challenges of the time, though, was staving off loneliness.

The spring of 2000 was the first time I truly felt lonely. I had been living on my own in town for almost a year by this point, and worked at a company that also employed my step-father. Every couple of weekends I would be invited to stop by for dinner and spend time with my mother and four of my seven siblings2. In addition to this, I would drive an hour south to visit my father and step-mother once every month or so. My days were filled with interaction, and yet I felt alone. As a 21 year-old "man"3, it was obvious to everyone that what I was looking for was a mate.

In time, one found me. We had a short, platonic relationship that came to an end before Christmas that same year. Looking back today, I think it would be fair to say that I was better friends with the woman's father than I was with her. An unfortunate consequence of being young and stupid. However, this brief connection taught me a great deal about myself and the things that needed correction before trying again.

Four years later I was living on the other side of Canada and had become a little more responsible. The financial situation was not particularly great, given how expensive life on the west coast of the country can be, but things were looking better. I had a good-paying job, a growing list of responsibilities, and people around me expected a great deal. Thanks to the efforts of friends and colleagues, I started to show signs of becoming a mature adult. There were invitations to important meetings, fancy dinners, events at the mosque4, and more. However, just like before – and despite all the people, I started to feel alone.

Some friends noticed and would introduce me to women they knew, but none of the young ladies I met seemed right. They were generally pleasant to talk to, conservative, and soft-spoken. What I wanted, though, was to find was someone with spark. Someone who would challenge me in unexpected ways.

In October of 2004, I found that person and fell madly for her. The next ten months witnessed some of the most exhilarating, terrifying, and heartbreaking moments of my life. Never before had I felt so high. Never before had I felt so low. As one would expect, I discovered a lot about myself and about relationships. The lessons were some of the hardest learned up until that point and I'm still thankful they happened.

Just a few months later, though, the irrepressible desire to be with someone returned. This wasn't out of lust or some desire for intimacy, but a longing to find "the one" … if such a person can be found at all. In January of 2006, Reiko came into my life. In April of 2022 she left.

Several weeks ago I was asked when I might consider meeting someone new. The reasoning behind the question was that a 43 year old man is still young enough to help create and raise children. My answer was a non-committal "It's too soon for me to think about that" yet, in reality, it's all I seem to be thinking about lately. Why, though? Not three months have passed since I lost my entire family5 in one fell swoop. I'm not yet divorced. I'm not yet able to mask the sadness I feel when I walk into my son's room every morning to open the windows, then again in the evening to close them. There is no guarantee that I can even afford a relationship that involves children going forward, as there has been no discussion with Reiko regarding child support payments. For all I know, I'll need to work two jobs just to get by. There's simply no way to know at this point in time.

Yet a little voice in the back of my mind, one that sounds very much like my conscience, is telling me:

Then God blessed them, and God said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth."
– Genesis 1:28

The first part is easy. Being fruitful means being useful; having a job, doing good things, and being a respectable member of the community. Multiplying, though … that should not be toyed with.

When I was a child there were always some kids in my class that came from a large family. By Canadian standards in the 80s, this would mean any household with more than four children. Often times these families were poor and would look forward to the child support benefits6 handed out by the government every month in order to put food on the table. A household with five or six kids under the age of 13 could expect about the same amount a person working a full-time job at a department store would receive. The common pattern seen here would be that the father would work, the mother would stay home to deal with the half-dozen children of varying ages, and the bank would see deposits that resembled a family where both parents worked. It was not an easy life, but it certainly lived up to the first part of God's blessing.

However, by the time these kids reached middle school, the two-income homes had often morphed into "single mother homes". The child support benefits were reduced every few years as kids grew up (and became more expensive) and the single parent would be forced to find work somewhere in town during the day while their many children were at school. Household chores would often go undone as there was never enough time or energy. Lunchboxes would consist of crackers with cheese, a juice box, and perhaps a sandwich. The kids were often hungry, unkempt, and – when mixed with the onset of puberty – increasingly aggressive.

This is something that I had witnessed numerous times while attending public school in Canada and it has certainly affected the way I approach the matter of raising children. I have already failed my son by not being mentally strong enough to weather another two decades with his mother. How can I possibly think about having more? Particularly now when the future is still so unknown?7

Sometimes I wonder if this is a test. Since the boy has come along I've made a conscious effort to be a more responsible person; someone who thinks before they act. There are still a number of areas that I need to work on to become a better person, but I'm closer to my ideal today than I was in 2017. If I give in to the voice, will it prove that I am still an irresponsible person who focuses more on the desires of the present than the needs of the future? Or is this a genuine message that, despite the pain of separation, insists I follow one of the oldest prescriptions in recorded history?

As with so many of the questions I've struggled with in recent months, I simply do not know.

  1. Canada is many things, but it is not a violent place. So long as you're not going out to intentionally provoke people or Mother Nature, then you will have some semblance of security, no matter how far down the social hierarchy you may find yourself … an I was pretty darn low for a while.

  2. Both parents remarried, so there was a combination of families. I remained the oldest, however.

  3. Unless someone has survived something truly horrific, any person under the age of 25 is still very much a child; full of potential and naiveté.

  4. It was around this time in my life when I studied Islam. I spent a great deal of time studying when not at work.

  5. Yes, I have parents, sisters, brothers, cousins, nieces, and nephews in Canada. Hundreds of relatives. But none are on this side of the planet. For all intents and purposes, Reiko, the boy, and Nozomi were my whole family.

  6. Commonly called "Baby Bonus"

  7. The future is always unknown, but I've yet to make the decision as to whether I stay in Japan or not.

They Like to Bask

Despite living in my house since April of 2018, the yard was not completed until the end of May last year. There are a number of reasons for this, but the core issue really came down to time; there was never enough to properly work out which trees would be planted and where, and how much of the yard would be covered by grass. Prior to having plant-life, the house was surrounded primarily by hard dirt and garden stone. The property looked respectable despite its incomplete state, and this was in no small part due to the effort put into pulling weeds every weekend. Undeterred by the desert-like appearance, some wildlife had started to take notice of the arid space, and a pair of long-tailed lizards could be seen on sunny days. They would find a place in the middle of the yard or on the concrete blocks that formed the lower-half of the fence and sit nearly motionless for hours at a time.

Later, when the parched soil had been replaced with greenery, the lizards could still be found. As before, they might stretch their bodies and incredibly long tails on the concrete section of the fence but, more often than not, they could be found enjoying some peace under one of the many dwarf conifers that dot the property.

The Japanese Grass Lizard that basks in the parking area

At some point in the last few months, a third lizard has made itself known. To the best of my knowledge, the three keep to themselves. One stays near the front door. Another is along the southern fence. The newest, and most patient1, enjoys the raised soil area behind the parking space. Not being an expert in lizards – or in any kind of life, really – I cannot guess as to whether the three are related.

As silly as it may seem, I like that these Japanese grass lizards are able to call parts of the yard outside home. It means that this property, perhaps small by human standards, is large enough and flourishing enough to offer these creatures enough comfort and food to enjoy their brief existence. The daytime temperatures this summer are hovering just under 40˚C with forecasters warning of a brutal July and August. This weekend I'll aim to add a small pool to the yard so that these lizards, and other small animals, can enjoy a brief respite from the heat. Hopefully it will be enough.

  1. This third lizard seems not to mind when I come within a metre. It even seemed a little curious about the camera while I was taking pictures, lifting its head as though to get a better view of the lens.