22 June 2015

54 – Good Friends Lead The Way

I just moved out of a friend's basement after living there for five years. Another friend, who I haven't seen in five years, is in town visiting this weekend. And that got me to thinking about how my epic friends Clay and Double M helped me become The House Newf. So this essay's about that. And them.

In a past work life I went to Ottawa for a one-month research trip. Double M had been living there for several years. We’d been friends since high school, so we were excited to be able to hang out again. Double M even insisted I stay with him and Future Mrs. Double M while I was there. Good deal in my books.

The Ottawa Trip was a success. I met all my research goals. I learned a lot. I behaved like a good little academic in Ottawa.

But sometimes professional fulfilment means fuck all. The Ottawa Trip ended up being fulfilling for every reason besides work. I ended up learning much more valuable things from Double M.

He kept us busy with plenty of fun activities. Some nights we ate out and drank beer in pubs. We held CD-burning marathons to trade as much good music as we could with each other. We played a series of pretty epic one-on-one games at a nearby outdoor basketball court. And we spent a great weekend at Future Mrs. Double M's parent's cabin out in northern Quebec.

Sometimes the Ottawa Trip felt more like a vacation than a research trip. And that was all because of Double M. He understood the importance of making time for fun. And he made sure we did just that.

Great city to visit that doesn’t feel like one.

Being around Double M every day also inspired me to become more serious about my own fitness. I’d already been improving my eating habits and going for brisk daily walks over the previous two years. I’d added simple bodyweight workouts a few months earlier. As a result I’d dropped almost 60lbs in the year and a half before the Ottawa Trip. That’s no secret. I’ve talked about it here, here, and here.

But I’d reached a point where seeing and feeling the positive effects of hard work left me wanting to do more. On that score, staying with Double M and future Mrs. Double M happened at the right time. They kept very active in their own time. They went to the gym, jogged, biked, and played rec league sports several times a week. Double M encouraged me to add some variety and challenge to my bodyweight workouts by using his pull-up bar. Double M and Future Mrs. Double M also ate good, healthy food every day. And they introduced me to the dish-washing wonder that is the Scotch-Brite Dishwand. Yes. I said that. In my books, that dishwand is a fucking wonder.

I liked everything I saw from Double M and Future Mrs. Double M. And I followed their lead. I worked to improve my own exercise and eating habits once I returned to Halifax. I became involved in a number of softball, floor hockey, and basketball leagues over the next several years. I began incorporating a wider range of good foods into my meals. I got myself a Scotch-Brite Dishwand and took my own dish-washing prowess to a whole other level. And I bought a pull-up bar. And it’s absolutely one of the best purchases I’ve ever made in life. It’s right up there with that dishwand.

Just gold.

The Ottawa Trip was simply one of the best learning experiences for me in life. End of story.

But we’re not done yet.

My epic friend, Clay, has also influenced me in a big way.

First off, Clay's the one who dubbed me The House Newf. She started calling me that after I moved into the basement apartment of her house:

You’re a Newf. And you live in a house. So House Newf. That’s you, she said. 

Sounded best kind to me, and I told her that someday I’d steal that title for something. 

Fine. I don’t care. You're The House Newf, not me, she said. 

So when I started this blog two years ago I had a title ready to go.

But Clay's impact on my writing adventures runs much deeper than a title. She helped me rediscover my passion and talent for creative writing. She helped me let my Real You breathe once more.

Myself and Clay followed similar career paths for several years. We both tried our hands at a Career in The World as professors. And we both reached breaking points where we decided to leave the University Bubble Universe behind. The big difference is that I didn’t finish my PhD. Clay did. But don't ever call her Dr. Clay. Unless you like being told to fuck off, that is.

Clay left the University Bubble Universe behind to rediscover her Real You again. She changed little things to create the lifestyle she wanted for herself. She worked through The Artist's Way program with a yoga friend and rediscovered her passion for pottery. And within a few months Clay had re-established her own pottery business.

I left a job that I hated around the same time. My confidence was shot and I was struggling. Clay saw this and helped me.

You should do this Artist's Way course. I'll go through it with you. It'll be good for you. Because you need to start writing those stories in your head, she said.

Good enough, said I.

Myself and Clay met once a week to discuss what I’d read and worked on. And with each passing week I felt more like myself. Clay’s guidance through the program helped me realize that expressing my creative side through writing was essential to finding my Real You once more.

Clay inspired me in indirect ways too. Seeing her leave the University Bubble Universe behind encouraged me to take similar leaps of faith. Seeing her make time to do things she was passionate about got me to believing that I could make similar time for writing. Seeing her transform herself back into a potter inspired me to transform back into a writer.

I liked seeing Clay find her Real You once more. And I see now that her help allowed me to rediscover mine.

I’ve strived to follow the good leads of Double M and Clay ever since. And that’s always led to good things. Following their examples has helped me become a better Bob than ever before.

They’ve also taught me that good habits can trigger other good habits. Making one positive change is often the key that unlocks the door to other positive changes. For example, I no longer think about whether I should exercise each day. I just go and do the thing. It’s become a habit I need to do every day (except Thursdays). I applied the same mindset when I started writing again. I told myself that if I wanted writing to become a habit I'd have to think of it like exercise. I’d need to make it something I did every day. I’d need to treat writing like it’s a part of who I am. And that’s what I did. And I no longer think about whether I should write something every day. I just go and do that thing too.

A good habit’s like a positive infection: it breeds other good habits. It's one infection we should try to catch. And a good habit pursued is always a good use of your time.

Following the good leads of Double M and Clay’s has also taught me that you need to make time to do what matters to you. Neither of them spends much time being idle. That’s because they actively make the most of the time available to them.

Double M has always worked fulltime. But he’s always made time for being with friends and family. And he’s always made time to exercise. Marrying Future Mrs. Double M and raising two young boys with her hasn’t stopped him either. Despite having even more important demands on their time, he and Mrs. Double M still lead healthy and active lifestyles, and still make time for their family and friends.

The same goes for Clay. She rediscovered her passion for pottery while finishing her PhD, writing articles, teaching classes, and setting up a small research consulting firm. And she’s spent the past 18 years raising her son into a fine young man by herself.

So don't tell either Clay or Double M that you're Busy. Clay would probably tell you to get your fucking priorities straight. Double M would probably tell you the same. Just not so bluntly. But they’d both be right for telling you so.

Double M and Clay helped me realize it's not about 'how much' time we have. Rather, it's about ' how we use' that time instead. We've all got 24 hours available to us each day. But how we use those 24 hours is largely up to us. And Double M and Clay showed me that there's always a way to find time for the things that matter, no matter how Busy we think we are.

They also prove that doing really is what matters most. Double M and Future Mrs. Double M never lectured me on eating better during the Ottawa Trip. They didn’t preach at me about working out more or joining sports leagues. They just carried on doing what they did daily despite having a houseguest. They simply led by example.

The same goes for Clay. She didn't just talk about starting up a pottery business again. She didn't waste time wishing that she could do it One of These Days. She figured out what she needed to do to start a pottery business, she drew up a plan, worked hard, and started up a new pottery business. She simply went and got shit done.

Double M and Clay both showed me, in their own little ways, how doing good things that matter to you make you a better and happier person. They’ve both been vital parts of my own little solar system for a long time. Even if they didn’t always know it, they’ve both had a longstanding, positive influence on how I choose to be in life.

It's important to follow your own path. It's good to carve out your own niche. But you never become truly better walking life’s road alone.

That’s why it’s good to be a planet. Because sometimes we know in our hearts we need to go somewhere. But sometimes we aren't sure how to get there. Sometimes we need to look to others in order to find ourselves. Sometimes they help us see what we really can be. 

And that’s why we should always be grateful for good friends leading the way. 


  1. Well said Mr. Bob Harding. Cheers to Double M and Clay for being the people they are . Keep it coming !


What's a House Newf?

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The House Newf is from a rugged and beautiful island on the eastern edge of Canada called Newfoundland. He was first identified by a potter with a naturalist's flair, and he does in fact live in a house under the watchful eye of a cat that seems bewildered by the universe at large. That house is in Halifax, Nova Scotia and that's where the House Newf writes fiction and essays on things that add value to his life that may add some value to yours. You can contact him at bobharding80@gmail.com, follow him on Twitter @theHouseNewf, on Instagram @thehousenewf, and like him on Facebook. The House Newf is a unique specimen. Every home should have one.