Bed in a Barn: Keep your fires stoked

Each year on Boxing Day my Mom’s side of the family gets together in Port Albert, Ontario. It’s a festive celebration that tends to involve too many boxes of wine and occasionally getting shot in the back of the head with a roman candle (thankfully no fireworks this year).

A common place to crash for out-of-towners like myself is the Van Osch barn. Now before you start picturing me sleeping in slop with a bunch of pigs, let me elaborate. Years ago the Van Osches removed the hay bales and converted the upper level of the barn into a finished, insulated office, complete with its own washroom. Picture Patrick Swayze’s apartment in Roadhouse, but cooler.

(And yes, I know the video above isn’t a scene from his barn apartment. But it’s probably the greatest line in movies. Ever.)

I remember several years ago I found myself once again looking for a place to crash on Boxing Day. The barn was an option but I hesitated because one of my cousins and her boyfriend were already up there. The last thing I wanted was to walk in on them playing Mr. and Mrs. Claus.

Instead I decided to sleep on a dirty couch on the ground floor of the barn. The un-insulated, unfinished, and frigidly cold ground floor of the barn. Though questioning my judgement, Uncle Bernie helped me out by loading up the wood stove that sat next to the couch. And then, after a couple drinks with Bern inside the main house, I bundled up and went back to the barn to go to sleep.

Uncle Bernie knew how to make a fire. A heat fist punched me in the face and I was instantly drenched in sweat the moment I stepped in from out of the howling, Huron County snowstorm.

I’ve dug wells under the noon-day sun in west Africa.

I’ve hiked in jungles along the Equator.

I’ve played badminton in Taiwanese humidity.

The barn was hotter.

Imagine something like this. But a gazillion times hotter.

I stripped everything off except my newly acquired Christmas gotchies, tossed the blankets to the floor, flopped down on the ratty couch and fell asleep in a pool of my own sweat.

Several hours later I woke up and was convinced I was now in a Wampa’s cave on the ice planet Hoth. I would have killed for the warm guts of a Tonton. The fire had gone out and any residual heat had long since been sucked out of the drafty barn boards.

I lay there in my underwear and wanted to cry. Impossible of course since I’m pretty sure my tear ducts had frozen. My entire body rocked with powerful chills, so much so that my back ached.

With numb fingers I put all my clothes on (including my winter coat, toque and mittens) and added more wood to the stove. Even so, I don’t think I slept again that night.

Moral of the story: Keep your fires stoked. Projects we take on in life tend to be like my Boxing Day in the barn: all fired up in the beginning but then quickly sputtering out. Keep yourself energized and committed by putting together actionable plans with milestones. Seek out mentors or collaborators to help keep that spark alive.

Got a lesson you learned from one of life’s absurd moments that you want to share? Click here to submit your story.


Funny stories. Good advice. Check out my books, “Simple(ton) Living: Lessons in balance from life’s absurd moments.” and “Balancing Priorities and Prioritizing Balance”. Click here to learn more and to purchase a copy.

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4 Responses to Bed in a Barn: Keep your fires stoked

  1. The mattaraja says:

    Great post Josh! Well done. Good lesson and had me laughing the whole way. Pain don’t hurt.

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