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A Moment Of Insecurity

Photo by Denys Argyriou on Unsplash.com

Every once in a while, I like to start this by saying that I have nothing to say. My mind is blank. Words are hard. Who will read this? Well, you are, and I’m grateful. No, seriously, I am immensely grateful despite the sentence I’m about to write. The next sentence would seemingly contradict the sentiment, but I assure you, it’s nothing more than a moment of insecurity. 

Somedays, when I write, I feel like I’m trying to have a conversation with my shadow and that damn thing is not the best conversationalist. It doesn’t respond. It doesn’t give any indication that it’s listening. It’s there in spirit, but it’s not really present in any meaningful way.

This is all metaphorical, of course. If my shadow started to offer me advice, I would scream, throw something, and run away. Can you run away from your shadow? Can you imagine trying? 

Yes, I can. I have a very active imagination. My shadow has some serious parkour skills. Me? Not at all, but look at my shadow run up the side of that building. I’ll never be that flexible. Jealous much? Sigh.

If you were a mental health professional, you might point out that I’m employing classic avoidance techniques. Are these emotions I’m experiencing triggering a fight or fantasy response? Yeah, talking about my insecurities is making me feel, well, insecure.

Or, I’m indulging in a pitiful and pathetic case of lamentation because I can’t get any traction. My life is one giant slip ‘n slide, and someone doused it in petroleum jelly. Woe is me! No, I’m being silly and broody. I should just snap out of it and move on.

Wait, hold up, I’ve gotta cut myself some slack. I’m allowed a moment of doubt, frustration, and faltering faith. These moments of insecurity happen to everyone. I have no evidence, and I might be talking out of my anus, but it seems to happen a lot more to those of us pursuing creative endeavours. 

Am I wrong? Almost certainly.

Okay, how about this? It happens to those of us who put our hearts, souls, and every drop of passion into the things we create. It’s a part of us. It’s a physical manifestation of something ethereal. Putting that out into the world, and then it’s rejected or ignored? Even if there’s a chance that can happen?

We give it everything we have, we work hard, but the lack of momentum is… frustrating. Is that the word? Discouraging. Disheartening. What am I doing wrong? Why can’t I can’t I get this right? Why would anyone care about the words I write? 

Insecurities become amplified as doubt creeps in. I feel like I should be doing more, but here I am, sitting on this sofa, fighting the urge to give up, throw my computer in a trash compactor, and never write another word. In this moment of self-pity, I can’t help but wonder if there’s any point in carrying on with this. Whatever this is?

I’m not saying this because I want some reassurance, or I’m angling for a compliment. Those things are lovely, I won’t poo-poo the idea, but it’s not why I’m opening up about this particular mood. It’s a mood that will pass, but it’s occupying too much of my headspace.

Living up there rent-free, are we? Nope, it’s time to get out and be gone. The best way to get rid of unwanted thoughts and emotions is to say them out loud. Put them on notice that they can’t live in there anymore. Crack a window, open the door, and let some air in because positives push away negatives.

I’m hoping they do because I could really use some positive reinforcement right now.

That’s what I’m doing. I’m taking these woeful, pity party thoughts and writing them down on this page. I’m shining a somewhat bright light on my doubts, frustrations, and insecurities. If I do, they’ll lose power, and I can get back to doing something that will give me genuine pleasure.

Writing has always been my escape and the tool in my shed that shovels out life’s manure. Whether it’s uncomfortable emotions like I’m experiencing right now, complex decisions, or heartbreaks; putting words on a page helps me make sense of what I’m going through. It helps me process, cleanse, and detox things that are just too heavy.

It’s also my main source of communication.

I’ve never been verbally articulate or verbose. For as long as I can remember, I’ve been painfully shy and quiet. People, especially in large groups, trigger my insecurities. It silences my voice and stops my mind from processing thought. I shrink back into a corner and watch the show because that’s where I’m comfortable. When I am approached, I’m awkward, and people usually give me strange looks before finding an excuse to leave.

I don’t blame them! They tried, but I don’t have the voice for real-world conversations. Unless I know you extremely well, and you’ve earned my deepest love and trust. The number of people who’ve done that are few. The number of people who’ve tried are many. I often wish I was more open and trusting, but my heart has been hurt too often. 

It’s very protective of me, and that’s a problem. I’ve been told that it’s a sign of complex post-traumatic stress (CPTSD). When someone experiences repeated trauma, they can lose the ability to trust people and let them in. Especially when the trauma happens at a young age and, I was three years old when the first figurative, hit came.

I’ve talked about it a lot over the last year. If you’re curious, feel free to check out anything else I’ve written. The juicy details are there for your perusing so, I’ll just leave it at that for now.

The validation is nice. It’s good to hear that what I’m feeling and experiencing is a normal part of trauma recovery. I won’t discount the power of knowledge, but it’s not very comforting at the moment because I need connection. I need to widen my circle and let more people in. I crave that level of community.

But I lose my voice when I try to connect, and I shrink away. 

That changes when I sit down in front of a computer or a pen and piece of paper. This is my moment to speak and, hopefully, be heard. I’ve locked the words inside for too long so, they come out in a rush. I have so much to say and so many thoughts to share. Writing them down? It’s the only voice I’m comfortable using.

Except, right now, the very thing that gives me comfort is giving me a big case of the insecurities.

When I was a kid, I had a horrible time learning how to read and write. Written words didn’t make sense to me, and all of the letters looked the same. They were squiggly lines with loops and lumps. I couldn’t believe that they meant something and so many people just accepted that fact. What did they see that I couldn’t?

Most of my teachers got frustrated with me, but a few of them worked really hard to help me put the pieces together. They sat with me, patiently going over the loops and lumps until the letters. It was tedious and painful.

Every evening, my parents and I would go through a stack of flashcards. I hated those damn cards, and whenever they came out, I wanted to cry or run away. My favourite learning tool was story time with my mom. Whenever we got some quiet time, we’d curl up together and read a book. Her finger would slowly trace each word as she read them out loud, and I’d try to follow along. Eventually, the words started to make sense, and the letters took shape. 

If you’d told me then how much I’d come to value, cherish, these loops and lumps? There’s no way I would’ve believed you. I hated reading! I loved stories, and listening to my mom was one of my favourite things. But read those stories myself? It seemed like a magic spell being cast by a powerful magician, and I wasn’t magical.

Words are magical in the right hands. They can set a person free from the tricks their mind plays. They can turn strangers, living thousands of miles apart, into friends. Written words can become the voice for someone like me, who struggles to use their voice.

But sometimes, like now, they cause emotional turmoil. Today, I feel the same way I did when those flashcards came out. Frustrated. Afraid. Stupid because I can’t do something so simple. And, yes, insecure because I feel like, no matter how hard I try, I’ll keep falling behind.

By what measurement? What am I using to calculate my successes and failures? How do I know how far I should be and how far behind I am? Why do I think I’ll never hit the mark?

Questions. So many questions. Why are there always so many questions? And that’s another one. Damn it.

I could recite the pithy advice I saw online. You’ve probably seen it. The meme that’s been reposted a thousand times. Short and sweet messages that are, “Just so true.” Bite-sized advice that doesn’t require a lot of thinking.

This one’s popular and fitting: Comparison is the thief of joy.

So true, right. Sarcasm aside, I’m comparing myself to others who’ve written their way to successful careers. Is it stealing my joy? It’s taking the fun out of something that does, on most days, bring me an immense amount of happiness. It’s triggering a moment of insecurity, and there’s not a lot of joy in that.

Okay, fine, it’s stealing my joy, and I shouldn’t have mocked those memes. 

I’m comparing myself to people who’ve worked hard over many years to get where they are. The overnight success thing is rare, and most people struggled just like I’m doing right now. And you! You’re struggling too, in whatever you’re trying to accomplish, but very few people will see that. We don’t see the struggles, but we still compare the successes.

One didn’t happen without the other; neither one can exist without the other. Comparing their success to my failures? Is it any wonder I feel so insecure right now?

Everyone has days like this where they question their abilities, doubt their future, and consider throwing it all in. It doesn’t matter how successful they are! They feel it too. Knowing that you have these moments of insecurity is comfort, and reassuring. 

I don’t want you to feel this way! But if you are? Then I’m not the only one.

Just like I wasn’t the only kid who struggled to learn how to read and write. I’m not the only one to face traumatic situations at a young age. I’m not the only one who has to deal with emotional baggage. There’s a strength in knowing that, no matter what we’re going through, we’re never really alone.

I’m having a moment of insecurity — it happens — but I’m sharing it with you so that, if you’re feeling it too, you know that we’re going through it together. It will pass. We will find our feet. We will keep trying because there’s happiness and fulfillment in each struggling step forward.

Not that you need my permission, but it’s also okay to feel the insecurity. It isn’t a sign a weakness. It’s just a part of being human.

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I Had My Doubts But There You Were

Photo by Ava Sol on Unsplash.com

I’ve been trying very hard to keep my Cynic under control, but it’s becoming a challenge. My Cynic, and yes, it’s an entity unto itself, likes to run wild, wreak havoc, and be a general nuisance. Sure, it can be endearing and quirky. It can even be cute and flirtatious. But, and this is an elephant-sized but, it get’s old very quickly. It grates on that one hypersensitive nerve until I just wanna scream.

It’s the kind of thing you have fun with for a few days or a long weekend in a remote location. At first, it’s all fun with frolicking and such, but soon you realize that the attraction was superficial. It becomes exhausting, annoying, and you wonder what you ever saw in the damn thing in the first place. How drunk was I to think that cynicism fetching?

And I don’t even drink! So, if I’m asking that question, you know that I must’ve lost touch with reality or that one nerve finally gave out. Did that one nerve tether me to this realm of existence? Is that where the phrase, they just snapped, came from?

Lately, I’ve noticed a stinging skepticism slowly working its way into my world view. How could it not? We’re inundated with images, stories, and headlines that capture the worst of humanity. The negatives are reinforced by the comments sections and the replies. They validate the villainy and villainize anyone who shows compassion, empathy, or an ounce of kindness.

Honest question: When did equality become a bad word? Oh, and when did it become a sign of weakness to be kind? No, I’m not asking for a friend. This is me, asking these questions because I am befuddled. I’ll never understand how a compassionate response can be demonized and cruelty justified. No explanation will make these puzzle pieces fit for me. 

But hey, it wouldn’t be the first time someone online called me a commie socialist. Helpful tip, don’t try to explain the difference. You’ll have an easier time teaching a cat to speak french. Is it possible? Maybe. Is it probable? Good gracious me, no. 

It’s at this point in the conversation that I throw up my hands and declare that we are all doomed. As a species. As a collective. As a community. We are destined for the fiery pits of damnation, or we’ll spend the rest of our days riding, It’s A Small World. Which is my own personal hell, and I’m clearly projecting.

I went to Disneyland when I was 15, 16. An incredible organization called Dreams Take Flight, flies sick kids to Disney for the day at no cost. Flight, admission, food. It’s all covered, and it’s a fantastic experience. If, this was one small hiccup in an awesome day, that dastardly ride doesn’t breakdown. Then you spend forty-five minutes listening to, “It’s small world…It’s a small world…It’s a small world.”

If that’s not hell, I don’t know what is.

And we’re all doomed to spend eternity stuck in that loop. That’s it! We’re done for. Oh, but we deserve it.

Is that cynicism or fatalism? One leads to the other if I’m not careful, and I’m finding it rather difficult to be careful. People are losing their minds, and I’m following close behind. No, I’m not picking up the piece because, ew, they’re sticky and goopy. I’m dropping goopy pieces of my own so, this isn’t a statement of judgement or condemnation.

Okay, it is a little bit judgemental. I’m being an ass and judging which makes me a hypocrite. If there’s one thing I can’t stand, it’s hypocrisy. Does that mean I’m having an identity crisis? Uh…Damn you, Cynic! Look what you made me do.

I’m losing my mind, but for different reasons. Should I go into it? Do I need to list everything that’s going on in the world right now? Extremism. Denialism. My rights versus your rights. A pesky pandemic. Politicians on both sides of the spectrum being, well, they’re being politicians.

That last one was cynicism for sure!

There’s a list. A long, alphabetized list that keeps getting longer, and I can’t keep track. I can go online and read all about it. Then, because clearly, I have issues, I can read all the comments from people who did one Google search and think they’ve earned a PhD. 

Why does my head hurt? Why is my stomach twisting itself into knots? How do I untangle my digestive system? Jumping jacks, perhaps.

If I use these metrics to gauge humanity’s level of decency? Yes, my Cynic is right. We’re all selfish assholes who’d let people suffer and die, as long as we weren’t inconvenienced. If this is true? Then, for those of us with an over-abundance of empathy, what’s the point of life? We’re all going to die at some point. Sorry to be a party pooper, but that’s just basic biology. We’re all going to end up the same way so, is the point of life outlasting the person next to me?

Live our best lives, and to hell with anyone else? Is that what it amounts to? It sure seems like it if I’m going by the headlines, stories, comment sections and social media threads. All the while, people are screaming for unity, compassion, and understanding. I’m so confused, and…I give up!

You win. I’m tired. If the whole point of life is to scream about one thing while actively pursuing the opposite? I don’t want to play anymore!

But then I went for a walk, and I saw a small act of kindness that reminded me that cynicism is a trap door, covering a deep, dark hole. Tread carefully or enter a free fall into…What exactly?

Almost two weeks ago, I started to feel a cold coming on. So, just to be safe, I followed the guidelines and isolated. I had COVID in September. I have a good idea of what it feels like, and this wasn’t it. But I’m not a jerk or I’m trying not to be, so I stayed inside.

Today, I’m feeling better, and I’ve made it through the “FOR THE LOVE OF GOD STAY HOME” phase. That’s not what it’s officially called, but I’m lobbying for a name change. Will I succeed? You don’t know until you try.

And I assure you, I am very trying.

Anyhoo, I’m out of the danger zone, so I stepped outside and inhaled deeply. It was through a mask so, it wasn’t as satisfying as I’d hoped, but it was nice to be outside. The sun was out, and it absolutely blinded me. It’s incredible how quickly the senses dull, and stimuli becomes overwhelming. Lovely, yes! But golly, it was a bit much.

I’m not complaining! It felt wonderful. It was needed. It made me so happy. 

I went out early enough to avoid people just in case I’m still cooking something. Was I being overly cautious? Sure, but it’s better to be safe than sorry. Besides, I was just content being out in the world.

I took my dog for a walk along a trail that leads up to the main road. There’s a shopping centre on one side and woods on the other. That’s what I love about living on the west coast of Canada. Nature and civilization co-mingle, for the most part, amicably. You can go into a bustling store and then walk home in the peaceful, magical realm of the woodland creatures.

It’s perfect. Well, almost perfect.

Like every other city, where there’s an abundance of wealth, there’s also an abundance of poverty. And there’s a section of this trail that stands in memoriam to the latter. It’s an old bridge that leads over a flowing creek. Carved into the wooden rails are the names of people who have lost their lives to addiction, homelessness, and poverty.

It’s a heartbreaking reminder that we, as a society, fail to care for the vulnerable, the wounded, and the sick. Especially when it comes to mental illness and addiction. These two things are pushed to the side because we’re more comfortable when it’s out of sight and mind. We use shame and moral righteousness to keep people in the shadows, and when we do that, we let them suffer, die, alone.

It’s one of the reasons I write about my struggles with mental illness. For a long time, I felt that shame, and I hid it in the shadows. I’m fortunate enough to have the love, nurture, and care of supportive family and friends. They’ve kept me from falling too far, but too many people are left in the dark.

But if we talk about it, bring it out of the shadows, and use love, compassion, kindness? Maybe there won’t be as many names on that bridge. Which brings me back to my walk and the moment my cynicism was silenced for the time being.

This bridge, tucked into the trees, is where people go to use their drug of choice. It’s a familiar spot to first responders and a high overdose area. I know this sounds horrible and depressing, which it is, but there was an act of compassion that stopped me in my tracks.

It’s small, and most of us wouldn’t even notice it. I only noticed it because of a conversation I had with a member of my family. They work with vulnerable people which, in my humble opinion, makes them an honest to God angel. Just saying, if you’re reading this, I’m continuously in awe of everything you do. Your courage and your compassion. You’ve taught me a lot about a lot, and that’s why I noticed this act of kindness.

I just had to take a picture

Hanging on a fence was a Naloxone Kit. It has everything you need to temporarily reverse the effects of an overdose. In my corner of the world, it’s something that anyone can pick up at a pharmacy for free and, if you use or will be around people using, it’s encouraged. If you can get a kit, get one, and protect yourself and the people around you.

Before someone pipes in, of course, not using is the best way to stay safe, but that’s not a reality for a lot of people. Access to addiction and mental health care is hard to come by. For me, as someone who struggles with CPTSD and it’s many branches, going to therapy once a week for a month is more expensive than my mortgage. I can’t afford it. If I had an addiction? For too many people, getting help is not possible.

Drugs and alcohol are less expensive than mental health care. That’s the problem right there. Let’s focus our energy on fixing systemic problems instead of extolling moral certitudes. People need help, but they can’t afford to get it. Until they can, thank God for people who leave life-saving aides in high-risk places.

That’s compassion in action right there. Someone saw people in need and did what they could to help. No reward or gratitude was needed or wanted. It’s just there in case someone is in trouble. That’s it. Someone cared and acted out of love, compassion, empathy.

We, myself included, talk about these concepts a lot, but how often do our words become deeds? How often do we act out of compassion? How often do we call it compassion when, in reality, it’s judgement or self-righteousness?

I’m asking myself these questions because I’m guilty of being all talk. There have been moments that, when pushed, I’ve turned my back and run away. I should’ve stayed and helped. I should’ve spoken with kindness, understanding, but I didn’t. My Cynic took over, and I acted out of selfishness.

But then one person comes along and does something so simple, so kind. They remind me that buzz words are meaningless without action. Deeds speak louder than anything else. What we say matters, but how we act matters a lot more. I’ll take it one step further. The measure of a person is not found in their vocabulary but in their treatment of others.

When I went for my walk, with everything going on, I was wondering if humanity stood a chance, but there you were; a simple act of compassion. Meaningless to most. Live-saving to someone. Thanks to the actions of one person, there just might be one less name on that bridge.

For me, that’s proof that we still have angels walking among us.

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Four Words That Can Save A Life

Photo by lalesh aldarwish from Pexels

I can’t stop thinking about the words of one of my favourite poems. It was written by one of my favourite writers, and when I’m in a mood, it’s the piece of writing that can lift my spirits. I first heard Maya Angelou read her poem, Still I Rise, in a grade 8 English class. It was a recording, obviously, but her voice drew me in because, in my opinion, she was one of the greatest orators we’ve ever known.

But then I looked down at the words written in a book. My throat tightened, my jaw clenched and I tried to swallow a rush of unexpected emotion. What kid wants to cry in class? I don’t know many adults that want to cry in public. But there I was, sitting in that class, feeling a flood of emotions that I couldn’t identify. 

From poetry in an English class? As far as I was concerned, back then, there was nothing fun about poetry. It was dry, boring, and no thank you. So, naturally, I wasn’t paying attention at first. Nope, I was half tuned out, but then Dr. Angelou spoke, and there was something about her voice that woke me up. 

Her words moved through me and took root. It felt like a warm breath was being infused into my veins. My blood was carrying that warmth throughout my whole body. It was energy. It was fire. It was a jolt of electricity that brought with it a single question: Can I rise?

The first time I heard this poem, I was walking through my own nights of terror and fear. My body was shutting down, and every morning I woke up sicker than the day before. My future— It didn’t look like I had one to look forward to, and that’s a reality no child should experience. It’s an uncertainty and a reality that most adults can’t process. How can a child face a life-threatening illness? How can they do so with any kind of prehension? They can’t, not really, and they shouldn’t. But there I was, fighting a battle that was a lot bigger than I was.

I was diagnosed with chronic renal failure (kidney disease) when I was three years old after what one doctor called, medical misadventure. I keep using that term because I find it amusing in a perverse sort of way. It’s just a polite way to say someone f**ked up.

A mistake was made during a simple surgery, but the surgeon didn’t want to own up to it or admit that something was wrong. I’ve talked about it in greater detail in the past, so I’ll leave the details out for now. But, when the problem became clear, it was too late to fix it, and my kidneys were so damaged that they would, eventually, fail.

They began to shut down when I hit puberty, and once they started to go, it was a free fall. To say I became incredibly sick would be an understatement. When I say that I was dying, I’m not being dramatic. 

By the time I was sitting in that classroom, listening to that poem, I’d been on dialysis for a couple of years, and I’d had one failed kidney transplant. My body rejected the organ almost immediately, and all attempts to get it to work had left me frail, weak, and damn near dead. In fact, I was so sick that, a few weeks after hearing Dr. Angelou’s poem, I had to leave school for good. I was spending more time in the hospital than at home, and with the amount of school I’d missed, there was no way I could catch up or keep up.

And the worst was still to come! I didn’t know it at the time, but I could feel it. Do you ever have a premonition, or is it intuition? Either way, you’re bracing for an impact you can’t see, but you can feel it coming. It’s almost as if the bright headlights are blinding your rearview mirrors. You can’t see the car, but you know it’s coming up behind you too fast for safety or comfort.

That’s how I felt, sitting in that classroom, with a sense of inevitable hopelessness. We hadn’t lost the battle, but it felt like it was only a matter of time. Since people have asked, chronically ill children learn about the realities of mortality at a very early age. So, what did I know about losing battles? Too much. Too soon.

“Leaving behind nights of terror and fear

I rise

Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear

I rise

Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,

I am the dream and the hope of the slave.

I rise

I rise

  I rise.”

(Still I rise, by Dr. Maya Angelou)

With those words, at that moment, my heart stopped and tears clouded my vision. I hadn’t read Dr. Angelou’s story, and I didn’t know what she’d risen above. But she did rise, that much was clear! I didn’t just read it in her words. I heard it in her voice. People who’ve had to fight for their lives and for their futures carry the scars in their voices. It adds a tenor that, if you’re unfamiliar, sounds weighted and strained. If you’ve heard it, you know that they are survivors without knowing what they survived.

I’d heard that tone in the hallways of hospitals and at the gravesites with grieving friends. That day, I heard it in this poet’s voice, and I knew, whatever she’d been through, had been heavy and painful. It was unmistakable, heartbreaking, but she sounded strong.

It was with that strength that she rose, and for me, during my own battle, she gave me hope. I didn’t know why, not entirely, and I didn’t have the words to express it. Even now, many years later, I don’t have the words to adequately express how this poem impacted my life, but she rose. She rose. She rose above her pain, grief, sorrow, and she became a strong voice for many of us who feel weak.

Much later, I learned about Dr. Angelou’s past, her story, and what she went through as a child. I can’t even begin to understand what it was like for her. But what she did with that pain? What she did with her life? She rose above it and became an accomplished writer, civil rights activist, and a leading voice of hope. She’s inspiring, to say the absolute least.

Our stories are vastly different, but she endured so much at such a young age, and that’s something I can relate to. Being forced to live an adult life while still living in a child’s body is something very few people can, mercifully, understand.

Hearing from someone who does, though, is so important and, more importantly, it’s needed. That day, in that classroom, I heard the voice of someone who understood pain, understood what it was like to be a child in pain, and she got through it. She survived. She was strong. I don’t know if anyone ever gets over it, but she survived and thrived.

The hope that gives— the hope it gave me— is immeasurable, and it is life-saving. It’s mind saving! Being in pain, at any age, is isolating and lonely. It can feel like you are the only person stranded on an island of nightmares. No one can hold you when you cry. No one can save you from the darkness. No one can help you stand when your legs gives out. I have often felt, on my worse days, that the pain was driving me insane. I felt like I was losing my mind.

But then I read this poem, and I’m reminded that I’m not alone. Other people have been where I am, and they have made it through to a place of peace and self-acceptance. They fell, but then they rose. They’re bloody, beaten, and broken, but that didn’t stop them from getting up, walking forward, and holding their heads high.

Hearing from people who have struggled or are struggling helps me feel like my island isn’t small and isolated. I still might lose my mind, but there are people who know where to look and where to find it. They’ve had to look for their own minds, find their own feet, and they’ve risen. Knowing that means that I am not alone, and neither are you.

The truly magnificent thing about Dr. Angelou’s words is the fact that they were first spoken at a time when being open about our struggles was taboo. It still is, to a certain extent, but back then? Talking about mental health, surviving sexual assault and domestic violence, being vulnerable wasn’t appreciated. But doing so, as a woman and a woman of colour— it wasn’t done, but she did it. She spoke openly and honestly about her experiences.

I can’t believe how much strength that must’ve taken. The courage?

She laid the foundations of normalizing vulnerability, and she showed us that there’s strength in doing so. Am I fangirling? Hell yeah! And I won’t apologize for it. I am in awe of anyone who has the courage to tell their story. I admire anyone who can own their challenges and pain while letting the rest of us know that we aren’t stranded, abandoned, or forgotten.

I was recently reminded of the importance of saying these words out loud. You are not alone. It’s a simple sentence that can, at the right moment, save a life or a mind. It can be the hand that helps someone rise or help them hold on. Even if it’s said in an offhanded way, to the ears that need to hear it, it’s a lifeline.

These words have brought me to tears because I felt so alone, and the silence was deafening. Then someone said, you are not alone. They didn’t know what it meant to me, and I didn’t realize how much I needed to hear it. It’s such a simple thing, but the power it carries is immense.

You are not alone. 

We all need to hear these words, whether they’re spoken directly or through a poem. We need to feel seen, understood, and our struggles need to be validated without comparison. It’s in these words that I’ve found hope and the strength I need to keep fighting a battle that I didn’t think I could win. Perhaps more importantly, it’s in these words that we find community and fellowship.  

“Just like moons and like suns,

With the certainty of tides,

Just like hopes springing high,

Still I’ll rise.”

(Still I Rise, Dr. Maya Angelou)

We will rise when we foster compassion and empathy. We will rise when we see the person standing in front of us with the eyes of understanding. We will rise when we come together, on that island of nightmares, and join hands. We will rise when we hold each other and say, you are not alone.

Thank you, Dr. Angelou, for being that voice for me at a time in my life when I desperately needed to believe that one day I could rise too.  

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Follow The Yellow Brick Road

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There’s a lot of tension in the air right now. A nervous energy is shooting an electrical pulse through all living things. Can you feel it too? It tingles, burns and my muscles are twitching, flexing, getting ready for… What? There’s an itchiness, a need to move, go, do something but, again, what? Where can I go? What can I do? Nothing is going on, but it feels like something is off.

I can’t put my finger on it but, I can feel it moving through me. It’s uncomfortable, unnerving, and…What’s going on?

It’s a beautiful day, not a cloud in the sky, and it’s warm enough to open the windows. It almost feels like spring, but it’s still January, so that’s a bit odd. What’s the temperature right now? It’s about 6 degrees Celsius, so yeah, it’s a bit warmer than it should be and, in Canadian terms, it’s positively balmy.

The door to my deck is open, and crows are yelling at each other. There’s a stream of sunlight blinding my left eye, and I should close things up but, it’s just too nice. We might as well enjoy it while it lasts because it is winter, and a storm is brewing. I can feel it or, are my pessimistic tendencies clouding a lovely day?

Objectively, when I add all of these factors together, this should feel like a perfect day. A gorgeous day! Leave the jacket, scarf, and toque (hat) hanging in the closet. Go outside, take a deep breath in, and head out on a walk in short sleeves. It would be the first time in how long? Yeah, that long, and in the middle of winter too.

How lucky should I feel right now? Exceptionally would be an accurate assessment.

Except, I feel nervous, a tad bit agitated, and restless. I can’t pinpoint why I’m feeling this way, and now my skin is crawling. It feels like something is wrong, or it’s about to go very wrong, and I should prepare myself for an impact. But there’s no evidence of any turmoil in my close proximity.

It is the 20th of January and, if you like politics or living history, you know what’s going to happen in the United States of America. More accurately, there’s something that should happen and, at any other point in my lifetime, it would happen peacefully. It would also happen, where I live, with minimal fanfare, but still warrant a mention on the evening news. Other than that? It’s a day reserved for those of us who enjoy political shenanigans and watching history unfold before our eyes.

But this day? We could watch a different sort of history play out, and God, I’m praying it doesn’t. I’m hoping for a peaceful transition but, after the events of a couple weeks ago? I just hope this day passes without much todo. Please, stay safe and be kind to each other!

Dear God, let this day pass in peace.

But for me, here in Canada, whatever happens, won’t have much of a direct impact on my day to day life. Sure, in the grand scheme of our shared geopolitical community, it will have ripple effects that even the experts can’t accurately predict. Like it or not, what happens in one country will have an impact on other countries.

Sorry isolationists, it just won’t work out like you think it will. We’re all too interconnected, and there’s no way to sever that link without colossal ramifications for everyone. Our economies are tied together by a rope covered in oil and held up by candlesticks. The candles are lit, and hot wax drips. It’s tenuous, at best, but it’s holding for now. We’re holding each other up, but if one side falls, the fire will spread, the rope will burn, and down we all go, baby and all.

Lovely imagery, thanks for that.

While some of this nervous energy can be linked to global affairs, most of it is currently undefined. I don’t know why I’m feeling so on edge, and that’s making it worse. I’m racking my brain for a cause that would necessitate this effect. But no, there’s nothing overtly wrong at the moment.

Okay, sure, I’ve been feeling a tad bit under the weather, and that’s getting to me. I haven’t felt like myself, in a meaningful way, since I had COVID in September. Ever since then, I’ve felt physically low and drained. It feels like my body is reverting to an infant state before I learnt how to crawl. I just don’t feel like I’ve found my legs yet.

But there’s nothing physically wrong that anyone can see. My bloodwork is normal, and so are my other tests. Well, they’re as normal I’ll ever get. I’m told that there’s nothing to worry about, so naturally, I’m doing just that. It’s like telling someone not to look down or turn around. Try as they might, and I’m sure they’ll give it a valiant attempt, they will sneak a peek. It’s inevitable! How could they not?

Telling someone not to worry? It’s the same thing. Is that why I’m sitting here, on this beautiful day, feeling the electrical shocks of nervous energy? That’s a part of it, I’m sure.

Or, we’ve all been living in a state of constant awareness and hyper-vigilance for a bit too long. How long can you live like this before you start seeing shadows crawling through an empty field in broad daylight? An hour, a month, a year? I suppose it’s no wonder paranoia is running wild, and people are buying into the silliest conspiracies.

All this nervous energy has to go somewhere, and there’s always going to be some asshole with a hot poker, making things difficult. And people buy it? Oh, I’m trying not to sigh.

Sure, there’s no accounting for stupidity, but for the large majority of people, they’re desperately grasping for hope. Especially right now because our lives have been turned inside out. Our norms have been forcibly removed, and we’re asked, in some cases required, to make changes that are incredibly uncomfortable or devastating.

It’s a lot to handle, and it’s no wonder we’re feeling on edge.

It would appear that my year has a theme, and it’s the one word I bring up in just about every post. Hope. How many times have I written that word this month? I’m not asking for an actual number. Unless you’re incredibly bored and want to do the tally. No? Yeah, no one is that far gone yet.

But hope seems to be running in short supply, and we’re all grasping for anything that vaguely looks like it could offer a reprieve. A cause to rally behind and channel our nervous energy, anger, pain, hate. A lie sold on-mass because the truth is too scary to believe. Blindly following a leader down dark alleys because they make enticing promises.

For the record, that last one crosses party lines and religious affiliations. What’s the word I’ve been hearing a lot lately? Demagogue? Is that it? Well, Demagogues come in all shapes, and they’re sneaky bastards. They take hope, twiste it, and turn it into a lightning rod for nervous energy and hopelessness.

I keep seeing people I know, who are a hundred times smarter than I am, fall for theories from “experts” whose credentials are dubious at best. At worst? They’re proven con artists, and some have criminal records to prove it. Their relationship to the truth is virtually non-existent, and their connection to reality is tenuous. So, why do you blindly believing them? They’re convicted liars and manipulators. It’s been proven in a court of law.

Help me understand!

People change! Yes, they do, and we should give each other room to grow, fix our bad habits, and evolve. But when they’re going against every reliable source and have a dubious track record? When what they’re saying, doing, causes harm? When everything they say seems too good to be true? 

Why are we still putting our faith in them?

This applies to a multitude of disciplines. Religion. Politics. Health. Science. I’m sure there’s a very long list and a few subcategories. If there’s a buck to be made, there will be someone there to cash in. Should I let my cynic out to play for just one second? Sure, why not? Those dollar bills have to go somewhere, and it’s going into the pockets of reputable experts and con artists alike. 

Back into your cage, Cynic, your job is done.

So, who do we trust with our lives, hopes, and the future of our incorrigible species? Oh, that’s a very important question! It’s one in a million that should be asked. We should ask questions, voice our concerns, and try to squelch that hopelessness that leads us astray.

Under normal circumstances, we would, but now? These brilliant minds overlook the obvious, and they entrust their lives to people who would sell their faith to the devil if the devil made a half-assed offer. They follow without question, and I’ve spent a lot of time asking why.

They are so smart, and I’ve often turned to them for advice because they have genuine wisdom to offer. Now? What happened? How did we get here? How did we, as a society, devolve so easily and so quickly?

Then a few minutes ago, I answered my own question. We’re all desperate for a reason to hold on to hope because fear is the electrical charge that’s setting us on edge. We need solid ground to stand on. I need it! Let’s make this personal. I need to feel the hard ground under my feet, follow the yellow brick road, and find a sign that will lead me to calmer pastures. 

Will I find it? What if I don’t? What would I do if it was a glaringly obvious bright, neon sign that I couldn’t see because I was looking at the path under my feet?

Oo, I just felt another jot of nervous energy, and my teeth are chattering.

I’m not immune to this phenomenon, and I’ve fallen for false promises made by would-be charlatans. A political leader promised to make my life better, and I’ve bought the sales pitch without digging deeper. If I had, I would’ve spotted the empty promises and seen their words for what they were; a bid for power. 

I’ve put my faith in religious organizations that ended up shattering my hope and my relationship with the God I believe in. It’s a long story, and I’m not ready to tell it. I can tell you that it took a long time to rebuild what was broken. And here’s the kicker, looking back, it all could have been avoided if I looked up and asked my questions a lot sooner.

I didn’t because I needed something to believe in, and I let my hopelessness lead me down a path crafted from fools gold. Lesson learned! I’ve done it before so, with this nervous energy, I have to ask: What am I doing now? Am I falling into the same trap? When was the last time I looked up and out? Am I being led astray by a moment of hopelessness?

I’m sitting here, listening to the sound of crows and trying to keep that ray of sunlight out of my eye. This nervous energy is humming around me, through me, and I’m itching to move. I can’t go out, COVID protocols and all that, but I can look up and out. I can check myself, my trajectory and make sure I am heading towards real hope instead of a mirage.

I haven’t lost hope, not yet, but I took my eyes off of my goals for a moment. I’ve become distracted, and I’ve forgotten to ask the important questions. Questions that will help me distinguish fools gold from the real thing. 

So, I suppose this nervous energy, as uncomfortable as it is, is the sign I needed. It’s the sign I wanted. It’s making sure that I turn my attention back to my quest for happiness, joy, and of course, hope.

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Why Is It So Hard To Do Nothing?

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I had a plan for today, and it was so simple. I’d even call it elegant in its pure modesty. That being said, it wasn’t something I entered into casually or without a great deal of thought and internal debate. I struggled, wrestled with the idea until its necessity became too compelling to ignore. It had to be done. There was no way around it so, I gone done and did it.

Well, I tried anyway.

I will say that this plan was crafted with serious consideration, and I weighed the cost/benefits quite carefully. It wasn’t a rash decision by any means, and I still stand by it. Even though it imploded soon after implementation? Well, uh, yeah, that’s a valid question. 

And that plan was? Look at that, another excellent question. You’re on fire! She said in a slightly patronizing tone. Oops, my mad. Sorry.

This plan involved doing absolutely f**k all for an entire day. A three day weekend! Well, not quite. I still have to finish this and put it up, but other than that… Long weekend! Whoop. Oh, I can’t contain the excitement, and that was indeed sarcasm.

So, why did I decide to take a day to do nothing at all?

Well, I haven’t been feeling all the good for a while. I’ve had a migraine for about a week, and my chest has been feeling a tad bit congested. Do I think I have that blasted virus again? No, I think I’ve been under an enormous about of stress for serval months, and my internal organs are voicing their displeasure. They’re doing it with the help of a marching band, a herd of stampeding rhinos, and a moose with a head cold.

What, you’ve never seen a moose with a head cold? Okay, I’ve never seen it either, but I’ve heard a moose yell, and it’s a noise. Loud, slightly obnoxious, and it sounds like a honker that’s been bunged up by an unfortunate cartoon character. In other words, it’s not very pleasant, which is how I feel right now.

I’ve tried to push through it, get things done despite myself, but all I’ve managed to do is prolong the discomfort. It turns out, and brace for the shock, our minds are connected to our bodies. When one goes off, the other soon follows. Mind, meet Body. The two of you will be working closely so, it’s best if you two get along.

Do they get along? No, they bicker like siblings and manage to get each other into trouble. If you don’t have a sibling, then this comparison might be a bit foreign. My brother and I got each other into so much trouble when we were kids. Well, he went along with one of my ridiculous ideas so he could keep me from injuring myself. How did I repay his heroism? As any good baby sister would. I put the blame on him whenever we were caught. 

What can I say? It’s a right of passage or something like that. Looking back, it wasn’t a cool move, but he was always there for me despite my troublesome antics, which I appreciate. Though I have to say, it’s a miracle we survived childhood. Honestly, how the hell did that happen with all the stunts we pulled?

My mind and my body are just as bad! They lead each other astray, and the mind-body connection has become bothersome, to say the least. 

Lately, my mind has been munching on the coo-coo puffs (That’s not what the cereal is called, I know, but I’m taking creative license and respecting copy-write laws. Don’t sue me). My body, it seems, doesn’t like the sugar rush. It’s shutting down. Going on strike, perhaps? Possibly because I don’t feel well.

My mind and body are throwing competing fits so, the wise and mature thing to do would be to take a day to rest, heal, and get myself right. It wouldn’t be unwarranted, and it would, I assume, be medically advisable. Don’t quote me on that. I’m not a doctor, but I did play one on a tv show once, but that’s a long and uninteresting story.

But now for a public service announcement! I’m isolating just in case I’ve picked up something unfortunate. I don’t think I have, but I won’t risk hubris kicking me swiftly in the posterior. That would be my luck, and I don’t want to press my luck onto someone else. If you’re feeling unwell, play it safe and stay home.

It’s a great excuse to do absolutely nothing for a few days. If your employer asks, you can tell them you’re taking the medical advice of a one-time tv doctor. You’re welcome.

My goal, plan, a notion of sorts was to take Friday off and follow my own fictitious medical advice. The most vigorous activity I had on the books? Turn on the tv, scroll through the apps until I found Youtube, and then turn on autoplay. After that? Nope, that’s it, I wasn’t going to do anything else unless it involved life-sustaining activities such as: food, potty breaks, and making a cuppa tea or three.

You know, the essentials.

Guess how long it lasted? Go on, give it a guess. Oh no, that’s way too generous! Thanks for overestimating my laziness and commitment to a day of rest. But no, no, I woke up at 8 AM because apparently, my mind thinks that constitutes sleeping in. I sat on my couch five minutes later, cuppa tea in hand, and by 9:30…Dramatic sigh… I got up, gave my dog a bath, did the dishes, and washed the floors.

And it gets worse! After some housework, I sat down to write this post about doing nothing because doing nothing was driving me up the wall. Which, now that I look at them more closely, yep, my walls need to be washed. Or, I could paint them a darker colour and hide the dirt.

Huh, would that work? How dark would I have to go? Would painting my walls be less work than cleaning them? No! Stop! You’re not supposed to be doing any work. For the love of all the congested moose’s (?) in this country, relax.

It should not be this hard to do nothing. It shouldn’t. That’s it. That’s the post. Now I can go back to doing nothing. Ha, no, I can’t do that because of reasons I can’t fathom at this second. Why can’t I do nothing for one 24 hour period? It’s ridiculous. It’s absurd. It’s…Damn it, where’s my thesaurus. I’m really starting to piss myself off! I should be able to relax, do nothing, and let myself heal, so I can do more tomorrow.

Wait, what? Do more tomorrow? This is getting out of hand. Why can’t I just relax? I need it. My mind and body need a break. I need the rest, but here I am writing these words and contemplating redecorating my apartment because I hate cleaning.

I’m not the only one who does this, right? You take a mental or physical health day because, well, life is hard, and you need one day to breathe. Instead of breathing, you forget that oxygen is a necessity, and without it, this single day, you’ll pass-out from hypoxia. How productive will you be when you’re unconscious? 

Huh, given the discourse between my mind and body? My body is petty enough to do things without conscious involvement. It’s done it before! My mind was deprived of adequate amounts of oxygen, in a real-life medical crisis, awhile back. I did and said things that I have no memory of saying or doing. My body carried on while my mind was completely shut down. It went on for five days, and I only know what happened because my family and medical team filled in the blanks.

If you’re curious, Google flash pulmonary edema but don’t click on the images if you’re squeamish. I think it’s kind of cool, but I am a bit of a weirdo.

Losing control of your body and having no memories is an unnerving experience, to say the least. I don’t recommend it, which is why I suggest taking a day off. And, yeah, I’m being a bit dramatic, and over the top or edge just a bit. But the point is made? We all need to take time to do nothing but breathe, rest, and realign our bodies and minds.

Or, is it a case of mind-body mind-business?

I can’t stop to catch my breath without worrying that I’m not doing enough. If I’m not doing enough then, how the hell will I move my life from this spot, which I don’t like all that much, to another place that will make me immeasurably happier. Move. Work. Grind. Come on, don’t stop now or else…What? 

What will happen if I stopped putting these words on this page? What will happen if I didn’t put this post up on Monday or any other day of the week? What will happen if I just stopped trying for one day, or maybe- let’s get wild- two days?

Other than feeling like a lazy ass loser who can’t stick with anything for more than a few months? But feelings aren’t facts, remember? If you’re tired of me saying that, then just imagine how exhausting it is for me. When will I learn? Never! Stop being so stubborn, damn it.

Taking a day off isn’t the worst thing I can do, and I’m fortunate enough to be able to do it. I can take a day, and my life won’t fall apart. Not everyone can say the same, which says a lot about our priorities as a society. It’s all about the hustle, and happiness is a commodity. If we don’t do one, we haven’t earned the other, and that’s just madness.

I’ve bought into this idea, clearly, because I can’t take a day to nothing without incredible guilt, self-loathing, and self-flagellation. I sat still for an hour, and that was all I could stand. Despite needing the rest, I got up and pushed myself just a little further. 

This is a problem! How much further can I go before my cracks become fractures? I don’t want to find out, but doing nothing is so hard.

How do I nothing without guilt or self-shaming? I don’t know, and I don’t have an answer. Obviously, I’m struggling with that right now. 

Here’s what I know but can’t seem to implement. Taking a mental or physical health day is vitally important to my overall wellbeing. If I’m looking at the long term benefits? Taking one day to rest will give me the energy to do what I need to do tomorrow. It will make me more productive, help me think clearer, and it’ll help me find some semblance of happiness and life satisfaction.

In the long term, but right now, it’s making me itchy. I just spent an inordinate amount of time putting words on a page, and my dog is still looking at me like I’m a monster. He does not like bath day, and I could’ve let it slide, but I had to do something. Now, I’m looking at my walls and wondering if I have enough soap to make them look white again. 

When it comes to doing nothing? I am a complete failure, and I still don’t know why doing nothing is so damn hard. Am I alone? Do you struggle with this too? Tell me, I’m not the only one who can’t do nothing.

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Sitting In The Dark Feeling A Little Crazy

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Well, hello darkness, my old friend and confidante. Funny seeing you here, at this time of night, in the middle of a wind storm. It’s a bit too nippy to be wondering about, don’t you think? Shouldn’t you be tucked away in bed where it’s warm, snuggly, and drowsy? But here you are! It’s strange seeing you up and about, but since you are, let’s chat.

It’s 3 AM, and I’m wide awake because the windows are rattling, the building is shaking, and two hours ago, the power went out. Unsettling? Sure, but it’s 3 o’clock in the freaking morning. I should be asleep! I want to be asleep. Why am I not asleep?

I’m tired…Correction, I am exhausted! I’ve had a migraine for almost a week, and my brain desperately wants to shut down, run diagnostics, and try rebooting the system. It’s either that or smacking the side of my head until everything works properly. Personally, I’d like to try the first option, but I’m clearly biased.

To sleep! Perchance to dream…As the saying goes, but no, I’m awake, sitting in the dark, and I’m feeling a tad bit crazy. I don’t mean that in the derogatory sense! No, I mean it quite literally. If you’re curious, I’ve written extensively about my mental health struggles. Feel free to check those out if you’re interested.

Alas, I’m sitting here in the dark feeling quite literally, crazy. Can you tell? Is it obvious? If it isn’t obvious, just hold on, and we’ll get there together.

I would gladly give in to the delicious temptations of sweet slumber, but my dog is scared of the dark. Just the dog? Shush you, who’s telling this story? Uh…You wrote both sentences, so…Shut it.

Where was I? It’s dark, my dog is scared, so, being the good dog mom that I am (humble brag), I got out of bed to light every candle and turned on every flashlight. Is he satisfied? No, he’s restlessly wandering around our meagre abode with his toy in his mouth, growling and whimpering. It’s kind of sad but also cute, which is why I’m sitting on the couch, typing these words and keeping him company. 

Oh, here he comes, jumping up for a snuggle and a little reassurance. It’s okay, buddy. We’re safe. The storm is outside, and we’re inside. It’s just a power outage. We’ll be fine! I’m absolutely sure of it. Mostly. Kind of… Okay, fine! If I’m being completely truthful, I’m not a fan of the dark either so, let’s cuddle and wait for the sunrise. Maybe the clouds will blow away, and we’ll get a gorgeous red sky! Maybe, even a rainbow?

Oo, that’s fancy, and no my dog couldn’t give two figs about sunrises or rainbows. He’s shivering and holding on to his toy with all his might. I feel ya, little pup. I’m not a fan of this situation either. The darkness. The silence that’s occasionally obliterated but a gust of wind. 

Was that a tree cracking and crashing against something breakable? I don’t know, I can’t see a damn thing, but it sure sounded like it. I love a good gust of wind, it’s very refreshing, but in the pitch black, when I can’t see what’s going on, it’s a bit unsettling. Oh, I really don’t enjoy the dark one bit. Nope, not at all!

It’s not the inability to see my own hand waving in front of my face. It’s not the scary things that go bump in the night. Most of the scary things only happen in movies and not in real life. Do. Not. Correct me, or point out the flaws in my reasoning. It’s dark, the building just moved half an inch to the left, and I have to believe that scary things are fiction and unicorns, magic dust, and fairies are very, very real.

Because I’m a grown-ass woman, damn it.

The thing that bothers me the most about the darkness is the silence that inevitably follows. I’ve never enjoyed the sound of nothingness. It feels heavy and suffocating. It pushes me down, I can’t breathe, and I can’t get away from it. It’s closing in, stalking me like a lioness on the hunt for a juicy, tender snack. I am juicy. I am tender. I am snack size!

Did I just call myself a snack? Huh, way to make it awkward.

Oh no, did something just growl? Never mind, it’s just my stomach. Phew, my imagination almost ran away with my sanity. And that’s my problem right there! My imagination is too vivid, and my sanity is tenuous at best. On nights like this, they play tug of war, and I’m the monkey in the middle.

Aren’t those two different games? Uh… It’s 3 O’clock in the morning. Cut me some slack.

I can feel the silence circling and moving in closer with every rotation. It’s slowly creeping in until it’s within reach. It wraps its tentacles around me, and I want to scream. Inside of my head, right at this moment, I am screaming as loud as I can, but my outside voice remains passive. 

Screaming in the dark, just to break up the silence, would be insane. And, while that would mimic my current mindset, I’m not that far gone just yet. Emphasis on yet? Oh, I hate cliffhangers.

As tempting as it is, I will refrain from screaming out loud, purely out of consideration for those that live nearby. I’m in an apartment building, and it might create a bit of a commotion. It would wake the neighbours, and they’d come rushing. Would they come to help, or would they be carrying pitchforks? They’re cool. Well, most of them, but I can think of at least one who’d light a flaming torch.

Everyone building has that one person who’s seems like they’re itching for a chance to break out their medieval hobbies and, in my building, it’s not me! I’m a history buff, but I haven’t taken my love of antiquities to that extreme. Ah, but there is one man who might. He has— how do I put this nicely?— unique bumper stickers on his old truck, and he grumbles a lot of questionable things under his breath. 

He’s harmless, I think, hope…Probably, it’s fine. But if I randomly started screaming? Well, we should let the old man sleep peacefully. You know, just to be on the safe side.

To be fair, how would you feel if you were woken up by the sound of your next-door neighbour screaming bloody murder in the wee hours of the morning? It would be startling, to say the least, and quite jarring. There would be an emotional response, and you might have to do some laundry when the power comes back on.

A few years ago, it happened to me, and it shook me up, to put it mildly. A woman had gotten stuck in the elevator after her dog ran out as the door closed. The leash was caught in the door, and the dog was nearly hung as the elevator started moving. Thankfully, we got to the precious pup before it was too late. Dog and dog mom were okay but that sound, that scream for help….I shiver at the memory.

Great, that’s the image I need rumbling around my head right now. As if the storm, darkness, and silence weren’t bad enough. Now I have that horrific memory banging about. Sigh, why do I feel a little crazy right now? Golly gee, the mystery might never be solved.

It’s so quiet! My ears hurt. They physically ache because the silence is so complete. Then there’s a gust of wind, the building shakes, the windows rattle, and I almost peed myself. The sudden shift between absolute silence and gusts strong enough to move the building; it’s making my teeth itch. My eyeballs are pulsating. Is it normal to feel these body parts, or should I seek medical attention?

At least I have my dog! He clearly needs comfort and reassurance. Yeah, my dog needs it. Not me, nope, I’m aces.

I have a theory that’s been tested thoroughly, if not scientifically, and it states: Out is better than in. I usually apply it to bodily fluids that accompany certain illnesses. Nausea, for example. Once I empty my stomach’s contents, the need dissipates, and I feel better. Usually, but not always. It’s a working theory! It’s also almost 4 AM, and I haven’t slept in 24 hours. 

I am slowly going crazy 1, 2, 3, 4 switch! Crazy going slowly am I 4, 3, 2, 1 Switch! Did you sing that as a kid? When I was little and had to have a medical procedure done, my mom and I would sing that song. It distracted me from the pain and made me giggle. Mom would rub my head, we’d sing, and before I knew it, it was all done.

If I sing it now? Nope, it only works if my mom rubs my head.

Anyway, back to my theory! It also applies to emotions and wobbly thoughts that make my stomach eat itself. When I get a case of the crazies, like now, saying it out loud is better than screaming silently inside my head. It takes away the power because these thoughts thrive on secrecy, and they love living in the shadows.

If I give that secret away and turn on the light? They stomp off in a huff and leave me alone. Out, therefore, is better than in. So, here I sit, trying to get it out.

Except I’m horrible at getting my emotions and thoughts out of their protection program. I drown them out with loud noises and bright lights. I run away from the darkness and the silence. But in moments like these, I’m forced to face them, and I just don’t want to. It’s uncomfortable. It’s scary. My thoughts, feelings go bump in the night, and they scare me more than the ghost living in my closet.

But right now, I’m sitting in the dark, feeling a little crazy, and the only thing I can do is face my feelings. Ew, nope, I don’t like it at all, but if I’m going to get some sleep?

Fine, I’m feeling a lot of conflicting emotions that I can’t fully articulate. Some of them? Yeah, I can tell you I’m scared, angry, and a little lonely. Life is messy right now. There’s so much going on and, with our global situation, I’m trying to do it alone, which sucks. I just want someone to sit in the dark with me. Is that too much to ask for? Nope, no, it is not. But hey, I’ve got my dog so, uh…Sigh.

It figures, I finally get to a place in my life where I feel like I can open up and connect with other people. Yay, and about time. Then a pandemic takes over the planet, my immune system is useless, and I have to isolate. How’s that for lucky? Isn’t it ironic! And if you can read that without humming the song, then you’ve gotten a decent amount of sleep.

Well done, you.

On the other hand, over the last few months, I’ve talked to a few of you, and you’ve given me a sense of connectives that I’ve rarely felt. It’s through our conversations that I’ve found a hopefulness that’s new and unexpected. You’re helping me open up more and get used to the idea that there is safety in a community. 

Look at me, growing and evolving. One day I might even be a real person and not…Whatever I am now. I could even become a slightly less neurotic, hyper-vigilant, loner with an unusual sense of identity and realism? There’s hope for me yet!

Or, I need to sleep. Yeah, that’s a good start. I need to go to bed and sleep. Yes, that would go a long way to stop this case of the crazies.

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When Did I Become Scared Of You?

Photo by Callie Gibson on Unsplash.com

Well, how about we process some thoughts and feelings in real-time? That sounds like fun! And it always works out so well.

I’m sitting at a garage, waiting for my car to be serviced, and it’s the strangest sensation. It feels wrong. It feels like I’m breaking at least a dozen laws, and soon a paddy-wagon will pull up and whisk me away. It will look like one of those silent films where the movements are exaggerated, and the music is delightfully odd.

Hold on, is paddy-wagon a bad word? It sounds like the sort of thing that has a derogatory origin. Is it bad? What are the origins? Am I being an ignorant fool right now? Ignorant, yes, but calling myself a fool is a bit harsh. I want to learn so, here I go, typing the word into Google, and I’m using my overpriced data to do it.

Not all heroes wear capes? Oh, that’s taking this too far.

And…Okay, well, that’s not cool. It does indeed have a derogatory origin, and I’m shaking my head in dismay. It’s horrible! People were arrested for being Irish which, in someone’s mind, equalled criminal. I…What? Why do we do this to each other? Why do we insist on treating a single group of people with such disdain because of…reasons that make no logical sense? I am well and truly baffled by the nature of our species. 

I would delete my earlier use of that term, but I just learnt something, so let’s share the knowledge. The more we all know, the better we can do in the future. If my use of the term was offensive to you, then I apologize. It was an innocent mistake made out of ignorance, but now that I know it causes some people pain, I’ll no longer use it.

That’s the best we can do, isn’t it? We don’t know what we don’t know until we know we don’t know it. Wow, the grammar police are going to have a field day with that sentence. But it’s true! There’s so much information out there, and we have access to a lot of it, but how do we know to look if we don’t realize and acknowledge our own ignorance?

I’ve said this before, but let’s say it one more time. Ignorance is forgivable. Willful ignorance, however, borders on an inexcusable act of spite. It’s choosing, despite all evidence, to accept a lie and perpetuate a fallacy. It’s ignoring the pain our actions are causing because our comfort, ideology, or beliefs are more important. Even if it causes injury or death, we hold fast because letting go, growing, learning is so unthinkable that sacrificing another person’s life feels righteous.

It is, in my humble opinion, the epitome of selfishness. Is it beyond forgiveness? Is it beyond redemption? My petty side says yes, of course, and they should burn for what they’ve done. The hopeful part of me won’t let go of the mere chance of mercy or grace. Which one will I listen to?

It depends on the depth of my fear, I suppose. Right now? I’m scared, and being here, in this space with people, feels so wrong. How can this be legal? How is this okay?

When I was a kid, there was a song, I can’t remember all of the lyrics, but a part of it went, “They’re coming to take me away hee hee ha ha.” If you know what that song is, let me know down in the comments. Seriously, where does that line come from? Now it’s going to annoy me to no end.

And no, I’m not using my expensive data plan for this. It’s too silly, and I’m too cheap, frugal, broke. Pick your favourite adjective. Besides, I already used it to learn about Irish immigrants, and it was more interesting and informative.

With those lyrics, hee hee ha ha, running through my head, I suppose it’s quite obvious that a vague sense of paranoia is creeping up my bones. I keep looking over my shoulder, half expecting a swat team to swoop in and take me away. For getting my car serviced? What if it’s a trap or one of those sting things I’ve heard so much about. There is a utility van parked outside, and we all know what that means.

Someone is fixing the utilities?

Okay, if you insist, I’ll return to the “real” world and agree that it’s a maintenance crew. Also, and I’m just spitballing here, I’ve been watching too many spy shows, and it might be affecting my perception of reality. You know, just a little bit.

Oh, being here feels so wrong and I’m twitchy. Given everything that’s going on right now? This experience is so surreal. COVID cases are going up after the holidays, and we’ve hit a new high in COVID related deaths. It’s not as high as some countries or even other parts of Canada, but it’s kind of scary to be out in the open right now. The virus could be anywhere, and anyone could get exposed to it.

Also, the hugs not masks crowd is still out there, willfully ignoring facts for their own dainty sense of comfort. Oo, I’m edging towards petty. It’s creeping up on me. Do I shut it down or let it roll? What would you do?

Going to get my car serviced would be, at any other time, an inconvenience, but it wouldn’t set me on edge. I wouldn’t flinch every time someone came too close. I wouldn’t feel the need to look over my shoulder at the sound of footsteps. I certainly wouldn’t adjust my mask for the nineteenth time in as many minutes.

This mask is bothersome, and I hate it with a growing passion. The longer I sit here, the more displeased with this piece of cloth I become. Did I just call it a foul name under my breath? Yes, I did, and I’m not sorry. It had it coming. It’s making my nose itch.

Arg, I hate this mask so much! 

But I won’t take it off and risk infecting anyone with the germs I may or may not be carrying. I’m trying my level best to be considerate, accept the facts as they are, and not what I want them to be. But it’s hard. I want to play make-believe. I really want everything to go back to normal. Are you struggling too? Tell me this is getting to you, and I’m not the weirdo, sitting in a waiting area, mutter obscenities at a mask.

To their credit, everyone here is being as safe as they can and, they’re following all of the guidelines that our health ministry has put in place. There’s hand sanitizer on every flat surface. Chairs are spaced out, and masks are being enforced. Staff and customers are being respectful of space and distance. It’s as safe as a public area can be right now.

But it’s still a public area, and that makes me incredibly nervous. As careful as they’re being here, what if people aren’t as cautious elsewhere? What if they are a part of the special few who willfully choose ignorance? What if…

When did I become so paranoid and petty? When did I become so scared of you? It’s been such a gradual change that it wasn’t until this moment that I actively noticed the shift. When did going out in public become so strange? 

I have one excellent reason for this newfound level of anxiety. We’re living through a viral pandemic, and I take medication to lower my immune system. I had a kidney transplant thirteen years ago, and these medications keep that gifted organ alive and healthy. If my immune system worked, it would attack the foreign organ and kill it. In turn, my immune system would kill me.

There’s a deadly virus out there, and I could use an immune system right about now. That’s not going to happen. I can’t stop my pills because then, well, that wouldn’t kill me as fast as the virus, but the end would still be the same. So, I avoid going out, and when I do, I have to be extra cautious. Going out into the real world, for me, requires a certain level of paranoia if I’m going to make it through these crazy times.

I’ve already had the virus once, and I’m grateful to have gotten off as easy as I did. It’s taken me five months to feel almost human again, but it could’ve been worse. I can’t imagine what it would be like to go through it a second time. Could my body handle it? I don’t know, and that scares me.

It’s only natural, I suppose, that my flinch response would be so finely tuned but again, when did it happen? When did going outside feel like I’m breaking at least a dozen laws? When did the real world turn into a silent film with cartoon heroes and villains that would make a Tarantino movie look tame?

When did hugs become a weapon and a mask a symbol of oppression? These are strange days, my friend, strange days indeed.

It’s in moments like this that I kind of envy the few who worship at the church of denialism. Those people who toss science aside, and take Facebook posts as gospel. They demand hugs, not masks. They can’t believe that science isn’t a fad, and this pandemic isn’t a get-rich-quick scam invented by doctors, nurses, virologists or epidemiologists. 

It must be nice to give yourself over to ignorance, and I’m not being condescending. The previous paragraph— Okay, sure that was thinly veiled condescension— But this one is sincere! It would be kind of nice to live in that headspace. It would be great to sit here, work on my manifesto, and not be afraid of everyone.

The manifesto bit was a bit too snarky, wasn’t it? Mercy. Grace. Compassion. Forgiveness. If I say these words out loud, maybe then I’ll be able to feel them deep enough to extend them to those who can’t do the same for me. 

Again, I ask, when did fear become a necessity? And when did it trigger this petty side of my personality? It’s not a good look, and I don’t like it at all. When did it show up, and how do I get rid of it?

I haven’t gone out all that much, and this hour has been the longest I’ve spent in public. These feelings are new, and I’m trying to process them in real-time. I don’t know when I became scared of you, of everyone outside of my bubble, but I am. And that makes me kind of sad because this woman just started a conversation with me, at a respectful distance, and my initial response was retreat. I don’t want to run away. I want to engage and connect with people around me. I want to form relationships and temporary bonds forged during a shared moment of annoyance. 

I don’t want to be afraid of you or wish anyone harm because they choose ignorance. I don’t want to believe that mercy, grace, and forgiveness have their limits. But I’m scared, and it’s starting to wear me down.

This is dark and twisted, I’m sorry. I’m just sitting here, waiting for my oil change, and these thoughts started banging around my head. I’m processing, and I’m asking questions. I’m looking for answers to questions that might not have any. Typical! Why can’t I ask an answerable question?

No matter what happens, I have to believe that there’s hope. I need to trust that life, no matter what the norm becomes, will be better. It will be happier. Fear? I’m sure it will be apart of it, but it doesn’t have to control my life. It doesn’t have to turn me into the very thing I despise. I can find a way to forgive those who would sacrifice my life for their comfort.

It’s just, right now, I’m not sure how to do that, but I have to believe it’s possible.

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Just Give It A Break

Photo by Karolina Grabowska from Pexels

The last few days, months really, have been quite heady, and my head is feeling the strain. It’s an overworked muscle in need of a rest day. Can the brain pull a hammy or experience a Charlie-horse? No, that’s just silly and anatomically incorrect, but it’s a similar sensation. It’s like brain freeze brought on by too much thinking, feeling, and experiencing.

I don’t want to think right now! My brain needs a break, a vacation, or a long-term sabbatical. Could you imagine if that was possible? Your mind hands in its walking papers and strolls out the door with a wave and a later bitches. Is it possible? No, but it feels like I’m half a dozen thoughts away from my brain unionizing and going on strike.

Not that I’m opposed to unions and protecting workers from greedy billionaires who think Scrooge was a misunderstood hero. Am I talking about Scrooge the Duck or Scrooge the Dickens character? Huh, now that’s the depth of intellectual conversation I’m capable of having at the moment.

Which is probably bad? 

There’s so much going on right now, and pretending it isn’t a gong show is absurd. Is that a term used everywhere or only in Canada. Gong show, if you’re unfamiliar, means everything is a disaster. It’s usually meant in a fun way, but it can also be ironic because everything is a f**king gong show.

We should talk about it, right? We should share our thoughts, feelings, and opinions. Ideally, we’d thoughtfully addressed it all and not yell at each other. How unlikely is that? I would crunch the numbers, but my brain hurts.

I did talk about it on Friday, and you’re welcome to read my thoughts on recent events. (https://kerileeg.com/2021/01/08/the-truth-is-complicated/). Actually, I was surprised that so many of you read it. I thought, with the subject matter, that it would be a lame-duck with plum sauce. Which is an odd analogy for a vegetarian. But people read it and I’m shocked. Thank you! It was a welcomed surprise.

I write to vent, process, and clean out my mental attic. When you read my words? It means a lot, and I heart you all so much. Okay, this is getting mushy, and emotions terrify me so, on with the show.

There’s a time and a place for intellectual and thoughtful discussions about global events. Right now? In this moment? I’m tapped out. I can’t find the words to express everything I’m thinking and feeling. My mind is overflowing. I’m feeling a lot of emotions, and when that happens, words fail me. I can’t articulate my thoughts in a meaningful way. I end up contributing to the noise and chaos.

That’s not helpful so, I should shut up.

If I’m not going to talk about the heavy stuff? What am I going to talk about? Something light, breezy, and possibly fluffy. In my experience, when the world gets too dark, then I need to look for something to create some light. That’s especially true on days like today when there doesn’t seem to be any natural sources of light. It’s time to rub some sticks together and create a spark.

And yes, that analogy has burnt itself out, which serves as proof that my brain has been strained a little too far. The remedy? Huh, professional help, perhaps? No! I can’t afford such extravagances which is an indictment of our mental health access in this country. But that’s a different discussion for a different day. A day, preferably, when the intellectual part of my thinking organ is functioning at optimal capacity.

That day is not this day so, I’ll just stop babbling on like a fool. 

You know what? I want to talk about one of my favourite things on this planet, and it’s super fluffy. Could it be something with a wet nose, perhaps? Oo, and a wiggly behind. Some heavy panting would be cute too. If your mind went to unspeakable places then, *giggle* that’s on you. It also reminds me of a horrible gynaecologist joke. Horrible! Not funny. Did I laugh? Yes, it was so bad I couldn’t help myself. It’s also mildly inappropriate, and out of respect for those of you who have class and dignity, I’ll keep it hush-hush.

What was I saying?

Wet noses, wiggling behinds, and the beautiful sound of happy panting because you scratched the sweet spot. Oh, sing it with me, these are a few of my favourite things. There’s nothing that makes me happier, and if you want to see me positively giddy? This is how you do it!

Just thinking about it…I just sighed in contentment, and there’s a bubble of giggles sitting in my chest. I’m suppressing a squeal, and there are only a few things that can make me squeal. This, what I experienced a few days ago, is one of the purest forms of happiness I can imagine.

Am I drawing the suspense out too long? Okay, you’re right, I’m getting on with it.

If we’re going to be friends, then there’s one very important thing you need to know, understand, and accept. I love animals more than I love people. Animals are better people than people and that’s just a fact. Would I say that it’s science? Sure, but I don’t have the data to back me up. I have nothing more than a gut feeling, and my gastrointestinal system says: Animals make better people than people.

Go on, argue with me but first turn on the news and then report back. Got it? I’m right, right? People are so busy people-ing while animals are busy cuddling and being adorable. I know the chain has already been forged, but they should put human beings on the bottom and animals on the top. It would be a weirder, but a better world by my reckoning.

Or did some author already ruin that theory?

From what I’ve been able to deduce, normal people, and I should put that word in quotations, fall into one of two categories. You’re either a dog person or a cat person, and your choice says a lot about your personality. Apparently. I don’t think that’s scientifically or psychologically accurate, but okay Cool Beans, whatever floats your boat.

Since the norm has never felt like home, I live in a magical land where I love all animals equally. Well, except for horses. They creep me out. Their brains are too big, and I’m absolutely sure they’re plotting to take over the planet. They’re just biding their time, lulling us into a false sense of dominance, and waiting for the moment to make their move.

You’ll see, they’ll be putting saddles on our backs in no time! How does this vibe with my food chain reversal theory? Uh, stop using my own logic against me.

Besides, you were worried about the apes! Nope, horses are the real enemy.

Then again, I just checked the news, and maybe a global horse take over wouldn’t be the worst idea. There’s a horse’s ass joke in there, but I’m resisting the urge. I couldn’t resist telling you about the joke and, since you’re a smart person, I’m sure you’ll execute the punchline quite admirably. 

So, which category do you fit in? Are you a dog or a cat person? Or, are you like me, and any animal that wants a snuggle is a friend?

I just want snuggles! I can’t walk past a four-legged friend and not say, hello beautiful. It’s impossible. I even say hi to crows, seagulls and pigeons. And yes, I know they only have two legs, but they belong to the superior species so, I pay my respects.

If I had my way, I’d rescue every stray dog, cat, and domesticated creature. I’d give them a home and spend the rest of my life making sure they’re all loved. They’d have all the treats their bellies could hold and all the snuggles they wanted. I’d treat each of them like the majestic beings that they are.

I love animals! I can’t tell you how much I love them because there aren’t enough words. I can’t watch movies or tv shows with animals in them because the animal might, possibly, get hurt. Seeing an animal hurt? I can’t handle it. Did I already mention how much I love animals?

Yes, several times.

Right, a few weeks before Christmas, my brother and his family adopted two pitbull puppies. And yes, I know the stereotypes about pitbull’s, but they are actually quite lovely dogs if you train them and treat them right. That’s usually true with most animals and people. Treat them with love, compassion, and dignity, then watch them treat others the same way.

Funny how kindness works, ain’t it?

Tragically, I didn’t think I’d get to meet these precious little boys because of the whole pandemic situation. We’re all careful, and breaking the rules is something we avoid. Even if it means missing the puppy years? Oh, my heart! But they sent us a lot of videos and pictures, which is almost as good.

As good as meeting them? No, silly, not even almost.

Ah, but here’s the part you know is coming. I got to meet the pups in person! I’m still squealing. You can’t hear me squealing, but I’m doing it right now as I type these words. Eeeeeeeee.

I had to drop somethings off at my brothers’ home, but we were super careful. Masks were worn, and the required distance was maintained. I never went into the house, but those pups came out to meet me. We were safe, extremely cautious, and we followed the guidelines laid out by our local CDC.

Oh, they’re going to be big boys! Right now, they’re small enough to pick up and cuddle. Their fur is still loose and silky. They’ve got a lot of growing to do! The best part? They love kisses. As I held them, they kept trying to pull my mask down so they could kiss me, and my heart nearly exploded. 

Spontaneous human combustion is real!

Don’t worry, I pulled the mask back up immediately, but the kisses and the cuddles sent a shock wave of joy through my body. I think I levitated. It was incredible, beautiful, and I can’t tell you how much I needed such a simple, uncomplicated expression of love.

With everything going on, my heart and my mind needed this moment. I can’t process anything else. My mind is full, and my heart is feeling heavy. At that moment, with those pups and seeing my brother in person, I felt lighter than I have in months. I could’ve cried out of sheer relief.

It was so simple, pure, and the break was perfection. God, I needed the break! I think we all do, don’t we? It’s okay to stop scrolling. It’s okay to walk away from the news. It’s okay to get lost in a fantasy world for a little while. It’s okay to stop, recharge, and revisit things that keep you grounded in the good.

That’s a note to self, BTW. I forget and get lost in toxic rabbit holes. But then I meet cute puppies! Oh, my heart feels so much better now.

Please, if you need it, take a break and take care of yourself. You’re precious, and you’re needed. Be good to yourself. Do something nice for your heart and mind. You’re totally worth it!

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The Truth Is Complicated

Photo By Markus Winkler on Unsplash.com

Okay, this is not what I sat down to write today. I was going to write something light and fun because the last couple of posts have been a bit heavy. I need light, fluffy, fun so, I thought you might need it too. Then I turned on the news, and now I have a lot of things that I want to say. I have a million thoughts swirling around my head, and I can’t shut them up. I want to! I’d give anything to turn them off and refocus on the light and fluffy.

But that’s not going to happen so, please forgive me. This is going to be one of those days when I need to dump my thoughts onto a page and hope I make a lick of sense. Also, given the subject matter, I’m sure it’s going to be one that no one will read, and that’s okay. I need to give these thoughts and feelings a voice so I can calm them down and shut them up.

So, here we go. Let’s get messy.

I’m writing this on January 6, 2021, and I’m sure you know what’s happening in the United States. I’m truly shocked and horrified by what I’m seeing. These hallowed halls of democracy are under siege. Senators, members of congress, and employees running for their lives. One woman was shot and killed. Will there be more?

Did that just happen? Was this real life and not a movie? It looks like something that belongs in a movie, but it’s on the news. What? How is this real life?

Every time I look at the headlines, I say wow and hold my breath. These are the images I expect to see somewhere overseas, quite possibly in a country I can’t pronounce, but just across the border? I just… Wow, what the hell is going on? I’m sincerely praying for a peaceful resolution and hoping that better angels are working overtime.

This… What’s happening… I have no words. God help the United States of America! Please, stay safe, my friends.

There are so many thoughts and feelings swirling around my head, but there are too many, and I can’t put them in order. We’re one week into the new year, and things seem to be getting crazier instead of better. No, my hope is not waining but today it took a step back and shook its head. Why do we, as a species, insist on making life harder for ourselves?

I would’ve hoped that we’d get past that, but here we are, watching another news cycle play out like an action movie. Not a good movie! One of those D-list, straight to the bargain bin films that I accidentally watch when insomnia makes me its bitch. It’s shocking, disturbing, and I can’t help but wonder who the hell thought this was a good idea.

It’s an awful idea! It should never have been made. What the hell am I watching?

What’s happening, it’s a big deal, and I don’t want to make light of these events or seem dismissive. This is an important moment in history, and we should talk about it. We should stay informed and seek out the truth rather than conspiracies that fuel fear, mistrust, and bigotry. We should dispel the notion that truth is subjective because it isn’t. 

But that’s the problem right there! We’ve taken the idea of truth and turned it into a weapon. We use it to injure, maim, and murder. We manipulate it, mould it into whatever we need to justify our actions. We’ve twisted the truth so much, we don’t even know what it is anymore, and we certainly can’t recognize it when it’s staring us in the face.

I heard someone say that in every situation, there is a universal truth in the middle of the mess. The problem is, we don’t want to acknowledge it, so we seek out a version that suits our ideology. But the truth doesn’t change!

It isn’t your truth or my truth. We can argue the point until we both asphyxiate, but all we’re doing is denying reality. The truth is what it is. It might not fit into our narratives, and it can be quite disappointing. It’s easier to believe in conspiracies because they make us feel validated and, in some cases, righteous.

But feelings aren’t facts, and they often lead us down a dangerous path of self-destruction, isolation, and ultimately loss. There’s that old saying, the truth will set you free, but what it doesn’t tell us is that freedom can hurt. It can break our hearts. It can shatter the ground beneath our feet. It can leave us shaken and standing all alone in a battle destroyed graveyard.

Freedom and truth are two entities we spend our lives chasing. We say that we want it desperately. We claim that it’s worth fighting for. Truth! Freedom! How much blood has been spilt in pursuit of these ideas? How much blood has been spilt in denial of them as well?

We can have freedom and truth, but first we have to accept it as it is and not how we want it to be. The truth hurts, is another saying, and it’s right. Truth is often the last thing we really want to hear. What we want is confirmation of our narrative. Which has little to do with reality or the precious truth we claim to seek.

Maybe that’s why we spend just as much time and effort running away from the very things we’ve spent our lives chasing? That’s something to think about when we’re arming ourselves for battle. Are we fighting for truth, justice, and freedom? Or, are we out to destroy it because it looks like a monster?

I cannot express how important these questions are, especially now. What do we really want? What are we really fighting for? What truth will give us the freedom we crave or, do we prefer to live in a state of denial?

In this particular fight, down south, I don’t have any skin in the game so, I can’t talk. But it is a dilemma that I see played out in my country as well so, it is universal. It’s a very human desire that has nothing to do with borders, religion or politics. Though, those things are the spark that lights the fuse.

In my country, at the moment, the problem with truth is not as dramatic as the images coming from the States. It’s more surreptitious in nature. It’s often dismissed as the product of a certain upbringing or the lack of — how do I say this nicely?— education. 

If I want to be overly polite and uphold the nice Canadian stereotype; I’d call these people innocent in nature but not in deeds. They carry banners that read Hugs Not Masks, and they’re anti-everything. They promote conspiracies and think they are speaking the truth. They’re convinced that the government is out to get them and that anyone who cares about others is a socialist commie.

Which…Okay, I don’t know how you combine those two ideas, but I’ll be nice.

Just because it’s not as vigorous, doesn’t make it any less vile or cruel. Hearing people scream about truth and freedom while denying facts and reality is a messy dichotomy to process. Especially when it’s your life they’re willing to sacrifice for their comfort and freedom. Is this as far as we’ve gotten in our evolution? We’re still happy let other people suffer and die? Would we really sacrifice a life if it means we don’t have to wear a mask, stay home, or keep our distance?

As the person you’re sacrificing, I gotta say, I don’t know if I can ever forgive you for what you’re doing. How do I look at you the same way? Your truth, your freedoms, and your fight will cost me my life. How is that okay with you? How is that God-loving from a person who claims to be God-fearing? How are you okay with that, and how can you still call me a friend?

I hear so many versions of the truth being flaunted, and I understand how hard it is to sort through the noise. There’s always someone out there trying to make a quick buck or gain more power. Since fear sells better than sex, why not use that to stir the pot? It’s not right, it’s not okay, but it works and the truth becomes lost in the fear.

My truth right now? I’m afraid of the world. I’m angry and overwhelmed by the level of vitriol out there right now. I’m sad for all of you who are suffering, living in fear, and pain. My heart breaks for the truth seekers. They’re silenced and mocked by those who’ve embraced the conspiracies and worship the fear-mongers. I’m praying for those who are peacefully standing their ground. These people are fighting for a truth that’s messy, complicated, and hurtful. A truth that would be easier to deny, but these defenders of truth don’t take the path of least resistance.

Scientists who work hard to save lives despite the noise and misinformation. The people who are fighting for social justice, and work tirelessly to create an inclusive world. The grief they take from those who benefit from the status quo is unreal, but still, they stand because the truth is, equality for everyone is vitally important. There are so many people who, despite the complications, embrace an unwavering truth that all people are created equal and are deserving of life.

These people give me hope on days like this when truth is on sale and fear is a hot commodity. They don’t waver. They hold the line and keep on with the job at hand. They point us in the right direction. And my God, bless you all for you are doing!

I know that these ideas are a bit heavy, and with everything going on, they feel obscure. It’s a lofty sense of idealism amidst conflict. It’s an idea that hasn’t fully formed like an infant in the womb. Precious, beautiful, but it doesn’t quite feel real until it breathes on its own. 

But it can, and that’s the most amazing thing! Truth doesn’t die, it can’t be killed, and it can’t be hidden for long. It always shows up, and when it does, I have to decide if I’m ready to embrace the complicated, messy truth. Or, am I going to take the easy path?

God, help me embrace the truth.

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The Battle Between Reality And Fantasy

Photo by Mudassir Ali from Pexels

The holidays are over, and I’m trying to get my brain out of the land of daydreams, fantasies, and impetuous optimism. I don’t want to completely vacate that wonderful slice of paradise because let’s face it, the real world is cold, dark, and kind of ew. Those fantasies inspire a brash yet delightful idealism that holds me together when everything else wants to tear me apart. They give me hope that nothing will ever be as horrible as it seems, and I’ll see sunny days soon enough.

That would be brilliant because it’s bucketing rain, the wind is howling like a wolf, and I’m kind of chilly. I’m enjoying the pattering on the window behind me, and I’m grateful to be dry. One sunny day after a week of rain? That would be nice, but I’m not upset either way.

Actually, I’m still in a pretty decent mood and, if I may be so bold, I would call happy if I knew what that meant. I have a vague understand and a deep desire to figure out what happiness is. But a complete level of comprehension? Oh no, but I wish! At this point in my life, there’s a work in progress stuck to my forehead. 

Happy? Who dat? No! My apologies, I’ll never use that sentence again. I can’t pull it off and sound cool. I sound silly. Who dat? Seriously? But I think I’m happy so let’s forget about my momentary lapse in judgement.

Since I’m not entirely sure what happiness is, I’m letting my assumptions run wild like a majestic raccoon on the hunt for nourishment. I might not be entirely sure what happiness entails, but I think I’m experiencing its intoxicating presence. There’s a bubble tickling my tummy. I want to giggle, but I don’t know why. I just sighed for absolutely no reason at all.

I’d go so far as to say that I feel content, and it’s all thanks to the very long holiday season. Over the last few weeks, I’ve been living in a fantasy world of optimism and hope. How many times have I typed the word hope in my previous posts? A dozen times in each, I’m sure, but if you want to fact check me and count it out? Cool, I love a decent time-suck activity.

They’re almost meditative in their pointlessness. Counting ceiling tiles or sesame seeds on a bagel. Organizing the cutlery drawer according to size, function, and colour. Finding out how often I wrote one word in the last three weeks. These make-work projects suck up time in a mind-numbing way that alleviates tension and makes me feel like I accomplished something.

What it won’t do? Shut me up and get me to stop typing that one for letter word.

For the last couple of weeks, I’ve been experiencing the strangest sensation. It’s unfamiliar and, for a brief moment, I was concerned about alien mental manipulation, but I quickly ruled that one out. Not because it could never happen. No, I’m not entirely sure it can happen, and now I just freaked you out. Welcome to the club! That’s the very reason I stopped that train at the station. 

Yeah, that fantasy creeped me out too, my friend.

Alien mind-control? No thank you, but now I must ask where this wibbly emotion came from. If not aliens, then perhaps, Satan…Ha, no, Santa! I meant Santa, but my dyslexic brain muddled me up. I should just delete it and pretend it didn’t happen, but I’m laughing too hard. Satan made me happy. That’s not a sentence I ever thought I’d write. Hold on a moment, I’ve got to let the hysterical laughter out, or I’ll rupture something.

Satan…Ha ha ha ha ha ha….Whew. I assure you, that was not a Freudian slip. If the stories are correct, then I highly doubt satan is in the happy game. God, I’m an idiot sometimes but a happy idiot!

Which is so strange, and I don’t want this feeling to be disturbed or accidentally misplaced. I want the holiday season to stretch on just a little longer because when it’s over? Well, I’ll have to leave my warm, snuggly, fun fantasy bubble and walk out into the rainy, cold reality of life. Ew, no, that just won’t do. It won’t do at all!

Is it possible to live in both worlds? One half of your mind in the fantasy of an extremely capitalistic holiday. The other half in the overbearing realities of life with all the responsibilities, expectations, and vexations. Can I be dual citizen of both realms? Or, are both realms destined to battle it out in shining armour?

I’m an all-or-nothing kinda gal, so I’m looking for an either/or answer, which is probably silly. Right now, it seems like I can’t live in the peaceful reverie indefinitely, and I don’t want to let the harsh realities of life consuming me entirely. Which one do I pick? Is neither an option? 

That would leave me in a no man’s land of sorts, and that would be an awfully lonely place to stand. I don’t want to strand myself on a battle scorched plot of land, smoke swirling all around me, and be overcome by the silence. I couldn’t bear the vacuum of nothingness. It would drive me mad so, what now?

If indifference isn’t the answer then what is? 

I’ve found myself living in the either/or, and it’s not the best idea. In my experience, these extremes rarely lead to anything that resembles happiness. This is why I’m trying to find a balance between the two. In fact, if I were so inclined to dabble in tradition, my new year’s resolution would be to find a more balanced lifestyle.

I’m not a big traditionalist, but this is the internet so, a disclaimer seems like it’s in order. Please don’t read my words as a dismissal of traditions and take it personally because that’s not my intent. I speak for myself, my life, and my beliefs. However, I have the utmost respect for differing ideas, perspectives, or systems of belief.

If tradition is your jam, then that’s cool. It’s great! If I’m looking for balance, then you’re helping me out. You’re the left to might right. The happy to my dappy. The… what’s a dappy? Is that even a word? No, it most certainly isn’t.

My point is, I need to find balance, and if making a resolution is the catalyst that gets me going, then I can’t argue with it.

If the either/or won’t work for me and no man’s land is the worst campsite ever, then I need to figure out how to walk a fine line. That’s what it is, isn’t it? An incredibly thin line drawn in invisible ink. I’m out of lemons so, how do I know if I’m walking a straight line. I can’t even draw the damn line. I failed colouring in kindergarten.

Seriously, they kept telling me to colour in the lines, but I just couldn’t do it. The outside looked lonely and sad. Maybe if I added a splash of red or yellow, then it would feel better. My teacher didn’t like my reasoning and yelled at me, “Colour the darn house already!” Then she chased me around the classroom with a really long ruler.

The joke was on her! I’m 4 feet 10 inches now, so you can imagine how little I was at that age. I easily fit into hard to reach places, and her ruler wasn’t long enough. It turns out that, when properly motivated, I had an unusual amount of patience for a kid, and not wanting to get hit was a good motivator. I waited her out, and I never coloured in the lines again.

Yes, she was a horrible teacher and had no business being an educator. Thankfully, outsmarting her was easy, and I was precocious.  

What about now? Am I precocious enough to find a solution to my dilemma?

That bubble I mentioned, the one decorated with Christmas lights and an inflatable Santa Clause that can’t keep its pants on? It’s slowly fading as I’m being pulled back into the rigour and rituals of everyday life. I knew it would happen. I just don’t want to burst my bubble, but I need to face reality.

And now there’s this internal battle between reality and fantasy. I’m drunkenly trying to walk a thin line. Either/or…Oh my mind is spinning!

No, you know what? That’s not the real battle, and it’s not what’s really bothering me. I like living in that bubble. I like feeling happy and hopeful. Over the last few weeks, I was able to shut down my overactive, trouble finding mind and enjoy the moments I was in. I wasn’t worrying about everything, and I only had a small amount of anxiety.

Trust me, that was a major improvement!

It was so incredible, and now I feel like I’m going to lose that. I don’t want to stop feeling hopeful. That’s what made me happy! I felt like everything would be okay. I know we’ve got a lot of work to do, but we’ll be okay. I really believe that, and I don’t want to lose my faith in that brighter, sunnier, future. 

My brother just reminded me of something Former President Obama said, “Hope is that thing inside of us that insists, despite all evidence to the contrary, that something better awaits us if we have the courage to reach for it, work for it, and fight for it.”

If I was a bigger person, literally and figuratively, I would make observations about the world and our ability to do amazing things. I’d point out that we can get through these troubled times if we work together, fight together, and take heart in the collective courage of our communities. If, you know, I wasn’t selfish and solely concerned about my happiness and wellbeing.

I should be that bigger person, but…Nah, I’m going to be a little selfish for this moment. Later? Yeah, I’ll look outward and focus on the greater good. I am still considered about my people, community and the world at large. But this post, for the sake of this discussion?

I’m not reaching or fighting for something greater than myself. I’m embracing my innate selfishness and, despite everything we’ve been told, that’s not always a bad thing. Sometimes we need to be a little selfish if we’re going to survive and find the strength to help others. It has its place in our lives and right now, I’m using it to fight for my faith, hope, and happiness.  I’m fighting to hold on to the fantasy that we’re all going to be okay.

But hope isn’t a fantasy, and it isn’t dependant on the realities I face in my own life. It’s in every sacrifice I make to ensure my safety, and the health of the people I love – as well as the strangers around me. It’s the small steps I take to change my life for the better and it’s in my quest to figure out what happiness is. It’s the breath I choose to take when breathing becomes too hard. 

Hope is found in the struggle and the desire to hold onto the mere possibility that better days are coming. If I can find a way to balance my desires and struggles then the fight would become superfluous. I wouldn’t need to hold onto it with an iron grasp because hope would exist no matter which realm I inhabit.

In theory, anyway.

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Zebras And Pigheaded Optimism

Photo by Redcharlie on unsplash.com

Happy three days into the brand new year! I think we can all agree that last year was a horrible mistake that we should never, ever repeat. Also, if I may offer a suggestion? It should be the year we never speak of again. We went from 2019 right into 2021. Call it a leap year! Because that’s how that thing works. We leaped right over it because it never happened.

What didn’t happen? Exactly! Hush-hush. Wink wink. Nudge nudge. Oh, what a relief it is.

Okay, you’re right! Why are you always right? Fine, we can’t pretend it didn’t happen anymore than our bad decisions will stay in Vegas. The redeye home isn’t a magic eraser that makes it all go away. Somethings just stick with you until you seek medical attention. No, that’s not a personal anecdote. I’ve never been to Vegas. I don’t do well in the heat despite being born in Africa. Go figure. But I know people who were not able to pretend IT didn’t happen. Not talking about it didn’t make it any better, and nine months later, the secret was out.

Whoops. Awkward. But precious. Aw. And now I’ll go back to using complete sentences.

I know I’m not the only one who’s happy to see the last year of our lives wither and dissolve into the dust whence it came. As the clock struck midnight on January 1, 2021, there was the usual chorus of celebratory cheer but, people also screamed, “Thank God that’s over!”

Yeah, good riddance and never show your face around here ever again you no good, dirty rotten, scoundrel. Your time is up, and we’re free!

Uh, so um, here’s where I throw a wet blanket on a nice moment. I’m smothering the fiery joy we’re all trying to feel for the first time in months. Why? What is wrong with me? Damn you, logic! Why did you have to show up so soon? I was hoping for a solid week of delusional bliss before I have to face reality. Was that too much to ask for? No, no, it was not.

Fine, here I go, ruining a perfectly decent fantasy with logic and sound reasoning skills. I said this in my last post, but I’m not Cinderella, and everything didn’t go back to normal at midnight. There’s still a microscopic bastard floating around out there, and we still have to take uncomfortable, emotionally draining precautions. I despise everything about it, but if we hold on, despite how much it sucks, we’ll get through this situation together.

Wow, it feels like I just let the air out of the room so, let’s welcome back a bit of delusion, shall we? For this moment, in an ever so brief respite, I am going to feel incredibly thrilled that 2020 is over and embrace this emotion that could, quite possibly, be hope. 

It really felt like we were universally cursed from the start of last year, but we’re done with that. This year can be a completely different animal that resembles a unicorn and not a three-headed beast with an extreme case of the hangries. (Hungry plus angry equals Hangry, if you didn’t know. You’re welcome.)

Maybe we can move on to… Uh, you know what? I’m a bit nervous about the future and what surprises it holds. Last year, all of the surprises were horrible, no good, unmitigated disasters. This year? No! Let’s be hopeful and focus on the mere possibility that at least one thing will turn out alright. Not great, I’m not greedy, but if it’s okay with the entity in charge of such things, I’ll be grateful for half-baked.

It would also be a big step up, and I’m just hoping for a mild to moderate improvement. Is that too much to ask for? I don’t think it is, but I’ve been wrong before.

Just to be safe, I checked the news, and at least there was nothing overtly disastrous that happened. Well, not at the time that these words were typed onto this page. Could things have changed? Sure, but if I don’t look then, my pigheaded optimism can continue for a little while longer.

The good news is, we didn’t see carnivorous grasshoppers spring out of a toxic transatlantic fog, so yay us. I’m not saying that could’ve happened, but I’m not ruling anything out. Hell, I wouldn’t be surprised if I saw a kangaroo directing traffic or a zebra chilling on a farm with all the other horse type mammals.

In Canada?

Actually, I did see a zebra grazing in a field and almost drove off the road. Literally! I gawked, my eyes performed a smashing impression of a rascally rabbit, and then I swerved to avoid a ditch. Did I just see a Zebra? No, it couldn’t be, not here in the great wet and chilly Pacific Northwest. Sure, we’re known for our wildlife. Bears, moose and, of course, the proud and noble beaver. An African safari animal? Nope, that’s a new one for me in this country.

In my previous country of habitation? I lived in Cape Town, so no, I don’t remember seeing a zebra. Snakes, sharks, a tortoise and rock rabbits (aka rock hyrax. Look them up. They’re so cute). I don’t think I ever saw a zebra walking down the beach in a swimsuit and rocking a straw hat. That would’ve been shocking, and I should stop watching silly movies at 2 AM. 

I should see someone about my insomnia, that’s what I should do. Will I? Well, I saw a zebra in Canada so, anything is possible. Unlikely, but possible. Oh, and I survived the year that shall not be named. Do you think I should test my luck and see a doctor? Nah, whenever I do that, they find something wrong. If I don’t let them take a look, then they can’t find anything.

That, my friend, is called logic! Horrible logic, but it still counts. For what? Oh, shush, I’m trying to be happy here. 

Clearly, I’m not willing to abandon this state of mild delusion. It’s supposed to be temporary, but I’m not giving it up without a fight or, at least a struggle. It was brought on by a need to find hope in this new start. And I NEED to find something hopeful. I don’t care that life isn’t like a fairytale, and clocks don’t rearrange the time-space continuum. The realities we face moving forward can wait for one minute. In this minute, this brief period of transition, I want to believe that 2021 is overflowing with so many good things. Amazing things. Sparkly, shiny, and pretty things.

It will take its time unpacking its delights, but as it does, we’ll experience its many surprises. I don’t know what those surprises will be because, clearly, I’m not clairvoyant. I can’t remember where I put my glasses or my car keys. The number of times I’ve nearly walked out my front door without pants on is embarrassing. No one should trust my predictions of the future.

But I have plenty of hopes! So, many dreams and wishes. Prayers too! 

I want to hug my people and have dinner at the same table without the help of technology. I can’t wait to go to a grocery store without a mask and an overwhelming sense of fear. I’m looking forward to a time when I don’t have to be afraid of that microscopic bastard and wonder if it will kill me or someone I love. Oh, that would be so nice!

There are so many things I’m hoping, wishing, praying for as this new year gets started. The things I just mentioned are at the forefront of my mind, and they’ve been playing on repeat for several months. There are secret dreams, ones I don’t dare voice because I don’t want to jinx them, and I’m scared to hope too much. As long as these things stay tucked away in my dreams, then there’s a chance they could become a reality.

How’s that for logic?

I haven’t gotten much sleep lately because, well, the whole insomnia thing, but I’m also feeling so many conflicting emotions. This new year feels different than all the other new beginnings I’ve experienced. It feels heavier in a way because I have all of these things I’m hoping for, and fear is making me doubt the incredible possibilities. It’s a programmed response, but it’s being rewritten by that one for letter word.

These last three days have felt like a week because, despite the weight of it all, the new year brings hope, and that hope is stopping time. Or it’s putting life on pause so I can take a deep breath for the first time in almost a year. The precious few days of limited expectations and sheltered living have hidden reality from me. It’s given me a chance to sit with this sense of — Well, hope and optimism.

I’m feeling hopeful for the first time in a long time, and it’s a nice change. Will it last? Wow, no, don’t ask that question. Why did I ask that question? Why do I always look for zebras in Canada when I could enjoy the proud and noble beaver?

Will this hope and pigheaded optimism last? I’m feeling it now, and that’s enough. After the year that was, hope is like that zebra that nearly drove me off the road. It doesn’t seem like it belongs in this part of the world, and it’s of place. But there it is! Grazing in a field and looking quite content. 

That’s what I’m feeling right now. I’m a little out of place, but I feel like I’m in the right space. Hope, you silly little zebra in a swimsuit and straw hat. Funny seeing you around these parts. I would question your presence but, you know what? It doesn’t matter how you got here or why you’re here at all. I’m feeling it, and it’s a nice change. It’s a welcome change.

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I’m Choosing To Live In A Moment Of Delusion

Photo by olia danilevich from Pexels

So, who’s sad to see 2020 go? Show of hands! Anyone? Perhaps someone in the back? Huh, no one is raising their hand. That’s an intriguing turn of events. I thought that there would be one misguided soul tearfully sing Auld Lang Syne with a raised glass of champagne. 

Well, look at that! The glasses are raised, and there are plenty of single finger salutes. I’m sure they’re just waving good-bye and not making an obscene gesture. Who would do that?

There are seven billion people on this planet, and I don’t think that there’s a single precious soul who’ll miss the year that was… Uh… I’m struggling to find the right superlative. Are there any superlatives? Clearly, I’m not that precious, and champagne makes my tummy hurt. Also, alcohol makes me overly giggly and then weepy. Sometimes I giggle while I sob, which is such an attractive combination.

I don’t tolerate certain substances very well, and I try to avoid them at all costs. No one needs to pick this mess off the sidewalk. I’m not saying that has ever happened, but someday I’ll tell you about my grandmother’s funeral. That was the last time I ingested alcoholic beverages. It’s a personal lifestyle choice but to each their own.

Oh, good riddance 2020! Am I right or am I mostly correct?

Usually, when the year ends, I’m somewhat ambivalent about the whole event. The earth rotated again. Yay! Go science. Whoop. That was super energetic. A year ended, cool. Another year has begun, brilliant. It’s going to take me six months to get used to writing a new date, but I’ll get there eventually. Is it worthy of a fireworks show?

Fine, I enjoy the sparkly lights with the energy of a kid who ate too much sugar and is experiencing their first hallucination. It’s fun. I enjoy it. My dog, not so much. But I’m not Captain Buzzkill. I like a good party for whatever reason, but I don’t buy into the whole new year new me idea.

If you do, cool. I wish you nothing but success, and I’m sure you’re going to crush every single one of your new year’s resolutions. You’ve got this! 

For me, typically, I say good-bye to the old year and just get on with the day because it is just another day. Ah but, typically is the keyword because this past year has been anything but typical. I’m happy to see it go. I’m cheering on its departure. 

Good-bye 2020, and please let the door wallop you on the way out. I hope it hits you hard enough to leave a bruise, but don’t expect any sympathy from me, you little bastard. I will not render first aid. Seek help elsewhere! Go. Begone. Shew, you blight on all that is good, decent, and sparkly. 

I’m glad it’s gone, but I’m under no delusion that things will magically go back to normal. The problems of this last year are still very present in our lives. They will be around for a significant amount of time. That’s a bit depressing, and it’s not something you want to hear. It’s not something I want to say! Thinking about it is a big old kick to the abdomen, and I’m a little winded

Didn’t I just say that I wasn’t Captain Buzzkill? So, I might’ve called that one wrong.

I tried to look back at the year that was and review the highlights. It…I…Wow, it was enough to leave me breathless. Did all of that happen in one year? It was all a blur so, I googled the top news stories of 2020 because it would seem I’m a sucker for self-flagellation. Also, my memory isn’t what I thought it was. I’ve forgotten so much! Some of the stories feel like they happened years ago, not months.

The brush fires in Australia, for example. Yep, that happened in 2020 so, adding a pandemic on top of that must be a real kicker. You had to face one devastating event, and then you had to take on another monster? Damn Australia, you’ve got some mega-strength in ya. I’m in awe! And a little intimidated because you’re kind of a badass.

What else? Black Lives Matter swept the United States and went global. A lot of people came together to say enough is enough. People don’t deserve to die because of the colour of their skin. Everyone deserves respect, dignity, and basic human decency should be universal.

Honestly, somethings should be self-evident, but until they are, we need to keep at it and level the playing field. Equality for all doesn’t mean less for you or me. It’s not a pizza. There’s plenty to go around. It’s okay to share.

There were trivial events like a couple of Royals walking away from the family business. Actually, I respect it. If something isn’t working for you or bringing you happiness, and you healthfully make changes? Good on ya. It would be nice to do it privately, and not have a thousand voices offering their unsolicited opinions, but our world is a funny place.

This past year also gave us murder hornets, gators on drugs, and a transatlantic dust storm. We sat through political unrest that bled across borders. Influential leaders lost their battles with cancer, COVID, and other illnesses or injuries. They joined a growing list of lives lost or taken this year, and it’s a lot to process.

If 2020 had a slogan, it would be: It’s all a bit too much.

I could write ten pages on how hard the year was for all of us, but I don’t want to focus on the negatives. It would be a lot easier! Goodness me, I could follow that rabbit hole all week and not break a sweat. It’s just, there have been too many negatives, and I’m tired of looking at the darkness. I’m craving some light, and something sparkly.

I had to run to the grocery store this morning, and at the checkout, I wished the cashier a happy new year. She said thank you, but she wasn’t hopeful. The situation we’re in will go on for a while yet, so she couldn’t bring herself to say the words. Happy new year? Nah, but you have a good day.

Yes, my friendly cashier, you’re right. This isn’t going to get better anytime soon because this isn’t a fairytale. We’re not Cinderella, and when the clock strikes midnight, everything won’t go back to normal. But what if it could? What if, for just a few hours, we pretended that this new year will bring renewed hope?

What if we take a few minutes to look back at this year and avoid the negatives? What if we focus on the positives? What if… I think that’s the moment I made a conscious decision to live in a state of delusion and denial. It’s not a permanent move. I’m not relocating my sanity. I’m just visiting for a little while.

But I’m not the pollyanna-ish type of person who lives in the realm of what if’s. I’m a realist, and as such, my attention is drawn to cold hard facts over flights of fantasy. The facts are clear, the science is real, and reality is set in stone. It takes a conscious decision to change my mindset so, that’s what I’m doing right now, as we’re connecting. I’m asking the what if’s, so I can shift my view from the darkest of days to the mere possibility of sunshine.

To do that, I’m going to break my own rule and look back at the year we’ve had. What I’m not going to do? I’m not looking at the overwhelming negatives. I’m going to shift the rubble until I find at least one gem. There is one! A simple positive that momentarily outshines its counterpart.

If nothing else, this year has taught me one incredibly valuable lesson. It’s reminded me of something so blatantly obvious that I could slap myself. See, I’m realizing that I’ve been taking a lot of things for granted. Not just things! I’ve taken people for granted too. I didn’t know I was doing it. It was so subtle and subversive that it took on a life of its own. I turned down dinner invites because there would always be another one at some point. I didn’t take that road-trip with a friend because the open road will always be there. There’s a list of things I didn’t do because I assumed I could do them tomorrow.

But then I woke up one morning in March, and the world had to shut down. All of those things I put off, the people I didn’t spend time with, are now very far away. I miss them terribly, and this sounds like I’m saying hello to the darkness, my old friend. I’m not because I now see how lucky I am to have these people in my life! This year has forced me to stop and feel the connections, bonds that I so flippantly took for granted. 

Sure, I spent a lot of time wallowing because I wasted so much of my time banking on too many tomorrows and laters. But now, in a moment of reckless optimism, I’m choosing to look at it another way. Yes, I can’t get those moments back, but I can appreciate the moment I have right now. In this moment, I feel grateful for the simple fact that I have people in my life who invited me to dinner and wanted to go on road-trips with me.

These people are still in my life, and that’s a gift! As much as missing them hurts, the love I have for them is now at the forefront of my mind. It’s not hidden behind a thousand different distractions. All of the tomorrows and laters aren’t getting my way. I can feel the connection, the love, and I appreciate how fortunate I am to have these people in my life.

I want, or need to believe that, in the next twelve months, we’ll all be together again. The vaccines are slowly getting out into our communities, and we can start to build up a layer of protection. That layer can get stronger and, when it does, this virus will lose a lot of its power. 

That means we have a reason to hope! We can hold on for a little while longer because the day will come when we’re together again. We can say yes more often because now we know how important it is to not take things for granted. There will be a celebration with fireworks and earmuffs for sensitive animal ears. We’ll raise a glass to everyone who sacrificed so much and thank each other for caring.

Does it sound like I’m reaching? Am I spending too much time in a delusional state of hopefulness and gratitude? That’s quite possible, and I’ll walk back into my reality-based mindset soon enough. But, this place feels like a vacation on some tropical island. Peaceful. Relaxing. Recharging. Maybe I’ll stay here a little longer.

Happy new year, my friend. Here’s hoping 2021 has some pleasant surprises waiting for us.

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The Relaxing Sound Of A…What Now?

Photo by Rafael Guajardo from Pexels

This might be a weird question, but I’m nothing if not a little weird. I hope it’s not too invasive, and I certainly don’t mean to pry. If it makes you uncomfortable, please ignore it and pretend I didn’t ask. Your personal business is none of my business unless you want to make it my business, but that choice is yours.

Why was that sentence fun to write? I don’t know, but it was. Oh, no, wait! That wasn’t the question. I mean, it was a question, but it wasn’t thee question. I didn’t lay awake last night contemplating the joys of writing peculiar sentences. I didn’t toss and turn, wondering what you would think about my writing style or my strange use of the English language. No, my friend, that was not the question I intended to ask but, sometimes these things just slip out.

That’s what she… Nope, I’m still trying to get onto Santa’s good side. I have 300-and-something days to go, and it’s not going well. There will be coal in my stocking for sure! What do I do with coal anyway?

Again, that’s not the question I wanted to ask. My curiosity is a twitch on top of my hand tremor. I drop a lot of things and ask a lot of questions. They both make a big mess, and I’m horrible at housework. You should see my apartment. I’m this close to getting my own reality tv-show, and I’m not proud of that fact.

Okay, I’m a little proud.

No! Stop, there’s a question waiting to be asked. I’ve kept you in suspense and dangled the carrot. So, here it is in all of its splendour, wonder, and all of those sparkly words.

Do you have a favourite sound? 

Yeah, that’s the burning question I teased for four paragraphs. I hope it’s not a sensitive subject or treading on a controversial flower bed. Again, if it’s too personal then, by all means, keep your secrets. I won’t be offended. I’ll just make up my own answer, and that will be that.

What? No, you can’t just make up someone else’s story. Uh, I think I just did. It wasn’t hard. I just thought about it for a few seconds and there it was. That’s not…No, don’t assume, manipulate, or create a reality for someone else. It’s just wrong. But I can… Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should.

There I go, arguing with myself again. I really need to get out and interact with real people. This isolation business is making me goofy.

So, back to my big question. Do you have a sound that sends a ripple of delight running down your spine? You shiver, smile, and wonder if you’re weird. Or, I wonder if I’m weird, and then I project my insecurities onto you because weirdness loves company.

Huh, I should talk to someone about that.

This is a universal thing, right? I’m not the only one with a favourite sound. We all have at least one sonance that triggers feelings of contentment, safety, and happiness. It’s comforting, soothing, and when we’re alone in our bubbles it offers companionship.

Okay, that last one might go a bit far.

This question didn’t come up out of nowhere. I didn’t wake up in the middle of the night with random queries burning a hole in my mattress. At least, that didn’t happen last night. No, I overheard a conversation, and this question was posed.

The reply was, and I quote, “I’m too old for such silly things.”

Too old? Oh no, you did not just say that. Too old? Seriously?

You are never too old to partake in the silly things life has to offer. No, my friend, you could be 192 and still laugh when someone farts or slips on a banana peel. Classic! And classics don’t age out. They get better with time, and the longer you’re here, the more you can enjoy it. I don’t care how many times your card has punched. Some things are just timeless. 

Things like a favourite colour, bra, or flavour of toothpaste. If I can enjoy those things then, I can have a favourite sound. They’re not just for children, you know. Kids don’t get to have all the fun. I didn’t hand over my goofy-giggle card when I turned 21. That means, buddy old pal, I haven’t outgrown any of these silly things. 

If it makes me happy, I’m going to enjoy it because there’s no need to deny myself such a simple, healthy and safe pleasure. Some other forms of pleasure? Yeah, I could stand to avoid a few of those, but silly things? Never!

So, what’s your favourite sound? If you say chewing then my smile will turn into a cringe. I can’t listen to that. It feels like ants are eating my brain. It’s the same thing with whispering or any sound typically found in ASMR. Ew, no, the thought alone makes me whimper in disgust.

If you like those things? You do the do-da that you do so well. Could you wear headphones, please? That would be lovely.

I asked around a bit, and a neighbour told me she likes the sound of scissors running through wrapping paper in one swoop. Someone else said they like the sound of bubble wrap popping. I like the wind, and I can’t fall asleep without the sound of a fan going full speed. It’s the dead of winter, we had a big snowstorm last week, and it’s well below zero degrees Celsius at night. But, my fan is still running, and I’m buried under a pile of blankets.

Yeppers, it’s bloody cold, snuggly, and comfy.

The sound of silence drives me mad. When it gets too quiet, my ears feel like they’re bleeding, and my mind is burning a hole in my skull. I need the noise. Any noise. Except for the sound of chewing or whispering. Mouth noises are the worst!

I hate the sound of silence because… Oh dear, I’m about to venture into an area that makes people uncomfortable and, if that happens to you, I’m sorry. No, I’m going to take that back. I shouldn’t apologize for the way my life has played out, right? It happened, but I don’t want it to sound sad. I certainly don’t want the temperature in the room to drop seven degrees and wipe out a cluster of happy vibes.

Which happens when I bring up my childhood. People get uncomfortable, and they develop shifty puppy dog eyes. It’s a mix of get me out of here and awe sweetie. Neither of which inspires sharing, caring and community.

And it doesn’t help to start the story with, “Hey, a funny thing happened.” No one thinks growing up in a hospital is funny. It’s baffling! How can a bunch of sick kids living in a sterile environment not be funny? I don’t get it.

The problem is, it’s hard to talk about my life, my childhood in particular, without bringing up the fact that I grew up in hospitals. I spent so much time there, I started calling it home. I was diagnosed with chronic renal failure when I was 3, so my life has revolved around the medical world for as long as I can remember.

But it wasn’t all that bad! It just sounds awful. 

Fine, growing up in a hospital wasn’t ideal, and I wouldn’t recommend it. If you can avoid it, please do. But, it wasn’t as horrendous as you might think. Also, when you’re a kid, and this is the only life you know? Well, kids are resilient, and they adapt. 

I did, and when I look back at my life in those hospitals, most of my memories are positive. There are a lot of great people working in Children’s Hospitals all over the world. They’re job is making sure kids get to be kids in a grown-up environment. We had recess in the Playroom. School in a repurposed patients room. If you can’t leave your bed, someone will bring the good times to you. They make sure kids get to have fun in a place that isn’t known for its amusement.

I loved the staff at BC’s Children’s Hospital, and they, along with my family, created a lot of happy memories. So, when I bring it up in lighthearted conversations, I mean for it to sound fun. It’s like all of the summers you spent at your grandparent’s home, camping, or going to Disneyland.

These are happy memories that make us smile. We look back at them with the same sense of fondness. It’s the same emotional memory, but our sense memories are a little different. The sights, smells, tastes and sounds are very—What’s the word?— Unique.

In my case, it’s the sounds in particular that remind me of my home away from home. If there’s one thing that hospitals aren’t known for, it’s peace and quiet. There’s always something going on somewhere. Machines are beeping, staff talking, pagers going off, and overhead announcements. It can be the middle of the night, and despite their best efforts, the medical symphony takes centre stage.

For the uninitiated, it’s obtrusive and chaotic. It’s startling, unsettling, and it can be very stressful. For someone like me, though, it’s oddly reassuring. 

I love the noise and chaos of hospitals. There’s something so comforting about the voices drifting down the hall and the sound of soft-soled shoes on the linoleum floor. The shoes scuff against the floor, and there’s a loud chirp. It joins the squeaky wheels of an IV pole or a wheelchair.

Then there’s my absolute favourite sound, and this one will be bizarre. I love the sound of beeping monitors or machines. When I hear it, I start to feel sleepy, and I feel the pull of a trancelike state. I sigh in contentment, and I just want to close my eyes for a few minutes. It’s meditative, and I know how strange that sounds.

If I’m going to analyze myself, which is rarely advised, I think it comes down to a sense of safety. If something goes wrong, I know that there are highly trained people who will help me. That means, while I’m there, listening to the sounds of the hospital, I don’t have to be afraid. I can let go and sleep. I am safe, and that’s not something I feel very often.

Life with a chronic illness means living with a base-level of fear and uncertainty because terrifying things happen with little to know warning. The side effect of the illness, and the fear they bring are always there to varying degrees. I can tune it out, but I can’t get rid of it. Fear is biologically designed for survival, but I don’t think the designer intended it for long term use. It’s should dissipate after the threat is gone. But for those of us with chronic illnesses or injuries, the threat is always there.

Turning it off is meaningless so, we settle for drowning it out. Noise becomes a friend, and that’s especially true at night when not a sound can be heard, not even a mouse. It blocks out the silence so I can have a moment of peace, feel safe, and sleep.

I sleep with a fan going full blast in dead cold winter because the sound of the wind drowns out my thoughts. It drowns out the silence and creates a place of refuge. For me, at any time of day, noise keeps me focused on the fond memories and far away from the ones I’d rather forget.

Is that silly? Yeah, but that’s why I have a favourite sound. Sometimes, we all need to take a break from the serious and embrace the silly. So, what about you? What’s your favourite sound, and do you have a reason why?

Look at me, being too curious for my own good.

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Together But Apart: A Post Christmas Curiosity

Photo by Johannes Plenio from Pexels

Oh, my stomach! I think my gastric ocular ligament failed me. What’s a gastric ocular ligament, you ask? It’s the part of the body that connects your eyes to your stomach. It’s supposed to prevent you from eating everything you see but, clearly, it doesn’t always work. Usually, and I’m sure this is just a coincidence, it fails at Christmas, on birthdays, special occasions, and whenever I visit my favourite restaurant.

You know, back when we could frequent dine-in eating establishments. Ah, those were the days. When I was a kid! Walking uphill both ways. Back in my day… I’m running out of complaints! How could I run out?

Uh, maybe it’s because I’m feeling happy, content, and sufficiently stuffed? Nah, that can’t be it. There has to be another explanation.

I know! My stomach is so full that it expanded upwards. My other organs were forced to relocate up north, and they got turned all around. The shift in my physiological geography put pressure on my brain. Thinking has become extremely difficult which is why, I suppose, I just made up a ligament and recklessly shared my emotions.

No, wait, what am I thinking? I didn’t make up the ligament. My grandfather did, and it’s a polite way to say that I’ve stuffed a gut. I ate too much and, now I might vomit or slip into a prolonged state of unconsciousness. Can overeating cause hallucinations? Because, um, there’s a pink elephant in a tutu asking me to dance, and it’s really freaking me out!

How was your Christmas, holiday, or whatever you celebrated? I think I’m still in vacation mode, or I’ll just blame it on the food. My brain is fogged over, and I’m being super silly. I almost wrote superciliously, but that’s a different word, with a different meaning! Whoops.

What is wrong with me today? Oh, so many things except for the one thing you’re thinking. Not to put thoughts into your head, but you might be wondering if I’m drunk or otherwise intoxicated? The answer is no, no, I’m not. This is my brain after a holiday involving copious amounts of delectable delights. I even ate meat, which I rarely do, so I’m not accustomed to the tryptophan hangover.

It’s making my body very sleepy, and my mind race around like I squirrel that just ate two-dozen coffee beans. I think I have the mental zoomies. Just like my dog with too much pent-up energy. My brain is running around the room with its tail tucked between its legs. Look at it go! Run little buddy, run. Watch out for that wall!

Ouch, too late. That’s gonna leave a mark.

The crash will come, and I will sleep. It’s inevitable. No one can spin this fast for this long. I’m smelling the smoke, the tires are gonna burst, and I’m going to shut down for an extended period of time.

Butt first! Teehee, see what I did there? Butt. I need sleep!

I’ve said this before in other posts so, forgive my repetition. It’s for those of you who have just stumbled across this page and who, for reasons I can’t fathom, have kept reading. Thanks for that, by the way. I wouldn’t blame you if you clicked off halfway through the third paragraph, but here you are. Sticking with me, and all I can say is bless you, you kind and noble person.

On with the repetition! I don’t like the holidays, birthdays, or any day that’s been set aside for sentimentality and forced cheer. It makes me kind of sad, but this post isn’t about that. It’s not the time, place, or season. 

And I don’t wanna.

Ah, but these days stir up emotions that aren’t comfortable and then I’m told that I should be happy, cheerful, merry… Well, I’m too stubborn sometimes, and I don’t like being told what I should feel, want, or need. I dig my heels in and feel the opposite out of spite.

Real mature, I know.

Given my proclivity for Grinch-like sensibilities, you would think that this Christmas would be the worst one ever. Just look at the circumstances we find ourselves in! For the sake of my sanity, I won’t write the word or spend a lot of time outlining our current state of affairs. We all know what’s going on, and most of us are making the necessary sacrifices to save as many lives as we can.

We know this, we’re doing it, and I just want to say thank you to everyone who’s doing their part to lower the curve. I’m not going to say the C-name or the P-word because, again, I don’t wanna. Petulant? Yes. Necessary for my mental wellbeing? Absolutely.

But thank you! For everything you’ve sacrificed, and all you’ve done, thank you.

So, was this the worst Christmas ever? Do I find myself wallowing in a deeper state of despair than previous years? Am I holding on to my sanity with a fraying rope and I diminishing sense of hope?

This might surprise you, but my answer is no to all of the above. To be honest, I think I’m just as shocked as you are, and I’m scratching my head. What is this curious emotion I’m experiencing? Could it be happiness?

Curiouser and curiouser, hmm.

Perhaps this year has been so trying, and this is a chance to set all of that aside for a little while. It’s a chance to forget — No, not forget but focus our energies on something more positive and full of wonder. In no particular order, things like: Santa, presents, good food, family, and mistletoe. Placing cookies under the Christmas tree and setting aside some carrots for the reindeer. It’s all of those silly traditions that are unique to you and yours. 

It’s a sense of normalcy in a time when everything feels so extraordinarily bizarre. And, even for someone like me, it’s been a welcomed relief. It’s also an excuse to put my life on hold and reach out to people I love.

I’m very fortunate to have a close-knit family, and we enjoy spending time together. Sure, we argue, disagree, squabble from time to time. But when one of us falls, we’re all there to pick each other up. When one of us flies to the stars, we’re there to cheer each other on. If there’s one thing I never, ever, have to doubt? It’s the love of my family, and I know they will always be there for me.

In this regard, I’m so lucky that it borders on sickening.

Under normal circumstances, Christmas is our chance to appreciate each other and our good fortune. It’s a chance to pause our busy lives and get together. We eat too much, laugh too hard, and celebrate the fact that we’re all together.

This year, of course, things were very different. We were apart, and that sucks. I would use stronger language, but I barely made it onto the Nice List this year! Too many curse words have flown past my lips. I don’t wanna rock the boat because Santa Clause, that little devil, is a bit of a prude.

My family is divided into two separate bubbles, and we’re keeping it that way because a few of us are extremely vulnerable. A few others work with people exposed to the virus. They are angels, hero’s and I am in awe of them every damn day. Anyone who risks their life to help others? Legends! You are the best humanity has to offer.

I, on the other hand, am weak and vulnerable. That’s cool too, I suppose. I’ve had a kidney transplant, so I take medication to suppress my immune system. That medication stops my body from attacking and killing the kidney that was generously, selflessly, given. I’m grateful for the science and modern medicine that’s keeping me alive.

So, incredibly grateful! However…

The downside is obvious, especially now. If there’s a contagion out there then, I will almost certainly, get it because my immune system is a weak little b**h. (And I’m on the naughty list again.) When I get sick, I usually get it worse than most, and it can become life-threatening very quickly. I ended up in the ICU after getting a common cold! So, our current situation?

I’ve had the virus once, it was a miracle that I didn’t get a lot sicker, and I’m genuinely scared to get sick a second time. Will I be lucky again or, will my body shut down because it’s taken one too many hits? I don’t know, and no one in my family wants to risk it.

After all, we’ve come this far. The vaccines are here, and I’m hoping I’ll be cleared to receive it soon, but that’s a ways off. I’m in the outlier group. People on immunosuppressants haven’t been approved for the vaccine because science doesn’t know if it’s safe or effective. I’m hoping, praying, and wishing on a star that I can get it, and it works.

But until then, I’m isolating, and that’s just how it needs to be. It’s not fun, and I’ve had some low days because of it. I guess this brings me back to what I was saying about this being the worst Christmas ever. Or, more accurately, it should’ve been the worst on record, but I’m sitting here, the day after, with a full belly and a warm heart. I’m content, and I think I might even be happy.

It’s weird, right? Yeah, kinda weird. The Grinch has a heart? The curiosities just keep coming!

I have two other people in my bubble, and we’re all isolating as much as possible. My parents are taking all the precautions they can, and I’m doing the same. It means, in accordance with the health guidelines of my province, I can visit them. They are the only people I see, and their home is one of the few places I go. 

Yesterday, I went over to cook Christmas dinner with my dad. My mom decorated the table and made their home feel festive and warm. I snuggled with their dog, Thomas the corgi, and we opened presents. We ate a delicious meal and Zoomed with the other half of the family.

It was a little strange, not being in the same room and trying to hear each other over a small screen. It wasn’t the same, and I miss them very much. But! Exclamation mark, highlight, and shout it loud. We were together in a strange and different way. It wasn’t the way we normally do it or would’ve liked, but we were together. 

We ate together. Talked together. Laughed together. We were still together, and that will always be incredibly special. 

Maybe it’s even more special now because so many people have an empty chair at their dining tables. Quite a few of my friends have lost loved ones this year, and Christmas is so hard. That’s an understatement! It’s heartbreaking and the first holiday after that kind of loss is extremely difficult. I’ve been in that position, and all I can say is, I’m so sorry you’re going through this. Sincerely, you have all the love I have to give.

That’s why I’m feeling so fortunate this year. Correction! I feel grateful, and it’s bordering on overwhelming. I have my family, and we’re all doing alright. We’re okay. The people that I love are still around and, thank you God for that merciful gift.

We’ve all sacrificed so that we can have moments like this, together. We’ll keep at it, and yes, it’s exhausting, but when it’s over, we’ll all be together in person, again. We’ve made it this far together because we’ve stayed apart, and I’m so grateful for that simple stroke of luck. 

I think that makes this one of the most curious, yet happiest, Christmas’s I’ve ever had.

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Wishing You The Happiest Whatever You Celebrate!

Photo by Elly Fairytale from Pexels

It’s Christmas! Or, it’s the Holidays! It’s Whatever-You-Celebrate day, yay! Should I just pick one and run with it? Nah, I’m not going to limit myself to one positive sentiment when there are so many to choose from. Besides, they’re all good vibes. Happy vibes. Sweet, scrumptious, and delectable vibes. Today is a good vibes kinda day because it’s sparkly, shiny, and jolly.

For the cynics, scratching their heads and getting ready to grumble, I’m not trying to be politically correct. I’m wishing you well. I’m hoping you have an incredible day. Also, yes, I’m covering my bases and doing my best to make sure no one feels left out because it’s a good day to be kind.

There’s more than one holiday being celebrated right now, and that’s pretty amazing. It’s cool to think that so many of us, from many different cultural and religious backgrounds, are choosing to put our worries aside and enjoy this one day together. Metaphorically speaking, because you know, the time-space thingy’s are muddlesome. What’s even cooler is that we’re all, regardless of our traditions, wishing each other happiness, joy, and merriment. 

It’s the one time of year where we can look a stranger in the eyes and use the words merry or happy. We can do that without getting strange looks, and no one crosses the street to get away. Better yet, no one calls the special van, the one with padded walls, because they think we’re taking a very different kind of trip.

I’m not saying that’s ever happened, personally or otherwise but, when I’ve tried to employ merriment in July, I get looked at. Even in Canada, where saying good morning to someone on the street is the norm. If you go further than that? Well, you could try saying merry Friday to you, my good person. There will be a frown, a stutter, and a mumbled, mornin’, but there will be a leery look.

During December and the first couple weeks of January? Happy holidays! Merry Christmas! Happy New Year! You can say it loud, proud, and most people will chuckle and return the favour. Their exuberance might not match yours, but the sentiment will be returned.

And I love the sentiment! I’m wishing you happiness and joy. Oh, we all need more of that in our lives. Or, is that just me?

That’s why I don’t care if you say Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Happy Hanukah, or any other variant. We don’t need to share the same religious or cultural heritage for the spirit of kindness to mean so much. You’re taking time out of your busy life to wish me well? Thank-you! That’s so sweet of you, and I wish you all the best life has to offer.

Sure, these simple expressions have become a bit of an automated response. The lights go up, Rudolf is inflated on the lawn, and the animatronic Santa moons the neighbours with a ho ho ho. We flip that mental that switch, and the words come out of our mouths without us giving it much thought. Still, if the spirit isn’t there, the words are said with a grumble, and I haven’t heard a lot of that going around. Most people, despite the year we’ve all had, say it with an ounce of cheer.

I like to think that small measurements speak volumes. It reminds me that I shouldn’t underestimate people and their good hearts. I shouldn’t undervalue the incredible fortitude of the human spirit, either. After the year we’ve had? We’ve been pushed and pulled to our breaking point. Oh, and don’t forget the tossing and tousling. This year has been a beast of burden, but we still manage to find a reason to celebrate.

A-freaking-mazing!

In my ever so humble and diminutive opinion? I think it comes down to a simple necessity that’s universal. It’s something that’s often undervalued and, when it’s shown, it’s met with surprise. It’s unexpected, which is a little sad. It shouldn’t be such a shock because, oh my friend, we all need it so much!  

The suspense is killing me so, here it is. The one thing we all need but undervalue is: Kindness. Yeah, you saw that coming. When it comes down to it, we all want to be treated with kindness, and we all have a lot of it to give. It’s a part of our spirit, our genetic make up, and it’s as necessary as the breath we just took.

It’s easy to be cynical and, most of the year, it is my go-to dance move. If I wanted to show off my skills, I could point out the flaws in my logic because there is a long list of people who put the Scrooge in the McDuck. *Cough* Politicians *Cough*. They would seemingly disprove my thesis in a single leap, and they would do it spectacularly.

Be kind? Okay, sure, Baby Smurf. If that’s the best you’ve got, I’m going back to the real world.

No! Wait, it’s Christmas or the holidays or…Whatever you celebrate. I can be a little Polly-Anna-ish right now. Every other day of the year, fine, roll those eyes, but not today, my friend! 

No, I’m putting those dancing shoes in the closet and leaning into the idea that all of us, at our core, are kind, caring, compassionate people. Some more than others, sure, but the ability to give and receive kindness is universal. The need to give and receive basic decency knows no bounds. It’s in our programming! So, why does it take one holiday to let it flow without restraint?

I can’t answer that for you, obviously, but I have my reasons, or excuses if you prefer. I get busy, and I’m often lost in my own head. My problems stack up, and so do my worries. They act like blinders, and all I can see are my own woes. I start to feel like I’m alone, and I forget that there are so many of you out there, struggling too. When I do that? I’m not as kind as I would like or want… Need?

Then the season of giving comes around, and it forces my attention outward because, you know, it’s sparkly. Oo, shiny too. Once a year, the blinders come off, and I see you standing there with the same struggles, worries, and burdens. I’m reminded that I’m not alone, and if I look around me a bit more often, then I’d be kinder to myself, you, and that grumpy cartoon duck.

That’s the beauty of Christmas, or whatever you celebrate this time of year. It’s not the decorations, the big guy in a red suit, or the presents. The real magic is the reminder that we’re a part of a community so, we’re never really alone. It’s the simple connections we make when we wish each other happiness and merriment. It’s that moment of kindness when we genuinely wish good tidings to all humanity, our difference be damned.

So, my dear reader, I am wishing you merriment with all the sincerity I can muster. I hope you have an incredible day, and you find some joy in whatever way you choose to celebrate this season. I wish you happiness, and more than anything, I hope the new year will reward your kindness in abundance. 

I’m sincerely wishing you, your family, and all the people you love and cherish all the blessings in the world. 

Merry…Whatever you celebrate!

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Finding Happy: In Chaotic Thoughts and Shared Moments

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It’s a couple days before Christmas and, my brain is checking itself into a hotel. It’s drawing a bubble bath and laying out warm pyjamas. It’s ordering room service and settling in to watch Home Alone for the 5004th time. What can I say? It’s a classic and it’s my Christmas movie.

I think we all have that one movie we have to watch before it feels like the holidays. This is mine, and it’s not Christmas until Kevin shoots the gold tooth baddy in the groin. I know that’s not the iconic scene everyone remembers. It’s not the clue given in charades. I know this, but why did the face slap, scream scene become an instant classic? It’s cute, kinda funny, but it’s not the funniest one in there. It’s not as funny as watching the felons slip down the icy stairs twelve times.

Did I just poke a hornet’s nest with a pogo stick? Sorry, but not really because it’s true. It’s not the best scene in that movie. There I said it. I’m going to hide now. Eep!

Actually, no, I’m not going to hide because I’m in a decent mood today. I can’t be absolutely sure, given my limited expertise but, I think I might, possibly, almost, kind of feel happy. Did I just use the H-word and apply it to my current mental state? It’s a Christmas miracle!

Unlike Home Alone 2 through 4. Enough with sequels already!

I’m exaggerating, slightly. Not about the sequels because I firmly believe that they’ve taken things too far. No, I might be overstating the miraculous improvement of my mood, but it is nice to say that, right now, I’m feeling something that closely resembles a joyful emotion. Or, is it contentment. I can never tell the two apart. Are they one and the same? To feel happy is to feel content? That sounds a bit too philosophical for the day before, the day before Christmas. 

Is that Christmas eve, eve? Whatever! I don’t have an answer to any of these questions because I lack the expertise. I’m not sure how to define happiness. I struggle to understand the concept. The word might as well be written in an ancient sand-script dialect, thing. What is sand-script?

I’d google it but we had a big snowstorm, and the power has been out for over twelve hours. I’m chasing my dying computer battery here. Who will win? My fast typing fingers and my over-stimulated mind. Or the power of electricity and the fading current flowing through my laptop. 35% left. It’s a close race, folks.

The idea of happiness is as baffling to me as quantum mechanics or knitting. I understand that these things serve a purpose, and they give a lot of people a great deal of pleasure. That’s awesome, amazing, wonderful, but I don’t get it. 

When it comes to the broad strokes and the fact that these things exist? I’m with you, and I appreciate the art behind the science. Understanding the complexities, intricacies, the nitty-gritty? Nope, I’m lost. You just sit there with needles and wool? Twirling your fingers until a sweater manifests itself?

Huh, interesting.

That’s not to say I don’t experience happiness at all because I do. Right now, the warmth of this elusive feeling is thawing out my chilly toes. It’s stopped by for a visit, and we’re enjoying a good conversation. I made a pot of tea and some sandwiches. Happy is a good friend that has come back to town after being away for awhile. You know, its been off, finding itself.

We’re comfortable, having fun, and there are a lot of laughs. But, it’s only a visit, and we will part ways with a hug. Don’t be a stranger! Come back soon. Miss you already. Call me!

Is this normal? Is the fact that I have to ask that question indicative of my overall mental health? Mm, yes to all of the above and maybe to whatever comes next.

I have, it would seem, the emotional IQ of a toddler and the emotional range of a Tony Award-winning dramatist. I have plenty of feelings, on a wide range of topics, but I can’t identify or name most of those feeling words. Well, except for anxious, depressed, and floopy. I feel those in abundance.

But at this precise moment? I think I feel happy. Though, I’m not entirely sure, so let’s not ruin it by asking philosophical questions. What is happiness? Nope, I’m not touching it. Is contentment the same thing as happiness? What did I just say? How do you define happiness? Not today, Satan!

Too far? Mm, okay, Satan has nothing to do with it, and now it’s kind of bringing me down. No, don’t go Happy! I just made finger sandwiches. Who doesn’t like that? Who else has to bribe Happy to stay?

Phew, it worked, and Happy is sticking around. Good old finger sandwiches, you never let me down. But if I keep talking about Satan and asking too many questions, it’s going to pack its bags and leave town. Shush, it’s sitting back down on the sofa. Don’t startle Happy!

While I have it here, sitting on my sofa, it wouldn’t hurt to make small talk, right? So, what brings you around today, Happy? I’m not trying to pry, just making conversation. Being a good hostess. Another sandwich? Christmas, you say? That’s what brought you to my humble abode. Interesting. Go on.

Christmas is just a hop and skip away and, while I’m not a holiday lover, I still enjoy the tradition of it all. The sparkly lights shinnying through the stormy weather. Yeah, that’ll get me home. Lawns decorated with inflatable doodads. In some cases, it looks like a garage has vomited and, at any other time, we’d call it littering. This time of year, it’s called spirit and creativity.

Go figure, but I kind of love it. It’s a tradition! And if you can say that word instead of singing it like that guy in Fiddler on the Roof, then bless you. I can’t. Whenever I say it, I have to resist the urge to belt-out, TRADITION! See, couldn’t help myself.

Oh, and Christmas presents!

Wow, my ADHD is supercharged today. It’s funny how it ramps up when I’m happy, content, and all the other positive emotions. It’s like my mind is walking out of a fog, and it wants to run through the snow like a kid who’s just gotten the call that schools been cancelled. It flops down, makes a snow angel, and then runs off to make a snowperson. Before it can add the carrot nose, it sees a box wrapped up all pretty, and it has to investigate.

Happy, it would seem, makes my mind bouncy.

Oo, my brain sees a present under a tree, and it’s jumping up and down with childlike excitement. It’s a great tradition, giving gifts to the people we love and getting some in return. Yes, I know it’s an added stress for a lot of reasons. It’s something that’s been giving me a lot of anxiety this year, but then I found the magic of the small gift, and I’m really getting into it.

A good gift doesn’t have to cost anything other than time and some thought. It can be something that says, I see you and love you. It can be the perfect card that puts a smile on their face. It can be something you made with macaroni and super glue. Or a witty joke written on the back of a paper napkin. Though, word of advice, don’t write on the back of your mom’s fancy cloth napkins. If she calls it a serviette? Then it won’t be received in the way you intend and, yes, I’m speaking from personal experience.

The best gift you could give, though, could be a long-overdue hug. Which almost happened to me this weekend, but it’s against the COVID rules. Damn it. So close! Yet, so far.

I saw a friend in person for the first time in almost a year. We were safe, masked, and kept the required six-foot distance. But, when I saw her, it took every ounce of strength to stay away. I wanted to run up and give her a hug. I’m not even a hugger! Usually, physical contact makes me extremely uncomfortable and slightly nauseated. Now, after a horrible year for both of us, dear God, a hug would’ve been the most perfect gift I could’ve received.

We settled for proximity because neither one of us can risk getting sick or passing on the virus. We believe in science and trust the wisdom of those who have dedicated their lives to studying contagious diseases. Facts not fear. That’s my pandemic motto. 

Still, being together was incredible, and maybe that’s why I’m feeling happy today? Even though we couldn’t hug, stand closer than six feet, or take our masks off, we were still in each other’s presence. We got to have a moment of shared space that wasn’t facilitated by a screen or a telephone. We looked each other in the eyes without having to wait for the connection to buffer out.

There’s no substitute for real-world contact with someone you love. Technology has helped us get through this bizarre year, and it will help us have a very different Christmas. We will get to see our loved ones in some capacity, and that’s brilliant. I’m very grateful for it. It’s just not the same, is it?

That’s why so many people are planning to ignore all of the health and safety guidelines. It’s why I’ve been hearing a lot of talk that borders on childish petulance from grown adults. I would criticize them, but honestly, I can’t say that I blame them and, I want to react the same way.

I won’t! And I wish they wouldn’t either. The only way we all get to have a better holiday next year, with all the people we love in attendance, is to spend this season connecting over technological wizardry. It’s the safest thing for all of us, and it’s what my family is planning to do.

Again, it’s not the same, and I’m feeling the desperate pull towards the people I love. I want to sit around the table, eat good food, and enjoy the chaos of too many conversations happening simultaneously. If you think my writing style is wild, then come and have dinner with my family. A group of hyperactive people with wildly sporadic attention spans is the epitome of bouncy thoughts and erratic banter.

And I love it! I miss it. I miss them so much!

Oh great, now Happy is threatening to walk out but wait! Just wait. Give me a minute because this isn’t about how much I miss my people. It’s about those few minutes I spent with a dear friend. Someone I think of as a sister! Someone I’ve only been able to see over Facetime for close to a year. Someone who’s there for me when I’m at my lowest and can lift me up to my highest with one phone call. Someone I can be my honest, real self with. Someone who thinks I’m just the right amount of weird.

That kind of friendship, in my experience, is so rare and precious. How lucky am I to have someone like that in my life? And I got to see her in person for a few minutes. We exchanged Christmas gifts, resisted the urge to hug, and then went our separate ways. When I got home, we watched Home Alone together even though it’s not her favourite movie. 

There are a hundred movies that she would’ve rather watched! Hell, she might’ve even chosen Ant-Man over Home Alone, which says a lot. But she watched it with me because, in my mind, it’s not Christmas until that kid defends his home and commits, what I assume, are half a dozen felonies.

That’s it. That’s why I’m happy. I’m feeling grateful for a silly tradition that brought us together and created a sense of normalcy in a year that’s been chaotic, strange, and downright ew. I’m grateful for the gift she gave me, but the real gift was just seeing her in person and sharing the same space for a few minutes. 

That’s where I found, what I assume, is happiness and I couldn’t be more grateful.

Now I have 9% battery left, and the power just came back on! Another reason to be happy. This day, it’s a good one, my friend.

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Silly Dreams and Fancy Someday’s

Photo by Roman Pohorecki from Pexels

I’m not a fancy gal or “high maintenance.” Not that there’s anything wrong with that! If you’re fancy or like things a particular way? Great, that’s a part of your unique personality. Me? I’m the opposite, which will work out much better because opposites attract or compliment, or balance each other.

Did I use or once too often? It sounds like I’m overcompensating for something. But this is the internet, and simple statements can be misconstrued and blown way out of proportion. People take things personally and feel attack or criticized by innocent statements.

So, yes, I’m overcompensating.

I don’t want you to feel like I’m coming after you on a personal level because I’m not a fancy-pants kinda gal. To each their own, and own it proudly. If you’re glittery, sparkly, and like to shine then, my friend, twinkle your star. Glow like the magnificent beast you are. Be the queen/king/monarch you were born to be!

I’m going to be over here in my sweatpants, ratty t-shirt, happily playing a stupid video game. Minding my own in my quiet corner of the galaxy. I’m perfectly content. Don’t worry about a thing. You go out and be sparkly.

Then again, I have my moments of fancy and when it comes to certain things, I’m a bit particular. Mostly when it comes to food. It’s a texture thing for me. Creamy things should be creamy; without any crunchy bits. Crunchy things shouldn’t gush or mush. There are very few scenarios where onions are an acceptable additive but don’t get me started on black olives or pumpkin.

I can be a particular eater so, yeah, that makes me a tiny bit fancy. Maybe we’re all fancy-schmancy in our own ways. Some just take it to a level that’s inspiring or exhausting, depending on your worldview. But, let’s just go with the former and assume the best in each other.

Imagine a world where we assumed the best instead of the worst. Ah, yes, and fairies would brush the unicorn’s mane with candy canes. If only!

Overall, though, I’m craving more simplicity, and I want to declutter my whole self. I feel mentally cluttered. My home looks physically cluttered. I desperately want to toss everything in a big old dumpster and wave good-bye. Sure, it’s not exactly practical, but a girl can dream.

Speaking of which, I was talking to a friend about my dream vacation, and it would take me far away from fancy. You know, when vacations become a thing people can do without being labelled an outbreak monkey or a plague rat. Someday, in the distant future, when a microscopic pathogen isn’t hellbent on global domination and the eradication of our species. 

Was that too pessimistic? Should I rewrite it? Oh, I know, let’s add this caveat. Hopefully, distance is as relative as time, and we’re talking months, not years. Soon we will be able to travel without spreading the plague!

Better? I’m trying to be more positive and think happy thoughts. You know, in my effort to declutter and all that.

I’ve done a fair bit of travelling, and I’ve tried a lot of variations of the experience. Airplanes, road trips, trains, and boats. I’ve stayed in hotels, motels, and tiny cabins with a thin sleeping bag. I’ve never camped, per se. I don’t think that a cabin counts as camping, even if it was on a campground. 

Camping should involve a tent, and your food should be stolen by a bear wearing a top hat and bow tie. That’s Camping! And I’ve never done that because I’m a city mouse who’s convinced she’ll get eaten by a predatory animal. I’m snack size, for goodness sake! Who doesn’t like that? You can eat twice as much without feeling like you’re ruining your dinner. 

Sure, it’s an illusion, and we’re just lying to ourselves, but it’s snack size! It’s irresistible.

Out of all my travels, the ones I’ve loved the most were the simplest and not at all fancy. I didn’t stay in a nice hotel with room service. The nearest restaurant was a five-hour drive, and the food we ate came out of a cooler and a backpack. There was no central heating, and the only thing keeping us warm was a bonfire.

Yeah, in my book, that’s not fancy, but if you were to ask me to describe my idea of heaven? This would be it, hands down. There would be a fire pit loaded full of dry wood and tinder. It would be a chilly night, but not cold. I would need a sweatshirt to stay warm, but that would be it because, once that fire’s lit, I’ll be a toasty little marshmallow.

The sky would be clear and full of stars. There would be trees all around me. No, wait, I have a better idea! There are trees behind me, sand underneath my feet, and an oceanfront view in front. Is there anything better than a bonfire on a beach?

The minute I stand by the shore of any body of water, my mood improves exponentially. Add the crackling sound of fire consuming dry wood and the waves crashing against the beach. I just sighed as I wrote those words because the imagery is pure perfection.

It’s not a flashy vacation with glitz or glam. Sure, okay, it’s a little shiny, but only in the literal, I see fire, sense. It’s basic, and perfect and… I can’t help myself, I just sighed again.

When we’re done with this pandemic hell-scape? I want to get in my car and drive to a beach in the middle of nowhere. I want to build a fire in one of those pits. I want to sit on some old piece of driftwood, the warmth of the fire making my skin tingle, and stare out at the water, stars, and flames.

That’s it. Just sit there. Nothing extravagant. Nothing, yes, I’m using that word again, fancy.

Maybe I could convince a couple of friends to rent an RV, and we can road-trip it over to Vancouver Island. Head up to Long Beach and slowly make our way to Tofino. It’s a small town on the northern tip of the island, and it’s one of the most beautiful places on earth. Quiet, peaceful, and it’s the perfect place to shed the stress we’ve been carrying.

There’s not much up there: Beaches, trees, and a few surfers. The waves run high, the weather can be wild, and when the wind blows, it blows right through you. It clears away all the worries and sets you free for a few minutes. Do you know what I mean? In that moment, there are no problems that can’t wait. There’s nothing that needs your attention more than that moment, standing on the beach, feeling the wind blow through you.

I like the idea of meditation, but I have a hard time staying in the moment. My ADHD mind is too chaotic and busy. I can’t sit still without doing something with my hands. Meditation is a beneficial practice. It can make my life immeasurably better but, I haven’t successfully incorporated it into my life.

Except when I’m on a beach, in front of a fire, and the wind is biting my skin. For me, that moment is…I don’t have the words to adequately describe it and calling it perfection again doesn’t do it justice.

After this last year, I would love to go up there and feel that sense of freedom, peace, tranquillity, alignment. Add some good friends, who I haven’t seen in person since this pandemic started, and I can’t think of anything better.

It would give me a chance to test out this silly dream I have. It’s something I’ve been toying with, but I don’t think it’s possible right now, or ever. Maybe it’s one of those things I talk about doing when the stars align? In my heart, though, I never really think it will happen.

Hope! Yes, but reality and hope are strange bedfellows. At least, in my experience, they are, but if I was a fancy gal who liked to shine then, they would be best friends. Do shiny people chase their dreams with more vigour than those of us who live in sweatpants and ratty old t-shirts? Does their need to sparkle add purpose to their pursuits? Do they wait for the stars, to align or turn to their hearts for advice?

This is an honest question, and if you have some thoughts, I’m happy to hear them in the comments.

Since I’m not fancy, I have a lot of dreams, and I call them silly. I assume they aren’t achievable, but they still tickle the back of my mind. Every once in a while, I go online and do some research. I try to do the math, and I wonder if it will ever be possible. Then I shake my head because, right now, I can’t see how I’ll ever financially or physically do it. 

Or, I’m worried reality won’t live up to the dream? Yeah, that’s entirely possible.

I live in a small one-bedroom apartment, and you’d think that I’d want to sell it, buy a big home, and own lots of land. It’s what most people do, and it’s probably more sensible, but I want to go in the opposite direction. Go smaller, not bigger. Sell everything I own, buy an RV, and live out of that for at least a year.

It’s- I keep using the word silly. I should open a thesaurus and be more creative. Will I do that? I like silly. It’s a fun word to write, think, and say out loud. Now I’ve said it too many times, and it doesn’t sound like a word anymore. Funny how that happens, eh?

Besides the money, practically speaking I don’t know how I’d go about achieving this dream. I’m 4’10, and I can’t drive a Ford Mustang because I’m too short to see out of the back. I had to sit on a pillow to see out of the windshield, and then I could barely reach the pedals. How on earth do I drive an RV or a camper van?

But if I could make it happen?

The thought of driving across the country and having a grand adventure is so enticing. I immigrated to Canada when I was a kid, and it was a move that literally saved my life. If we’d stayed in our home country? Honestly, I firmly believe that Canada saved my life, and I want to go out and see every inch of this beautiful country.

I would love to find a way to say thank-you, but I have no idea how to do that so, maybe I can touch every inch. Impart my gratitude that way? Okay, that does sound a little absurd, but wouldn’t it be lovely? Experiencing the diverse landscape and the cultures that call this place home. Having a home of my own as I travel to placate my homebody tendencies.

This silly little dream is breathtaking. It triggers the same feeling I get when I stand on a beach in Tofino or sit in front of a bonfire. A deep exhale. A meditative immersion. A dream, a hope, and a whole lot of what if’s.

This fantasy could be a pandemic hangover and a dire need to connect with people outside of my bubble. Maybe, when this is over, the dream will fade, and I’ll settle back into my routine life. There’s a chance that isolation is making me hallucinate silly little flights of fancy. Or if I was a fancier person, then I would chase this dream down and say to hell with the obstacles.

I don’t know but, for now, I’m content with the dream, and I’m happy looking forward to the someday’s to come. Maybe, by then, I’ll be a fancy-pants kinda gal.

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Stop Blinking At Me!

Photo By Pascal Meier on unsplash.com

I’m sitting here, staring at this blank page, and the cursor is aggressively blinking at me. It’s so impatient! Such a nag. Blink, come on, what are you waiting for? Blink, seriously, are you gonna use me or are we just gonna stare at each other? Blink, well, this is fun! Blink, use me or lose me, woman, I don’t have all day.

Lose you? What else are you going to do? This is why you exist! You sit on this page blinking every time I take a second to think. It’s like you’re tapping your foot and glancing at your watch. It’s distracted, and you’re making it so much harder for me to think.

Which, BTW, is already an insurmountable challenge. I can’t think, and the blinking isn’t helping. Stop blinking, you bloody nuisance!

Am I arguing with an inanimate doodad? Yes. Am I anthropomorphizing random objects and projecting some of my worst traits onto a computer-generated symbol? You bet. 

In this case, it’s my complete lack of patience and my desire to snap my fingers and have all projects magically completed. Why should I have to put the time, energy, and work into creating this…thing?

Nah, I want it to be done without effort or active participation. I want to manifest my destiny by crossing my fingers, closing my eyes, and letting happy, good-time vibes drift out into the universe. By the sheer force of my will, with no physical effort, the words will appear on this page, and it will be read by at least a couple of people.

Mostly my parents and you. Unless you’re one of my parents? Hi Mom. Hi Dad. Look, I’m on the internet!

I am so grateful for your presence, and thanks for reading this far. Sincerely, from every cell in my body, thank you for your time and for not clicking off when you realized how utterly bizarre I am. You are a gem of a person.

I like to have a smooth transition between topics, but I can’t think of one so: Ta-Da!

Do you believe in manifestation, projection of desires, and universal intervention? Honest question and there are no wrong answers. Personally, I am a cynic and doubt is my default setting so, I don’t know if I really believe in that stuff. That doesn’t mean it isn’t real, or it’s a bunch of hogwash. It just means I don’t understand the concepts, or I don’t see a place for them in my life.

Except for right now because I’m feeling rather floopy. Which, I know, it isn’t a real word. It’s one I used when I was a kid and didn’t feel well. What are your symptoms? I feel floopy. I think it’s quite descriptive, but many have disagreed. 

There’s no accounting for taste.

Today, my floopy mood would love to employ the power of manifestations onto this page and will these words in existence. If that could happen without me having to write them down or think them up? I think, therefore I am so, I think that I’ve already written these words, done my laundry, and renewed my car insurance. 

Is it done? No! Of course not, and it’s annoying the hell out of me.

If you’re about to point out that I’m being an unreasonable cranky-pants, then yeah, fair. My level of annoyance is disproportionate to the reality I currently inhabit. That fact that there’s no magic chore genie or word fairy in this realm of existence is a crushing disappointment. How will I ever recover from such an emotional blow? Zeus only knows, and he hasn’t said a peep since, what, the 6th century B.C.

I hold very little hope he’ll answer, and thus I shall sit with my disappointment until the kettle boils and the leaves have steeped. How often do you get to use thus, in a sentence? Well, that was oddly satisfying.

But then the damn cursor blinks at me, and I shudder as pure aggravation slithers through my bones. What do you want from me? I don’t know what to say. I am a blank slate. The space between my ears has morphed into a wind tunnel. There’s a whistle whoosh whipping around. It’s very distracting, and I’m genuinely concerned that a tornado will form inside my skull.  

Sure, that might not be physiologically possible, but what if?

Have you ever woken up, gone about your morning, and then suddenly realized you haven’t had a single thought for at least two hours? Actually, that realization is the first thought you’ve thunk up since you fell asleep 3-8 hours ago. Sure, dreams count as subconscious thoughts, but you didn’t dream last night. You closed your eyes, there was darkness, and when your alarm went off this morning, there was light.

The space in-between? Nothing. Not a dream, nightmare, or anything associated with slumber. It was a black void, and you assume that you just died, in the abstract sense. Please don’t literally pass away. That’s not good. The world needs you.

There was a recent study that claimed we have approximately 6000 thoughts a day. Now, I don’t know how one goes about tracking every single thought, let alone calculate the average, but still, that’s a lot of thinking in a 24-hour cycle.

You’d think, and yes, I used that word deliberately, that after years of endless mental chatter, you’d run out of things to think about. How many times can one person rethink a single thought before that thought comes worn out and bursts? Like a balloon or an old tire. Bald spots would form, maybe a small leak, and eventually, it would deflate or pop. The mind would spin out or fishtail. You would have to hold onto the steering wheel real tight and pray your brain doesn’t flip over and crash.

It’s only natural that, after thinking so much for so many years, that we’d run out of things to think about, right?

Asks the person with an obsessive disorder! Yes, okay, usually my mind latches onto to unpleasant thoughts and spins them right round, right round, baby right round. I often find myself in thought spirals that trigger emotional burnout and mental ruptures — Or, is it a puncture?

That might be my problem right now. I’ve suffered a puncture, and now my brain is deflating. It probably happened ages ago, but I’m just starting to feel the effects. That explains the whooshing whistle of air! It’s the expulsion of what remains of my mental acuity and not a tornado. 

What a relief! Sorta.

The puncture has left behind an empty space devoid of thoughts or anything that resembles an idea. What do I talk about? What do I say? Did I just ramble on for, how long, about the simple fact that I can’t think right now? 

Yeah, I’m thoughtless in the literal sense of the word. I still give consideration to other people’s needs, but I’m without awareness of my own. I have fewer thoughts, more emotions, and a level of exhaustion that’s disproportionate to my level of activity. The fact that I’ve formed these words and somehow created coherent sentence structures is shocking to me.

Is it a primal response that doesn’t require a level of intellectual agility? Like how some people can run really fast on a broken foot, or a parent can lift a car off their child. Instinct takes over, and the need to survive supersedes prowess or the laws of science.

In my case, instead of a physical response to danger, I write words and form sentences. That’s my survival instinct, or my base level comeback to a punctured mind. When in doubt, sit in front of a computer, and stare at the cursor until annoyance drives me to write something down.

Seriously, that blinkity blink, blink, blink is insufferable!

On any other day, I wouldn’t be so put out, but today I’m irrationally annoyed by the smallest things. If only I’d seen the puncture earlier than I could’ve repaired the damage or avoid it altogether. Alas, I didn’t so, here we are; a random collection of wandering thoughts.

It’s like my brain is a tire with a nail stuck in the tread. It doesn’t burst like a balloon so, at least I’m not zooming around the room. Conveniently, it plugs the hole so, I don’t notice that something’s wrong until it’s too late. Yep, there it is, a flat tire. Great.

It’s not as bad as finding yourself stranded in the middle of f**k all, and your car won’t start because the battery died. It’s minus 20 degrees Celsius, and every time you exhale, your breath turns into an icicle. Oh, and you just cancelled that automotive plan that rescues people in such predicaments. Thank God for older brothers who have extensive expertise and a willingness to come to your rescue.

On that note, I love my brother very much!

I wouldn’t find myself in these predicaments if I took better care of my car and, I suppose, myself. Punctures happen, and they’re caused by small stressors that are pointy, sneaky, little creepers. Unlike the big things, that cause glaringly obvious damage. These little things slowly add up over time. Then I become irrationally angry at inanimate objects.

I just had an argument with my kettle because it wasn’t boiling fast enough. Yeah, that’s totally normal, healthy behaviour. At least I’m not yelling at people, my dog, or using obscene hand gestures while driving. Yay, small mercies!

Clearly, I need to do something about this puncture before it spreads to other aspects of my life. That would be awful, and I would feel absolutely horrid if I took my mood out on others. Don’t do that. Don’t take your problems out on anyone else. 

That’s a note to self, by the way.

The problem is, I haven’t been taking the best care of myself, and I’ve let a lot of things slide. After talking to a few people, it seems like we’ve all done that to varying extents. It’s hard to maintain a healthier lifestyle when we’re all replaying the same day over and over. After a while, I just said screw it because what’s the point?

I’ll just have to do the same thing tomorrow and the next day. It doesn’t feeling like it amounts to anything so, why not take a day off. There’s nothing wrong with that! If you need a day, take a day. Except, in my case, one day quickly turned into several months, and now I have a puncture.

I need to take better care of myself because it makes me feel better; no other reason. I just feel better when I take care of myself. That’s it. That’s the point of this — Whatever this is? 

So what if it doesn’t impact the greater good or get us out of this groundhogs day nightmare? Everything doesn’t have to have some grand-design to be meaningful. Sometimes it’s the simplest things that mean the most.

Like, being kind to yourself and nurturing the aspects of your life that are being neglected. For me, it’s been my physical and mental well-being. I’ve let that slip and slide all over the place. That needs to change.

Will it? I sincerely hope so but, in the spirit of honesty, I don’t know. I’m still feeling a bit deflated and lazy. But maybe there’s one thing I can do or change? A small thing that doesn’t require much energy. If I can find that and, you know, actually do it, then perhaps I can find the desire, momentum, and willpower to do more.

Why isn’t the kettle boiling? Stupid piece of… I really need to find a way to repair this puncture. This is getting ridiculous. Stop blinking at me you damn…

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Finding Happy: But Hitting A Roadblock

Photo by Edu Lauton on unsplash.com

I started this search for happiness as a way to push myself out of my own mind and get out of my own way. Inside of my head, it’s a dark and dank cave that’s cluttered, messy. There are ghosts, a few demons, and foul-smelling odour filters out the good in my life. They cloud my vision, and they prevent me from truly experiencing the real, simple pleasures of life.

Not that I don’t enjoy those simple moments. I do! I think? If there’s been a reoccurring theme in my last few posts, it’s been a reminder that there is power, purpose in the simplicity of a swan bite or a cup of tea. For life to amaze, it doesn’t have to be filled with an epic firework display. It can be a small Christmas cracker and a stupid paper crown.

Are Christmas crackers everywhere? Slender cardboard tubes filled with trinkets, a hat, and a stupid joke that makes everyone laugh/groan. Traditionally, two people grab either end and pull. There’s a crack as they snap the tiny explosive device and the smell of sulphur becomes a holiday sense memory.

Photo by Nick Fewings on unsplash.com

Just in case you have no idea what I’m talking about, here’s a picture and, yes, they give these things to small children. Why? Loud noises and silly hats are simple pleasures.

Which brings me back to whatever I was trying to say.

I seem to stumble upon moments of happiness and these simple pleasures quite accidentally. In the moment, I don’t appreciate what’s happening or how I feel. I float through the experience and let it pass me by. It’s only later, when I put the pieces together, that it suddenly feels like a slap across the face. I snap out of the fog I’ve been in and, oh wow, that was amazing.

Monday’s post is a perfect example. It took me over thirty years to realize how happy I’d been, sitting on a boat and lazily floating down a canal. Granted, I was seven, and the complexities of emotions were above my pay-grade. How could I possibly know the importance of such a simple, pure moment? I couldn’t! I was still learning to be a person.

What’s my excuse now? Um, I still don’t know how to be a functioning person, but my emotional range and capacity for understanding certain complexities must’ve grown. Right? Oh, dear.

Finding Happy is my clumsy attempt at changing this mindset. It’s a reckless attempt at optimism, hopefulness, and unicorns prancing over rainbows. I want to find a less cynical world view and develop an outlook that’s brighter, friendlier and full of cute puppies. I want to walk down the street with a smile on my face for no reason at all. I want you to look at me, all perky and whatnot, and wonder what I’m on, then ask if you can have some. 

Except, today I’m not feeling all that happy, and I don’t really have the energy to go out and find it. And, by going out, I mean find a socially distant place where I can follow health guidelines and stay safe. Which is a lot of effort for a moment of happiness! So, I suppose my real problem is that I don’t have the pluck to manufacture happy out of tea leaves and hiking boots.

Not today. Not right now. I just can’t.

I’m not sad or overly depressed. I’m tired and worn out. A familiar thought, the good old what’s the point train, is twirling around, and I’m getting dizzy. Finding Happy on a day like this? I’m not even sure where to look for it and, I don’t really want to do it.

Sure, I could force it and conjure up something half-assed, but it wouldn’t be honest, and what’s the point of doing any of this if I can’t be straight with you. So, here’s some authenticity you didn’t ask for. I did try to write something about soup and how making it reminded me of my grandfather. So heartwarming, as well as belly filling. The soup was really quite good.

Sure, making the recipe triggered happy sensations, and telling you about it wouldn’t have been a lie, per se. It just felt like I was trying to squeeze toothpaste out of an ants anus because I didn’t fully connect with the emotion. It wasn’t…Real? Is that the word I’m looking for?

Hold up! Why would there be toothpaste inside an ant’s lower gastrointestinal system? I don’t know but typing it made me smirk and smile. Does that mean I felt a moment of happiness? Yes, yes, I think it did, but for how long? Now that’s a question that tickles the left nostril.

To continue with the straight-shooter motif because I can’t seem to shut that bastard up. Silly analogies and bowls of homemade soup feel like a temporary hint of happiness because it seems, I’m fickle and Happy is a good name for hummingbird who has better places to be and things to see. Could I write a longer sentence?

You betcha but, for the love of the few eyes reading this, I should refrain. For the record, though, I could totally write a longer, more complex and compound sentence.

Just not right now because I think, in my roundabout sort of way, I’m actually trying to make a point. And as soon as I figure out what that point is, I’ll let you know. For now, I’m sticking with honesty and hoping it won’t wallop me in indecent places.

There’s a big problem with this quest to find happiness, reckless optimism, and all the other fancy buzz words we hear in the lifestyle community. Correction, there are multiple problems, but I’m jumping the gun. Why am I using so many weaponry phrases today? I’m a pacifist, for goodness sake!

My main problem, when it comes to happiness, is a matter of sustainability. I find these moments where I’m genuinely happy, and there’s this spark of joy flickering in the centre of my chest. I could be wrong, but I think that spark is happiness, and when it grows into a fully formed flame, then I’ll have achieved the ultimate goal. I will be joyful, content, and I’ll finally understand what those Christmas carollers were harmonizing about.

If fear leads to hate, and hate leads to the dark side? (Thank you, Master Yoda) Then, by that logic, happiness leads to joy, and joy leads to the bright side. That’s where I want to go! The shiny, bright, joyful side, but I can’t seem to maintain happiness long enough for it to turn into joy. 

For a long time, I just assumed I wasn’t capable of happiness, so joy was out of the question. Now, I know that I can be happy, and I want to be content, but I can’t sustain that feeling. If I can’t hold onto it, will this experiment be a lost cause? Am I just chasing olives down a steep hill and hoping it magically turns itself into oil.

Did I just watch a show about olive oil manufacturing in Italy? Yep, it was interesting in an I’m so bored, and I can’t stand the silence, sort of way. 

I can jump from one moment to the next and find reasons to be happy at that moment. That’s actually the easy part. If you look hard enough, and you’re desperate enough to put intelligible words on a page, then you will Find Happy in a stubbed toe if you have to.

It doesn’t make it any less valuable or authentic! Those moments are genuine, real, and meaningful. They’re honest, they’re a part of my story, and they are my clumsy attempts at fulfilling my desire to Find Happy.

So, yes, I found a moment of happiness in a swan bite, and it was a genuine, real, honest to God happy. It wasn’t bullshit. I wasn’t squeezing toothpaste out of an insect’s rectum. Every word I write is a sincere expression of my thoughts and feelings, but how do I sustain that feeling? That’s what I’m really struggling to figure out.

How do I take a fleeting emotion and capture it in a jar like a firefly? It’s not possible and, I think that might be animal cruelty, which I staunchly oppose. I’m always going to have to let it go and move on to the next moment. And the next. And the next. And, I think I know why I feel a bit worn out.

I’m chasing an apparition that’s caught in a windstorm. There’s no way I can catch up to it, let alone capture it in my glass jar. It doesn’t matter how fast I run or how hard I search; it will always get away. So, what do I do?

I’ve hit a roadblock, and I can’t seem to bypass. It isn’t going to stop me from Finding Happy, but it’s tripping me up. It’s bringing my quest to a temporary stop, and that’s not a bad thing. Every journey has these moments, and it gives me a chance to stop, think, and reevaluate my route. 

It’s giving me the chance to ask an important question: What if I’m going about this all wrong?

When I started, I wanted to go out into the world and try new things, but the world is shut down so, I’m limited. That’s why I shrunk my expectations and tried small things, revisited old memories, and tried to capture a feeling that I don’t fully understand. I thought that if I could feel it for a few minutes, then it would be enough to carry me on to the next moment. I thought it would build momentum, but it hasn’t and, now I’m tired.

The problem is, and I should’ve seen this sooner, I don’t fully understand the concept of happiness. I’ve spent a lot of my time living in these darker emotions. Fear, grief, depression, and anxiety have been my companions for so long that I don’t know how to feel anything else.

I know, logically, that these feelings aren’t healthy in the long term, and most people run away from them. But when you’ve lived with them for so long, they become comfortable because they are familiar. I know what these feelings are, I can name them, and I know where they come from. They’re not pleasant, but we’ve been together so long that I don’t know how to let them go and let new feelings in. Pleasant emotions are scarier than the ones I know too well, because I don’t know how to name them, feel them, or identify their origins.

Does that make any sense?

Despite my desire to live a happier life, and this quest to find things that inspire optimism, I don’t think I know what that means. I don’t know how to let myself be happy. I don’t know, or fully understand, what happiness is so, how can I find something I don’t know, understand, or fully appreciate?

Now that I see the words on this page, it seems like a logical question that I should’ve answered before I started looking for it. I should’ve spent some time defining happiness and how it feels, the purpose it serves, and how to sustainably convert it into a lasting natural resource.

To Find Happy, I first need to figure out how to feel it and what it means. What does it mean to be happy? If you know the answer, then hit me up in the comments or send me an email. I’m genuinely asking because I think that, once I answer those questions, I can learn how to embrace this unfamiliar emotion and let it grow into a full-fledged flame. 

Which is a concept I’m going to have to sit with for a while. 

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Tasting A Memory

Photo by Pixabay from Pexels

A strange thing happened to me the other day. I was drinking a lovely cup of tea, so on brand, and it tasted like a memory. Is that an odd thing to say? Tasting a memory sounds a little strange, and if you ask me what a memory tastes like? Kind of like diesel, wildflowers in an open field, and a bandaid on my finger. It tastes like a longboat in shallow water and a cup of tea I drank when I was seven.

Did that make it any less strange?

Have you ever tasted a memory? What about your other senses? Have they triggered a memory so powerful, it brings the past forward and momentarily rearranges the chronology of your life? In that instant, the concept of time and space stops being relevant because you’re experiencing everything all at once.

When it’s strong, it can be overwhelming and trigger all sorts of emotions. In my most recent experience, those emotions were contrary, and it took me some time to identify each one. Happy. Sad. A longing to go back and relive that holiday or that age. A small laugh and a shake of my head. There are so many emotions, but it’s not a bad thing. As I type this, a smile is playing with the right side of my face. 

It is a strange sensation, and I can’t shake off the memory. It was so strong that I dug through some old pictures. Usually, I try to keep my face out of this space because the things I talk about make me feel self-conscious and vulnerable. It’s easier to write these words if you aren’t looking at me. Which is weird, I know, but it is what it is. 

But I’m going to break my own rule and share this image. I was seven, we were on the canals in England. It was the first time we’d seen my grandparents since we immigrated to Canada and our first international vacation. We’d only been apart for two years, but when you’re a kid, those years feel like an eternity. I think seeing them again was better than watching Santa come down the chimney or eating an entire birthday cake by myself. In my dreams, of course, because neither of those things ever happened in real life. Ah, but the dream is lovely.

This moment was happiness after some tears. It’s nothing overly special, not in the grand scheme of my life, but this is the moment I tasted when I drank that cup of tea. I can see it with my eyes closed. I can smell it, and I might as well be sitting on the deck of that boat. I can hear the sound of the engine, my Grans voice, and some birds off in the distance. I can feel the fresh bandaid around my finger. I feel everything.

It’s bizarre how one of my senses can trigger such a visceral response and excavate a memory that’s been buried. It was so long ago, and so much has happened since. In the memoir of my life, as precious as it is, this moment wasn’t exactly noteworthy. Certainly not as outstanding as some of my other stories.

An afterthought, maybe? Compared to the events that were about to happen, yeah, this one wasn’t that big. It was, it seems, very meaningful in the development of my young mind. Now that I think about it, it did forge familial bonds that have only grown stronger over the years. It brought us closer as a family and that’s never insignificant.

It’s just, I was about to go through years of surgeries and frantic attempts to save my life. There would be countless months living in hospitals. How many times did we have to make a mad dash to the emergency room because my body did something it shouldn’t? I can’t even count those memories or tell them apart.

These are the big moments that take up so much space in my memory bank. Like the times my heart has stopped, and I needed a jump start. Saying good-bye to my family before going into another surgery that I might not wake up from. There are amazing memories, like the phone call saying there was a kidney waiting for me. Waking up after surgery to hear that the transplant worked.

My story is full of memories that sound fantastic from the outside, and they were overwhelming to live. They stand out, and rightfully so, I suppose. They were powerful and poignant. They carry the hardest emotional punch, and they’re more interesting to hear about than a little girl sitting on the deck of a boat.

This moment, with the cup of tea, was precious, and it makes me immeasurably happy, but it was so small. It wasn’t striking, and out of all of my memories, this story has none of the elements that make for a good read. It’s not exciting. There’s no drama or tears.

Well, that’s not entirely true. I did sustain a bite from an over-eager swan. We were giving them some food, and one got carried away. It tried to take my finger and, there were a few tears after that. It was nothing a hug from Gran and cuppa tea from Mom couldn’t cure. Sitting on the deck of that boat, Mom on one side and Gran on the other, cradling that cup between two small hands. A freshly applied bandaid around one finger. The smell of diesel and the sound of grass rustling onshore.

If you’ve never seen a canal boat, it’s long and narrow. Kind of like an RV on water, and instead of travelling down a highway, you slowly float down the old British Waterways. It’s a slower life, these boats don’t have much speed to them, but it’s a peaceful way to explore parts of the country you can’t see from the road.

Just don’t give it a try if you can’t sit still or you’re in a hurry. There’s no hurrying down the canals. There’s meandering and wandering, but there’s absolutely no scurrying, dashing, or bustling.

No, my friend, this is a slower lifestyle, but if you’re looking for quality time with family? You will get a lot of that on a canal boat. You can tell me if that’s a challenge or a reward.

For me, as a seven-year-old, it was the best thing in the world. I had all of my people in one spot. Mom could read me a story, and then I could run into the galley and watch Gran cook on that tiny stove. After lunch, I could go up onto the deck, and Dad could teach me how to steer.

Well, bless him, he tried his best, but it never went well. I have a hard enough time telling my left from my right and to steer the boat the two switch places. Left is right. Right is left. Watch out for the fishermen on the shore! Don’t ram them. They don’t like it when you do that, and they use words young ears might not want to hear.

Other than a swan bite and nearly taking out a row of angry old men, it wasn’t an eventful trip. It wasn’t a grand adventure, and that’s what made it so grand. Does that make any sense? There’s something beautiful about the simplicity and innocence of that trip.

Maybe it’s being together as a family? Which is something I desperately want right now. Not just because the holidays are fast approaching. I miss them, and I can’t wait to hug them all. I’m not even a hugger! That’s how much I want to see them, and I can’t wait until we can all sit around a table, enjoy good food, and just be together.

Also, I’m feeling restless. I’ve been craving a big adventure that would pull me out of my funk and send me out into the great unknown. I want to write a new chapter in my memoir and create an exciting story. I want to get out of my way, my body, my neighbourhood and just run wild.  

I can’t, obviously, do any of these things, family included, with our current situation, and that’s deepening my mood. It’s been the only thing I can focus on, and the longing has become overwhelming. It’s brought me to tears more and more because, my God, this year has been hard.

But then I tasted a memory that wasn’t exciting or impressive. It’s as elementary as one can get. A bandaid, a cup of tea, and the comfort of two of my favourite matriarchs. The smell of diesel, wildflowers, and the sound of cursing coming from the shore. Dad patiently teaching me to muddle up my right from my left.

It is one of my humblest memories, and as far as stories go, it doesn’t carry the same oomph as the others. Not here, where you come for — Well, I don’t know why you read my rambling, but I’m incredibly grateful. Compared to the other things I’ve written, this story comes down to the pleasure, beauty, and necessity of those small, seemingly insignificant, memories.

Looking back at those days on that boat, I realize that it brought us closer and by doing that, we were able to weather the incoming storm together. Without the strong bond of my family, I don’t know how I would’ve survived those years of pain, struggle, and fear.

For all the wonders of modern medicine, without the support of loving people, there are limits to what it can do. This might sound cheesy, but love is the one thing that gives us the courage to fight. It gives us a reason to keep going and hoping that we will win this battle. Love is vital to our survival.

I don’t know if I would still be here if I didn’t have a reason to keep going. My family is my reason, and that bond wasn’t just forged on the warped battlefields in all those hospitals. It was strengthened long before we started to fight. It was brought together on a longboat in shallow water. It was created on walks through fields of wildflowers. It was reinforced in those simple moments that I took for granted.

Our senses have memories and, thank God they do! They can remind us of the things we dismiss because they seem so unimportant. Or, more accurately, I forget the simple things and spend too much time wishing that life would be different, better. I get caught up in the daydreams and erase the small pleasures in life, but then my senses remind me of all the good I’ve experienced.

The simple moments, and the relationships that were strengthened, have been such an incredible gift. These are the moments that laid the foundation for my survival, and they continue to hold me up. Without them, I don’t know where I would be, and sometimes I need to be reminded that I’m incredibly fortunate to have so much love in my life.

This is why, I suppose, my subconscious gave me a taste of an old memory. I need to stop wallowing in the should’ve’s, could’ve’s, and all the rest. Instead, take a moment to be grateful for the beauty of a simple memory and all it gave me.

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Is Disability A Bad Word?

Photo by fotografierende from Pexels

I recently watched a video of two able-bodied people talking about the word disability. They thought it was degrading and humiliating. They decided, if their bodies ever malfunctioned, that they would prefer differently-abled because it didn’t sound as weak, and they wouldn’t feel so alone. If someone called them disabled? That would be too awful for words.

You may have noticed that I often express myself with varying tonal sighs. Dramatic. Exasperated. Tired. In this case, as a person with a disability, I feel a combo platter bubbling up my throat. Frustrated, weary, and a dash of, “Are you serious?”

Before I go on, I think it’s worth pointing out that their intent wasn’t hurtful. At no point did I get the feeling that they were trying to be rude, derogatory, or willfully ignorant. I assume their ignorance was innocent, and they sincerely want to do or say the right thing.

Despite their intentions, however, I felt irked and downright peeved. They were aiming for inclusion, but their words just highlighted how different they think I am. To them, I belong to the Other, and they need to minimize my existence for their comfort. Their words disparaged my body, my life, and who I am as a person.

I experienced a rush of emotions, and all of them were quite negative. Anger. Frustration. Annoyance. I wanted to yell at the screen and type out a lengthy retort in the comment section. Excuse me? What are you saying? I…Words…Can’t…Find…Words.

Even now, typing these words, I’m struggling to articulate my feelings because I can’t quite grab my thoughts or hold them down. They’re too bouncy and slippy. Why is this bothering me so much?

Normally, I don’t need to be correctly labelled, and your labels don’t bother me. You can call me whatever you like because how you see me is a reflection of you. It’s got very little to do with me or who I really am. It shows your biases, preconceived ideas, and cultural learnings. Is it good or bad? It can go either way, but that’s your business, not mine.

I have my own biases, we all do, and I’m not above snap judgements or incorrectly labelling people. I’m trying to become more aware of my biases, and I’ve received a lot of help from kind people. For which I am eternally grateful! 

I don’t want my narrow world view to cause someone harm; that’s not okay. It’s never right or justifiable. I’m sure I could come up with a few excuses, but they don’t hold up, and they shouldn’t. If I believe that every life is precious, and I do, then I need to treat you with respect, compassion, and empathy.

There’s that saying, you don’t know what you don’t know until you know it. After that, we have to choose what we do with that knowledge. Change, grow, and become wiser. Or carry on and hope for the best. That’s quite the choice, eh?

The choice becomes harder when we start talking about personal identifiers. It’s a sticky topic that makes eyes twitch and fists clench. How I, as a singular being, identify my body, story, or any other aspect of my life, becomes an open forum discussion. Everyone thinks they have an opinion and that their opinion should be taken seriously. More than that, if the community can’t agree, then my choice, my identity, is nullified.

And I’m just trying to figure out if I like being called disabled or if I’d prefer something else! Trying to figure out other aspects of identity? I can’t imagine how hard that must be for you. Also, why should I get a say in how you see yourself? Who you are, and how you want to be addressed? It’s arrogant to assume that, as a society, our norms have to be enforced for our comfort while excluding the comfort, dignity, and humanity of someone else.

Maybe that’s why this conversation bothered me so much. My body has taken a beating, it’s broken, and it’s covered in scars. Because of that, my body doesn’t represent the classical idea of beauty or perfection. It has never, will never, fit the generally accepted societal norms.

Which means, just like that, I am a part of the Other, and that makes my identity complex, messy. Up for debate?

I was diagnosed with chronic renal failure when I was three, and I have acquired a few secondary conditions along the way. One was renal osteodystrophy, a type of bone disease. It causes brittle bones and some deformities, but I was lucky. It cleared up quickly, and it didn’t wreak as much havoc as it could’ve. It did, however, leave behind damaged joints, chronic pain, and some mobility issues.

I walk with a limp that varies in severity. Sometimes, it’s mild discomfort, and I can make it less obvious. I don’t always need a mobility aid, but it comes in handy when I have to navigate the abled-bodied world. If you have an invisible disability, people are less understanding. When you walk slower, they are far quicker to anger or express their frustrations. Having a walking stick is a helpful visual aid, and it usually takes the edge out of people’s voices.

But again, it makes me apart of the Other.

There are a lot of reasons to hate having a disability, and I could write a thousand words on that alone. It’s painful, and there’s always something that’s twinging or acting up. Good days are defined by how few things went pear-shaped and how many obstacles I successfully climbed. Bad days often mean that the pain was too much to endure, and I barely got out of bed. Still, getting out of bed on a bad day means I won at least one battle so, that bad day was a decent day after all.

This isn’t a woe is me, look how hard I have it, pity me post. I abhor pity, and I don’t have any use for it. Even on my worst day, I don’t want you to look down on me or feel sorry for me. Instead, let’s sit together, have a cup of tea, and talk like the equals we are. Isn’t that more fun than wallowing in pity? Self-induced or otherwise.

For all of the bad, there’s one thing having a disability gives me that abled-bodies undervalue. My disability makes me different, unique, and it gives me character. It adds colour, texture, and flavour. I don’t always like how it feels, looks, or tastes, but I’m not a cookie-cutter gingerbread person.

I’m handcrafted, artisan, and one of a kind. There’s no one like me. No one has my scars, and no one’s body looks like a road map like mine does. No one else has my story or the voice to tell it. In a world that wants us to fit into boxes that can be neatly wrapped and placed under the Christmas tree? I’m that odd-shaped, pointy, curvy edged present that no one knows what to do with.

You can’t wrap me up and hide me away. I stick out! Put a bow on my head and sing tada, because I will never fit into that box under the tree. I’m the big reveal. That one gift that takes the breath away. I’m the one you won’t forget because being different, my friend, is powerful. It’s beautiful. It’s a full, well-rounded, story that’s never been told before.

I think there’s something incredibly special about living in the Other. But let’s flip the coin and look at the he downside.

I’m a reminder of how fragile the human body is and how our mortality is assured. When you look at me, you see the physical manifestation of the things we’re all genetically programmed to fear. Things like weakness, fragility, and death. It’s an innate, inherited, and reenforced emotion that’s very hard to overcome.

In my experience, when people have this mindset, there will be one of two responses. There’s the repulsed stare and silent retreat. They stand far away, looking at me with wide eyes as if their brain can’t process what they’re seeing. I catch them staring, wave, and they shake their head. Are they telling me to look away or, are they trying to ward off bad luck? Perhaps, they’re trying to assure themselves that I didn’t see them staring? 

I saw you staring. I always see you staring. You’re not subtle, and yeah, there you go. Right on cue, turning away from me so you can forget that life is messy and complicated. Good luck with that. I wish you well.

The other response comes out of nowhere, and it always catches me off-guard. There’s a smile that’s too wide, and its almost hungry. They’re quick to speak, but they rarely say hello. They completely disregard all the typical conversation starters and dive right in as if compelled to speak by a mighty force. The words come out in a rush as they let me know that I’m still beautiful despite my limp and scars. 

Uh…Thanks? I didn’t think I wasn’t beautiful, but now that you’re pointing it out, I feel a little self-conscious.

Without me asking for their thoughts, opinions, or if I need a motivational poster, they use phrases like, “This doesn’t define you.” Or, “I don’t see physical differences.”

How do you not see it? I just walked up the stairs with the grace of a drunk penguin. I almost fell four times. I cursed twice. There’s no way you didn’t see that.

Fear and uncertainty make us behave in strange ways, but most people want to be kind, and they’re trying to connect. It misses the mark because they still see the downside of the Other. They see the weakness, frailty, and the abstract concept of mortality displayed in 4D. That’s frightening, it’s uncomfortable, but if they smile wide enough, or stare hard enough, then maybe I won’t notice. 

I notice, and I’ve gotten quite used to it. Take a breath. It will be okay.

If you can’t see the unique, layered, and textured beauty of the person in front of you, then you start viewing their identifiers as negatives. Disability becomes a bad word because it’s linked to so many adverse concepts like: Weakness, vulnerability, pain, and death.

But, changing the word doesn’t eliminate those things any more than closing your eyes makes me disappear. I’m still here, and my body, my story, isn’t going anywhere either. What I represent for you won’t change because you dress it up. It will always be that thing you fear, and the word itself won’t lose any of its power.

Instead of changing the word, let’s broaden our limited definition. There is beauty in pain, growth in suffering, and life holds death’s hand. The bad parts of life will always exist, but the good can outshine the bad because light shines brighter in the darkness. If you focus on the light then the rest isn’t as scary.

There’s nothing wrong with the word, only how we say it. So, instead of saying it with fear, use it was pride. To me, the word disability is a badge of honour because we are survivors. We fight battles that few can imagine, and at the end of every day, after every breath, we claim victory. We survive the unimaginable every damn day. We are strong. We are brave. We are fighters.

We aren’t defined by our bodies or a single word. We are complex people, just like you. We’re trying to live full, happy, love-filled lives, just like you. We have fears, just like you. We have hopes, just like you. We are people, just like you.

The only thing that’s different is one, simple identifier and how you choose to use it.

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Finding Happy: In a Simple Moment

Photo by Bibhukalyan Acharya from Pexels

After a week of miraculously blue skies, the grey clouds are back, and the threat of rain is imminent. Was that a rainfall warning? Yeah, this is going to be a wet one, my friend. Do I dare say, wild? No, that’s a bit suggestive and highly inaccurate. Wet and wimpy? Sure, for the sake of the obvious and unimaginative alliteration.

Winter in Vancouver is wet, windy, and gloomy. When my alarm went off this morning, I drowsily thought that there must have been a programming malfunction. There was no sunlight or sign of life. I couldn’t see anything out of my window. There must’ve been a mistake or a glitch. Was it really time to get up?

Oh, yes it was, and I grumbled as I reluctantly unfurled myself from my cocoon. It was so warm, comfortable, and peaceful. I didn’t want to go. Alas, it was time to bid ado to my comforter and pillow. Farewell, my precious friend. Until tonight, when we will reunite in balmy slumber.

I don’t handle mornings very well, and if I could bypass them entirely, then I would be very grateful. When I realized that my alarm had, in fact, been correctly programmed? Well, I expressed myself using expletives, odd noises, and I begrudgingly resigned myself to this travesty of time and space.

I said good morning to my dog before stumbling into the kitchen to put on the kettle. There’s only one way to process such calamitous realizations, and that’s a cup of tea. Tea makes everything better and, because I’m trying to be kinder to myself, I made a hot water bottle too. From the top of my head to the tip of my toes! I was going to give myself a reprieve from rejoining the waking world.

While the kettle worked its magic, I went to a window and squinted out into the darkness. The rising sun was doing its best, but the clouds were too thick. All I could see were the grey shadows of an impending storm. The day was going to be wet and, if we’re lucky, a little windy too.

If I was normal in any way, then that thought would’ve set off another string of questionable vocabulary. Mercifully, for those with sensitive dispositions, I am as far from the norm as one can get. I’m among the peculiar few who love the rain and enjoy a good winter storm. I even wrote a love letter to rain a few months ago. If that’s not devotion, I don’t know what is.

Is that strange, odd, or downright weird? Yes, of course, but I haven’t lost the plot or my marbles. I know exactly where they are! They’re just a bit scattered at the moment. Watch your step, I’d hate to see you slip on an errant thought. They’re slippery little monsters.

If my mind is cluttered, full of steam, or in need of good dusting, then days like today are perfect. If my body is tired, dragging, and I just don’t have the energy to exist? Again, this day offers the perfect remedy. It’s a natural cure — well treatment anyway — to chase away the blues, the ho-hums, or the tired sighs.

I should clarify because if one more person tells me that taking a walk will cure my mental ailments, then I might scream. Cure is the wrong word, and I should probably delete it altogether. Or, it gives me the chance to point out that walking in the rain can help alleviate some of the symptoms of depression and anxiety, for example. It’s one part of a treatment plan that you can discuss with a mental health professional.

There’s no shame in speak up and asking for help! A lot of us struggle so, you aren’t alone, and you don’t have to handle everything in silence. Speaking helps. Help-helps so, ask for it if you need it. Don’t worry, you’ve got this.

For me, days like today can work wonders, and they offer a momentary reprieve from the storm brewing in my mind. It silences my thoughts, stills my racing mind, and it pauses the relentless chatter of an obsessive mind. It’s an almost instant, though momentary, relief, and I need to do it more often. 

I always put it off way too long, and I don’t know why I do that. It will help, I know it will, but I find a reason to stay inside. Maybe it’s because its curative properties wear off so quickly, and somedays I have to rinse and repeat a few times before something sticks. Or, it’s the comfortable blanket, a half-drunk cup of tea, and a hot water bottle that’s tingling my toes. They’re just sitting here, waiting for me to wallow in whatever thought, feeling, or traumatic memory my mind digs up.

Staying inside would be easier but, going out into the burgeoning storm will make me feel better. It always does. When I do, I feel like a world of troubles are lifted off my shoulders. I know it will help! Why do I always put it off? Why do I always drag my feet?

I’ve dragged them so long that the rain has broken free and started to fall. It’s a gentle pitter, but it’s bound to intensify. By the look of those clouds to the west (east?) I’d say that we’re in for a dumping. Maybe even a deluge? No, that’s too much to hope for.

The question is, do I wait for it to pick up or do I go out now? The harder rain and the stronger winds are a lot more invigorating. On the other hand, walking through a gentle storm gives me more time to recharge. Then again, there are practical matters to consider.

If I wait until it’s super windy, then my umbrella will be useless, and I’ll get soaked in minutes. If I go now, I won’t get the wind but my umbrella will keep me dry so, I can stay out longer. Decisions. Decisions. What would you choose? Assuming you like long walks on stormy days. Do you wait? Do you go now?

Do you look out your window and decide your safety is more important? Fair point. Don’t go for a walk in a hurricane or any unsafe conditions. That’s probably bad so, stay safe!

Am I dragging my feet again?

You know what? There’s no time like the present. I can’t wait anymore. I’ve never been good at waiting for anything. Last week I went to get my flu shot, and I had to wait ten whole minutes. They were very busy and incredibly polite, professional. Everyone was doing the best they could so, I waited quietly.

Internally, I wanted to check the time every two minutes. Externally, I tried to exude patience because adding to their stressful day was just not cool. I paced back and forth, I couldn’t help myself, but I told them I needed to get my steps in because that’s a thing. 

Then I reorganized a display case, you’re welcome. Though, I’m not sure they’ll appreciate my efforts when they see it. Sorry? In my defence, I can’t sit and wait quietly. It’s not in my genetic make-up. I think, in my programming, there’s a fidgeting sequence that’s triggered every time I find myself in a holding pattern.

How do people sit still? I’ll never understand it!

Right now, I’m putting myself on hold and asking my body to wait in line. If I hand myself a form to fill out, well we might have a problem.

Waiting for the wind to pick up will take too long so, it’s time to bundle up in oversized everything and step outside. The layers will keep the chill down, but it leaves enough room for the crisp air to do its thing. Let’s go. Let’s do this. Out the door I go, and oh yeah, that feels good.

I inhale deeply and feel the cold air travel down my throat and sting my lungs. I shiver, but my body is starting to wake up. My brain is relaxing. I can’t think about anything, and that’s a welcome change.

My apartment building is surrounded by trees, and trails run through them. Over the last few months, I’ve been very grateful for these trails and trees. I can get out, move my body, and get fresh air without risking public exposure. It’s a gift! Having a safe place to go, commune with nature, and shake off the cabin fever. I need the trees, the wind, and the rain as much as I need food, shelter, and a good cup of tea. It keeps me ground and sane — ish.

Out here, a few steps from my front door, I can look up at the treetops and listen to the drops of rain hitting the leaves. A gentle breeze sets them off in a rustling wave. A crow yells at the wind to cut it out and then flies off in a huff. I can still hear the cars and a truck just laid on the horn. Those noises are muted, and they seem far away.

A lot of things feel far away right now. My frustration, and annoyance at the way people are behaving. The callousness and the cruelty of the human mindset. The disposability of a single life and the angry mob that deems them worthless. My anger at how we treat each other, but also how hard these last few months have been for all of us.

I’m tired! We’re all tired. We all want our lives back. Will we ever get back to normal?

Standing under the trees, typing these thoughts onto my phone, those feelings and frustrations are off to the side. They aren’t gone, and now that I’ve given them a bit of attention, they’re festering again. Look up at the trees, listen to the rain, and there they go, off to the side.

I don’t care that this is a fleeting moment. Right now, typing these words in the rain, I feel a hint of pure happiness because I feel content. I’ve let the troubles of life fall away. I’ve released my tightly clenched jaw and my clenched fists. Those things will come back but, for now, I can be here, be still, and be present in this feeling.

Oo, a raindrop just slid past my oversized everything’s and down the back of my neck. That’s cold! One of those creative words just slipped out, and now my dog is giving me a dirty look. Have we been standing still too long? Have you run out of twigs to pee on?

Okay, it’s time to head back inside. I still have things I need to do, but the break was nice, and I need to do this more often. Why do I put it off or give in to the excuses? If I’m really trying to find my happy, then I need to listen to my body, give my mind a break, and give myself more of these simple moments.

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I Need To Take Better Care

Photo by Aron Visuals on unsplash.com

Huh, well this is odd. I can’t actually see the words I’m writing. I think I’m experiencing some sort of allergic reaction, and my vision is a bit blurry. Am I worried? Nope, though I probably should be because of…Things. It’ll be fine in a couple of days. I just took an antihistamine so, it’ll clear up, and I might be writing this high on whatever is in this stuff. 

It makes me feel goofy.

Typically, when I write, I like to see the blank page fill up with letters and watch the words form. Words don’t flow out of my mouth with ease, which is epically frustrating. But here? Here, the thoughts that are banging around in my head flow down my arms and out of my fingers. They land on this page, and I feel like I can breathe because someone can hear my voice. 

If I didn’t know better, I would call that magic or sorcery. I’d be in awe of the mystical creatures that capture my feelings and give them a written voice. If only I didn’t know that this is technology, not wizardry! Wouldn’t it be wonderful to temporarily suspend that knowledge and let the fantasy run wild?

Hey now, I’m writing this so, why can’t I enjoy a flight of medically induced fantasy? It won’t last forever, and the realities of the technological age will flood back in with a vengeance. My logical mind will always take back control, and that dream world will enter a state of suspended animation.

I want to let go and jump into the dream while I can still do it. After all, I can’t see the words that I’m typing. They’re nothing more than a blurry mess. If I can’t see the technology at work then why not add a little whimsy to my morning?

What if tiny Keyboard Elves were living inside of my computer? They’re a hybrid of Santa’s little helpers and the elves from Lord of The Rings. Pointy ears, delicate features, and smaller than a speck of dust. Invisible to the naked eye. Under a microscope? Well, I imagine it would be quite shocking to see a microscopic creature flipping you off. It’s best to leave them be and let them get on with the job at hand.

Every morning I power up my computer, and these tiny critters hit their alarms. They stretch, yawn, and pull back the covers because it’s time to get to work. After a quick shower, they sniff their uniforms to make sure they’re clean. Yeah, that’s close enough. Quick, get dressed and get to work. Hurry! 

The Keyboard Elves take pride in their work and happily take up their post in the letter gang. They’re creating magic! What’s better than that? I hit a letter and the first elf, let’s call her Tammy, catches it as it flies out of the pipeline. Her strong, slightly calloused hands hold it up, and she yells out the letter. Okay, we’ve got a H. You know what to do! Put your backs into it.

Tammy sounds bossy and gruff, but she’s just passionate about her profession. Sometimes it gets the better of her, but she has a heart of gold and fingers of steel. She’ll get the job done, no matter what. Good old Tammy. What would they do without her?

Through the ranks, a well-practiced song rises up as the letter is tossed from one elf to another. Hi ho, hi ho, up to the screen we go. There’s laughter as one cheeky elf adds a juggle and twist to his toss. Don’t drop it! Some of the elves fuss, but the letter is already on its way. In a flash, the last elf slaps the letter onto the page, and there’s a cheer of triumph.

Here comes another one!

At the end of the day, the group retires to their favourite watering hole, The Motherboard. I know, very original. They drink, eat, and recount the day’s triumphs. Did you see that X pop up out of nowhere? Yeah, we almost never see that letter. They raise their glasses and merrily cheer another successful transfer that, miraculously, formed the words you’re reading right now.  

If that isn’t a Pixar movie, then it should be, and I want credit for the idea. I should probably trademark it or, if I was sensible, delete the whole concept until I can pitch it to the back-catchers at the movie places. But what are the odds they hear me out? Zero to nada? That sounds about right.

I think I’ll leave the tale where it is because, if I didn’t, I’d squirrel it away until it becomes the latest thought to face eviction. I’ve been trying to do that a lot more lately. Get rid of thoughts that serve no purpose and file away ideas that amount to nothing more than a dream of a dream that I wished on a star.

I’m not saying this is a good or bad idea. It’s simply something I need to do because the clutter is getting out of hand. My mind has been overrun with too many thoughts, worries, and flights of fancy. I have very little room left to hold precious memories that make me smile, laugh, or blush with amusing embarrassment. 

I need to organize my mind, prioritize my thoughts, and make room for the ideas, dreams that will improve my life. To do that, I need to get rid of the things that are dragging me down and making me miserable. A lot of these things are beyond my control. I don’t have the power to change them. So, why am holding on to them so tightly?

It’s a song, isn’t it? Free your mind, and the rest will follow you down a yellow brick road. No, I’m fusing things together again. My bad. But maybe there’s some wisdom in that idea? Freeing my mind from the burdens I’ve placed on it. Crack a window and let some fresh air in.

It might be a horrible, no good, very bad idea, and it might be a fool’s errand. Though, I should emphasize the word practice because some of my thoughts are squatters that yell about their bill of rights. I send them the eviction notices, but they wave the document in my face as if it’s a permission slip they got from their moms.

No, I don’t care what your mom said, you gotta go.

My brain is full of worries, fears, and too many uncertainties. I can’t think about anything else, let alone dream or look to the future. For that, there has to be a sense of hope and wonder. Those feelings don’t have to be boundless, just present. A small glimmer of light goes a long way in the dark.

That sounds like a science thing, right?

Lately, my thoughts have been too twisted and troubled to see much of anything else. They’ve had a big bright spotlight illuminating every worry. They’re all I can see, feel, and I’ve been stuck in an emotional loop. Around it goes. I try to look for any glimmer of hope, hiding in the dark, but it can’t be seen. The light, focused on my troubled thoughts, is too bright, and I can’t see past the circle drawn around me.

Do my thoughts think I can’t cross the line? A ring of salt can’t keep me in. I’m not a creature from those movies with scary things. See, I can hop out and back in. Out. In. Out. In. 

Except, the light is here and out there is dark. I don’t know what’s out there. There could be scary things or, maybe there could be elves living in keyboards. There are so many possibilities. What do I do? Stay in the light, even though it kind of sucks, or go out into the unknown?

Should I trust my decision to a coin toss? No, that’s probably a bad idea.

Yesterday, I forced my feet into my hiking boots and kicked my ass out of the door. I haven’t been in weeks, and I didn’t want to go now. I looked for any excuse to stay home. We’re in a pandemic! It’s not safe. Stay home, right? Except, I’m heading out in the middle of nowhere, and this is one activity that my local public health officials have given the thumbs up.

Damn it, no more excuses.

 My head felt heavy, and everything felt so hard. I didn’t want to go, but I did! Mostly, because I told my dog we were going to the park, and he kept looking at me until we went. All the excuses in the world pale in comparison to those puppy dog eyes.

I dragged my feet along the trail for the first two kilometres and thought about turning around a dozen times at least. After a while, I found my footing, and I stepped out of my head. I looked out instead of in. I didn’t think, I just experienced the moment and when I looked up, I realized it really was a beautiful day. The sky was clear blue. The crisp, cool air had a bit of a bite, but it was refreshing.

I met some riders and their horses. They’re giant creatures with massive brains. The horses, not the riders though I’m sure they’re intelligent as well. However, I’ll never understand why anyone would want to ride an animal that can have so many thoughts. Thoughts bring ideas, and ideas trigger reactions. Nope, I’ll keep my respectful distance from those mammoth creatures, but to each their own.

Okay, I have a slight phobia when it comes to horses, but even I can appreciate their beauty. My dog, however, didn’t know what to make of them and looked utterly gobsmacked. I think his eyes nearly popped out of his head. Yeah, that gave me a chuckle.

Oh, and in a fit of whimsy, I said hi to the horse, and it decided I was a friend. It leaned over and licked my ear. Phobia aside, it was sweet, and after I stopped flinching, I felt special. So what if the horse treats all the girls like that? I’m going to pretend that I’m unique, and we had a bond. You don’t know. It could be true. Let’s not harsh a moment of happiness with logic and reason.

By the time I got home, the tension had eased just a bit, and my mind felt more open than it had in some time. I know it’s just the start. For all of its good, self-care isn’t a one and done. It’s a process that takes continued effort and diligent practice. It’s a lifestyle discipline that takes commitment, but when I put the effort in, it make a difference.

My mind doesn’t feel so clutter and I’m not overrun by worry. So, maybe the strong was right. Free my mind and let the rest follow. It worked, a bit, and I realize now that I need to take better care of myself. I’ve been slacking, letting myself down, and I can do better.

But first, I need to wait for my vision to clear. Seriously, what am I allergic to? The elves in my keyboard? No! Not Tammy!

Forget what I said about our special bond. I’m blaming the horse.

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The Numbers Game

Photo by Tyler Easton on Unsplash.com

Life is a numbers game. What are the odds, and what are the risks? Does it matter? I have to play the game, calculate the risks, and get on with it. There’s no other choice. I can’t back out now. The day I was conceived was the day I entered the arena, and choice had nothing to do with that.

Wow, that’s a cheery thought, but what was the statistical probability that the day would start any other way? That’s a thinker for ya.

I have a love/hate relationship with numbers. I’m horrible at math, and I wasn’t born with the numerical gene. Some people are brilliant, and numbers make so much sense. They absorb the formulas and calculations through the process of osmosis. It’s easy for them, and they seem baffled when numerically challenged people, like myself, don’t get it.

When I was a kid, I kind of understood what the teachers were saying and found it somewhat intriguing. I could solve the problem, but only using a formula that I whimsically designed. Their way was too convoluted. It didn’t make sense to me, so I came up with my own. It didn’t matter that my answers were correct because I didn’t find them the right way.

After a while, I lost interest, and my flirtation with math ended. If we can’t love each other as we are, then I’m afraid our relationship was never meant to be. Or something like that. Either way, I came to the conclusion that I wasn’t able to crunch the numbers, and those numbers didn’t want to be crunched. 

The problem is, I’ve always been too creative for my own good. If the problem can’t be solved by the established logic of the collective, then why not create a new brand way of thinking? Preferably outside of the collective because a hive mind is narrow and noisy.

Too much buzzing for my liking.

In high school, to graduate, I needed to pass at least one math class because our education system is sadistic. It doesn’t matter that some of us aren’t programmed to process numerical and scientific data. It doesn’t matter how hard the teachers work. The information won’t be understood, and that means we can’t translate the data onto a standardized test.

Thankfully, they offered a class that was a much simpler offshoot. At least, that’s what I was promised, but my skills were kindly overestimated. I appreciate the sentiment, but practically speaking, it wasn’t all that helpful.

Instead of algebra, I took accounting to appease the graduation overlords. Perfect! All I have to do is take those numbers and put them into a ledger? Even I can do that! It turns out there’s a bit more to it, but there is some good news. I was kind of good at it.

If, and here’s the caveat, I got a job cooking the books for a nefarious organization. Apparently, you can’t just create random accounts if you don’t know where to put the money or you’re struggling to balance the books. That’s some sort of crime? But I gave it a neat name and colour coded it with something happy. If I put unicorn stickers next to the columns, would that help? At least, the numbers line up neatly, and I did create order out of chaos.

I passed the class because I made the teacher laugh, and she gave me bonus points for creativity. If we went strictly by the numbers, then I would’ve failed or, worse, ended up in prison. Suffice it to say, I never pursued accounting as a profession because I look horrible in orange jumpsuits. And, I don’t think my disposition is suited for a life behind bars or a life of crime. 

I feel guilty every time I go over the speed limit, and I’m still haunted by that petty candy theft. I was 8, I think, and we were visiting my grandparents. We went to the corner store for milk and I stole a gum-ball on a whim. We’d barely left the store when I was overcome by guilt. I ran back in and gave my tearful confession. The shopkeeper let me keep the gum, and threw in a chocolate bar because I was an emotional wreck.

Based solely on my academic career, and influenced my emotional predispositions, I don’t like numbers or mathematics. Oddly enough, though, it’s the one area my OCD loves to tickle. By the way, I’m not using OCD in the colloquial sense. It’s not something I’m saying to exaggerate my point and it’s not a humorous jab. I have a clinical diagnosis, and it stems from complex post-traumatic stress. 

When they told me that I had obsessive-compulsive disorder, I thought they were wrong because I don’t turn the lights on and off a certain number of times. I don’t jiggle the door handle or whatever other tropes we see on tv. In my case, for the most part, I experience obsessive thoughts rather than actions.

I focus on a single thought or problem and replay it over and over again. It’s like one of those old records catching on a scratch. For me, my thoughts usually focus on numbers, and I can’t stop doing the math. It can be calorie counting, and all I do is add up the numbers in my food. It can be the number of followers and readers on this blog. It can be the statistics surrounding Covid, and I’m not sure if those numbers are reassuring or terrifying.

Lately, my mind has been focusing on my finances. I can’t stop calculating how much is coming in versus going out. I run the numbers over and over. I can’t stop doing it! It doesn’t matter how they add up. It’s like my brain is looking for a problem, for trouble, and it won’t stop until it finds something. But what if there’s nothing there? Does it matter?

Not really because it feels like this thing in my brain wants to find something, anything, so it digs and digs. It turns over the loose soil and sends a cloud of dust up into the air. I can’t see, I can’t breathe, and I can’t focus on anything else. It’s exhausting, and physically I’m starting to feel ill.

Actually, I stayed home today because the exhaustion has made me sick. The stress is adding up, and my body just can’t function right now. It could also be a resurgence of my Covid symptoms. I had the damn virus three months ago, but it’s the gift that keeps on giving. Just when I start to feel human again, it taps me on the shoulder and wags its finger. I think it tsk’d me, which is incredibly condescending.

I did say that I have a love/hate relationship with numbers. So far, I’ve only talked about the negatives, and that’s because, right now, the negatives are overwhelming everything else. I’m hoping if I say it out loud, it will lose some of its power. Wishful thinking? Maybe, but it’s in that wishful thinking that I find some comfort in the numerical order.

We live in a world of uncertainties and a degree of lawlessness. Should we go so far as to call it abject chaos? If so, numbers bring some semblance of orderliness, disciple, and decorum. There are so many things that are open to interpretation, subject to bias, and left to the imagination. But knowing that 2+2= 4 and 6 multiplied by itself = 36, is a stable compound when so many fundamental elements crumble.

There is comfort and calm in the simplicity of counting to ten. I can take a breath in for a count of 4, hold it for 7, exhale for 8 and find a deep calm. Numbers are meditative and, in the practise I use on and off, it’s a staple component. It helps focus my mind on my breath instead of wandering off on a snipe hunt. I can’t chase down imagined worries or spend those few minutes on real-world concerns. Concerns that are, too often, beyond my control. So, I control my breathing and practise my counting like I did when I was in grade one.

It’s funny how one thing can trigger opposing reactions. It can be a good thing that brings calm, and it can shatter that calm with fear and self-loathing. It can create order out of the chaos it caused. It can bring about love, and it can inspire hate. It all depends on which side of the numbers you land on. 

Right now, the universal example would be the statistics surrounding the virus ravishing our countries. When this all started, I found comfort in the stats that showed low mortality rates and a significantly high recovery. Specifically, in my country, during the first wave, we managed to work together and keep the spread small.

Now we’re in the second wave, and our numbers are climbing exponentially. Still, when I look at the statistics, the odds of survival and recovery are in our favour. That should bring the same level of comfort that it did before. I should feel a sense of relief because the odds, if we’re playing that game, are in our favour.

But those numbers bring tears instead of relief.

Again, it depends on your experience, but I can tell you that those numbers mean nothing when you join the statistical pool. When you get sick, and every breath feels like your muscles are being ripped from your bones. You won’t care that the odds of getting sick are slim. When the mortality rate comes close to your home, you won’t care that the odds of dying from Covid in Canada is less than 1%.

I contracted Covid in September, and here we are in December, and I’m still struggling. This past weekend a good woman, someone who always made me laugh, passed away from this virus and her family is devastated. And just like that, the same numbers that gave me comfort mean nothing. Now those numbers have names, faces, and stories attached to every digit.

Whenever the human toll is expressed, there’s an accusation of fear-mongering so, let me get ahead of that. I don’t want you to live in fear, and I’m striving to live a happier life. Sitting in that fear-based headspace is hard, uncomfortable, and exhausting. It certainly isn’t healthy which is why I run the numbers. It gives me comfort, but I’d be foolish, cruel even if I ignored the other side. 

I’m not trying to instil fear. I’m trying to make sense of the numbers game for my own sanity. I’m trying to find a balance between living in the endless calculations and the person behind each statistic. That includes you, my friend. You aren’t a number on the analytics. You’re a living, breathing person who has so much value just because you exist.

Each of us has a story that’s filled with ups, downs, tragedies, and comedies. We’re complex beings with so many hopes, dreams, and statistical possibilities that we’d like to explore. So how do I, we, find the balance between the statistics, and our humanity?

I’m process my thoughts in real time. The only answer I can find, or give, is focus on the most important elements. That, for me, would be humanity over mathematics. That should be easier to do, but I’m caught in the fear loop. I know I want to focus on what’s really important, and to do that I need to find a way to stop running the numbers.

Maybe talking it out will help because the numbers running in my head are deafening, and sickening. If I say it out loud, the volume will turn down, and I can step out of the numbers game. If I can do that, I can turn my attention to what really matters to me.

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Finding Happy: On The Royal Mile

Photo by Rohit Farmer on unsplash.com

Is the cabin fever getting to anyone else? Is it too soon to make fever allusions? Have you, like me, actually tried to scale the walls of your home? You found a bug bite on your thigh and thought, for a fleeting six minutes and thirty-two seconds, that the universe was giving you a supernatural gift. You closed your eyes and focused all of your energy on shooting a sticky web-like substance from your extremities.

Unfortunately, the only sticky substance you could muster came out of somewhere else because you focused a little too hard. Now, you’re sitting on the sofa listening to the sound of your washing machine and typing words onto a blank page.

Hypothetically, of course, because who would actually think that a bug bite would give them powers? Ha. Ha. Cough. Not me! Geez, who would do that? Just because we’ve been in varying stages of a lockdown for serval months and the madness is setting in? No, nope, none of us would make that lifestyle choice.

Even if the desire to break free, travel the world, or manifest my consciousness onto a different continent is too overwhelming? Oh, that would be lovely, but no. Question mark?

Assuming that acquiring superpowers is not, and I quote, a realistic option, then the next best thing would be time travel. Which, strictly speaking, is not an option either, but memories are the next best thing. Close your eyes, don’t concentrate too hard because you’re almost out of laundry detergent, and the grocery store is a biohazard.

What was I saying?

Ah yes, I was closing my eyes and conjuring up happy memories. There’s this one time, I was 4 years old, and I found a snail in the garden. On a whim, I decided to try escargot. I ended up green goo and crunched up shell all over my face. My mother is a strong woman with an iron stomach, but I watched her face turn several shades of green. I don’t remember what the snail, may it rest in peace, tasted like, but I remember that look on Mom’s face. Oh, laugh out loud! I’m sorry Mom.

It’s one of my first pleasant memories, but I’m craving something more adventurous. I want to roam the earth in search of history, culture, and food that wasn’t birthed in my parent’s backyard. In fact, I want to get as far from my backyard as I can safely get.

Physically, that’s not possible right now for obvious reasons. Ah, but as the song goes, memories are the corners of something or other. I’m not actually sure what that means, and I’ve never heard the song in its entirety. No offence, Ms. Streisand, I’m sure it’s lovely.

I would give anything to travel to new places or revisit some favourites. That itch, from a different sort of bug, is causing this buzzing sound in the back of my mind. If I listen carefully, it’s telling me to go, go, go. I can’t heed its advice or scratch the itch. So, I’m going to go back to the day I walked the Royal Mile.

I think, in all of my travels, that day was one of the happiest I’ve ever been. Which is the point of this experiment in optimism and my quest to Find Happy. Happiness is not a feeling I’m overly familiar with, but I think it is attainable with the right mindset. The problem is, some of us weren’t programmed with the correct settings so, we have to try to recode our original programming.

That’s what I’m trying to do with these Finding Happy posts. I’m rewiring, decoding, and reprogramming my brain. I’m hoping it will help me be a happier person and, in the long run, find more joy in all things great and small.

Which brings me back to the Royal Mile. 

It starts up at Edinburgh Castle, sitting on the base of volcanic rock, and heads down to the Palace of Holyroodhouse, which stands in the shadow of Arthur’s Seat. Some of history’s most famous names walked those streets, bought food from those shops, and reshaped a country, as well as an empire, from those buildings. It’s a history that’s so vibrant it pulses and seeps out of every brick and cobble. 

That’s why Scotland has been one of my must-visit destination for years. I love history, and a part of my history was written on those rolling hills and on the cobbled streets. If my family’s lore is correct and there’s been absolutely no embellishment whatsoever. Yeah, what are the odds? Assume the stories are true then I am a descendant of Mary, Queen of Scots. 

You don’t have to curtsey or treat me any differently because I have royal blood. Please, call me Keri and not Your Ladyship. Did you laugh, gag, or roll your eyes? Me too! Royal blood? Please, bloody hell is more like it. If you don’t mind, I like my head where it is, thank you very much.

As far as I know, I don’t have any family living in Edinburgh or Scotland. I could be wrong. Perhaps I have some undiscovered cousins walking about and, if so, I would love to meet you. Wouldn’t that be amazing? Finding new members of the family. Defying history’s attempts to separate us. So cool!

The closest thing I got to a family reunion was visiting the castle where Queen Mary lived and gave birth to James, the future king of England. Or was that down at Holyrood? No, it was at the castle but you should visit Holyrood. Fun fact, you can still see the bloodstain on the floor where Mary’s husband, Lord Darnley, had her private secretary, David Rizzio, murdered on March 9, 1566.

Was that a fun fact or a creepy one? Jealousy, murder, and intrigue at the palace. History is wild, and getting to see it, seeped into the hardwood floor, is mind-blowing. It really brings the stories to life, and it’s a humbling reminder that history was made by real people who lived, loved, and bled just like we do.

Well, maybe not exactly. The most intriguing thing to happen to me lately was trying to figure out what my dog did with my left shoe. Riveting, I know.

I feel lucky to have had the opportunity to walk through history. More than that, I got a chance to experience a part of my ancestral history. I walked down the halls of their homes, and I got to see where, how, they lived. It was incredible but, I wonder, if they came back and watched their decedents walk through their homes on a tour, what would they think? 

For me, it was a little strange to explore their homes, and their city, hundreds of years after their deaths. It’s a surreal moment, realizing that we’re connected by blood but divided by history. Sure, it’s a diluted sample of DNA, but we’re still family. Their stories are a part of my story. We’re connected, and there I was, walking in the footsteps of my ancestors.

Those feelings were amplified on the streets of Old Town. There are so many secrets and stories tucked away in every corner. My blood is connected to those stories, to the people, and walking down the Royal Mile let me see what my family might’ve seen. The sites, smells, and the energy of the old city they called home.

Maybe, in a way, time travel is real because as I stood outside of St Giles’ Cathedral, waiting to meet a friend, I felt a connection to the past, my past. There was a feeling of belonging, as if my ancestors’ DNA remembered that place. It felt like my blood let out a sigh of relief because it was finally home. 

Sure, this feeling could be a version of wish fulfillment, coupled with an overactive imagination. Or, I got caught up in the romanticism of travel and all of the stories I’d been told. Add to that, the abundance of kindness I’d received from everyone I met.

I know that Canadians are supposed to be stereotypically nice, but after visiting Scotland, I think we have to hand over the title or agree to share it. The people of Edinburgh greeted me with so much enthusiasm and exuberant pride. A pride that’s well earned because it is a magnificent city that was made better by a collective, genuine, kindness.

On the first night, during the cab ride from the train station to my hotel, I found an unexpected tour guide. This jovial gentleman pointed out alleys and shops that had interesting tales then told those stories with fervour and flare. I think I learnt more about the city in that twenty-minute ride than I did from all the travel books I’d read.

A few days later, while standing outside of Saint Giles’, half a dozen people stopped to offer their assistance. I guess I have a lost puppy vibe? I’d only been standing still for a couple of minutes before the first person approached. Even though I wasn’t lost and I didn’t need help, they spared a few minutes of their precious time to give me unsolicited but welcomed advice. Where to eat, what to see, which tourist traps to avoid and the many secrets hidden under our feet.

It was brilliant! Thanks to their kindness, I ate very well for very little, and I had experiences I would’ve missed if I stuck to the guide books. I suppose it’s no surprise that I felt such a connection to the city. Not after that welcome! I was treated like family by people who didn’t know me. They treated me like an invited guest, a distant friend, who had finally come home.

If you’ve read anything else I’ve written, you’ll know that I don’t often feel a sense of belonging. I’m an awkward, weird outsider who just doesn’t fit. So, it was strange to find that belonging in a city I’d never visited, and with people I didn’t know.

Is it the power of genetics and ancestry? Finding a home you have never known, and walking strange, yet familiar, streets. I like to think that our cells have memories and that they carry the memories of those that came before us. If they do, then when we’re separated from our loved ones, our loved ones are still with us. They are a part of us. Their story is our story, and that’s a powerful and comforting thought.

Especially now, when so many of us are separated from the people we love. We miss them. I miss my people so much, but they are with me, and I find comfort in that. A small comfort, anyway.

There’s also something to be said about the kindness I received on the Royal Mile. The welcome, the advice, and the pride in their city, their home. Never underestimate the power of kindness! It can work miracles and it might be, and this is just the romantic in me, the reason my cells woke up and recognized their old stomping grounds. It could be why I felt a surge of connective energy, and I felt a sense of belonging.

I felt like I was home even though I’d never set foot on those streets or walked those hallways. I felt like I fit, like I belonged, and I felt a sense of peace. At that moment, standing on the Royal Mile, I felt a connection to a story that someone else wrote, and their story became my story.

And that warrants a contented sigh.

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What Did I Do To Deserve This?

Photo by Vaun0851 on unsplash.com

Do you believe in Karma? The principle of cause and effect. What goes around comes around. Do unto others and all of that. Do you think it’s true? Do you think that everything we do, say, or put out in the universe has an impact on our current lives and our future selves?

I could be wrong, but every culture and religious practice seems to have some version of this idea. We call it different things, add some layers, but at the core, it’s an ancient concept. It’s an idea that says our actions, how we treat someone else, will bounce back onto us like a boomerang of cosmic or spiritual kismet. 

Tempt fate, and it will return the favour. How that plays out depends on whether we’re naughty or nice. Is that true? Is fate a living entity that has the will and the power to doll out rewards or punishments?

Growing up, we called fate God, but it goes by many different names. I’m not sure if the name matters, but the idea is intriguing. Does God, Fate, Karma take our actions into account when it’s designing the course of our life? Do our pasts dictate our futures? Or, does it take into account our potential for improvement or even greatness?

I believe in Karma to a certain degree, but I also believe in a merciful God. A being that forgives us and, even if we can’t muster repentance, it can slowly work on our hearts if our hearts are willing. It’s a being that is gently, purposefully guiding us to the best version of ourselves. I believe in a deity that wants the best for us, and it will help us when we struggle or fall

But, I still ask why things happen to me and what I did to deserve this life. I’m a deeply flawed, weak person.

At least I have a foundation of faith that works for me, but I’m always searching for a deeper meaning. I ask too many questions. At least that’s what I was told when I was a kid. At church, the teachers in our morning classes stopped calling on me because I kept asking pesky questions like why, how come, or are you sure that’s right?

It’s called faith, they said and left it at that.

One of the reasons I left the church, and organized religion, was the pressure to blindly follow the institution’s interpretation of scripture. I was told that this is how faith works. To believe in God is to follow without question, but how can I have a genuine, honest relationship with God if I don’t actively pursue a connection with him/her/it? How can my relationship with God grow if I don’t engage? Submission, to me, doesn’t feel like a relationship. It feels like a master towering over a servant. How can a servant ever have a loving, deep, honest relationship with a master who demands blind allegiance?

Ah, but if the answers were readily available, then how could my faith grow? Without the challenge, an active search for knowledge, I think I would become complacent. My relationship with God would become stagnant. My need for divine guidance would whither, and my growth would cease. My life would become uninspired if I stopped questioning my faith, God, and searching through the spirituality of many different cultures and beliefs.

So I ask too many questions about God, Karma, and the role kismet plays in my life. Do these things play a role? Are they dependant on my belief, or do they happen regardless? Do I get a say in how they influence my life or, am I at their mercy?

Some questions, I just can’t answer because I’m just not enlightened enough to understand the complexities of such things. Others come down to personal experience and no small amount of soul searching. I can’t tell you to believe in anything, any more than you can do the same for me. Faith, spirituality is a deeply personal journey.

Which brings me to a disclaimer of sorts. These words are a part of my journey, my quest, for deeper understanding and a more profound relationship with the God I believe in. Please, don’t read any judgement in anything I say. If you believe in something different, then that’s something to celebrate. Our differences should be shared, not silenced. 

Cool? I’m going to assume you nodded and said cool. Now, we can get a little silly before asking more questions.

I was taking a walk down a memory avenue with a friend, and we were talking about how often Karma has bitten us on the butt. Or, they were times when hubris collided with coincidence, and we laid the blame on Karma. Karma is sitting there with its hands in the air, dumbfounded. Why do you people always blame me?

Do you think the devil asks the same question? The devil made me do it. No, don’t blame me for your dumbassery. That’s all on you! As is the time my behind got an almost literal introduction to Karma.

Vancouver, Canada, has one small, annoying thing about our landscape. Half of the city was built on hills. Mountains? No, they’re probably just hills that feel like mountains when it’s the middle of winter, and we’ve had sixty-two days of rain. Walking up feels like you are trying to casually stroll up a waterfall. One does not simply take a casual stroll up a waterfall! Nah, one fights the forces of nature with an ever-fading hope of triumph.

Sorry, I’ve been ingesting too much Tolkien. 

The only thing worse than going up is coming back down in a torrential downpour. Now, I love rain! The way drops patter against the window is a relaxing sound. Walking through it, even if it’s a wall of water, is so refreshing. I love rain, or maybe I’ve been living here too long, and I’ve developed a syndrome.

Years ago, this friend and I were walking down one of the many hills to get to the Skytrain (Subway). The rain was coming down in sheets of water. It felt like we were walking underwater, and we were soaked through to the bone. Naturally, we shrugged it off with a laugh because, again, we might have a syndrome.

In a moment of prideful stoicism, I explained that there was no reason to complain or grumble. Look at those people and their self-imposed misery! Why are they letting a little bad weather ruin their day? Come on people, what’s wrong with you? Dance in the rain like that guy in those old movies. Be happy, laugh, it’s all good as long as my butt stays dry.

The words were barely out of my mouth when Karma, or hubris, decided to have a chuckle. My feet hit a puddle, and down I went. Butt first into the water, but the indignity didn’t end there. No, we were on a hill in a downpour which meant, you guessed it, slip and slide.

I slid down that hill, on my now soaked rump, and in my path was Karma’s grand finale. A telephone pole was directly in my way, and I found myself straddling it at a dangerous angle. Luckily, I stopped myself before an egregious violation could occur.

Pride comes before a fall, they say, but I had to take it literally.

My friend, being the pal that she was/is, rushed to my side. Did she want to see if I was okay? Did she ask me if I needed help? No, she laughed uncontrollably and pointed out that Karma’s retribution can be swift. A swift kick in my ass, apparently.

To even things out, a few years later, she had a moment of her own. It involved a glass door and ill-timed boast. I, being the good friend that I am, stood over her and asked if she was okay. At least, I tried to ask, but I was laughing so hard I couldn’t breathe.

Again, Karma reared its mischievous head and reminded me that my actions have consequences. Hours after The Incident we both ended up in the emergency room. My friend, with a severe concussion but, miraculously, her nose wasn’t fractured. I had an infection that came out of nowhere, and I needed intravenous antibiotics.

When our parents arrived, the look on their faces was priceless. Honestly, they can’t leave us alone for a minute. The only word they could muster was, “How?”

Well, Karma has a sense of humour, and it doesn’t always come after the big screw-ups. Sometimes it uses its powers to remind us that humility and compassion are precious virtues. It brings us down a rung or two when we’ve climb too high, look down on others, and laughing hysterically.

But what about the big things? The events that knock the air out of our lungs and bring us to our knees. A life-shattering diagnosis. A loss of a loved one. Living a life you never wanted while longing for a life you can’t have. What about those things? Do we blame Karma, God, or bad luck?

I, for one, find that having a powerful entity to blame is very comforting. It’s not about personal responsibility or accountability. If I’ve screwed up then I will face the consequences of my actions. I won’t like it, but actions have consequences. Newton’s Third Law taught us that.

Sometimes, though, things happen to us that are beyond our control or understanding. We do everything right! We follow all the rules and perform our spiritual practice to the letter. We pray. We’re kind. We treat people how we want to be treated. We do everything, but still, things go wrong and when it does?

That’s just the luck of the draw is not a concept I can handle with any degree of comfort. I ask what I did wrong in a past life, even though I don’t believe in that sort of thing. I search my memory for the transgression that warranted these consequences. When that fails, I blame God, Karma and I curse the fates because living in that uncertain space is unnerving.

But living in that space is what it means to be human, and that’s even less comforting. For me, to find comfort, I have to push past the blame, anger, and fear. I find comfort in the spiritual beings that I just cursed, because I need their guidance. It’s a strange dichotomy, but in that uncertain space, I need something to hold onto. Faith is that stronghold for me.

I believe in a God of love and mercy, which means that God isn’t out to get me. Karma, God, the Fates aren’t great oppressors but guides. Is that possible, or does it open up more questions about bad things?

I don’t know why God lets bad things happen, but if God is love, then God isn’t the one wielding the sword. He/she/it is the medic that rushes onto the battlefield with a medical kit and a stretcher. God tends to our wounds, holds our hands, and gets us through to the other side.

I’ve had to call an ambulance quite a few times, and all of those times were life or death moments. There’s nothing more comforting than the sound of those sirens approaching. The relief when those paramedics walk up and ask how they can help, is immense. That’s how I see God, in the moments when I don’t know what I did to deserve this life. 

Well, after I’ve blamed Karma and called God some unkind names. It’s a complicated relationship, but it is a comforting one for me.

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Abolishing The Always

Photo by JR Korpa on unsplash.com

As a general rule, I choose to live my life in that awkward grey space that sits between two extremes. Life, as I’ve experienced it, isn’t all white or all black. It’s rarely all good or all bad. Most of the time, my journey has been a mix of bleeding watercolours that have created an intricate abstract painting.

There are moments, of course, when the middle ground is invaded by the extremes, and it shrinks considerably. There are times of intense joy, relief, or overwhelming love and acceptance. There have been periods of severe pain, loss, and grief. In these moments, it feels like the extremes have taken over completely, and I’ll never get my life back in balance.

It’s not true, and feelings can be little liars or, at least, they can hide the realities of the world around me. If I look hard enough, I’ll find a small patch of ground in the middle of the fog. It might be smaller than it was and it’s standing room only. Sometimes there’s only enough space for a foot or a finger. But, it’s still there despite the encroaching extremes of emotions or life stressors.

Those stressors make it hard to hold my ground because everything is trying to pull me away. It would be easier to let go, follow the pack, and dive into the deep end. This is especially true in a world full of people living on the farthest ends of the spectrum. It’s a game of tug of war, and I’m standing on the rope.

How’s your balance? I can’t walk a straight line for eight paces. Stand on a rope, right in the middle, as two opposing forces yank me around? You know what my first mistake was? Trying to stand up. I should lay on my stomach and give the rope a bear hug until it stops bobbling. How do the cowboys, or girls, ride those bucking bulls? I should take some lessons from them because that’s a skill I never knew I needed.

I’m certainly not trying to be, or sound like, a martyr here. This is a lifestyle choice that I’ve willingly, purposefully, taken on. It’s a conscious decision to strive for balance. Strive is the keyword because I certainly don’t get it right all the time. I can go from zero to six thousand faster than a hummingbird, but I’m trying to slow it down.

The reason I aim to live in the centre was born out of a deep fear of the extremes. Emotional and physical severities cause destruction wherever they go. Extremism, in all of its forms and in all political ideologies, strips people of their humanity. It turns them into lower life forms that aren’t worthy of compassion, kindness, or basic decency. It’s the monster inside of us that lets us hurt and kill anyone who doesn’t belong to our group. It empowers the worst of our instincts, and it leaves too many lives in shattered.

At the risk of sounding like a snowflake, even one life destroyed by extreme views is one life too many. But the greater good is all that matters, isn’t it? Which is why we focus on the 97.3% of the population that survives and thrives? We are a peculiar species!

Oh, but there seems to be a problem with the grey. 

There doesn’t seem to be room for those of us in the middle. The term centrist has become a curse word. It’s used to shame or demean. It’s a derogatory clap back aimed at someone who doesn’t join the cause du jour with fervour. It’s seen as a weakness or a copout because the world wants to oversimplify life. It wants to turn our existence into an either/or while ignoring all other possibilities.

I get it, complexities are scary, and the simplicities are more palatable. If there is a grey area where we can be both right and wrong? How do I know what the right thing is? I want to do the right thing, but it’s all muddled up. I can’t tell you what I believe. Not yet, anyway. I’m in the grey, which means I need to sort through the layers until I find a moment of clarity.

But clarity can be hard to find.

On the big things that involve social justice or balancing the greater good with the rights of individuals? It might be impossible to find perfect clarity, but somethings lean toward basic decency for the majority of us. They sit in the grey because achieving these goals isn’t easy or clear-cut. They are complex issues built on decades, centuries, of pain and bigotry. 

At their core, there’s an obviousness that doesn’t obscure our vision. Things like decency, kindness, compassion, and equality shouldn’t be veiled. They can sit in the grey with room to stretch and grow because there is more work to be done.

For the record, equality is not an extreme idea. It should be an accepted part of the human experience. Every person has value. More than that, every life is precious and needed. It doesn’t matter what labels we place on our gender, identity, skin colour, ethnicity, religion or romantic inclinations. You are a gift, that should be treasured because your life is so valuable and wondrous.

It isn’t a concept that strays out of the grey. At least, I don’t think it does, but what seems obvious to me might be convoluted to some.

If I really want to live in the centre and find more balance, then I need to do some work closer to home. I’ve been so busy holding the line that I have slipped into an unhealthy mindset. At the root of that is a single word, and I need to abolish it from my vocabulary. 

Well, it might still serve a purpose, so I should keep it around, but I need to keep it in check. For this moment, for this discussion, in this context, it needs to go sit in a corner and be quiet. For a little while, at least.

It’s a word I use way too much, and it comes up in many different contexts. I hear it when I look at the challenges we face as a community. It shows up in my personal life. In my struggles with mental health and in my relationships. When I’m looking back at the past or trying to see the future. This one word trips me up, and it brings me down.

It’s innocuous, really. It’s a simple little word without any teeth. It doesn’t have much bark, but its whispers are deadly. It lures me into a trap that I can’t escape. It sends me into a spiral, and when I hit rock bottom? Well, I have a week of sadness, loneliness, and exhaustion. 

What’s the magic word? Always.

Life has Always been this way, so why change it now? I Always fail, so why should I try? This is how it has Always worked. Always has been, and it Always will be, so sit down and shut up. Always. Always. Always. 

Used in the right — or wrong — way, it’s dismissive, and it silences voices reaching out for answers to complex questions. It’s used as an excuse to maintain the status quo when real change is needed. It’s a dream killer, but what if those dreams can lead to life-changing solutions? Always is a word that takes big ideas and turns them into something so small, they’re hardly worth the effort.

Again, I’m working closure to home on this concept because it’s one I’m struggling with. I get caught up in this cycle of wanting change, seeking it out, but then that damn word whispers in my ear. Everything I want, the things I’m trying to achieve, seem out of reach. The effort it takes to simply try is too much. It’s too hard. Who do I think I am? 

I try so hard, but I Always come up short. It doesn’t matter how much work I put in; I Always miss the mark. My life isn’t where I want it, but it’s Always been this way, and it will Always be like this. Why even try if I’ll Always feel this way? Why use my voice when it Always falls on cold hearts?

I try to watch my language in these posts, but in this instance, I’ll make an exception. If you have word sensitives, then skip ahead. It’s okay, no judgement, I’m just giving you a heads up.

Always is a real mind fuck!

When I get caught up in the Always, it drags me down, and it puts out the little fire inside of me. It extinguishes the spark that keeps my dreams and hopes alive. It hides the flame that desires real change in myself, and the world. Despite the Always, I have a heartbeat and air in my lungs. I’m still alive, so I have dreams and hopes. I pray, and I keep trying to make my life worth living. Even if that life will Always be out of reach.

That word slipped in again! Did you see it? Sneaky bastard.

Instead of living in the grey, I slide into the dark, and I lose myself. I abandon the middle ground where I have room to stretch and grow. That place where I feel stronger, most at ease, becomes a rope that’s being yanked around by extreme forces. If I let the Always get into my head? I can’t stand my ground.

If you read my last few posts, it’s blatantly obvious that I’ve been struggling. My mind has been fractured and chaotic. In turn, so have the words I’ve put on the page. When it comes to this space, I strive for honesty and authenticity, so my mindset is reflected in these pages.

That mindset right now?

Chaos. A frantic grab at anything I can hold onto. An overwhelming sense of desperation. Maybe even a touch of madness? Call it what you will, but there are a lot of reasons for my recent mindset. One of those is this idea of the Always. I have been falling into the trap, and I’ve been losing hope.

It’s a horrible thing to happen to someone. Losing your hope, faith, and genuinely wondering if there’s still good out there. Losing that childlike wonder and belief that the sun will come up tomorrow. Forgetting that, despite all the challenges in the past, you’ve faced them down, and you had the courage to stand back up. Losing yourself to the Always and forgetting the Maybes is a devastating mistake. 

It sounds a little wishy-washy, but when I’m stuck in that mindset, there’s one word that helps me turn it around. Maybe things can change. Maybe tomorrow will be better. Maybe the future is brighter than I think. Maybe. Just, you know, Maybe.

Trying to counter one definitive with another is the equivalent of arguing with a brink wall in an echo chamber. I never believe it, and I just give myself a headache. If I slowly open myself up to a multitude of possibilities? 

Okay, it takes time to believe in the Maybes, but if I keep at it, it sinks into my subconscious. I slowly start to look at these possibilities as viable options. When I focus on the Maybes, my grey area expands. I stretch out, let go of the bouncing rope, and let my feet land on solid ground. It gives me the chance to rekindle the flame that the Always tried to put out.

I’m working on abolishing the Always and I’m trying to focus my energy on the Maybes. The Maybes seem more hopeful than their counterpart. They certainly offer a lot more warmth for those of us living in the grey.

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Finding Happy: In A Needle?

Photo by Dzenina Lukac from Pexels

First off, that title, it’s not what it sounds like. I assure you it’s perfectly innocent. It’s as innocent as Christmas and Santa Clause, which is an odd comparison for me to make. If you know me, then you know I’m not a fan of the holidays. I don’t dislike them, and I don’t hate them either. I’m not a Scrooge or a Grumpmas. If anything, I feel a lot of nothing which is why I shrug off the early onset of the season and refuse to buy egg nog until mid-December.

If you want to put your lights up in September and inflate a Santa exposing his privates in October? Go for it! It’s innocent enough, so if it makes you happy, do it. Watch Santa drop his trousers and wiggle his half-exposed crack. Let the reindeer out, and jingle those bells. You do you because God knows we all need to find a way to be a little happier this year.

Typically, holidays leave me feeling ambivalent and sometimes down in the dumps. They mark a passing of time, and that’s the one thing I don’t handle very well. I feel like everything is moving too fast, and I can’t keep up. I feel like I’ve fallen behind with no way to make up the difference.

The holidays bring out a desperate need to slow down time. Slow my life down. Go back, and relive some of those lost moments when happiness wasn’t something I had to hunt for like a lost treasure. This is where I sigh dramatically, but I’m going to resist the urge. 

You’re welcome?

Self-psychoanalysis is probably a bad idea, but why not give it a whirl. This feeling of desperation leads to that sense of ambivalence because feeling nothing is better than feeling everything. I feel so much, and golly gee, let’s give that trait a rest. So, during the holidays I switch off. I take an emotional break. I try to feel nothing because if I don’t, I feel like I’m going to explode.

Did I just hear the tired sigh of a deflating mood? Were you having a good day before you starting reading this? Finding Happy is in the title so naturally, you thought you were in for a romp through spring daisies. My apologies, but bare with me. I’m going to swing this back to happy, I promise you.

Well, soon but not right now because I’m going to bring up the elephant in the room. Would it be better if I called it Elle instead of using its scientific or colloquial names? Or, should I stick with The Virus and safely assume we all know what I’m talking about? Huh, the problem with this format is that I need to have psychic powers to divine your answer.

It doesn’t matter how hard I focus, clairvoyance is not a skill I’ve acquired or been gifted. I’m just going to have to go with the thing that makes me giggle. After all, if Santa dropping drawers makes you laugh then why shouldn’t I find something silly that does it for me? No reason at all, so Elle it is!

In my mind, the elephant is wearing a tutu and ballerina slippers with one toe poking out the side. Some fabrics just don’t stretch. Poor Elle, she can’t catch a break, but at least she made her grand debut on the world stage. She danced across the globe and left the world breathless.

Literally.

Having had a private viewing of Elle’s talents, I can make a breathless joke and no one can tell me it’s too soon. Well, they can, and I can’t stop them, but I was there, dancing with Elle. The damn elephant definitely left me breathless, and she’s stirred the world up into a tizzy.

If you read Monday’s post, then you know I’ve been feeling a little down lately. Sad, frustrated, and lonely because Elle won’t take a bow. She won’t waltz off into that good night. Exit stage left, and take early retirement on a secluded island. Oh, you won’t be missed.

Speaking of missing, I miss my people, and I miss my life. I was looking forward to some new adventures this year, but none of that could happen. Be gone Elle, you bloody elephant! We’re tired of missing out.

Again, I’m bringing the room down, and I profusely apologize, but I always strive to be honest. Right now, as I’m writing this, I’m struggling to find happiness. It’s there, somewhere, and I will find it. The majority of life isn’t lived in the extremes but in the simple moments. And, in those simple moments, happiness can be found, but I long for the ease of the extremes.

No, stop, I’m focusing on the negatives, but there are positives. It’s not all or nothing. Forgive my repetition, but life isn’t either of these extremes. Despite being strange bedfellows, these two companions often travel hand in hand. They’re lovers in the night who contradict each other during the day. They shouldn’t work together, but together they complement each other perfectly.

It’s easy to focus on one, and forget that the other is close by. So, we spend a lot of time flirting with the negatives. On occasion, we get seduced by the positives, but it’s so aloof. It comes and goes on a whim or, perhaps, it just likes the chase? I can choose to follow it, play its little game, or I can sit here and flirt with the negatives.

Typically, I’m quite lazy, so the choice is simple, but I’m trying to be better. I’m trying to find my happy. I’m actively pursuing it with the hope that we can stop this stealthy game of seduction. Maybe we can play an easier game. Hide and go seek, perhaps? That sounds fun. Well, as long as positivity is spectacularly bad and hides behind a telephone pole. I see you, silly.

That’s my hope, the reason for this experiment in reckless optimism, but I’m still on the hunt. Happiness, positivity, and optimism are still quite elusive. It’s work, and it’s hard. I have to catch myself, my automatic negativity, and refocus my energy on the positive.

So today, my quest has taken me to an unexpected place. It took me by surprise, but it was so pleasant that I willingly shrugged off my dislike of the holidays. Even Christmas in November? Kinda, yeah. It’s on display way too soon, but it’s making me smile. Why? What’s going on?

The last time Christmas made me this happy, I was putting cookies out for Santa on Christmas Eve. I can’t remember how old I was, but I remember the tree was lit up with sparkling lights. Stockings hung over the fireplace. There were presents under the tree. I carefully carried the cookies to the table and ran back to the kitchen for some milk.

Not to focus on the negative, but this was the Christmas my brother thought I was old enough to know, what he called, the truth. He said that Santa was just a story, and our parents were the ones who loaded the stockings and ate our cookies.

Lies! Damn Lies! Why do some people insist on perpetuating these lies? It’s baffling.

Today, my need to believe in Santa collided with my lack of Christmas spirit. I had to go to the lab for routine blood work before talking to my post-transplant doctor. There’s nothing to worry about, and it’s more of an annoyance than anything else. Especially now, with Elle screwing everything up and locking things down.

I thought I’d be smart and show up to the lab before it opened. I was hoping to beat the rush. I didn’t want to stand outside in the cold. Turns out, a lot of people had the same idea, so we stood six feet apart in the chilly morning. Half asleep and swallowing the early morning grumbles, we quietly waited for space to open up.

My lab sits in the middle of a shopping complex, and as I looked around, I saw the early stages of Christmas decorations. Giant snowflakes on windows. Big red bows strung up. Pictures of Santa, holding up wrapped presents, remind us that we’re running out of time, as well as money.

Commercialism is nifty, eh. 

Despite the manipulation tactics, the decorations are kind of pretty if you look past the marketing. The colours are bright. They feel warm, even if the air is colder than a polar bears bathtub. It made me smile just a little as the line started to move. It’s something familiar, and comforting when everything else feels chaotic.

After thirty minutes of waiting, I stepped inside the warm building, and I was greeted by the gentle music of some old classics. It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas played softly in the background as I registered and waited for my turn. No one likes getting up early to get jabbed with needles. No one wants to wait out in the cold because we have occupancy limits. No one was happy to be there, but the music played, and people slowly swayed along.

My name was called, and I went into the back. The lab tech was perky and chatty. She made the process a little less painful, and it was even enjoyable. Talking to a real, in the flesh, person was a treat. I don’t care that she’s a stranger and just doing her job. Sharing space with another masked person while cool music played, made me smile. 

Say what you like about decorating for Christmas before the first of December or listening to carols at the first sign of winter. I’ve said it all before, but this year feels different. There’s so much heaviness sitting in the air. We’re all stressed and handling this situation very differently. Some are handling it better than others, but none of us are happy right now.

Christmas has an innocence and an inherent joy that reminds me of happier times. It takes me back to the days of cookies by the Christmas tree. Stockings hung with care. For a few minutes, I’m five years old, and everything seems possible. Sure, there are scary monsters under my bed, but there’s someone to take that away and make everything okay.

Right now, I want someone to take away the elephant in the room and make everything okay. It will be okay! We will get our lives back, and we’ll find a comfortable new normal. But right now, we can enjoy the small moments of happiness that sneak up on us when we least expect it.

I never thought I’d find a moment of happiness at a laboratory, but there it was. Bing Crosby, singing in the background. Santa holding presents. Bright yellow tinsel wrapped around a lamppost. These things reminded me that if I actively pursue the positives in life, I can find a moment of happiness. Even on days when I’m sad, tired, and lonely, there’s something out there that can make me smile.

I just have to go looking for it.

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Yeah, I Don’t Know Either

Photo by Markus Spiske from Pexels

This is your one and only warning! You can’t say it didn’t happen. It was literally the first sentence I typed. 

Prepare yourself for copious amounts of mental vomit. An expulsion of— Well, I don’t know either, but I can tell you that I’m having a moment of petulance. I’m staring at this blank page in front of me, and I know I should put words down, but I don’t wanna. 

FYI, when you read those last three words, my voice is high pitched and whiny. It’s a cross between a grumpy toddler and a prepubescent with a chip on their shoulder. What kind of chip? Doritos Nacho Cheese, of course. Huh, I’m peckish and piqued.

Feel free to reread that sentence using the applicable …Uh…Um…Arg, I can’t even think of the right word! What is wrong with me? Everything, and nothing. I’m fine, really. Seriously, I’m not having a breakdown or anything. Well, no more than my norm, but I’ll be okay.

Except, I have to write this thing, and words are hard. I think I put them somewhere safe so they’d be out of the way for the weekend. Do you do this? You put something away in a safe place and then forget where that place is.

I just spent thirty minutes looking for my glasses because last night I put them somewhere safe. I was trying to be proactive and prepare myself for this morning. Wake up, make a cup of tea, put on my glasses and write a bunch of words. If I’d tossed them on top of a random pile of junk, I would’ve found them faster. If I’d found them faster then maybe I wouldn’t be in this mood.

Inflection! 

Sorry, for the jump, but it hit me so hard. My subconscious was at work while I was babbling about my glasses. All of a sudden, bam, there it was, and it startled me but in a good way. Like when a friend jumps out and scares you, but then you both giggle. Yep, it’s like that. A moment of tension followed my intense relief.

It’s the best feeling! Finally, grabbing the elusive word that’s sitting on the tip of your cerebrum. It’s there but just out of reach. You can locate it, but you can’t touch it. If you draw a straight line from the tip of your nose to your hairline? That’s where the irritation sits. It pokes, tickles, and annoys until a resolution is found. And when it’s located? It’s a release, an exhale, and I can’t think of anything more satisfying.

You have a list of things far more satisfying? Great, but keep it clean. We never know when sensitive eyes might wonder over the things we say.

Or write, which reminds me, I’m supposed to write something meaningful. Is that what I do? Finding meaning in the meaningless moments of life. Or do I just ask too many questions? That might be it. I’m curious by nature, and my inquisitiveness won’t let me rest until I’ve found an answer or something that closely resembles it. 

I need to make sense of life and find the meaning, purpose in all of this madness. That’s my quest, the reason I write, but today I don’t want to ask questions, write words, or be reasonable. I want to…Again, I don’t know.

Someday’s those words seem to magically manifest themselves onto the page. I read it back and shake my head. Did I write that, or do I have a ghost in my computer? Are those my real thoughts, or am I just BS’ing? Huh, I never knew I had so many opinions or ideas. Maybe I need to listen to myself think more often.

Which is why I love writing so much! I stop what I’m doing and listen to my own opinions and feelings. Instead of the noise coming at me from the outside world, I find a moment of silence. I can process everything, ask questions, and hopefully find an answer that scratches that itch.

It’s cheaper than therapy, and I discover new things about myself all the time. I uncover thoughts I’ve buried, and I dig through ideas that test my views or biases. It’s also one of the few forms of communication I can engage in with some degree of successful articulation.

Usually, I stutter and stumble over my words because the connection between my mind and mouth is full of potholes. I can’t always express myself clearly, and often the message I’m trying to convey gets lost or stuck in one of the holes. I try to dig them out, but frustration quickly takes over, and the thoughts vanish.

I try to say something right, but it comes out wrong. I didn’t mean for it to sound like that! It’s not what I wanted to say. Give me a minute! I’ll find the words and rearrange them more cohesively. But, before I have a chance to correct myself, the conversation is off and running. 

I try to interject, but that never goes over well. If you didn’t mean it, why did you say it? Why don’t you say what you mean? Obviously, on some level, you were thinking about it, and that’s why it came out. Right? Right? Answer me!

Trying to explain that it didn’t come out right, sounds lame and it’s rarely accepted at face value. We’re so quick to yell and so slow to listen. Give someone a chance to explain? Perish the thought. We always seem to assume the worst even when the intent is innocent. Is it possible that some of us just don’t verbally articulate ourselves very well?

Ha, no, never…Silly woman.

My brain doesn’t formulate a response fast enough for the modern conversation style. Words are spoken, and in return, there’s an expectation of a snappy reciprocation. You say something. I say something. Together we converse on a wide array of topics. Connections are formed or broken, and the same goes for bonds of friendship.

The damage of one misspoken sentence can be catastrophic! I had a friend who wouldn’t speak to me for six months because they thought I said one thing when I said another. Instead of asking for clarification, they let the assumption ride and anger built. I had no idea until finally we talked it out and resolved our differences. The friendship, though, was never the same.

This fast-paced style leads to a lot of assumptions, and it leaves little room for those of us who operate in the slow lane. If we take our time formulating a response, then we have, by default, joined the opposing side. Heaven forbid we take a breath and wait for all the information to come in before reaching a semi-educated conclusion. Point out that there are almost always two sides to a story? That doesn’t go well.

That’s why I love writing so much. I get the opportunity to slow down, think before I speak, and then speak at a pace that’s comfortable for me. Spoken words trip me up, and I’m often left out because I’m not up to speed. It’s frustrating, but at least I have this platform, this blank page, and these words.

These words, the sharing of stories and ideas, is so vitally important to our survival as an imperfect species. Not just my words! That would be incredibly egotistical, and wow, no, that’s not what I want to say. But see! I can clarify my point, and that’s so refreshing. 

Our words are so vitally important. Our ability to share, connect, and communicate is so essential to living a full, enriched life. That’s especially true right now. So many of us are on lockdown, and we’re separated from loved ones and our communities. Finding a way to connect, share our lives is the only way we can stave off boredom and loneliness.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve really been struggling with those feelings a lot, and maybe that’s why I’m feeling so petulant right now? I thought it was getting in the way, a barrier in communication but, I think it’s an expression of overwhelming emotions.

 I am so lonely right now, and I miss my people. I miss conversations at coffee shops and dinner with family. I miss the stories we share, and I miss the connection to the outside world.

Wow, I’m feeling a rush of emotions. Am I going to cry? I rarely do that, but I’m feeling the feels right now. I didn’t realize how lonely I felt until I wrote the words. I didn’t realize how much I miss my people until I read that sentence back.

Maybe that’s why I don’t wanna use my words? I want to drink my tea, pretend to read something nifty and stare out of my window. Dolly Daydreamer, that’s my new name. In my daydreams, these pesky emotions don’t overwhelm me, and words aren’t hard. I can have a conversation without stalling out or spitting out exhaust fumes. Talking to someone wouldn’t increase my carbon footprint. Inside of my head, the grass is greener, and the sun is a pinkish-orange glow. We can have a picnic, talk, hang out, and be together. 

Instead, I’m sitting in my apartment, resisting the urge to stamp my feet like a sullen loner. Which is what I am right now. Cranky, lonely, and a little bit chilly. I should turn the heat on and make some tea. Tea makes everything better, except for the words coming out of my mouth or flowing out of my fingers.

Why are the words coming out in a jumbled mess? I can’t seem to stop them. I have nothing of substance to offer. These words aren’t saying anything. I’m just making noise. Why? Why can’t I stop putting words on this page? 

Because I’m lonely, overwhelmed, and tired of this virus that’s screwing up our year. Is anyone else feeling this way? I just want to say f**k it and walk out my door like nothing’s going on. I want to pretend that everything’s okay. I want to but, I won’t because I know, from personal experience, how horrible this virus is.

This is so uplifting!

I know I try to post something more positive on Monday, but I’m just not feeling it. I’m sad, and that’s okay. I’m overwhelmed, and that’s okay. I’m feeling petulant, grumpy, and I still feel chilly, but that’s okay. 

I don’t subscribe to the good vibes only way of thinking. Sometimes, things just suck and, so do these emotions. But feeling things is normal and, it’s a natural response to stressors. It won’t last forever and, maybe tomorrow I’ll feel ready to find something happy. 

Today, I’m just feeling all of the feelings and, apparently, when that happens, I vomit words onto a page. However, it is Monday, and you might be looking for some motivation to start your weeks. So, here goes? 

If nothing else, take a little bit of comfort knowing that you’re not the only one overwhelmed by emotions. You’re not the only one struggling to function and be productive. It feels like you’re alone right now, but I’m right there with you. Feeling it all and holding on. Just hold on, okay?

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We Need To Stop Saying This

Photo by Anna Shvets from Pexels

Just don’t say it, please. Please, I’m begging you don’t let these words come out of your mouth. Yes, I’m talking to myself as much as I’m saying this to you. I’m guilty! I’ve let the words spill out of my mouth in an attempt to help comfort someone else. I’ve said them to myself, hoping it would pull me out of my funk. 

Did it work? No, not at all.

Someone will always have it worse than you, you know. I know! I get it. Oh, my breath came out in a quiver as I typed those words. A chill ran up my spine. I think I have a brain freeze. It feels like I just ate a tub of ice cream in one gulp, but it’s November. That would be taboo, not to mention physiologically impossible.

It’s a bothersome collection of letters and words that makes my right eye twitch and my left nostril pucker. A grunting groan makes my larynx tremble. I take a deep breath in, slowly let it out through pursed lips, and shake my head. The retort, the witty response, gets caught in my throat, so I force a smile and walk away.

It’s one of those statements that sounds true, and on the surface it is legit. It certainly appears to carry a degree of wisdom, and I can’t call it a bald-faced lie. Yes, of course, someone will always have it worse. That’s just a fact. There are billions of people on this planet so, somewhere out there, someone will have it worse than you, me, and a cat named Sue.

If it’s true, then why does my heart clench? Why did my whole body deflate? Why, in the presence of so much truth, do I feel sick?

Can I count how many times someone has reminded me that someone is worse off? Nope, it’s more than once and less than, approximately, 2143 times. It was true enough when I was in a hospital bed, hooked up to a wall of machines. It was also true enough when I got my ankle trapped between the peddle and the frame of my bike.

True story, I was 10 or 11 and riding my bike around the neighbourhood. I swerved to avoid a mouse, my back tire slid out, and I landed on the pavement. When I tried to stand the bike came with me. My ankle was stuck, and I have no idea how it happened. Neither did everyone who came to the rescue of a screaming kid.

Seriously, if you heard that scream, you would’ve thought I was being attacked by a rat dressed up as a culturally appropriated warrior. Nope, I was just trapped in an awkward position. I’ve always been a dramatic little weirdo.

It took twenty minutes of creative tugging, angling, and several pleas to spare my bike. It was a great bike! Red, with a strawberry-shaped basket on the handlebars and pink streams. I loved that bike more than my ankle which, for all we knew, might’ve been broken. Thanks to five adults, my bicycle was saved, and I went to the ER for x-rays. It was only a sprain, but even the doctor marvelled at the tight spot I’d found myself in.

In that ER, waiting for my x-rays, one quick glance around the room made it very clear that I wasn’t in a bad way. There were a lot of people in worse shape than yours truly. They had it worse, but with that observational knowledge, would pointing it out help me feel better?

What about you? When your problems are put on the scale, do you feel better?

I can only answer that question for myself because I think we’ll all have a different response. It’s not a trick question. There’s no right or wrong answer. It’s a very individual interpretation or gut response. For me, and this is just my gut response, the answer is no.

Whenever someone has said those words to me, I shut down and go silent. They look at me as if I’m supposed to be relieved. They wait for the moment when I connect the dots, but the lines I’m trying to draw just don’t line up. 

It doesn’t trigger a life-changing epiphany or open my eyes to some new-found truth. It’s not a moment when something so blatantly obvious slaps me across the face, and I wake up from a deep sleep. My mind hasn’t exploded, and I haven’t exclaimed, well damn. Or, more accurately, used words that require censoring and a mouth full of soap. 

There’s another term for that it, in our modern-day lexicon, coined by the incomparable Ms. Winfrey. It accurately captures that lightning bolt moment, but I can’t bring myself to type the words. One overused saying a week is my limit. For the sake of my sanity and your eyes, let’s put a cap on it.

Why do I have a sinking feeling that statement is going to bite me in the butt later? I think I’m going to lose a quarter of a cheek at some point. 

For me, the old cliche sounds good but feels wrong. The wires connecting the head and the heart have overextended their capacity. The fuse has blown. The connection can’t be completed. It’s a classic case of logic versus emotion, but why does it feel so wrong?

Brace yourself, I’m about to sound pitifully self-indulgent. I’ve spent the majority of my life in and out of the hospital. I was diagnosed with chronic renal failure when I was three years old. I’ve had countless surgeries, an endless list of procedures, and a few experiences with death. Life has shown me the worst it has to offer, but life has a way of doubling down.

A few years ago, I had a surgery that didn’t go to plan. I have an implanted cardiac defibrillator (ICD), and the device I was using had been recalled by the manufacturer. Apparently, it had a gnarly glitch, and you don’t want a device attached to your heart malfunctioning.

The ICD keeps my heart beating at in normal rhythm. My heart goes too slow, and then it races around like someone set its pants on fire. This little device in my chest speeds up my heart when it goes too slow and gives it a swift kick in the scorched bloomers if it starts running too fast. 

Yay science! But oh no, an ICD is not something that should have a glitch and misfire. It’s an essential service! It keeps my heart ticking in a semi-regular fashion, which I appreciate. 

If only a medical recall worked like a rice cooker recall. I could go back to my local Walmart, exchange it for one that won’t explode and pick up some ice cream. So easy and productive. A two for one deal on ice cream? Sold.

Unfortunately, there’s only one way to exchange an implanted medical device, and it involves anesthesia, a knife, and a lot of smart people with very steady hands. Even with brilliant and talented people, things go wrong, and I’m just lucky like that. The surgery was supposed to take four hours, but it ended up going for nine hours and some change.

Obviously, we’re having this conversation so, it worked out in the end, but it was a bumpy ride. I spent some time hooked up to a ventilator, a machine that breathes for you, in the ICU until my body could take back control. My chest, neck, and face were swollen. I was sore all over, and every time I moved, I felt a stabbing pain in my chest.

Still, when I looked around in the intensive care unit, there were people in worse shape, and there was one who took their last breath in that room. As bad as I felt, I kept reminding myself that I could be in a lot worse shape. I could be any one of those people, in that room, who had it worse than I did. I could be the person who left with a sheet draped over their face.

It’s not just a platitude we say to someone going through a tough time. It’s something we have been programmed to say to ourselves. At least, I say it to myself all the time because I hope it will take the edge off. Someone has it worse. You could be that guy over there, yikes. Your not that bad so, relax and quit complaining.

Just because something is true; doesn’t make it right. This statement silences a voice that’s reaching out in a moment of pain. I don’t know about you, but the hardest thing for me to do is ask for help or talking about what I’m going through. It takes no small amount of courage to say those words out loud. 

Opening up, and then being told my problems are small in comparison? How do I respond to that? How do I tell you what I’m feeling? How do I trust someone with my heart after being told my heart doesn’t compare to others?

The comparison is unfair, and it doesn’t equate. One pain isn’t more valid than another. My story isn’t more important than yours because I have more scars. If you’ve struggled, felt pain, lost your breath because life is so hard? You have ownership of that, and you can share that story without comparison or judgement of worth. 

To a certain degree, validity isn’t achieved by the depth of suffering but by the survival of it. You went through something horrible, and you’re still breathing. We’re all going through something right now, and it sucks, but we’re in it together. There is a power and a community formed in these moments of shared struggles and pain. It builds us up, and brings us together.

We can’t hide what we’re going through because someone has it worse. Let’s stop comparing our suffering. All we’re doing is invalidating their experiences. We’re invalidating our own experiences. We’re perpetuating a cycle of loneliness and silence that only makes life more difficult. Life is hard enough! Can we try to make it easier for each other?

On the rare occasion that I’ve cracked open my vault and shared my pain, the best response has been the person who sat with me and listened. They didn’t try to fix it. They didn’t try to make me feel better. They didn’t put my story on a scale. They sat with me, in that moment, and listened. When they spoke, they said the kindest words anyone can ever say. I’m here for you.

When you don’t know what to say, say that. I’m here for you.

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Finding Happy: On A Frustrating Day

Photo by Clem Onojeghuo from Pexels

A few hours after my epic, and misguided, hike last weekend, the provincial government put parts of my province on lockdown. Confirmed cases are going up, and my region is topping the list. We’re number! Where’s my foam finger? Too bad it’s not the middle finger because that would perfectly express my feelings right now.

Not toward the government! I don’t think The Man is out to get me and that this is one long con or some kind of conspiracy. If I’ve ever used the term New World Order, it’s been with copious amounts of irony, sarcasm, and my tongue has been firmly placed in my cheeks. 

Do I fully trust the government and believe everything they say? I would, except the government is full of politicians. They use a lot of shiny objects and fancy words to distract us from what they’re really saying. They’re crafting an angle, and if we give them our blind faith we might end up trapped in a sharp corner. But I don’t think they’re out to get me, or anything of that nature.

Does that clear it up?

Well, that’s cheerful! Aren’t you supposed to talk about finding happiness? Yes, this is the “happy” post but… Then why are we talking politics, pandemics, and politicians propensities for professional inexactitudes? Wow, that’s quite the sentence and your right. These subjects don’t typically inspire feelings of euphoria or joy. 

Don’t fret, I will find happiness in all good time. Hopefully? No, I’ll be damned if I let my frustration derail my experiment in reckless optimism. I hate to do this, but I must or face the consequences. Stand back. Go, go gadget stubbornness! Like Inspector Gadget, minus the gadgets and double down on the clumsiness. 

No? Okay, but hold on because this is going to be a bumpy ride. Apparently.

The giant foam finger is not aimed at the people giving the public health orders. Given the spike, I think it’s a good move, and we need to do more if we’re going to get the numbers down. The virus is spreading too fast. We have to protect our most vulnerable citizens and the people working on the frontlines. 

If that means staying home? Okay, I’ll do my part. I won’t like it, but here I sit and I shall go no further.

My frustration, aggravation, and feelings of grr are aimed at the people who can’t or won’t, follow simple instructions. Even if it means their own survival and the health of their loved ones? Yeah, people are funny creatures.

They think, in the middle of a deadly pandemic, it’s okay to go downtown and join a party that’s wall to wall humanity. Hundreds of people crammed onto a street in my city for a Halloween boozer. A lot of people, no way to distance themselves, and very few of them were wearing masks. They drank themselves so stupid, they forget that they were walking through a petri dish, getting infected, infecting others, and taking a deadly virus back to their loved ones. 

I’m so sorry! That was a really long sentence. Geez, you’ve got me so worked up, I’m running sentences together and using horrific grammar.

Why are so many people getting sick? Why are we going to back on lockdown? Will we get to have Christmas this year? Is it normal for my right eye to twitch violently and that vein in my forehead to pulse wildly?

So many unanswerable questions! (Sarcasm)

Finding Happy on a peaceful day is fairly easy. Walking through the woods, along a lonely trail, provides numerous opportunities to find something that will make me smile. Pouring boiling water into a teacup, watching the tea leaves release their delicious treasure, and listening for my Gran’s voice. Ah, taking that first sip. Yes, finding happiness in those moments is guaranteed.

Well, for me anyway.

Finding it on a day like this, when we have to pay a high price for other people’s actions, is so much harder. I’m struggling to find a reason to be happy right now. Sitting down to write this feels a little disingenuous, and I’ve been dreading it. I’ve checked my email a dozen times, and I even cleared out my junk mail. When was the last time anyone cleaned out their junk mail?

Then I went on to Facebook, which is still a thing, apparently. I played games on my phone and put five thousand steps on my pedometer before 9 AM. Oh, and I spent forty minutes watching cute dog videos on TikTok.

How do I find happy on a frustrating day?

I’m overthinking it and looking for a complicated answer to a question that sounds so simple. Is it simple? Don’t worry; be happy. Big yellow smiley face. What makes me happy? What can I do in my apartment that’s not complicated and doesn’t require supplies from the outside world?

Hmm, is it too soon to take a break? How long have I been writing? Is that all? Okay, think, think, think. Nope, I’m taking a break to figure this out. There has to be something that will make me happy and take my mind off the overwhelming sense of frustration. Hold on, I’ll be right back. Assuming, of course, I figure this out.

*Musical interlude*

Okay, I’m back. That took an embarrassingly long time to figure out, but I think I pulled it together. It’s simple, and it’s not really all that dramatic. I didn’t get lost in the forest or travel to a foreign country. How cool would that be? Get the urge for adventure, and suddenly you’ve manifested yourself onto an ancient Incan trail. Cool, yes, but it’s not scientifically possible yet. So, I made do with a dream and a documentary on the Incan civilization.

That’s not what made me happy enough to sit down and carry on writing. It was enjoyable, but no, I went to something more practical and applicable to you. If, of course, it’s your sort of thing.

This experiment in happiness has taken me two days to complete. I sat down to write yesterday and gave up when I realized my frustration was clouding my vision. The writing stopped, but I was determined to continue probing the depths and limits of this thing we call happy.

Can it still exist on a dark and dreary day? Is it something that can coexist with contrary emotions? Can I be happy and feel frustration, annoyance, anger? Even if it’s for a moment. Even if it’s fleeting. Even if it’s a temporary reprieve from the troubles of the day. Can I still find a way to be happy?

The answer came in:

 – 2 cups of white flour

             – 1 cup of whole wheat flour.  

– 1 1/4 cup of water

        – 2 tablespoons of honey

     – 1/2 teaspoon of yeast

         – 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt. 

Simple ingredients that shouldn’t amount to much if you look at them separately. But that’s the beauty of baking! Apart, they mean nothing. Together, they create magic

I think bread is one of the easiest things to make at home, but given the reaction I get, I could be wrong. Whenever I give someone a loaf the response is a resounding wow. You made that, yourself? Like, it wasn’t from a box or anything? That’s impressive!

Either my culinary skills are woefully underestimated, or the idea of making bread at home is incredibly intimidating. I’m going to go with the latter because the first option is a downer, and the second one makes me happy. Which, yep, is kind of the point of this post.

There aren’t a lot of recipes I won’t try at least once. I’m not easily deterred by a complicated recipe or one that seems daunting. A long list of expensive ingredients? Yeah, that’s not going to happen. I’m not spending thirty-five dollars on salt. If it doesn’t come with a no-name label, I’m out. 

Your girl is frugal and unashamed.

I like to find recipes that seem overwhelming, or a type of food that I can’t imagine making, and then make it. It’s thrilling, and I feel a tickle of excitement in the back of my throat. Would I call it giddiness? I’ve never seen myself as the giddy type because, in my mind, it’s akin to perky. I’m definitely not perky! But, I do feel bouncy, sparkly, and an overwhelming amount of pleasure when I pull a successful dish out of the oven.

Does that sound perky to you?

Bread is one of those things that, at first glance, seems like something only a master wizard can pull off. And, yes, the first few loaves almost proved that point. They had the weight and structural integrity of a brick. Drop them on the floor, and they would’ve shattered. I’m not an expert, but bread shouldn’t do that.

When in doubt, blame the recipe and go looking for another one. Or, watch a Youtube video, and figure out what went wrong. Either way, don’t give up because when you get it right, the reward is tasty, and the sense of accomplishment is divine.

That’s especially true on a day like today and yesterday. My frustrations have clouded my vision, and it feels like nothing will ever work out again. I need something to work, so I went into my kitchen and put a few ingredients in a bowl. I kneaded it gently, covered the bowl with plastic wrap, and let it sit on my kitchen counter for twelve hours. A little more kneading, one more rise, and then it went into the oven. 400 degrees Fahrenheit (220 Celsius) for roughly 50-60 minutes.

When it comes out of the oven, all golden brown, I’ll place it on a wire rack to cool. I’ll stand there for several minutes and wonder if I really have to wait. Is it cool enough yet? It smells so good. Surely one slice won’t burn my fingertips or my mouth. Patience! Who’s that?

Happiness is found in the measuring of ingredients and adding them to the bowl at the right time. It’s in the stickiness of the wet dough clinging to my fingers. It’s there when I gently lay the dough to rest. When I sneak a peak, six hours into the rise, and see the dough is climbing the walls of the bowl. It’s working! The gluten and the yeast are building flavour. Time is working in my favour, and all I have to do is wait a little longer.

Baking bread requires my complete focus. All of my attention is dedicated to the details and the process. I’m not worrying about what other people are doing or getting frustrated at their lack of care. I’m not thinking about a virus and the effects it’s having on the lives of my loved ones. My frustrations and anger are channelled into something productive and nourishing.

I’m not very good at letting go of the things I can’t change or control, but when I’m baking, I find a moment of serenity. My mind is clear, I’m focused on the moment, and when it’s all done, I have something I can hold, taste, and smell. It’s an accomplishment that’s tangible when so many things in my life feel up in the air. 

That’s my moment of happiness this week. A loaf of bread, a moment of serenity, and letting go of the things I can’t control. The fact that my apartment smells so good right now is a lovely bonus.

Credit where credit is due! If you want to try the recipe I use, here’s the link: https://www.biggerbolderbaking.com/whole-wheat-bread-recipe-no-knead/

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Correction: I’m A Coward

Photo by Toni Cuenca from Pexels

The clouds hang heavily in the sky, and rain batters the world below. The wind rustles the trees, and the trees let out an ungodly howl. A single crow clings to a barren branch of a lonely oak, and caws in defiance. The technicolour world fades to black and white as a three-note musical score comes to life.

The earth shudders and people run for cover. Panic filled screams ring out throughout the lands, and even the dogs howl in dismay. A dishevelled soul stands in the middle of the street. His weathered face reveals the madness within. He stretches his arms out wide, throws his head back, and laughs hysterically. A car horn blares. Tires squeal. It’s utter chaos, and still, the music plays on.

That’s how those films go, right? The scary ones. The ones you watch on Halloween or on a dark and stormy night. Friday was the 13th, and it’s still 2020, so that had to be a tailor-made invite to a night of horror and mayhem. I can only assume because, as you will soon find out, I’m a coward.

The only horror movies I’ve watched came from the library of Alfred Hitchcock. Not his personal library. I never knew the man, obviously, and I’m pretty sure he was dearly departed before I made my entrance. But I’ve watched some of his films, and they’re predictable, weird, and brilliant for the time they were made. 

Alfred found a formula that worked so he went with it, and he made off like a bandit. He was very successful and well respected. He’s known, to this day, as a cinematic legend and genius. The man knew how to tell a story, even if that story was predictable. Ah, but who am I to question his artistry? No one, that’s who, and I find comfort in the predictability of his movies.

Of course, by today’s standards, he’s pretty tame, and his films give more giggles than chills. Especially if you’re a diehard horror lover. Is that the right term? Diehard? With all that blood, slashing, and dying, it feels too on the nose. Ah, but if you like to be scared and soil you pantaloons, then Hitchcock might be quaint in comparison. 

Here’s a surprise, I’m not a horror fan, and some of Hitchcock’s films are scary enough to keep me up at night. Let’s go one step further, Disney movies freak me out. What the hell’s going on with Fantasia? Dancing brooms, flying whales… I just shivered and threw up in my mouth. My left eye is twitching. That movie, it’s just not right.

The first time I watched it, I must’ve been 7 or 8. We were in England, and my brother and I were locked in a room filled with flowers. The wallpaper, carpet, sofa and cushions were all covered in a floral pattern. There might’ve been birds too, or perhaps butterflies, but they were overwhelmed by the flora. 

By the way, this isn’t a critique of anyone’s interior design skills. I’m sure it was in vogue at that time, in that country, and they were lovely people who had a gorgeous home. Thank you very much for your excellent hospitality. Please disregard the muddled memories of a mind that was, at that tender age, still developing its processing prowess. 

For whatever reason, the floral print sticks out in my memory, and it sets the scene for my night of horrors. A night that haunts me to this day. Oh, the nightmares! The insomnia! The… Too much? Nightmares with an exclamation mark was over the top, wasn’t it? Yeah, sorry, I was going for a dramatic impact, but I think I hit melodramatic instead.

Anyhoo…

We were in this floral room, with that movie playing, and my fear quickly reached a simmer. The evil mouse, you know who I’m talking about, danced through a magically disturbing world. Inanimate objects came to life and pirouetted across multiple dimensions made up of too many colours. A devil creature, with a terrifying musical score, emerged from the dark, and it was all too much.

I looked at the flowers on the walls, and they started to move in time with the tunes booming out of the boxy tv. This room was alive with the sound of music, and it was freaking me out. I was sure that the cartoon rodent was making the flowers move and that, if something wasn’t done, he’d order them to devour our tiny little bodies. 

Something had to be done to save our lives! I tried to turn off the Tv, but I couldn’t make it stop. Every button I pushed made the music grow louder, and that damn mouse danced faster. Sure, it was probably a coincidence that my terror lined up with a frantic scene in the movie. But what if it wasn’t? What if this was the moment he struck us down? What about our parents? What would they do without us?

The horror!

I ran to the door, but we were locked in! Who locks kids in a room with a mad mouse hell-bent on our destruction? It’s just not right. Or, I was too short to reach the doorknob, and my brother didn’t understand why I was panicking. I was trying to save your life, bro, you’re welcome.

Eventually, we escaped the torture chamber with our lives, and Mic’s evil plans were foiled. Booyah, you dirty rat! Freedom never tasted so sweet. Also, we were given an extra piece of dessert as a reward for surviving such a harrowing event. Extra dessert is, in my humble opinion, a mark of an excellent host and hostess. Thank you for your hospitality. May I suggest you burn that movie in a small, intimate ceremony officiated by a religious figure of your choosing? Just to be safe, and all that.

If Disney and Hitchcock skirt my horror limits, then I shouldn’t go any further. Freddie does the thing would push me over the edge. The guy with the face and the clown with the ballon would do me in. Friday the 13th? Nope, no thank you. I’m a wimp, a fraidy-cat, a yellow belly coward. 

How about an extra serving of dessert? I could really use a slice of cake right now.

My cowardice goes beyond my cinematic preferences. In real life, I’m timid and shy. Fear is my constant companion. Do I sleep with a nightlight? Yes, but my dog is afraid of the dark, and if I don’t leave something on, he cries all night. I do it for the dog! That’s the only reason.

I should pause, and give a quick recap for our new friends. I was diagnosed with chronic renal failure, kidney disease, when I was three years old. Since then, I’ve developed secondary conditions such as an arrhythmia that has caused my heart to stop on a number of occasions. I’ve had hundreds of surgeries and thousands of procedures. Three kidney transplants, and for the moment, I’m stable.

Knock on wood, turn around, and spit three times. Here’s hoping I didn’t jinx it!

When I hear people talk about my life, a funny thing happens. Despite my best efforts, and repeated assertions that I am a coward, I feel like they’re only seeing the movie version. The one where there are heroes on grand adventures. Good versus evil and good always wins. It’s an epic battle between expectations and reality. 

More accurately, assumptions tussle with who I really am when the lights go out. Which is where a fallacy has arisen. It might be something others with chronic conditions face as well. If you can relate, let me know in the comments below.

There’s this image of bravery that’s projected onto those of us facing medical challenges. We’re seen as being tough, courageous, and fearless. I hear these statements all the time, but I’ve never felt like they’re authentically me. People say: How do you do it? I could never face what you face. You’re so brave and strong. You’re like a hero or something.

Or something is very accurate, but thank you for overestimating my fortitude. 

Thank you for calling me brave and strong, but it doesn’t feel authentic. I am, unequivocally, a coward who’s been dumped in a situation I can’t escape. I would love to run away in a panic. I wish I could get into my car, lay on the horn, and peel out with screeching tires. At this point, I’d settle for the lone crow yelling at the wind or the howling dog.

If my life was an old horror movie, I would be the person standing in the middle of the street. My arms would be stretched out wide, and I’d be laughing hysterically as my inner madness seeps out. Yep, that’s an accurate portrayal. Might even be a true story some day.

When you ask me how I do it? When you say you couldn’t go through what I’ve gone through? When you tell me you aren’t strong enough or brave enough? It’s not true, because here’s the secret truth I’ve discovered: Most of us feel the same way. We don’t feel brave or strong. We don’t know how we’re going to get through it. Most of us are holding on to our faith, family, or a sliver of hope that tomorrow will be better because we have no other choice.

This situation we’re in is not of our making or choosing. It’s been thrust on us, and we’re too afraid to breathe wrong. We’re stuck, trapped, and we’re forced into action despite our emotions. Is it bravery or desperation? For me, it usually feels like the latter.

Bravery isn’t the absence of fear and, I would argue that’s it’s not an abundance of courage. It’s a choice we make, when we’re at our most vulnerable, to look for something to hold onto when we’re too afraid to stand. It’s standing there, in the middle of the storm, laughing. It’s having the audacity to make friends with the fear and using its energy to take the next step.

Fear has an energy, especially when you’re fighting for your life, and it can drain you of your strength or give you the strength you need to survive. That’s where I’ve found this mystical creature called courage. It’s not my default setting. I’m not someone who’s been given that quality as a special gift. I am a coward by nature, but fear, my constant companion, has become a friend.

For those of you who’ve asked, that’s how I do it. I’m not braver, stronger or more courageous than you or anyone else. I stopped fighting fear, and I started using it to give me the strength I needed to do what had to be done. If you want to conquer fear, don’t view it as an enemy; embrace it as a survival tool. That’s what it’s there for. That’s why we feel fear. It keeps us alive!

That being said, every healthy friendship needs boundaries, and this is mine. There won’t be a horror movie night, and we won’t watch movies with an oversized, singing, dancing, giggling rodent. *Shiver* It’s just not natural.

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We Won’t Forget You!

Photo by Chris Sansbury on Unsplash

Remembrance day has come and gone. For a moment, at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, we stop what we’re doing for a moment of silence. We honour the men and women who’ve sacrificed so much for the freedoms, rights, privileges that we take for granted. We thank them for their service and thank their families for theirs, as well.

It’s a minute of silence, and it is, quite literally, the least we can do for these brave, honourable, and selfless souls. 

I’m in awe of you! You put on that uniform, leave your loved ones, and head off to fight wars in distant lands. It’s something I can’t imagine doing, but you did it, you are still doing it! Without you, the world would be a lot darker and scarier. You give your all for people you’ve never met. You sacrifice everything for us and do it without asking for anything in return.

How do we thank you for that?

On my small patch on the globe, the Remembrance Day service was streamed live into our homes. Thanks to the local branch of the Royal Canadian Legion, we were able to safely observe a moment of silence, hear the lone trumpet, and watch the fly-by courtesy of the Fraser Fliers. We paid our respects and expressed our gratitude as they placed the wreaths on the memorial. It’s always a moving ceremony, but what chokes me up is the reading of names.

It’s so easy to just see the uniforms, get caught up in the politics of war, and forget the person behind the flag. They become faceless soldiers in the history of conflict and one small part of a much larger story. When that story is told, the names we hear are the presidents, prime ministers, generals and warlords. We learn about battlefields and battle strategies. We learn the names of the weapons, but we rarely hear the names of the soldiers whose lives were lost or changed forever.

On the eleventh hour, of the eleventh day, of the eleventh month, we hear those names read out loud. We’re reminded of the human price paid for the choices made by leaders and their marionettes. The soldiers whose boots walked those battles fields armed with those weapons. We say their names so that we don’t forget their blood was spilled, and their families were left behind.

Hearing those names leaves me breathless because, in part, there are so many people who never came home. So many families left in tears. So much heartbreak.

A few years ago, I was in Edinburgh, and the first time you visit this city, the castle is an obligatory stop. It might even be an entry requirement under a visitor’s visa, but don’t quote me on that. Inside the castle is the Scottish National War Memorial. It’s a long, transversed hall with barrel-vaulted ceilings. The decorations are simple but classic. It’s elegant but poignant because under the soft light streaming through large windows lay the names of fallen heroes.

The walls are lined with books, and their pages are filled with the names of people who’ve given their lives for their country. From 1914 up until now, these names are written in line after line. These are the names of soldiers from a single country, but still, there are so many. It’s jarring and shocking. The volumes of the dead never seem to end. People, names, dates. Hopes, dreams, families who loved them and needed them home. 

So many names. So many people. All had stories similar to yours and mine.

A mother cried as her baby was laid on her chest. A father taught them how to ride a bike. They grew older, went to school, and worried about the test they had on Monday. They met someone who made their stomach flutter and their palms sweaty. They had their first kiss and their first love. They wondered what they would be when they grew up. They wondered what it would be like to grow old like their grandparents. They answered the call when their country needed protection. Their names were written down in a book that was laid to rest inside a memorial.

One country. One hall filled with the names of the dead. One memorial and there more like it all over the world. Yet, we give them one day out of the year to remember and say thank you?

When I was 10, 11 years old, we visited my paternal grandparents in South Africa for, what would be, the last time. My brother and I were sitting at the dining room table, doing our homework. I was drawing a picture of Table Mountain, nibbling on Romney Cream cookies, and sipping on a Fanta grape. Classic homework snacks.

My grandfather sat down next to us and started to tell us a story. He was nervous, and he kept fiddling with my pencil crayons. His voice shook, which it never did, but he pushed on by sheer force of will. He struggled to find words, and when they came, they sounded forced, strained.

I remember the way he looked, fidgeted, and how his voice trembled. I remember adding green to my picture. I remember the cookie and the fizzy drink. 

I don’t remember the story he was trying to tell us. It was his story of service during the Second World War. He was giving us a gift! Sharing an experience that was still traumatic and painful, decades later. But I don’t remember the words he shared, and I’ve asked my family to fill in the gaps.

He’d served in Egypt and France. A radio officer, I believe, and I can tell you he must have been incredibly brave. That assumption isn’t a granddaughter idolizing a hero. He had a drawer full of medals that outlined his service and his courage. He’d seen things that I will never have to see. He experienced horrors that will never come close to my doorstep. He fought battles that, thanks to him and others, I’ll never have to fight.

He tried to tell me his story, but I was too young to listen.

If I have one regret in my life, it’s that day, sitting at the dining room table. I wish I’d put down the crayons, offered him a cookie, and listened to his story. I wish I’d said thank you for telling me your story. Thank you for everything you did for us. The pain you endured and the fear you experienced. The loss you witnessed. The sacrifices you made. Most of all, thank you for coming home to my grandmother and having my father and aunt. 

Thank you for everything you did so that I could sit at a table, draw a silly picture, and eat homework snacks.

I never got that chance to thank him for his service. By the time I understood what he’d done, it was too late. We were living in another country, and he’d passed away. It was too late, and that brings me to another moment that I won’t forget. It’s the moment I realized what he was trying to tell me. 

It was a few years later, and I’d just learnt about WW2 in school. I ran home, and the second I saw my dad, I asked him if that’s what Papa was talking about. It was a moment of realization that hit me in the stomach, and I lost my breath. My grandfather had walked on those battlefields, and he’d fought the Axis of Evil. He’d been there, the moment history was written, and he helped write that history.

And I didn’t say thank you.

That’s the day I became a history buff and drank in every bit of information on the second world war. I wanted to know what he’d gone through. If I knew, then maybe the knowledge, the memory of what happened, would honour his sacrifice in some way. If I couldn’t thank him and others like him, then I could learn and remember. 

Lest we forget!

I know for some, for many, that’s something we say on Remembrance day. It’s right up there with Merry Christmas or Happy New Year. It rolls off our tongues like every other platitude. But for those of us with loved ones who served, it’s a promise that we won’t forget what you’ve done for us. We won’t forget that you were a person with dreams, hopes, and loves. We won’t stop saying your names. 

We won’t forget you!

To all who have served and are serving: Thank you.

To everyone who has sacrificed life, limb, and mental health for our safety, security, and freedoms: Thank you.

To every name written down on a monument and every family who has said goodbye: Thank you for your sacrifice.

To my grandfather, Oswald Raymond Griffiths: I’m sorry my young ears didn’t listen but, I am eternally grateful for everything you’ve done. You saved the world from a tyrant, and you freed innocent people from death camps. You went home and had a family. I exist because of you. My family is alive, safe, and happy because of you.

These words will never be enough to encompass the full extent of my gratitude to every person who has, who continue to sacrifice their lives for ours. Thank you for your service, and God bless you all.

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Finding Happy: On A Lonely Trail

Photo by Eric Cook on unsplash.com

I woke up early on Saturday morning and crawled out of bed. Now, I’m not a morning person, so there was a groan, a sigh, and I questioned my sanity. This is a day when sensible people sleep in and slowly start their weekend. Me? I was getting up with the sun and getting ready to go out into the chilly November air. It was madness, but I had made a plan, and I was determined to see it through.

Stubbornness is a virtue, right?

A long stretch of grey skies and rainy days was coming to an end. A temporary cease-fire with the winter sprites had been called. The sun has been set free and, no, its warmth won’t take the edge off, but at least it’s smiling down on us. How long will it last? Days would be lovely, but hours would be practically optimistic. 

If you live anywhere along the coastline of the Pacific Northwest, then you know what I’m talking about. Our weather is fickle. It will start out happy and cheerful in the morning. By noon, it’s grumpy, and it will throw a tantrum until it talks to the manager.

Oh, but when it’s in a good mood, it’s like a wonderland at our doorstep. That happy mood, no matter how long it lasts, makes this one of the most beautiful places in the world. Rugged shorelines that stretch on forever. Giant fir trees and cedars kiss the sky. Wildlife encounters that leave you breathless and in need of clean underwear.

The last time I found myself staring into the eyes of a bear, my heart and stomach switched places. I replayed every Bear Grylls episode I’d ever seen and desperately wished I’d paid attention. The bear, bless its furry posterior, thought I was a bore. It yawned, grunted, and kept on walking, which seems to be the norm. At least, that’s the word on the trails.

Then again, I’m not a wildlife expert, so don’t take my word for it. Explore with care and keep your distance.

Out here, we can explore all of these wonders whenever the urge strikes, and living here is an embarrassment of riches. Am I biased? Absolutely, but if you get a chance to visit Vancouver, Washington State, or Oregon? Do it! The natural beauty is breathtaking, and it’s almost too much to process.

Are my eyes deceiving me? Can one place really be so stunning? My mind cannot take it all in, but my heart is singing. These vistas verge on the mystical and otherworldly It has an energy that’s hopeful, inspiring, but it has an intimidating power.

It calls to you and challenges you to an epic adventure. Not in a sinister, come hither little one, kind of way. Though, this area does have some spine-tingling folklore if that’s your jam.

The land invites you to wander through its many curiosities, marvel at its beauty and its power. Discover the unknown. Get a little lost in the expansive rain forests. Turn off technology, leave your normal life behind, and slow down. Enjoy the moment. Take a deep breath, and feel the tension dissolve. How can I say no? How can I resist the lure?

I put on some warm clothes, laced up my hiking boots, and put my dog on his leash. Let’s do this! Is the sun still out? Yes, phew, better hurry.

Before I go on, if you’ve just stumbled onto my ramblings, there’s one thing you should know. I contracted COVID at the beginning of September and, while it was a mild case, I’ve been struggling to recover. My lungs, in particular, are having a hard time. I lose my breath quickly, feel lightheaded, and my legs go wobbly. I’ve been using an inhaler, it helps, but I haven’t been able to do a lot of physical activity.

Before I got sick, I’d hike almost every weekend for an hour or more. Now, my trips have been almost none existent. Up until this weekend, I’ve gone twice, and both hikes lasted thirty minutes. That’s when my lungs screamed at me to stop. It forces me to abandon the trail and make do with a quick outing.

There was no reason to think that this time would be much different. I picked a short, flat trail that would get me outside without a lot of strain. Which is all I want to do! I needed to get out and stand under the trees. I needed to hear the sound of the trees bending in the wind and feel the soft ground under my boots. I needed to get out of my tiny bubble and stretch my weary spirit.

Life has been overwhelming for too long. I can’t keep going on like this without some sort of reprieve. It was time to turn off and tune out the world before by battery lost all of its power. Rumour has it, the best way to avoid complete system failure is to invest in some self-care. Simple acts now can save me from paying a higher price later. 

Hopefully.

Up until now, if you’ve read my previous posts, my experiment in optimism has been limited. Given our circumstances, Finding Happy has been confined to my home or my past. This is the first time I’ve actually been able to go and find my happiness in the outside world. Actively pursue it with a recklessness that’s atypical for me. I’m cautious, and I meticulously scour an idea, plan, or needed action for any dangers that lay in wait.

Walking into the forest alone after struggling to heal from a respiratory infection? That doesn’t sound like me at all, but that’s the point. The reason I’m conducting this experiment is to push myself beyond my norm. Challenge my level of comfort. Hopefully, find a moment of happiness that leads to a sustainable joy in the long run.

Still, this might not have been the best idea, and I called myself an idiot a few times. Ah, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

I started off strong because I followed the shorter, flatter trail that would take me along a pleasant loop of marshlands and open fields. The ground was covered with fallen leaves. Above my head, drops of water were still falling after the rain. My dog ran through muddy puddles and thought about chasing a squirrel. Then he realized he couldn’t run up that tree, so he rolled around in horse manure.

A fork in the path brought me to a stop, and I looked at that map on a wooden post. If I went left, we’d circle back to the car park. If I went right, we’d come to a lookout in 1 kilometre (0.6 miles). 1 km? Sure, that’s tacked onto what I’ve already done, but it’s not that far away. It’s easy. I’ve done it before — before a viral infection you *expletive*— I can do this!

Ignoring that small voice in my head that gently tried to remind me of my current level of health, I turned right. Here’s something I didn’t take into account, and one of the reasons I repeatedly called myself an unkind name. A lookout point is usually placed on top of a steep incline, and that means hiking up a damn mountain.

My lungs burned, my heart did backflips, and my legs felt like melting jello. I questioned my sanity and survival. Should I turn back? How far have I come? How far do I have to go to get back to my car? What if something happens to me out here, all alone, in the woods? I pictured someone finding my lifeless body and my dog eating me to stay alive. You know, all the cute images you search for when you’re trying to find a moment of happiness after a stressful day. 

Are you wondering how I found my happy in this moment? Same.

I needed a lot of breaks to catch my breath, so I sat down on fallen logs on the side of the trail. Sitting there, questioning my judgement, I looked up at the trees and watched the drops of water fall from the branches. The sun peaked through the canopy. A woodpecker tapped a steady rhythm. Squirrels were making new homes for themselves and getting ready for the next storm. 

It was so incredibly peace which was a welcomed contrast to the previous week. Deep breath in, and take a few more steps.

I kept walking, and I came across signs of human habitation that had been abandoned long ago. It was run down, rotting, but it was giving back to nature what people had taken. It restored life and provided shelter. It served a purpose even though it looked like it didn’t have a lot to offer.

Go on, take another breath.

Every step I took, despite the grind, added to the chorus of life being lived in an environment that’s harsh and unforgiving. If that’s not a metaphor for my struggles and my life, then I don’t know what is. The fight is real, but in that effort, there is beauty, harmony, and grace. There’s hope, and another breath in.

That’s where I found a moment of happiness on that lonely trail. All week, I’ve been overwhelmed with feelings of purposelessness. I’ve wondered why I keep trying when it doesn’t seem to do any good. Shouldn’t I just give up? It would be easier.

On that trail, though, I had no choice. I had to keep going. Pushing myself to take another step and another breath. Despite my doubt, fear, and an overactive imagination, I kept going. One step after another, I followed the winding path, and I found my way out.

When I got back to my car, I was tired and muddy, but I felt a sense of accomplishment and pride. I didn’t give up. Physically, I pushed myself to the point of breaking, but there I found the strength I need to keep going. When I thought I couldn’t do it, I did it anyway.

I drove home with a smile and a sigh of relief. It wasn’t, perhaps, the wisest choice, but it was a good reminder of something I’d let slide. We are living in a weird world, and it can be hard to keep going when everything seems against you. But when you push past the doubt, insecurities, and fear? You’ve won a battle a lot of people can’t imagine fighting.

In that accomplishment, we can all find a moment of happiness.

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The Problem With Self Help

Photo by David Lezcano on unsplash.com

I’m writing this on Saturday, just before noon, so, um, oops. Turns out I’m a tiny bit of a liar because here I am, doing the thing I said I wouldn’t do today. In my last post, I expressed my exhaustion and my overwhelming frustration with life. I’ve run out of emotions! I didn’t know that was possible, but apparently, that can happen.

Especially, it seems, if you invest a lot of yourself in things, and those things don’t always show a return on investment. It’s all about ROI’s people. Yeah, I don’t know a gosh darn thing about investing, but I heard that term on a podcast I was half-listening too. It feels applicable, maybe.

Unlike finances, emotional investments can be replenished by a nap, and some time off. So, I gave myself permission to take a couple days away from life. I was going to recharge or just shut down because I’m extremely tired. Mentally spent. Emotional rung out. I. Am. Tired.

Clap your hands because that’s a thing?

So what am I doing, sitting in front of my computer, on a Saturday? Why am I thinking about things and typing words about things? Well, I have zero work-life balance, and my mind won’t shut up.

There are so many things going on in the world right now. Exciting things. Happy things. Sad things. How you feel about those things will depend on your ideology, but let’s leave that hornet’s nest alone. It is interesting, and it’s tickling the part of my brain that goes oo.

But I want it to go zzz.

How do I just ignore everything that’s happening? How do I turn it off? Giving myself permission isn’t working. It’s a nice sentiment, and it still holds true. Give yourself permission to turn off. It will do you a lot of good. Me? It isn’t working right now.

You know what else doesn’t work? Looking at yourself in the mirror, squeezing your head between two hands, and yelling, “Shut up!” I damn near flipped myself off. 

For the sake of my mental health, I need to turn the world off. Without a question or a hint of doubt, I need to shut my brain down. It has, over the last few days, been randomly powering down or wandering off down a dark alley. Get back here. No, stop, come back. Don’t go chasing shadows. No, it won’t be okay. You know how it makes you feel.

Do you argue with your brain? Is that a natural part of the human experience? Does your brain fight back? Calling you names and twisting your words until you’re too tired to fight. Is it something we all do but don’t talk about it because it sounds weird? Heaven forbid that any of us sound, look, or feel weird. Oh, the shame!

No, no shame in the weird game. I’m weird in a way that I hope is endearing. I’m not for everyone or even most people, but the ones that get it are my people. We are the precious few who are learning to embrace our weirdness. After all, somethings just can’t be fought, erased, or covered up with smoke and mirrors.

If you take nothing else, from anything I write, then take this: Embrace your brand of weird. It’s uniquely yours, and no one can take that away from you. It’s your superpower. It’s your survival guide. It’s the thing that makes you stand out in a world full of people who’d rather sit it out. 

That’s cool, and yay, but how? How do I own something that makes me feel insecure? How do I embrace it when everyone pushes me away because I don’t fit in? Oh, and that whole turn off, take a break, concept is great, but how do I do it? Is there a switch I’m missing? A big red button behind a glass case with a sign that reads: Break in case of mental distress.

Is there a button like that somewhere? Can you tell me where it’s hiding?

This is the problem with the self-help, lifestyle, genre! A lot of helpful advice that’s short on actionable steps. Especially when we’re talking about balancing life and improving our mental health. It’s a subject that’s turned abstruse into an art form. 

The people who talk about baking or reorganizing your home have it so good. They actually tell you how to do things, and they put the help in self-help. A step-by-step guide that provides clarity without inspiring more questions. It’s no wonder it’s a popular genre! Also, baking is relaxing and delicious.

Those of us in the mental, cerebral, corner of the lifestyle genre often leave a lot up to the imagination. We paint abstract pictures and leave you to interpret our words in whatever way moves you. You can take what you need and forget about the rest. Use our words, in whatever area you need, but we can’t tell you the how’s, where’s, or whatever’s. Nope, that’s all on you, so good luck.

It’s annoying, isn’t it? I want someone to hand me a recipe that has a step-by-step guide to self-improvement. I’m a visual learner, so pictures would be lovely, thank you very much. Ah, but every article, blog, or book offers broad answers to life’s sticky problems without giving actionable steps. If those steps are given, they conveniently forget the map, compass, and camping supplies.

You’re sending me out into the great unknown with a backpack full of cliches? Thanks, but I don’t know how this will help me in a proper survival situation. I’ve encountered a bear, now what? Embracing my weird isn’t helping. It’s going to eat my weird. What do I do?

In my own writing, I avoid actionable steps, or I keep those steps very wide. I tell you what has helped me, but that’s as far as I go. It’s hard to come up with a one size fits all solution. Our lives are so different, and how we view life is just as complex. What works for me might make your life more complicated. What works for you might be out of my reach. We all have to find our own way, to a certain degree, but I wish life could be an apple pie recipe.

Preheat the oven to 425. Open the box and place the pie on an oven-safe tray. Bake the pie for 25 minutes or until the top is golden brown. Serve hot. Top with ice cream. Yes, the first serving doesn’t have any calories, but the third serving does. Enjoy!

Why can’t self-help, or self-improvement, be apple pie? 

Then again, if you told me how to fix my problems in 96 easy steps, I’d be incredibly annoyed. I don’t want you to fix me! That’s a bit aggressive, but the idea that I need fixing is repugnant. Could it be true? Absolutely, in a lot of ways, but I don’t want someone pointing it out. How rude? Fix me? Have you looked in the mirror lately?

Apparently, it also makes me snarky and a tad bit bitter.

I’m hardheaded at the best of times. Which is a kinder way of saying I’m a stubborn, self-destructive, pigheaded fool. When someone tells me I have to do something, even if it’s for my own good, my first instinct is to do the exact opposite. Run, the buildings on fire, you need to get out. No, I don’t think I will. I’ll sit here until I’m good and ready to do it myself. You don’t own me!

What?

It’s a bad trait when my life is on fire, but at least peer pressure doesn’t work on me. If you’re trying to convince me to do something, the worst thing you can say is, “Everyone’s doing it.” Herd mentality is notoriously faulty, and it often inches towards insanity. If everyone’s doing it? Well, that’s a damn good reason not to get involved.

Which is why those tv “doctors,” with their miracle cures, make my nose contort. It’s why I don’t buy into the guru lifestyle, and I won’t purchase their magic fixes. They feel like cattle rustlers, and I’m headed for a truck that’s taking me on a one-way trip. No thanks, you sound too good to be true. You can keep your step-by-step guides. I’ll keep muddling up my life, on my own terms.

But their guides are just abstract solutions to a complex labyrinth of problems and struggles. If we really look close, we see the broad strokes and the same old colours swooping across a reused canvas. They can’t tell me how to fix my life in specific ways, any more than I can tell you what to do. 

And it’s so frustrating!

I just want someone to tell me what to do and how to do it. Mommy? Daddy? Can I be little again, and you tell me what to do, and I do it because you’re a grown-up? No, I’m a grown woman now and I should act like it? Yeah, well, that sucks. Did I just stamp my feet, hold my breath, and pout?

That’s a secret.

I’m caught in this cycle of wanting answers, seeking out the steps, but I’m too stubborn to run out of the burning building. Fear, uncertainty, and self-doubt block my view. I want a hand to reach through the smoke and pull me out. But would I take the hand, or would I slap it away?

It’s a rollercoaster, but instead of squealing wee, I’m screaming how. How do I get out of this cycle? How do I make this work? How do I find words when the words are hiding in the shadows? How do I tune out the world when it gets too overwhelming? How do I breathe when the room is full of smoke?

The answers are abstract, and the only solid line is: You have to work that out for yourself. 

When you’re transitioning from child to adult, no one warns you that you’ll spend the rest of your life looking for answers. You’ll have a million questions, and your the only one who can answer 99% of them. Is that comforting or terrifying?

I don’t feel like I have the answers to almost every question I have, but when I stumble on a solution? Oh, that’s a good feeling. The puzzle piece falls into place, and I sigh with relief. I got it. I figured it out. That’s one question solved. Only 99,999,999 to go! Progress?

If it helps, these abstract answers offer a starting point. For example, I can’t tell you the meaning of life, but I can tell you that today I found meaning on a long hike. That’s what I did before sitting down to write. I needed time away from my technology and thoughts, so I went to the forest.

That hour in the trees was a good start and a deep breath. The break wasn’t nearly long enough, and I’m about to do a movie marathon with a friend. She’s about to call any minute so I should hurry. Eep, where does the time go?

That small break didn’t completely recharge my battery, but it was long enough to come to a realization. I’ve been so focused on the big picture, the grand plan, that I’ve started to feel a sense of hopelessness. It seems so unattainable, but what would happen if I shifted my focus? Instead of the big picture, I look at the small brush strokes that can, with patience, add up to a much larger image. 

Oh, that feels attainable, doable, and maybe it feels a little hopeful too.

That’s what these words are; they’re a place to start. Abstract, yes, and aggravatingly vague, but you can take them and put the self back into help.

Yeah, that last sentence made me groan too.

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Note to Self: It’s Okay To Take A Break

Photo By Toa Heftiba on unsplash.com

I’m so distracted and out of focus. I can’t hold onto a thought, let alone follow it to a logical and meaningful conclusion. Sure, my attention span is woefully lacking on a good day. It’s so short, calling it a span seems like a gross overestimation of my ability to process real-time information. A span implies a certain degree of quantifiable data. I can barely write two words before my mind wanders off into a black void.

There are no thoughts, feelings, or much of anything else. It’s a light switch that’s been turned off, and I can’t see a damn thing. It’s darkness in the physical, rather than emotional, sense. I walk into a windowless room, the door closes, and the pitch-black swallows everything up.

That’s where my mind is right now so, why not write something? Great idea!

If I saw something shiny and chased it down a rabbit hole, then we’d be standing on familiar ground. I type a word, for example, and it’ll look a little off. I look up its meaning, origins, and synonyms. Then one of those synonyms will give me a chuckle or it will be a word I’ve never heard of before. Such a rare and wonderful find. A new word? Yes, please.

It’s even more magical if it’s characterized as archaic. A word like? Um…Oh, I know! Mundivagant. Yes, that’s a real word, and it means to wander over the world. I’m so mundivagant! I don’t want to hang around and let my roots grow too deep. Of course, I could give a walkabout a shot. It’s easier to say and spell. Is it as much fun?

I’ll let you be the judge because I’ve lost my train of thought. It took me thirty minutes to write that paragraph. I wrote two words, then my mind switched off, powered down, and took its sweet time rebooting. What’s wrong with me?

Time for a little self-psychoanalysis? Sure, my rates are cheaper than a licensed professional.

I think the stressors of the last few months are running me down. It’s been a lot, and my brain is refusing to process any more information. Politics. Viruses. Anti everything groups with logic, so convoluted, it sounds almost delusional. In the spirit of fairness, I try to untangle the web, but at some point, I have to throw up my hands and give up.

Clearly, logic means different things to different people.

Can a human brain run out of memory? The storage is full. The cloud is saturated. If only there was an external drive that I could plug into my ears. I could clear some space for everything else trying to get in. Hasn’t it been invented yet?

Did the Jetsons lie to me? Oo, I found something shiny! 

When I was a kid, I’d watch reruns of the Jetsons because I’ve always been a weird old soul. How grand did the future look? Flying bubble cars. Jetpacks. Robot maids that cook, clean, and do laundry. Sure, we have robots that do things, but it’s not the same. They don’t talk sassy to me unless I program it. If I have to ask, then it’s just not the same.

Damn it, why did I meet George Jetson? Can you say meet George Jetson without singing the song? Impossible! Unless you’ve never watched the show. Watch it. It’s cute, kind of funny, and it has a dog. Just watch the show for the dog! He says “Ruh-roh Reorge” at least once an episode, and it’s comedy gold.

I shouldn’t blame a tv show for my problems. Especially a show that premiered in the sixties. They were experimenting with a lot of things back then. What kind of things? Look up Woodstock, and you’ll put the pieces together. Out of those things came a sassy robot and a dog who ran around saying ruh-roh.

Also, they inadvertently predicted the future. Or, and I’m just spitballing, they were alien time travellers who were leaving clues. Hoping we’d take the hint and evolve because they needed friends. Someone to play with, talk to, have a drink. But first, they needed to equalize the playing field. Which is why they created a show to inspire our imaginations.

Did I just invent a conspiracy theory? Huh, I’ve never done that before.

The show introduced us to smartwatches, tablets, and video chat. They gave us flatscreen TVs and treadmills for our dogs. There’s a long list of gear, inspired by the show. We could say, if we’re feeling frisky, that they sparked a technological revolution. 

Then again, the watch looked like it weighed ten pounds, so they were a bit off. Whoever wore it was sure to have a super jacked bicep. Clearly, the aliens didn’t know about carpal tunnel syndrome.

Sure, they didn’t get everything right, and we’ve gone further than they imagined. The watches barely weigh anything, and the computers are smaller as well. There’s one thing they nailed, though. They said we would become dependant on the gear, and they were right.

Especially now, when so many of us are separated from our loved ones. These gadgets have become our lifelines. If it wasn’t for video chat, I would’ve lost my mind ages ago. I need movie nights over Facetime or virtual dinners with family. It’s as essential to my survival as goofy cartoons.

Wait, did the Jetsons manifested our technological reality? They put the dream out into the universe and, tada: Smartphones. If only they’d invested more energy into producing an external hard drive for my brain? Thanks for screwing us over George, and your little alien creators. 

My brain is full. My memory is shutting down. I don’t know what day it is! Every day this week has felt like Thursday. What does Thursday feel like? Uh…

And just like that, the lights are flickering. I can’t believe I managed to hold a thought long enough to write a few paragraphs. Is it a sign of progress? 

I just took a forty-minute break, and it wasn’t on the schedule. I was typing, and then I blanked out. When I looked at my watch, time had disappeared. I didn’t move, my fingers were in position, and I stared out at nothing.

Do you have days like these? No matter how hard you try, you can’t focus on anything, and everything feels like a chore. Small things like getting out of bed and having a shower are so hard. Putting on clothes because public nudity is illegal? Fine, I’ll cover the required bits, but I’m not going to win any style points.

This morning, I sat on the edge of my bed for ten minutes. I wasn’t thinking about anything, and I didn’t feel any emotions. I was blank, turned off, and unplugged. I went through my morning routine in much the same way. Vaguely aware of what I was doing, but nothing really penetrated the fog.

If there’s any thought at all, it’s two words on repeat: I’m tired.

I’ve put a lot of myself into a lot of different things, and now there’s not much of me left. I’m trying to do something, create something from nothing, and the walls in front of me are very high. I’m climbing those walls and trying to build a ladder, but multitasking takes up a lot of brainpower.

I’m tired.

Then there’s the world outside of my own little sphere. It feels like everything is on fire; I mean that in the literal and figurative sense. Forests are still burning. A virus is spread. Politics is a dumpster fire no matter where you live. It’s a universal eye-roll. We can all join together and explain, “Politicians, am I right?” 

I’m so tired.

I’ve been told that it’s none of my business. What happens in another country isn’t my concern. I shouldn’t care about the lives of people outside of my family, friends, community, or my country. Clean up your own lawn before you clean up mine; or something to that effect. Well, fair, God knows we’ve got a mess on our hands and a system that needs a massive overhaul. 

So, wait, I can’t care about other things as well?

I wish I didn’t care so much, and that’s a sentiment I’ve heard from a lot of people. If only our emotional range was the size of a teaspoon, then we’d be happier. If only we didn’t give two f**ks about anyone outside of our circle. If only we could look away from people in pain. Our lives would be a lot more peaceful, and I, for one, would sleep a lot better. 

Alas, most of us have the emotional range of a tapped oil rig out in the middle of the ocean. We feel things deeply, no matter how high the waves get. Those feelings keep coming. We don’t know how to stop caring, and you know what? I don’t know if we should stop caring for others. No matter where they live in the world, we should care.

A lot of our problems centre around a small group of people who have stopped caring. Maybe they never did? I prefer to think that they, like me, got too tired. They felt so much for so long, and now they’re out of emotional memory on their internal drive.

Instead of thinking about others, they’ve swung the other direction. Their only concern is their own welfare and the cleanliness of their own backyards. The result? The earth was already a powder keg, so light a match and watch it burn.

I’m so tired.

There’s a mess in my backyard, and in my neighbours too. The house down the street is on fire. A water-main burst and, a home is flooding. What can I do? Not a hell of a lot, but that doesn’t mean I stop caring. I clean up my mess and offer you support if you need it. 

If needed, we stop what we’re doing and come together to help someone in a dire circumstance. That’s what it means to be a member of the human race. A global community. Caring, compassionate, decent, and (if you believe in this sort of thing) God-loving people. We care about each other!

Sorry, but I won’t stop caring. I can’t. Won’t. Shouldn’t, ever, stop caring.

How does that explain my current mood? I’m emotionally exhausted because I’ve given a lot of myself away. Again, I can’t, won’t, stop caring about other people, but I can take a break. Turn off the news, stay away from social media, and, for the love of all that is precious, don’t click on the comment section under Twitter posts.

I need a break, and I have to remind myself that it’s okay. Taking a break doesn’t mean you don’t care. It’s giving the brain and heart time to recharge. It’s clearing out some space so that we can keep caring about our world and the precious people who call it home. Maybe it will give us some time to come up with solutions so that we can turn compassion into action.

This weekend, I’m taking a break. I’m unplugging the fancy gizmo’s the Jetsons inspired, and I’m going to run around yelling ruh-roh. What would you do if some ran up to you and ruh-roh’d? Teehee, now I wanna ruh-roh random people.

Oh, I need a nap.

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Finding Happy: On The Streets of Paris

Photo by Grillot Edouard on unsplash.com

I’m feeling a little claustrophobic, and I’ve climbed the walls two dozen times in the last week alone. The restlessness is making my knee bounce up and down. There’s an itch I can’t scratch because flexibility is a myth. Or, I’m too tightly wound to be bend over backwards and kiss the sky.

That big blue canvas that lays watch over a million wonders. Marvellous, breathtaking, creations of humanity and divinity. Mountains, deserts, oceans, and cities. Structures, delicately crafted, reach up and touch the clouds.

I look up at the sky, and I’m jealous of those clouds floating overhead. Caught on a current that will send them off a grand adventure. The things they will see! The experiences they’ll have. Oh, the stories they could tell if they were more than clusters of water particles floating off into the wild yonder.

I need to escape these four walls, but arg, I can’t. I know I can’t. There are a lot of reasons why, and I won’t go into them because this is an experiment in happiness. Listing the reasons why I can’t join the clouds on their epic quest won’t put a smile on my face. It certainly won’t make me happy. It makes me incredibly grumpy, so for the sake of the experiment, let the list go unspoken.

Take a deep breath in through the nose, hold it, and blow it out slowly. Ah, yes, that’s better. 

The world is, at the moment, closed for renovations, and travel is taboo. Which is why I’m grateful for my past good fortune. I’ve travelled to some amazing places and seen some incredible things. I have a lot of memories locked up tight in my mental vault. They’re kept safe from pests, vermin, and water erosion so that, in times like these, I can relive them with delight.

One of those moments happened after my last kidney transplant. For years, a friend and I talked about packing our bags, getting on a plane, and travelling the world. We had a list of places we wanted to visit and things we wanted to see. Except, it was just the most perfect dream and nothing else. I, for one, thought it was one of those things we talked about doing with little intent of taking action.

Then I got sick, my one functioning kidney died, and I spent a few years fighting for every breath. My brother, bless him, gave me a kidney, and the healing began. It took a year and a half to recover. Over that year, my friend and I talked about this grand adventure. This time though, it started to take shape, and we narrowed down our list. It went from a dream to a plan. That plan soon evolved into booked flights, hotels, and packed bags.

My life had been on hold for years, so the second my doctors gave me the green light, we drove to the airport and flew to our first destination. We were visiting five countries in four weeks. It was going to be a whirlwind adventure. There was a chance our dreams were grander than reality, but screw it. We were going to test the boundaries, and that thought alone was exhilarating. I sat there waiting for our flight to board, and I damn near vibrated right out of my body.

Have you ever done something that you’ve spent years dreaming about? It’s that thing you say that you will do someday, but you never believe it will happen. Hope? Absolutely, but how often does hope become a reality you can touch, taste, see, and feel? In my life, it’s as rare as a swarm of caterpillars humming Madam Butterfly.

But there I was, staring at the plane that would take us to the very thing we’d spent years dreaming up. It was a reality, or I was having a very vivid hallucination but, since my travel companion saw it, it must be real. And you bet your eyeballs I doubled checked that we were experiencing the same version of reality.

Paris was the first stop!

A decision that one misguided soul called a cliche. Uh, no sir, you are mistaken. Paris is never a cliche, and it’s a city everyone should experience at least once. You have to go for the copious amount of art and history alone! I love art and history so, excuse that particular bias but, it just might be as close to heaven as a historophile can get.

We got to our hotel, a few blocks away from Gare De Lyon, late in the evening. I dropped my bag next to my bed and walked to the window. There was a small balcony, wide enough for one person to step outside so, that’s what I did. It was late April, we arrived two days before my birthday, and the setting sun was turning the clear blue sky a gorgeous pink. 

Maybe it was the excitement of an adventure just getting started or the sixteen hours of travel. Probably a combination of the two, but to me, the sky meeting the rooftops looked like a painting that we would find in the Louvre. It was almost too gorgeous to be real. The vivid colours. The brush strokes across the sky. The old city, full of so many stories. Was this real life? Was this really happening? Was I really standing on the smallest balcony in one of the oldest cities?

I was in Paris! Forget about playing it cool. No, my friend, I think I squealed, and I seldom squeal.

Finding yourself living a moment you’ve dreamt about for so long is incredible. It’s hard to stay present and remind yourself that, yes, this is real. You’re really here. This is happening in the waking world. You don’t have to pry your eyes open or slap yourself to wake up.

 Pro tip: Pinch yourself in different places so that you don’t bruise too soon. I like to use a rotational system. Arm, stomach, ear lope, and then I bite my bottom lip. Wake up. Wake up. Oh, this is really happening! This is my life. I am living in this moment. Deep breath, and play it cool. You don’t want to be one of those tourists. Get the squeals out inside your hotel room or on a tiny balcony.

Photo by Julien Tondu on unsplash.com

By the time we got settled in and washed the thick layer of travel grime off our bodies, the sun had been packed it in. Our internal clocks were out of sync with our environment. Our hunger had settled in a little too late. A lot of the restaurants were locked up or closing down for the night, which left us with dwindling options.

Exhaustion contributed to our indecisiveness. Every time we found a place to eat, we couldn’t decide if we should eat there or walk on. So on we walked. Too tired to explore much further. Too hungry to rest. Basically, we turned into pouting toddlers on the inside while externally trying to remain adult about the situation.

Lucky for us a hero was about to cross our path. Okay, I’m a bit dramatic. After all, we were just looking for something to eat. But it was getting late, and our tummies were grumbling. Enter our hero! He worked at a small shop that sold sandwiches, fries, and snacks. He saw us wandering around like lost farts in a thunder cloud and asked if he could help.

Now, my french is very basic. I took eight years of it, as is required by the Canadian education system, but I don’t remember very much. What can I say? Je ne parle pas Français. I don’t speak french. Tu parle Anglais? Do you speak English? I can say please, thank you, and excuse me. So, all of the basic entry-level phrases and, please, forgive my spelling.

Did our new friend speak English? Nope, but he did speak six other languages, so Abdul takes the win. That was his name, by the way. We put enough french together to get that much information. That’s the challenge, and the fun, of travelling to a country outside of your language-speaking network.

Sure, figuring out new ways to communicate is hard. It can be overwhelming. Sometimes it can be frustrating. Other times you meet someone named Abdul, who has a big smile and an even bigger laugh. Who better to play a round of multilingual charades? 

Turns out, one of his six languages was Spanish, and I took a semester in college. My Spanish was only slightly better than my french, but it was enough to get a conversation going. He was born in Iran and had immigrated to France ten years early. He worked at his family’s restaurant, and they were getting ready to close. Thankfully, they would stay open a little longer if we wanted something to eat.

How could we refuse the kindness?

Standing there, on the streets of Paris, was one of those magical moments when I realized just how small the world was. Adbul, an immigrant from Iran, and me, an immigrant from South Africa. I’d started a new life in Canada. He started a new life in France. We both left our countries of birth to find a peaceful existence in a new land. In so many ways, we were so different but so similar in all the ways that matter.

That’s what I love about travelling! It opens my eyes and lets me see how connected we all are. It’s easy to look at the lives of people in other countries and think that they’re worlds away. Their lives don’t affect ours, and what we do, doesn’t matter to them. But the world isn’t that big, and our lives are more intertwined than we realize.

I suppose, for some, that’s a scary thought, but it makes me smile. It means, to me, that we’re not as alone as we might think. There’s someone out there, on this small planet, that’s going through something similar. They’re feeling what I’m feeling. They’re worried about the same things that keep me up a night.

They laugh at silly things like I do. They love animals more than people, just like me. They like the colour red. Enjoy drinking tea after a long walk in the rain. They have a dream that seems unattainable, but they still hope that it becomes a reality. They are just like me, and I am just like you. Despite the many miles that separate us, we’re linked.

Language differences be damned! Where there’s a will, some yet lag, and a jovial man named Abdul? There is a hot meal and a grin that puts every dream to shame. Which is why I keep dreaming about the places I want to see and people I want to meet. 

That day will come! The world will open back up, and we can turn our dreams into glorious realities. That possibility alone is worth a little happiness.

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You Can’t Complain!

Photo by Bernard Hermant on unsplash.com

Oh, I beg to differ, and I’m mildly offended. You’re seriously underestimating my abilities. What’s this “can’t” word you speak of? It does not compute, register, or sound like a word spoken in the queens English. I can’t, allegedly, complain?

Girrrl. Boyyy. Um, insert your preferred pronoun, and own it loud and proud, my friend. All who enter here are welcome with respect, love, and all the good vibes. Just don’t tell me I can’t complain.

Is there a world championship complaining competition? A WCCC if you prefer. Here’s hoping that doesn’t actually stand for something untoward, gruesome, or ew. I should google it to be safe. Or, I could take some risks. Oo, I feel the surge of adrenaline, my heart is racing, and now we know why I don’t ride rollercoasters.

I’m a bit of a coward and I have a heart condition. Ah, the riddle has been solved.

If the WCCC existed, then I assure you I would take gold, silver, and bronze. It would be a clean sweep. How is that possible? Why, thanks for ask. You’re very thoughtful, and that’s what I like about you.

My ability to lament the woes of life would be unparalleled. Competitors would resign before the main event. Flee these lands, and return to your homes in shame or, perhaps, bewilderment. It’s no use! You’ve already lost. Why put in the effort when it means nothing? 

An exercise in futility is good cardio? 

Okay, fair point. I hope you live a long, happy life. After, of course, you work up a sweat listening to my epic yammering. I’ve limbered up. There was a whole ninety-second of stretching. Yeah, you heard me right! A whole ninety. I’m suited and booted. Let’s do this thing because I was born to complain.

Are you ready to grumble?

Do you ever wish you could plug your brain into a projector so that everyone could see what you’re seeing? Your wild imagination projected onto a white sheet hung on the wall. You could hand out popcorn and those chocolate malt ball things. Sure, you put holes in your walls so you won’t get your deposit back, and the landlord will go ape-butt. Will it be worth it? Yeah, because it will be the best movie night ever!

Then again, with my scattered brain, you might see things you’d wish you hadn’t. I can’t control the images flashing before my eyes any more than I can control the wind blowing through the willows. Oh, that was a good book. Wind in The Willows by Kenneth Grahame. 

It was a childhood favourite, but then I grew up. What a disappointment that was! Don’t do it. Don’t grow up. It sounds cool from the other side, but it’s a case of the green grass. Looks can be deceiving and all the usual cliches.

I still remember the tragic moment when I realized wise old Badgers don’t walk with canes, and Toads don’t drive cars. It was yesterday. No, wait, it feels like yesterday because time is a manipulative little rat. One minute I was reading about talking animals and, the next minute, believing animals can talk, or toads drive cars, is a sign of mental distress.

They change the rules so fast!

I’m still not over it. The disillusionment of literature, growing up, and the nature of time. You can’t get it back, you know. Once it’s gone, it’s gone. You can try to hunt it down. Close your eyes, remember those precious moments when your imagination took you on wild adventures with talking creatures. Ah, then the phone rings, and you’re pulled back into reality.

A reality where, no matter what you’re going through, you’re told you can’t complain. It’s bitterly unfair! And, with that, I just locked in my first medal, and I’m off to capture the next podium at the inaugural World Complaining Championship Competition.

That was smooth and seamless. I transitioned so casually you barely saw it coming. Boo-ya! 

And you said I couldn’t complain. Well, who’s laughing now? Here’s a hint: She has two thumbs and she’s typing these words. That’s right, it’s me, I’m laughing. Bwahaha.

Yeah, okay, I’ll stop.

In my real life, though, I’m not that much of a complainer, and I should probably learn to do it a bit more. I swallow my thoughts, fears, and lifestyle malfunctions. I put them in a bottle, screw on a lid, and give it a shake. I should pop the top before the pressure shatters the glass, but who doesn’t like to watch things go boom?

I don’t sit down with a trusted friend and unload my grumbles, mumbles, and fumbles. Again, I should do it! It would do my mental health a world of good, but I don’t want to be a burden. It’s one of my greatest fears. The thought alone is enough to send me into a tailspin. The fact that my numerous chronic illnesses have often led me to burden my loved ones with my needs?

I hate it! 

They have never complained or insinuated that I’m anything but loved. This isn’t a feeling that’s been placed on me by others. It’s something that I’ve put on myself. If my life was a superhero cartoon, then my arch-nemesis would be my own reflection. I am my worst enemy, and I keep myself locked up in a very claustrophobic wine cellar.

A teetotaler trapped in a wine cellar? Well, that’s paradoxical in a tragic, Shakespearean, sort of way. Now I’m getting into hyperboles. I should stop before irony and satire swagger into the picture.

I was chatting with a friend via email last week, and they asked how I was doing. I offhandedly mentioned that I’ve been struggling a bit. Physically, I’m trying to heal from my run-in with COVID. I’m exhausted, and random symptoms pop up out of nowhere. There’s nothing anyone can do to make it go away, so I’m left with the most unhelpful advice any doctor can give. Get plenty of rest and drink a lot of water. 

Thanks, I feel so much better. 

The mental struggles have also been difficult, and it’s feeling more pronounced. Loneliness from the isolation is a big one right now. Despite already having had the virus, there’s no proof that I’m immune, so I could get sick again. I’m lucky to have gotten away with such a mild case the first time, but what happens if I get it twice? I don’t want to find out, so I’m limiting my contact with potential carriers.

Now, I’m an introvert with moderate social anxiety, so you would think I’d be peachy keen. And I was, for a while, handling the isolation just fine, but it’s starting to feel suffocating. The walls are closing in. Is the cellar shrinking? Are the bottles breaking? Oo, I think I’m getting drunk off of the fumes. It tingles.

Of course, during the conversation with this friend, I didn’t go into all of that. I inadvertently let my guard slip. They kindly and sincerely offered to be my sounding board if I needed to vent. It was such a kind offer! It meant a lot. Have I responded to that email?

No, I don’t want to be a burden and complain about my life. What’s there to complain about? Looking over my current situation, while it isn’t ideal, I’m not in horrible shape. I have food in my cupboard, a cup of tea sitting next to me, and a roof attached to four walls. I’m dry, warm, and safe. How can I complain about a little stress or loneliness when I have it better than some?

Saying the words out loud feels icky, and kind of sticky. Writing them down? That’s a lot easier. There’s a giant firewall and thick layer of internet between us. It doesn’t feel like I’m grumbling, or going on a woe-is-me tangent. I don’t know what you’re beautiful face looks like, and most of you don’t know what I look like. We could pass each other at a respectful six-foot distance and never know.

That distance makes this feel safe. I’m just sitting in my living room, typing these words, all alone. It’s kind of like journaling, which I’m a big fan of, only this journal is posted online where anyone can read my deepest, darkest, secrets. 

I’m twelve years old again, and I’m leaving my diary on my bed unattended. What sibling wouldn’t want to read it? Who knows what kind of juicy ammunition can be found in those pages? From a twelve-year-old? Uh, yeah, no preteen should have juice in their diaries. 

I’ve written the word complain fourteen, fifteen, times now, and it’s taken me this long to ask a simple question. Why does it carry such a negative connotation? We’re told that we shouldn’t complain, and we’re given a lot of reasons for it. My least favourite is hearing that someone has it worse.

Stop complaining! You’re lucky because someone has it worse than you. True, but why can’t I complain about my situation? I’m hurting, this moment is difficult, but I can’t complain? I have feelings. I am a real person. My struggles are real, as are yours, so why can’t I complain?

It’s one thing to be a chronic complainer who’s never satisfied with anything or anyone. I took a risk last week and went to the store. At the checkout, I stood behind this woman who did nothing but complain about every little thing. She went after the cashier who wasn’t happy enough by her unattainable standards. 

Side note, this is such a big pet peeve of mine! Service workers are there to provide a service, but they aren’t dancing monkeys on display. They are people who are working long hours at a thankless job. They aren’t paid enough to put up with everything they endure. Be nice to them! It’s not hard to say please, thank you, and have a good day.

This complainer, however, found that concept far too challenging, and she went off. Those of us standing behind her came to the defence of the cashier. That added to her tribulations, and she complained even more. She went into that situation looking for something to complain about, and she found it.

That’s a chronic complainer! Or, she’s having a horrible, no good, very bad day, and she needs to release her pressure valve in a better way. However, that kind of complaining is a beast, and it can be very toxic for everyone involved. That includes, I assume, the complainer who is caught in a horrible cycle.

But someone complaining, venting, to a trusted friend shouldn’t be dirty or taboo. It shouldn’t be shut down or dismissed. That is what happens when we tell someone they have nothing to complain about. It’s especially true if they, like me, struggle to say these things out loud. 

If I ever find the courage to say these words out loud, it’s because I trust you, and I’m so overwhelmed I can’t function anymore. It is a risk for me, because I don’t want to be a burden. Though, even someone like me needs to unload some baggage before my ship sinks.

Also, for realizes, I don’t want to win the World Complaining Championship Competition. I know it’s not a thing, but if it was, it would be the worst reality tv show ever! Or the best? I’m running low on streaming content, but I’m not that desperate. Yet.

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Well That Was Refreshing

Photo by Jon Tyson on unsplash.com

A few days ago, I posted a picture on Instagram wearing a mask and hashtagged it wear your damn mask. It’s not a political statement. The only agenda I’m pushing is one where I don’t die from the thing that I cannot mention. You know it. You hate it as much as I do. I don’t have to name it because, oh sweet pixies, I just can’t form the word with my mouth or typing fingers.

I’m over it, and yes, I know that doesn’t mean it’s over. Not voicing its name doesn’t diminish its presence, and it doesn’t make it suddenly vanish. Poof, begone evil microbe and never return. You. Shall not. Pass! Don’t pass go. Don’t collect a hundred dollars. Go straight to the prison cell in hell you no-good, nefarious, scoundrel. 

Whew, I have a lot of pent up emotions that I should let out more often. Usually, I shove them far down into the pit of my stomach until those feelings eat through my stomach lining. Why do I get ulcers? Is it the medication I take? The copious amounts of tea I drink? No, I don’t use my words when people genuinely and kindly ask how I’m doing. 

I’m fine. No, seriously, I’m good. Where did I put the antacid? Should I buy stocks in the company? Am I single handily financing that company? Possibly. Well, that sounds a lot like insider trading but okay, sure, let’s do it. Clearly, I’m an expert in business, economics, and finance. Obviously. It’s plain as day. Is the sarcasm translating through these written words?

I can’t bring myself to name the thing that’s wreaking havoc on our lives and my sanity. However, I’m taking it very seriously and employing as many precautions as I can. There’s no singular thing that will magically protect me, or you. If only it were that easy! Alas, no, it’s a team sport and I just wish everyone would play on the same team.

It would also help if the game wasn’t continuously in flux, and the rules weren’t changing on, what feels like, a whim. I turn on the news, read through the latest numbers, and try to figure out the new terms of service. Is anyone else struggling to keep up? I want to do the right thing, be a part of the solution, but there’s so much information coming at me. It’s hard to wade through it all and decipher truth from fanfiction.

That said, there’s a constant theme that’s been shown to work. Wear a mask if you can, keep your distance, and wash your hands. When these steps have been observed, the numbers go down, and we’re all a little safer. It’s not perfect! It won’t completely erase the risk or the evil microbe, but it gives us a better chance.

As someone with a compromised immune system, and someone who has had this damn thing once? Well, I’m just trying to stay alive and keep the people I love in fighting shape. Is that too much to ask for? Nah, it’s basic entry-level stuff which is all I’m qualified for, because the ideal candidate needs at least five years of experience.

Photo by Visuals on unsplash.com

So, I took a picture of myself wearing that blasted mask and posted it to my socials. No big deal. One and done. Give it a second thought? Nope, I figured no one would notice or care, but I was a smidgen wrong.

There was a simple comment that made me pause, bite my tongue, and take a deep breath. The commenter said, “I struggle with this.” That’s it. Simple and straight to the point. No hate. No judgement. It was a clear and unobtrusive statement.

But, of course, the internet being what it is, I read it with foggy glasses. My knee jerk reaction had me preparing for a fight, but I’m too tired. I’ve been physically and mentally drained for months. The well is dry. The soles of my shoes have worn thin. I’m out of gas, steam, and f***s. I don’t want to fight over a piece of cloth covering my face.

Why do people want to fight?

I had my first real-world encounter with a passionate anti-masker a couple of weeks. Now, where I live, most people mind their own and pay little attention to what others are doing. We all make our own choices and let each other live with them in peace. Also, we’re a nation that’s perfected the art of passive aggression. I’ve never met a Canadian who couldn’t give the most polite side-eye you’ve ever seen.

You’ll feel judged but in a kind way. It’s a skill so ingrained in our national identity that’s it’s a part of the citizen entry exam. Okay, that’s not true, so don’t spend hours practising in front of the mirror. Don’t worry, you’ll catch on and achieve expert status in no time.

Even with the side-eye, most of us let our differences slide because there are a lot of reasons why people won’t, or can’t, wear masks. You don’t owe me an explanation. I will keep my distance, for my own safety, but you do what you need to do for yourself.

So, it surprised me when this man confronted me about my mask. I was putting my recyclables in the bins when he came up to me and made a snide comment. I was taken aback, but I looked up at him and said, “Well, sir, I had COVID six weeks.” 

He jump back real quick for someone who doesn’t believe in our current situation. Huh, how curious. You have a good day, sir. All the best. God speed, or whatever niceties fit your fancy.

I just wanted to sort my paper and plastic in peace. Was that too much to ask for? A fight? An argument? I’m too damn tired. I was sick two months ago, but I still can’t shake the effects of that damn virus. Which, I know, I said I wouldn’t mention, but I just named it twice. I’m sorry, I didn’t want to go there, but it’s where I ended up.

Photo by Drew Coffman on unsplash.com

I just can’t do it anymore. I don’t wanna do it. I want to order pizza, brew a cuppa tea, and pretend that everything is fine, good, just dandy. Throw in a couple of antacids, and it’s a party. Is that too much to ask for? 

Ask for? Huh. Hold up, wait a second, and pause the video. That’s an idea. Instead of fighting, I can ask a question and see what happens. Obviously, there’s a time and a place for that sort of thing. An encounter with a grumpy dumpster man, who was revving up his engines? Nope, not the time. A comment on Instagram? Yeah, let’s give it a try.

So, that’s what I did. I swallowed my ego, restrained my snarky response, and asked, “Why? What makes this a struggle for you?” I also added that I’m not looking for a fight. I just want to know where you’re coming from. 

You, and whoever reads this note.

It’s such a simple thing, asking a question. It cracks open a window and invites a conversation. Statements are door jams, especially online, and they shut down any hope of communication. We’ve been programmed to read comments with a fighting spirit because, too often, the special few are looking for a sparring partner.

Which is why we can’t have nice things!

Asking a question is such a simple response, but it opened my mind in a way I didn’t expect. Instead of a fight, I got a reply that was heartfelt and open. It was a sharing of a reality that I don’t experience and a perspective I hadn’t given much thought. It also showed me that, despite differing opinions, we share more than we realize. 

It’s amazing how much we have in common when we stop fighting and start asking questions. The conversation that followed brought up a lot of feelings I’ve been struggling with, but I haven’t had the words to express. The sense of loss and the grief that it brings. Frustration because I can’t control, change or fight this thing in any meaningful way. The powerlessness that comes with that loss of control is terrifying. 

Then I look beyond myself and the storm of emotions that I’m swallowing. I see the much larger picture of sickness and death that I can’t begin to process. The numbers don’t sound real. My mind can’t process the images I’m seeing. It’s all too much, and I desperately want to go back to the way things were a year ago when I was happily living in sweet innocence.

Oh, I need to take a deep breath and bid a hasty retreat. My apologies, I can’t spend too much time in that headspace. I’ve gotta bring it back close to home because that seems a little more manageable.

Reading through the reply, I found myself nodding along. I understand where they’re coming from, and yes, masks have come to symbolize loss, fear, and uncertainty. It’s an inadvertent symbolism, but the link is there and I see it. I hadn’t given it much thought until I read through someone’s experience, but now— Yeah, I get it, and I see why you’re struggling.

I’m not going to stop wearing the mask because of its opaque symbolism. It’s still one thing I can do to slow the spread. It’s small. It might not amount too much. It is, for me, better than nothing because I don’t do well when I can’t do anything. There’s so much I can’t do to help or change my own circumstances. This damn thing across my face? Well, something is better than nothing.

Here’s the thing I’m taking away from a brief encounter online, and it’s kind of simple. I need to check my ego more often, clean off my glasses, and ask more questions. I jump to conclusions way too fast, and when I do, I’m closing myself off to something that can help me become more compassionate and understanding. 

While I don’t agree with some of their opinions, it was so refreshing having a simple, civil conversation with someone in a different yet similar circumstance. It was oddly liberating. When I opened up, took a chance, I learned something, and they had the words I was too afraid to explore.

Photo by Pete Pedroza on unsplash.com

So to you, if you happen to read this, thank you for taking the chance and writing your comment. You were open, vulnerable, and you took a risk sharing yourself with me. If nothing else, that deserves a lot of respect because it’s not an easy thing to do online or in person. 

Thank you for trusting me with your experience and your fears. You taught me a valuable lesson, and I’m going to try to follow your lead. I’m checking my ego, trying to be more vulnerable, and ask more questions. If we all do that, instead of jumping to conclusions, then maybe we can have more nice things. 

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Finding Happy: In A Few Tea Leaves

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I decided that this was the perfect time to go out into the world in hope of Finding Happy because it’s a snappy title. Also, I really want to live a happier life, and right now, I’m not entirely sure what that means or what makes me happy. The best way to figure that out, I assume, is to try new things or go back and look at what made me happy in my past life.

There’s some logic in there somewhere, so I’m grabbing hold of my frayed edges and jumping. Into what, you may be asking? Uh, an experimental concoction with the viscosity and consistency of a witch’s brew. Mm, yes, that sounds better than a meh and a shoulder shrug.

Ah, but damn it, Jim, I’m a writer, not a scientist! I don’t know how to conduct a real experiment with quantifiable findings. I’m winging it and hoping for a smile or a chuckle. Would one moment of happiness, joy, or giddy jubilation be too much to ask for? No, I think not, sir/madam/buddy of mine.

Right, well, there is one big problem that I should’ve foreseen because it’s glaringly obvious. It’s been with us for several months. I don’t want to say the words, the name, or dance around a ring of rosies. That’s not happy. It’s the exact opposite, and that defeats the purpose of this whole exercise in reckless optimism. So if I wink, nudge, and clear my throat, can we all come together in a moment of understanding? 

I don’t have to say the words and ruin a perfectly decent moment. Is that a safe assumption? Are we all on the same page? Can I move on? Great! I’m incredibly relieved because that thing, the thing I shall not mention, is a downer, and I want to go up. Way up! Happy, fun times here we come.

Except, it is a massive hump in the bumpy road to happiness. I can’t go out into the world and try new things. At least, it’s not how I envisioned this little experiment playing out. I had plans and ideas. I was going to put gas in my car and type places into my GPS. Would I go so far as to call it an adventure? Yes, because it sounds grander then anything else I could come up with.

Alas, my friend, I’m alone in my apartment, and I’m scratching my head. How can I find happiness in eight hundred square feet? Sure, my dog is incredibly cute, and my elderly cat is cuddly — when she’s not peeing on the carpet. They make me happy, but that cannot be it. It can’t be the singular measure of happiness in my humble abode.

Sure, animals trigger endorphins or happy, yay yay, feelings. That’s science or psychology or something like that. It’s a proven fact! But for the sake of my experiment, there has to be something else that makes me happy. Something with oomf. Think Piglet, think.

Grand adventures are, for the moment, on hold. I need to scale back my exceptions and simplify my vision. What makes me happy in the simplest of ways? Huh, well, I’m looking at one thing, but does it qualify? Does it make me happy? Does it make me content? Does it create a perfect moment that, for a short while, stops the chaos and brings a moment of peace?

Well, yes, I suppose it does, but it seems too modest to count for much. Then again, it is one of my favourite things. It’s ritualistic, even in its simplicity, and it makes me sigh in contentment. I suppose, if I’m really looking for happiness, why not start with the smallest of things, and this certainly counts.

The first thing I have to do is fill the kettle with water and put it on the stovetop. Great, done, now turn the knob and wait for the water to boil. Grab and tea bag and – Oh, the cup! I love this little cup. It’s a part of a set that belonged to my Gran.

It’s white porcelain with green and yellow flowers delicately painted on the side. The cup is small, it’s a teacup after all, and holding it feels too precious. I’m very clumsy. Using it feels kind of taboo. Like I went into a museum, grabbed a goblet from a display, and filled it with a fizzy beverage. It’s just not done! But one sip should be okay, and I’ll be careful. Promise?

Eep, I’m asking for trouble.  

My Gran passed away several years ago, but we were very, very, close. Whenever I went over to see her, she’d say “Hi Love,” and put the kettle on. I’d watch her long fingers, slowed down by arthritis, drop a tea bag into two cups and pour boiling water over each.

We’d sit together, sipping our tea, and talking about nothing and everything. I wanted to draw out that moment. I never wanted it to end so by the time I drank my tea, it was almost cold. She’d finish hers long before me, and pick up her knitting while I sipped on my drink. I’m not the crafty sort, lord knows she tried to teach me, but I loved watching her fingers work the needles. 

She would create gorgeous blankets, scarves, or hats out of nothing but needles and wool. It was a beautiful thing to watch, or she was a beautiful person. Either way, I couldn’t get enough.

Now, every morning I make myself some tea in one of her special cups, and I hear her say, “Hi Love.” 

I hear her voice. I smell her perfume. If I close my eyes, I can see her hands working those needles. For a moment, we’re sitting together and having a cuppa like we used to. That’s a special thing, you know. Having a moment alone with someone you love. It’s especially true when they’re gone, and all you have is that memory.

All of that from a cup of tea?

Photo by Carolyn V on unsplash.com

As far back as I can remember, tea has played a pivotal role in my life. I grew up in a very British family, so a day couldn’t start without a cuppa. Every morning, Mom would wake me up with a cup of tea that had six sugars, a drop of milk, and a splash of cold water from the tap to cool it off.

I’d lay in bed, eyes squeezed shut because I’ve never been a morning person. I would listen for the whistle from the kettle and the sound of a teaspoon clinking against the cup. It was time to get up, but I wouldn’t move a muscle until Mom came into my room and gave me the tea. 

I’d sit in bed, drinking it as slowly as I could. What’s better than a warm cup of tea in a warm bed? Nothing. It was perfect, and what made it even better? Mom had made it for me, knowing I’d stay in bed longer, so I could wake up slowly with a snuggly beverage. 

She also made me a cup of tea before bed because nothing slows down the day like another snuggly beverage. Everything was the same. The tea, sugar, the drop of milk and a splash of cold water from the tap. In the morning, it woke me up. At night, it put me to sleep. How? I don’t know, but it was soothing, calming, and it made me feel safe.

Oh, the sweet, sweet, dreams!

It’s my turn now, when I go over to visit, Mom says, “Yes please.” I put the water into the kettle and the teabags in the cups. I make the tea, and we drink it slowly. Enjoying the drink and the company.

It is the perfect moment in the perfect cup.

Before the purists get up in arms, I agree with you. Loose leaf tea is far superior in flavour and ritual. You’ll find no argument here. Picking out the right strainer or teapot is a vital step. Scooping out the right amount of leaves for the perfect sip is an art. Letting it steep and watching the water change colour is purely for enjoyment. It takes thought and patience. It’s a process, and we need to slow down to savour it.

Photo by Matt Seymour on Unsplash.com

In a world where everything happens now or never? Slowing down to make a cup of tea is incredibly meditative and calming. Stepping out of the busy chaos to craft the perfect cup is an act of self-care. It’s a gift! It’s something we do for our sanity, as well as our tastes buds.

And that first sip! Wrapping two hands around a small cup. Bringing that cup up to the lips. The steam waft up, eyes closings, breathing in the sweet aroma. A sigh of contentment as the hot liquids flows past the lips, down the throat, and we finally get to taste the glorious product of our labour.

I enjoy the process of making loose leaf tea, but that tea bag is full of sense memories that can’t be duplicated. My Grans voice, coming back to life for a few minutes. Mom waking me up with a snuggly beverage. The moments now, the memories I’m creating, are held in that little bag. That bag is now, and will forever be, enchanted.

There’s a lot of magic in a little porcelain cup, a teabag, and the time it takes to bring it together. It’s a small thing, a simple moment, that makes me smile. It’s a moment of contentment. A moment of happiness? 

It’s not the epic adventure I’d envisioned, but yes. I feel happy when I hold my Gran’s old cup, sip my tea, and close my eyes. There’s a long line of happy memories. These moments, where I coexist with the people I love or have loved, are precious. Remembering that, those moments and people, is something I need to do more often on my journey to find my happy.

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The Internet Is A Weird Place!

Photo by Joshua Sortino on Unsplash.com

How long has this inter-webs thing been around? Not long enough? Too long? Has it overstayed its welcome, or is it just getting warmed up? Let’s start a post with half a dozen questions because everyone loves a pop quiz first thing in the morning. Start your day with a cup of coffee (or tea), a bowl of cereal, and an endless list of questions from a faceless droid.

Wow, in the age of bots, that could be misconstrued. I’m not a real droid or fake one either. I am a humanoid with a sponge-like consistency. I just happen to look like BB8 after it got trapped in an airlock. The vacuum of space sucked, and the artificial gravity pulled. Poor thing will never be the same. Round but elongated ever so slightly. Still, it manages to be more coordination and elegant than I’ll ever be.

Am I jealous of an animatronic toy from a movie I watched once? Can I tell you the difference between Wars and Trek? Am I trying to start an online war between two distinct communities? Again, with the questions!

Shush, don’t judge. This is a judge free zone. Unless, of course, you wear a mask that turns you into a creepy heavy breather. No one likes a heavy breather. Stop calling! I’m not interested. Arg, weirdo.

On the other hand, we are in a pandemic so wear that damn mask if you can. Do as Vader did, and cover up. Oh, uh, and to that heavy breather? Sorry, I misunderstood your intentions. You were simply doing your civic duty, and I called you names. My bad.

But I digress! Yet, only slightly to the left.

I’ve been spending way too much time online, and it’s doing things to my brain. I need to walk away before I meld with my computer. I don’t want to spend the rest of my days as zeros and ones. That’s coding stuff, right? I saw a movie, understood that they were speaking English, but that’s as far as I got. I’m not that technologically savvy. It holds my interest for about as long as it takes a squirrel to scarper. 

I can turn on my computer, open a document, and type a lot of words really quickly. I can open a browser thingy, and Google office supplies for hours. Social media is a thing I use, and I know how to post things to places. Occasionally, when the need arises, I purchase goods and services online, but none of the weird, creepy, stuff.

My technological proficiency is incredibly basic, and I’m okay with that. It’s not something that interests me. Then again, I enjoy looking at the latest toys in tech because I like shiny things. Did you see the new stuff from Apple? Yeah, it’s nifty, sparkly, and they’ll have that plastic screen cover. Who doesn’t love pulling that thing off? The satisfaction is almost unparalleled. 

Oh, a girl can dream but as long as the gear I have can do what I need it to do, then I’m happy. Unless Apple wants to send me free gear? No, I didn’t think so, but you can’t blame me for trying.

That should establish my level of expertise, and where I fall on the scale of Luddite to Bill Gates. While I’m not opposed to technology, it’s not something I spend copious amounts of time trying to understand. I’ll never write a functioning code or create paradigm-shifting gear. I appreciate the work of others and enjoy the benefits of their ingenuity.

Thanks for the toys that keep my fidgeting fingers occupied, but sometimes the things created are…Strange. Weird. Absurd. I can’t think of any more synonyms! But one of the most bizarre (Oh, there’s one!) inventions of all time has to be the internet. I mean, have you seen it? It’s losing its collective bytes. It started out as something noble. Then it devolved into chaos, barbarianism, and maybe even cannibalism. I don’t know! It’s the internet.

It’s a strange, magical, world where possibilities seem endless. We can learn a new language and ride a rover across Mars. There’s so much streaming content that we could spend a hundred years watching one video after another. Yet, we wouldn’t make a dent in our playlist. That thought shouldn’t make me sigh in contentment. 

It should go without say, but I think I should say this just to be safe. Don’t spend the next one hundred years streaming content without a break. Don’t spend the next one hundred minutes doing it. It would have horrific effects on your health and overall well being.

Well, I assume it would, but I’m not a doctor. It seems inadvisable, and that’s my public service announcement for today. You’re welcome?

As wonderful as the internet is, it’s one of the weirdest entities humankind has ever created. It merges technology with humanity. It has spawned a semi-organic life form that grows and evolves. It has a heartbeat. It breathes. It’s lungs expand and deflate. It’s alive!

Dr. Jekyll would be proud.

As a sentient life form that has a voice and opinions. Those opinions come from a steady diet of comments left on any platform that provides the option. Naturally, all of these comments have been thought out, carefully researched, and shared in the spirit of kindness, compassion, and basic human decency. Because that’s how the internet works!

Why are you laughing?

Right, that’s the exact opposite of how the internet works. The online world is full of knee jerk reactions and unbridled rage. Let’s not forget about the righteous indignation. There is so much yelling. The name-calling is getting out of hand. Are we, as a species, experience a devolution of our minds? Are well selling our souls? Are we giving them away for free, or is it a fair trade for a joy ride?

The comments section of any page is a casual stroll towards inevitable insanity. A collective march to madness? Something happens to us when we sit behind a screen, hiding behind an avatar, and start typing. Our inside thoughts, the ones that should stay in the cavity between our ears, spills out of our fingers. There’s no thought or care put into our actions. We lose all impulse control and blurt out some words without giving ourselves time to process them, or the associated emotions. 

Some of the things I’ve said online would never come out of my mouth in the real world. If I looked into your eyes, saw you staring back, I would say something kind. Even if we disagree, I’d express it in a way that wouldn’t cause you pain. At the very least, I would pause and give my words some consideration.

And not because I have a deep-seated fear of conflict.

We could exchange our ideas with respectful discourse and, most likely, agree to disagree. We’ve had different life experiences so, it’s only natural that we’d view life differently. You don’t like pineapple on your pizza, and you like to dip your cheese into peanut butter. So what? We’re different people and we’re going to have very different taste buds.

But online! Oh, sweet Mr. Magoo, what’s going on?

When I share an opinion online, I’m very quick to point out that my thoughts are my own, and yours are valid. It’s not something I feel like I have to do when I’m having a real-world conversation. It’s a concept that goes without saying, but it’s a sentiment that gets lost online. If we don’t invalidate our opinions, we end up invalidating someone’s existence, somehow. It confuses me to no end.

So far, during my time online, I haven’t had anything too trolly come my way. Phew! Oh, that is not a dare or an invitation! I don’t feel like I’m missing out. I’ll happily take snippy comments over a full-blown troll. Please, be kind. I’m fragile, and I break easily. The last thing I want to become is Humpty Dumpty on the firewall. There’s only so much super glue to go around, and all my parts are vital.

I read through comments on other pages, and I shake my head in confusion. Why would you say something like that? Why would you be cruel and disguise it as constructive criticism? Why would you go out of your way to be rude, call someone names, and then defend yourself by proclaiming your right to express your opinion?

Why do we do that? Why do we devolve into kids on a playground? Isn’t that the intellectual equivalent? Is that the power of the internet? It allows us to be the bully on the playground; instead of the kid that got picked on. Vengeance is mine. Take that, Susan! 

We can’t pass up the chance to feel strong and powerful. Especially when we feel impotent in our real lives. Online, no one can see us. No one knows who we really are. We can be anyone we want. The choice is ours, so grow three more inches and scream as loud as we can.

I have a right to my opinion, you blockheaded fool!

Did that make me feel better? Not really. Was it worth it? Nah, I think I need to create six more accounts, and work on my insults. It will amplify my voice, and then I’ll feel vindicated. It’s not working. Why isn’t it working?

I’m not a ray of sunshine every time I open my typing, surfing, places. Sometimes I’m grumpy, angry, and a few drops of righteous indignation sizzle on the back burner. I don’t always read past a headline before catapulting to a conclusion, even though I know I should. I’ve typed words that aren’t kind and, if you look closely, there’s an avatar covering my face.

It’s easier to type these words and talk about difficult topics if you don’t know what I look like. The anonymity is empowering and freeing to someone like me. I’m an introvert with a sensitive disposition. I want to connect with the wide world of amazing people, but I’m afraid of getting hurt. This is why I hide behind a logo on a page, and I’m guessing it’s why others do it too.

I understand the urge and impulse. I know what it’s like to feel weak in real-life, and find some strength online. It’s powerful, alluring, and intoxicating. But with great power comes great responsibility. Oh, that’s such a cliche, but cliches are truths in flowery formations. 

It’s how we use our newfound moxie that matters most, but we have to choose what matters most to us. Ideally, we’d embrace positivity and find ways to help instead of hurt. We’d build people up instead of breaking them down. We’d share an idea with words of kindness instead of bullying or name-calling. Have a conversation without yelling. Validate other voices without invalidating our own.

Or, are these ideas too lofty for the weird-wide-web? 

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But You Almost Died!

Photo by Juan Vargas from Pexels

Oh, the drama of a near-death experience. The intense rush of complicated emotions. The heart-racing fear. The mad dash to a hospital where a dozen people paw at your body as you lay there, helpless. If you’re lucky, at some point, you might hear a choir of angels and have a moment of clarity. The kind of clarity that can only be found at the edge of your own grave.

No! Stop. Halt. Proceed no further! What’s the problem?

That’s too morbid and grim. Who thinks about these things? Who talks about it? We’re genetically hardwired to run from death, and give it an obscene gesture. You can’t put those words on a page and make it public. Come on! What’s wrong with you?

That’s harsh.

Death isn’t something we talk about in polite company. It gives us the shivers, and the mere thought of our life’s cessation is abhorrent. The idea, word, and imagery is taboo. Ew, no, don’t even mention its name. Seriously, just bite your tongue and keep quiet. We don’t need to tempt fate or invite trouble. Never, ever, say that word again.

What word? Oh, you mean death. Is that it? Why shouldn’t we talk about it? Why can’t we explore the idea? Genetic programming aside, is death really something we can’t talk about until we’re forced to face it? Even then, the conversation is full of platitudes. We dance around the subject without landing on the bullseye. It’s like playing Hot Potato and Twister.

I may be able to have a two-sided conversation with myself, but I’m not that flexible. I can toss the overheated vegetable, or I can put my left hand on yellow. Which one do you want? Unless you’re offering to butter that potato, sprinkle on some salt, and serve it up with a cute garnish. Well, you do that, and I’ll put my hand on any colour you like.

It’s uncomfortable for most people, right? Not the outdated game references, even though that was a little questionable. Death is an uncomfortable topic, and yes, I said the word. I’ll say it a few more times before our time is up. A little immersion therapy to start your weekend? Rip off the bandaid of the good old R.I.P.

See what I did there? I felt clever for approximately 2.5 seconds. It’s the small things that make the big things palatable. Even, brace yourself, death. Can something as weighted as our impermanence become something as trivial as a buttery potato? Can we joke about it, laugh at it, and shrug it off like a half-baked quip with a short shelf life?

I’ve had many near death, and actual death, experience so narrowing them down is a bit of a challenge. Did that sound like a very strange brag? Weird flex, sis. Sorry, I didn’t mean for it to sound puffed up, and I’m not looking for sympathy. It’s simply a statement of fact. I had to dig through the archives, and this moment gave me the giggles for, uh, reasons.

Several years ago, I experienced a ruptured aneurysm in my lower gastrointestinal tract. Here comes a little science for some context. An aneurysm occurs when a major blood vessel weakens and bulges. When it bursts, it can cause massive blood loss, and that’s a life-threatening situation.

Insert dramatic pause?

I was at a doctor’s appointment when I felt a sharp pain in my stomach. Waves of dizziness came and went. I was conscious the whole time, but it felt like something was trying to pull me out of my body. It was as if my consciousness was tethered to my bones by a strange gummy, tacky, gelatine. I was pulled out, but this substance kept pulling me back in. 

Worst yoyo trick ever!

My vision would go, and I’d squeeze my eyes shut until the force pulling me out gave up. I snapped back into place, and my vision returned. There was a short interlude, and then the tug of war resumed.

It was exhausting. I was freezing. My body was trembling uncontrollably, and I was drenched in sweat. There was this immense pressure in my stomach, and I felt like I would explode. Which, I suppose, was technically correct. The blood started pouring out of my body but, by then, I was in the emergency room.

How lucky was that? My appointment was at an office right across the street from the hospital. The only way I could’ve received faster treatment was if I’d already been admitted. I really should’ve bought a lottery ticket, but I was a bit busy.

I knew I was in bad shape when the ER doctor exclaimed, after looking at my hemoglobin levels, “How the hell is she still alive?” Normal hemoglobin levels sit at around 120 (in Canadian laboratory measurements), but my level had dropped to 29. That’s a lot of blood loss, so his confusion was understandable.

Again, I was still conscious, awake, and alert. The nurse working the rapid transfuser, a machine that delivers donated blood very quickly, looked down at me, winked, and yelled, “She can hear you too.”

Why did that give me the giggles? Was it the blood loss, or is my sense of humour warped? We may never know, but I laughed waved. Sorry, my bad. I’ll try hard next time? What do you want me to say here? I’m alive, awake, and I think I taste blood in the back of my throat. Is that normal? Yes, it’s from the transfusion. Cool, just checking because blood tastes gross. 

Poor vampires, I don’t know how you do it.

Thankfully, the bleeding stopped on its own, and I didn’t need surgery to repair any damage. I ended up receiving close to thirty units of blood over the next few days but, I stabilized remarkably quickly, given the circumstance. It could’ve gone another way and if I hadn’t received such quick care, it just might’ve.

I was incredibly fortunate.

Which is what my primary doctor pointed out the next day, but she wasn’t satisfied with my response. It wasn’t a big emotional moment. I didn’t wipe sweat from my brow, blow out a long breath, and fall to my knees in relief. It was a shrug, nod, and a thumbs up for saving my life. Seriously, I appreciate your hard work.

I was a little too unvexed by the experience, which is why she said, “I don’t think you understand the gravity of the situation. You almost died.”

My reply was simply, “I don’t think you understand how often I almost die.” It’s almost as often as you might treat yourself to an entire box of cookies. Take a vacation, go to the gym, or out for dinner. I don’t know your lifestyle, but suffice it to say, it happens a lot.

I thought it was funny. Sure, it wasn’t laugh out loud, or soil the undergarments kind of funny. A chuckle would’ve been nice. A smile would’ve been appreciated. I almost died! The least she could’ve done was humour me. 

Alas, she was not amused, and I mean that in the royal sense. A frown, shake of the head, and a weary sigh. Why must I put up with the riffraff? It’s my burden to bear. I shall sit here, in silence, and glare at you until you feel properly chastised.

Fine, I’m exaggerating, but I think, as she sat there scowling at me, she seriously considered calling for a psych consult. Something must’ve gone wrong with the mechanical parts of my psyche. There must be a loose knob or a cog out of alignment. It was the only explanation!

Well, the jokes on her because I would not have been opposed to the consult. It would’ve been nice to have someone to talk to about life and its many absurdities. After all, despite my calm demeanour and copious amounts of practice, a near-death experience can leave an unsettling feeling in the pit of the stomach. Or, and I’m just spitballing here, I need an antacid. 

Then again, I can’t say that I was overly traumatized by one event. I barely felt shaken up. There was a shot of adrenaline that took its sweet time wearing off. My body ached for a couple of weeks. I was leery of toilet visits for awhile. Seeing blood evacuate your posterior is a bit unsettling. Other than that, the pit in my stomach quickly vanished, and I went back to my old, neurotic, self in no time.

I think, after numerous near-death experiences, death has lost its ability to shock me. It doesn’t terrify me as much as it should. I don’t know when that happened. It was long before an aneurysm ruptured, that’s for sure. Either way, these moments have happened so often that they’ve become rather blasé. 

Is that sad? It feels like it should be a sad thing to write. Some moments are supposed to be sacred and precious. The birth of a new life and the end of an old life, for example. These things shouldn’t lose their power to astound or their ability to inspire. They should take our breaths away, but when they become commonplace, then what?

What can inspire us if these things no longer move us to feel anything? 

I sat down to write this after a conversation with a friend. We were laughing at the absurdity of death, as well as life. We wondered why people always get so hung up on their own mortality? Death is a normal part of life, so what’s the big deal?

That conversation got me thinking about laughing in the face of death. Why we take it so seriously? Why is it such a forbidden topic when it’s something we all have to face? Why can’t we laugh at it the way we laugh at life?

I was going to point out the foolishness of that mindset but, as I’m writing this, I’m seeing my own bias peaking through the sentences. My bias, when it comes to death, is a numbness and a complete lack of emotional connection. When I think about my mortality, I feel nothing. No fear, doubt, or dread. My end will come, and I’ve made peace with that a long time ago.

Or, did I just become indifferent?

It’s a disconnect that lets me face my illness, and its consequences, with a joke and a laugh. It takes the edge off. It lets me walk into an operating room or ride in the back of an ambulance with a sense of calm. It takes something that was, or should be, a painful experience and turns it into something as ordinary as brushing my teeth before bed. 

If the internet has taught us anything? Everyone loves a good hack. I suppose this falls into the survival category. When faced with a life-threatening situation, the best thing you can do is stay calm, don’t panic, and give yourself a shot of endorphins by laughing out loud. It gets you through the moment, but don’t let the moment numb you out.

If we can’t be present in the worst moments of our lives, it’s hard to be present in the best. Or, that’s been my experience. I’ve spent so much time staring into my own grave that I just see a pile of dirt. It’s just a hole in the ground, and the sun is just setting. The birds are just singing. A baby is just being born. Life becomes so full of “just,” and when that happens, living becomes boring.

Life shouldn’t be boring! It should be magical and wonderful. We should be able to laugh and cry whenever the mood strikes. There should be moments of awe and inspiration. I want to look at a sunset and let it take my breath away. I want to sip a cup of tea and savour the warmth. I want to laugh at the absurdities of life and death with a good friend because I lived through that moment. I didn’t just surviving it.

I can’t do any of that that if I feel numb, which is what happens when I forget that every moment is sacred and precious.

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There’s A Glass On A Table

Photo by Pixabay from Pexels

There’s an empty glass sitting on a table, and someone walks over with a jug of water. They start to pour the water, and we sit there, transfixed. We watch the clear liquid cascade out of the jug like a waterfall in miniature. Water hits the bottom of the glass. It splashes, almost violently, against the sides, and some of it spills over the lip.

The water level rises. We watch and wait. Licking our dry lips, and holding our breaths. How long has it been since we last had a drink? Hours? Days? It feels like an eternity is passing us by. Come on. Faster.

The jug tilts back, a single drop of water slides down the glass, and they pull it away. But wait, the glass isn’t full yet. There’s a lot of water left in that jug. Why did you stop? Why didn’t you go all the way? Keep going. Fill it up. Come on, what are you waiting for?

Are you waiting for me to ask if the glass is half full or half-empty? Would you be disappointed if I didn’t? Well, I’d hate to disappoint you.

Without hesitation, the cynic in me would say it’s half-empty. The realist in me would ask why it matters. The dreamer would stare at the glass, and imagine a tiny swimming pool for fruit flies. Teeny beach towels draped over the rim. A diving board perched precariously on the rim. If you listen carefully, you can hear squeals of joy as they splash down in the deep end. 

Hey, we all need a vacation from the world. Even those bloody little menaces. The bane of my existence. Shoo, go away. Where did you come from? There’s no fruit! You shouldn’t be here if there’s no fruit. It’s in your name, for goodness sake. Were you incorrectly labelled?

I have another side which, I know, makes my personality a little crowded. You should hear the noise in my head. How many monkeys are jumping on my frontal lobe? I’ve lost count. What happens when they bang their heads on my skull? Do I call a doctor or a vet?

Well, there it is, the other quarter of my personality. I have the attention span of a toddler who’s spotted something shiny and forbidden. They know they shouldn’t go after it, and they’re going to get in trouble. They’ll have to sit in the naughty corner. Oh, the dreaded time out. But how can they resist? It’s right over there, and it sparkles. So shiny. So pretty. Oh, the allure! They have to check it out and, if they’re feeling extra precocious, put it in their mouths for a little nibble.

Yeah, I’m a grown-up toddler.

After all the drama of the pour and the tiresome philosophical questions, I feel a little restless. You’re waiting for an answer. You want to know how full that glass is, and I should probably give you something to chew on. I would, except I’m easily distracted. I focused too long on that glass and an absurd question. My brain feels zingy. I’m just going to wander off for a minute and nibble on something shiny.

Will I come back to the age-old question, or will the glass sit on that table until the water evaporates? Leaving you to wonder what the results of my litmus test would’ve been. Will you be able to handle the suspense? Do you like cliffhangers. Some people love them, and others despise them with a passion. Which one are you?

Hm, those are all excellent questions if I so so myself, and since I’m writing this, I’m going to give myself a compliment. But you want an answer, and all I’ve given you is a description of my quirks. Hold on, I’ll just spit this shiny thing out and… Oh, that’s better. It tasted funny. Kind of metallic, but a tad bit salty. Yuck.

No, come on woman, focus! The people are waiting, and they’re feeling parched.

Then have a sip of water. It’s right over there in that glass on the table. Go on, have a drink. You’ll feel better, and water is good for the health of the body parts. People and animals need hydration. Oh, but animals can’t read, so let’s focus on you. Hydration is an important part of a healthy lifestyle, or so I’m told. 

Repeatedly. Okay, doctors, I get it. Drink more water and less sugary drinks. The sugar tastes better and momentarily makes me happy. But you’re right! Water is essential, and I’ll get right on it.

But, if you’re thirsty, why aren’t you drinking from the perfectly good glass? I know it’s just water, which is boring, but it’ll do the job. Drink up! What? You’re waiting for my answer? Do you really need to know if it’s half this or that? Can’t it just be good enough as is? Do we have to apply special meaning to everything we do?

Huh, looks like my inner realist has come out to play.

Before some smart fart comes at me, there’s no need to explain it to me. I understand the deeper meaning behind this proverbial query. There are two ways to view a situation or approach a problem. We can be optimistic and see that, despite the challenges, we’re halfway to a solution. Yay! Or, hold up there’s another way to look at things. There’s the pessimist who sees empty space that hasn’t, or couldn’t, be filled. Oh, boo!

I’m proposing another option that can be summarized in one word: Yes. 

Every problem, or situation, is different so wouldn’t we approach them differently? One day the glass is half empty because we’re emotionally drained, or the problems we face seem insurmountable. We’re overwhelmed, so when we look at that glass, with our parched lips, we see the work left to be done.

With a sigh of resignation, we go to bed and get a good night’s sleep. When we wake up in the morning, feeling refreshed and rejuvenated, we look at the glass with a smile. All of a sudden the glass appears half full which means we’re halfway to a solution or a resolution. 

Does that mean we’ve failed the litmus test? Or, can one person be both pessimistic and optimistic with a good night’s sleep and adequate hydration?

Then again, some of us are easily distracted by bedazzled squirrels. I’ll forget about the glass until someone poses the question, and then have a moment of confusion. Glass of water? Sure, I’d love one. Wait, what? What glass? What table? Oh, that one over there. Great, I’m so thirsty.

What do you mean I can’t drink it? Oh, it’s a visual aid for philosophical purposes. You know, that’s awfully wasteful, and many communities are experiencing water shortages. Why are you wasting such a valuable resource? Do you feel guilty now? Does that mean can I drink it? 

Does it matter if the glass is half this or that? A half-filled glass still has an empty space that can be filled. What’s already in there? It’s useful, and it serves a purpose, but it can aspire to be more. Let’s go wild, and say it wants to be more than half a glass of water. Maybe it wants to sparkle or be a little sweet? Or, I don’t know, have some oomph.

If this is a personality test then all it shows is that we aren’t fully formed people. Sure, we’ve come this far, but we aren’t too far gone. We’ve all got room to grow, learn, and become sweet sugary beverages. Even those of us with pessimistic tendencies? 

I don’t want to look at the glass and see it half empty. It might be my natural inclination in just about every situation unless I’m feeling silly, but it’s not something I enjoy. It doesn’t give me a buzz of excitement or a shot of delight. There isn’t a sense of superiority or smugness.

Actually, it creates a pit in my stomach, and I feel ill. I want to see what you see, so I squint, bite my lip, and stand on my head. Is that it? Over there? No, I don’t see it.

Hey, let’s follow the fruit flies carrying beach towels! That’s good for a giggle.

I don’t know if a pessimist can become an optimist by standing on their heads, but changing my view might do the trick. Looking at the glass as neither full nor empty. Instead, focusing on the empty space that’s just waiting to be filled. I can fill that space with whatever I choose, which poses an overwhelming dilemma. 

How do I choose from a world of possibilities?

It comes down to what I want, or need, out of my life. Right now, I need more joy. I’ll settle for happiness with the hope that it builds on itself, and blossoms into something more fulfilling. How though? How do I fill that empty space with happiness? It’s a question I’ve been asking myself for a long time, and I’ve decided that a little experimentation is in order.

It won’t be very scientific. I’m not setting up a laboratory in a storage unit. Don’t worry, I won’t invest in beakers or bunsen burners. There won’t be any explosions. Wait! I can’t promise that. I mean, I probably should, but the experiment is still in its early days. Who knows what’ll come up!

Did I just get myself put on a watch list? I’ll do it with the aid of professionals who are legally licensed in the art of making things go boom. Cross my heart and everything. Yep, that should do the trick.

Okay, fine, I can’t promise anything right now because this experiment can go in too many directions. Even though I’ve given this a great deal of thought, I still don’t have a firm plan in mind, but I have a goal. Or a vague outline of a goal scribbled on a dirty napkin.

I want to fill my glass up with things that make me happy in hopes that I live a life filled with joy. So, you know, it’s not an abstract concept or anything. The real problem, or one of many, is that I don’t know what makes me happy. I used to know, but I’m very forgetful or distractible.

So, I’m going to have to try new things, revisit the old, and figure out what makes me happy. What is happy? Looks like I’ll have to answer that one too. I don’t have answers, but I want to find them. I’ve got some ideas, and I think I’ll start small. I have a very delicate startle response so let’s ease into this, okay.

I’m starting a new series called Finding Happy. I am going to discover what happiness is or, at least, what makes me happy. Hopefully? Oh boy, I’m putting myself in an uncomfortable spot. It’s kind of freaking me out, but maybe that’s a good sign? I think I need to be a little uncomfortable if I’m going to fill my glass. It’s not going to fill itself, sitting on that table.

If you’ve got something you think I should try, big or small, let me know in the comments. What fills your glass? What brings happiness or joy into your life? I’m taking suggestions and making a list.

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I Was Today Years Old

Photo by Robert Collins on Unsplash.com

Did you know that there are people in this world that wake up with a smile on their face? Their alarm goes off, they fling off the blanket and look at the sun streaming through their curtains. They sigh, not out of exhaustion or exasperation, but contentment. They feel rested and ready. It’s another day, another chance to be a person, and any day above ground is a good day. 

I just threw up in my mouth. Excuse me, I have to gargle, rinse, and spit. Maybe repeat several times. Ew. Gross.

It’s mad, bonkers, banana pants woo hoo. It sounds like a bald-faced lie or fish tale. Fibber! No, it’s the truth. I saw it on Facebook, or twitter…One of those posting places. At first, when I read the revelation, I thought that it was a hoax. You know how people exaggerate online. Or, outright lie because everyone is trying to get the clicks. As someone who’s trying to get the clicks, I sympathize, but I also scrutinize with a leery eye. Too good to be true? Are you trying to sell me something? 

So, you’re really going to sit there and tell me that there are people in this world who are, and I quote, “Happy.” Explain yourself! This does not compute. How can it be true? It can’t! Can it?

Do you really expect me to believe that people wake up content, and they stay that way for the rest of the day? Not just one, twenty-four hour period, but multiple cycles of the sun, moon, and stars. The earth continues its rotations for weeks, months, maybe even years, and these people remain mentally stable. Moreover, they stay sane.

I’m gobsmacked, and not just because it’s my favourite word. 

Naturally, these magical elves have stress, and sometimes they feel a little blue, but their valleys aren’t bottomless pits. Their ups aren’t steep climbs, and their highs come more frequently than their lows. If you looked at their mental health under a microscope, you’d see fairies dancing through fields of wildflowers. Yes, flowers bring stinging bees, but when they give chase, these rare individuals frolic up gently rolling hills. They escape the stingers, flop down among the bee free flowers, and sigh happily.

So, I was today years old when I learned that not everyone struggles with their mental health. That some people are just naturally happy, and their emotions don’t overwhelm them. It’s a concept that baffles me. I can’t wrap my brain around the idea that you might not struggle to breathe in a crowded room or lay awake at night replaying every second of your day. You lay your head on your pillow, close your eyes, and just fall asleep?

That’s a real thing? I thought that was made up by some marketing wizards in a castle somewhere. So, you’re telling me that you don’t have an emotional response to waking up in the morning? You don’t sit on the edge of your bed and exclaim, “I can’t do life today.” You don’t have to fight the urge to crawl back into bed, cover your head with your pillow, and scream. Showering, putting on clean clothes, and making breakfast isn’t a chore. Seriously?

Pardon the mess, but my head literally and figuratively exploded. Did I just say literally to make a grammar lover’s eye twitch? Maybe.

Okay, yes, I’m exaggerating! Of course, I know that there are those of you who don’t struggle, and you can’t understand those of us that do. That’s a good thing? Yeah, let’s go with that. It’s great. If you understand then, I assume, you’re struggling too, or have done so in the past. It’s not something I wish on anyone.

Though, if I’m being truthful, there’s a small part of me that’s jealous. I’d love to wake up, get out of bed, and not feel this sinking dread. I’d really like to be one of those elves. The graceful, ethereal, kind. Not the Santa’s little helper kind. I’m more like a dwarf from that movie. Clumsy. Offish. Endearing?

Thankfully, that petty side of me is small and fleeting. It’s about the size of a fly, and just as annoying. It buzzes around for a while but disappears when I give it a good swat. It’s a bit of a coward, you know.

Actually, there’s a large part of me that’s quite relieved. You don’t understand because you’ve never been through this, which is brilliant. No one wants to struggle, and those of us who do, don’t want that for others. My mind may be cracked, but I’m not heartless.

Sadly, the lack of understanding enables shame, bullying, and isolation. From the outside world or within our own minds? Yes. Both. All of the above. Let me ask you this, if you struggle with mental illness, is the world harder on us or are we harder on ourselves? Sometimes I think the world, even at its worst, treats me better than I treat myself.

Now I’m wondering if we’re both trying to grab a double edge sword? 

You don’t understand what I’m going through, but I wish you would because then I wouldn’t be alone. Oh no, I don’t want you to keep me company because then you’ll feel what I’m feeling. I do, but I don’t, but I do, but… I’m spinning in circles. I’m getting dizzy. Oh dear, I just rinsed my mouth out, and now I’m going to have to do it again.

Obviously, that post I read was satirical, and I had a bit of a chuckle. Then I realized that a part of my mind had just exploded. It was a small part. I’m sure it’s not important or necessary for daily operations. Maybe I shouldn’t use heavy machinery until I know what was damaged?

I had a silly thought that was endearing in its childlike simplicity. I sat back in my chair, bit my bottom lip, and wondered, “Wait, yeah, not everyone deals with this.” That’s when I saw fireworks behind my eyes and felt a little woozy. 

Oh, you sweet, innocent, fool. What are you thinking? There are a million, billion, gazillion human beings in this world, and only a few of them have extraterrestrial origins. Of course, there are all sorts of people in the world. Some people struggle to cope with life, while others aren’t bothered by anything. Some take the hits and fall to the floor. Others simply deflect with the grace of a dancer on some grand old stage.

Why does this news surprise me so much?

Maybe it’s because I’ve been in it for so long, or I’ve met so many who people who struggle. I’ve spent most of my life trying to find a way out of this maze. It takes up a lot of my brain space. It’s what I think about most. Maybe it’s become an obsession or a passion? That’s a fine line, but that line is fascinating. There’s so much to learn, to share, to explore. 

The deeper I dig, the less alone I feel because so many of us are struggling silently. We’re dealing with depression, anxiety, PTSD, to name a few diagnoses. We’re up to our necks in whatever ails us. It’s our norm. It’s our life. It makes our lives feel very small, insignificant, bothersome, and burdensome. Looking beyond that? Imagining a life where this thing doesn’t exist?

I can’t remember the last time I tried to visualize that kind of life.

When I was a kid, my kidneys started to fail very quickly, and I became incredibly sick. My world shrunk quite rapidly at an age when my world was supposed to expand and grow. I was going through the medical system like most kids go through their education. Get up, eat breakfast, pack your bag, and go to the hospital for some tests. All kids have tests, right? Math, English, CT-scans, and bloodwork. That’s just how life works. It was so normal to me that I thought every kid had doctors’ appointments weekly or had surgeries every few months. 

Our norms dictate our version of reality. It’s all we see. It’s what we know. When another version of reality comes up, it’s hard to fathom. Even when it’s the most obvious thing in the world! If I look around, I see the happy people just living their lives and handling the lows with ease. I see that, but I can’t understand it at all. It doesn’t register. It might as well be a foreign language.

For me, I live in an almost constant state of readiness and fear. I’m just waiting for the next hit to come. There have been so many blows that I flinch at the smallest sign of trouble. I’m ready to run or hide. I’m preparing for the pain. I’m always looking for signs of trouble, and I see them everywhere. I can’t turn it off because if I do, I’ll miss it. It’s coming. I know it is. I can feel it lurking. Is it really there? Does it matter? It’s been there so often in the past that the present is tainted.

So what would be a small fall down a rolling hill for you? I need a parachute, but watch out for that jet stream. I free-fall, and spin wildly. Your hill becomes a bottomless pit for me. Even if there’s a bottom, I still have to climb out and hope I don’t slip. But do I dare to trust hope?

For me, registering a different mindset or way of life is so difficult to understand. Just like mental illness might confuse you if you’ve never experienced it. A health mind? It doesn’t register on my radar because, in the grand design, it’s never going to be a part of my reality. I wish it would. I pray it will. The realist in me? She’s counting the years of struggling and adding them to the years I have left. The math doesn’t add up.

Then again, I’ve always been horrible at math.

You know what really gets me? It’s amazing how two people can walk along the same path, but be on very different journeys. The things we see and how we interpret them. The things we miss because we’re looking the other way. If only we stopped walking and started sharing our journeys. Listening instead of watching. Empathizing without needing to understand.

Would that make a difference?

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A Realist Walks Into A Magical Forest

Photo by Johannes Plenio on Unsplash.com

The wind is howling outside my window. I think the building just shuddered or was that a flinch? The glass is rattling. The trees are bending and twisting. How can something so sturdy bend like that? Do they practice yoga when we’re not looking, or is it a more primordial art? They have to do something or they would break. It has to be yoga, right? It’s the only thing that explains their flexibility.

Jealous?

Yeah, just a bit, because it looks like it feels so good. Imagine being that bendy, stretchy, and limber. I can’t even get my knees to bend at the right time. I stand up, and my legs lock. Without warning, I turn into a bobblehead with flailing arms. I go for a walk, and all of a sudden I’m taking a knee. Down to the ground in a position with religious connotations. 

Now, I’m spiritual, but I’m not that devout. The desire to kneel has never been so overpowering that I stop what I’m doing and assume the position. Moved by the spirit or betrayed by my joints? My knees, it seems, have their own ideas, and they will express them at inconvenient times.

I tried yoga once, well twice, and it didn’t go well. It does something to my equilibrium, and I end up breaking bones. My own bones! I should put that on record just in case someone gets a silly idea. I’ve never, knowingly, broken another person’s, or animals, bones. Only my own, because yoga does silly things to my brain. 

It’s so silly that my doctor won’t let me try it a third time. He’s never told someone that yoga is bad for their health before, but I was his first. Unique until the end. My sigh is weary. My ear roll is a little over the top. If only my knees and brain would work in unison!

If only I could discover the ancient bending art of the trees! They could teach me their ways, and I could learn from the wisened elder — or is that alder? Hardy-har-har. I gave myself a pity laugh. But seriously! Look at them whip around so effortlessly. Back and forth with ease. What’s their secret? I have to know. I want to be as limber as the lumber because that was just fun to write.

Please, don’t bombard me with botanical tidbits or cold scientific facts. While I believe that they have their place in just about every situation – I like my imagination a little better right now. For the moment. Today. Tomorrow might be a different story. What can I say? I’m feeling whimsical, and whimsy makes me a little flakey. 

Instead of logic and facts, I want to imagine a young sapling doing downward dog next to a giant cedar. Clumsily learning each pose with wide-eyed wonder. Watching the grown-ups go from one position to the next, and mimicking everything they do with steely determination. Sure, it doesn’t look right, but they haven’t learned how to control their branches yet. They’re gangly and gawky. They’ve fallen over half a dozen times. It’s kind of cute and the wisened elder, too old to participate, chuckles to itself as it watches over the younglings. 

*Cough* Weirdo.

Naturally, but I have a very active imagination, and sometimes I wonder what these ancient mammoths get up to when we’re asleep in our beds. When our eyes are closed, and the lights are out? When there’s no one around for miles or kilometres? I have my theories. Or, should I call them stories and flights of fancy? Call it what you like, but I don’t want to prove them wrong. I want to image trees doing yoga under a full moon. It’s a silly, fun, way to fill up the hours on a sleepless night.

Fine, if we’re being realistic, then they’re just trees bending in the wind. There’s nothing romantic, mystical, or supernatural going on in the darkened forest. There’s a whole scientific field dedicated to finding and sharing logical answers. All I have to do, if my curiosity would get the better of me, is go online and type in my search. I’m sure there’s a blog post, written by someone wise and intelligent, full of information. I could learn something, and maybe I’d win a round on trivia night.

Who am I kidding? I don’t go to trivia nights. There are too many people, and people make me queasy. I should add that the gastrointestinal issues, triggered by other humans, is a long-standing issue. It predates the virus that has spread across the earth, and turned us all into one giant lab experiment. People make me nervous, and having to participate in a public pop quiz for funsies? I can’t. Nope. I’m going to throw up.

But if I arm myself with the wisdom of the intellectuals then maybe, just maybe, I’d stand a chance. Ah, well, now you see…The thing is…Global pandemic! Yes, that’s the only reason I’m not pursuing academic enlightenment. Yeah, that’s it. No other reason. Please believe me.

Ah, but I do enjoy a well thought out science-based opinion, and I base the majority of my decision-making on facts gathered by the, aforementioned, intellectuals. It’s better than getting my information from the clickbait headlines on the various socials. I definitely ignore the advice of fear-mongering, conspiracy loving, people. Sure, they mean well, but their grasp on reality, or our version of it, is tenuous at best.

Did that sound too judgemental? Clearly, my patience is wearing thin.

We all have that one friend or family member who we love dearly. They have many wonderful qualities. Life without them would be boring, and it just would be the same. We need them in our lives. However, their understanding of scientific nuance is a little challenged, and their desire to share is too strong. 

We smile and thank them for sharing. Will we take the advice? Nah, but at least they care enough to try, and that says something. It just doesn’t say that they have a firm grip on certain realities.

But is a grasp on reality always necessary? Is it okay to let go of the tangible and grab hold of the fantastical? What about whimsy, romanticism, the mystical, or the other dreamlike states?

I’ve always been extremely logical, and hyper-realistic. When I was a kid, in the hospital, they had a Nintendo and tv on a cart. It was pushed from room to room, so anyone stuck in bed could play a game. One day someone stole the whole thing, and my dad asked, “How could someone do that?”

Without missing a beat, I looked up at him and said, “Uh, it’s on a cart with wheels. They just pushed it.” Obviously, that’s not what he meant, but my logical, very young, brain failed to pick up on the subtlety.  

I’m not that naive anymore, and I grasp subtleties significantly better. However, the logical answer is still my go-to response. I bite my tongue and shake my head. I swallow the obvious and try to see past it because, sometimes the obvious, most logical, answer doesn’t fit the moment. Sometimes, it’s not the most helpful thing to bring up. There are times when I have to let reality slide for the sake of compassion, or simple silence.

Still, some people run their plans by me because I’ll see the logistics and the realities of their dream. I can point out potential problem areas, and pitfalls. If something isn’t going to work, then I’m probably going to see that coming because I’m so damn logical and hyper-realistic.

Is that a blessing or a curse? Uh, still too early to tell, but you can call me Captain Buzzkill. I’m reporting for duty. I tried to salute, but I just looked silly.

I’m sure there’s someone else like me out there in the universe somewhere. The odds, being what they are, would suggest that I’m one in a hundred thousand. I just made that number up, but I’m working on the assumption that I’m not the only one. So, if you’re like me, here’s a question for you. Do you get as tired as I do? 

Being so logical all the time is exhausting, and being trapped in reality is a mind buster. It’s not good for my mental health, because reality kind of sucks. I would count the ways, but I’m too tired to make that very long list. Besides, you probably have your own list at this point. After all, we’ve all been sucked up by the giant sewage pump of 2020. Is a list necessary, or are we all just kind of numb?

Can we all agree to let the list go unsaid? Great, I don’t want to type the words virus or pandemic one more time. I just typed them. Damn it! Let’s pretend I didn’t, okay? Cool.

That unsaid, I usually search for order and rational meaning in every aspect of my life. Most of the time, it gives me a lot of comfort, but I can’t live in that state indefinitely. Life, in its infinite bitchiness, becomes too overwhelming, and if I don’t have an escape then — Well, I’ve never fully explored that reality, but the closer I get the more unsettled I become. I fear that, if I overstayed my welcome, I might misplace my mind for good.

How do I find my mind if I can’t remember where I left it? That’s impossible, right?

Which is why I switch off, walk through a forest, and picture the trees doing yoga. Thankfully, I’ve been given a very vivid imagination to offset the realism. The images I conjure are more like movies projected onto my eyelids. I can see the trees doing the cobra pose, or whatever it’s called. I can hear the deep breaths. It’s a fully immersive experience. Is it silly? Yes, but sometimes I need to be silly, goofy, and weird.

I need to laugh, suspend reality, and explain the explainable in a way that doesn’t make sense to anyone else. I need to be a weirdo and go a little loopy. I need the romanticism, mysticism, or the fantasy of a dream because the bubble we’re in is too much to handle. 

Well, my bubble is stretched to capacity, and, at any moment, it just might develop a rupture. It can’t handle much more, so I check out and wonder what trees do when we’re not looking. I wonder if the wind is trying to tell us some cosmic secret. If only we knew how to speak gale force! Oh, the stories the wind could tell us.

Honestly, my stress and anxiety levels have reached their peak. They can’t go much higher. If I don’t escape the realities of my life soon then: Pop. I don’t want my bubble to burst, so I’m letting my imagination run wild. I’m asking silly questions and creating silly scenarios.

I’m not that person, a lot of the time, but sometimes I need to be a dreamer and not a realist. Which is odd? The realist in me often conflicts with the dreamer, but then my two halves walk into a magical forest. They look up at the branches, waving in the wind, and they stop fighting for dominance. 

More than that, they join forces to create something new, peculiar, and wondrously real in an abstract way. Together they install a pressure valve, and my bubble releases the things it can’t hold onto. It makes room for everything it needs, and I can breathe a little easier.

I’ve been feeling overwhelmed for a long time, and I need the power of that magical forest. So, let’s picture trees doing yoga in the middle of the night. There’s no judgement! No one’s laughing. Close your eyes. Do you see it? I wonder what position they favour? I don’t know that much about yoga, but I imagine a headstand would be a challenge for a tree. 

What do you think?

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A Very Different Thanksgiving

Photo by Preslie Hirsch on Unsplash.com

Happy Thanksgiving! A day of feasting, laughing with family, and taking a moment to genuinely give thanks for the good things in life. Also, it’s a day to be super lazy, watch stupid movies, and test the durability of that waistband. Is it as stretchy as they advertised? Is that a challenge? Well, consider the challenge accepted!

In case you live outside of Canada, in the United States specifically, and you’re looking at the calendar with a flash of panic or confusion? Rest easy. A whole month didn’t vanish. You aren’t losing time. More importantly, you haven’t slept through the annual Stuff Your Face Day celebrations. Your turn will come, and when it does you will feast like the people in that show, about a game or something.

I didn’t watch it, sorry.

In Canada, we celebrate it a month early because, and I had to look this up, our harvest season ends earlier than our cousins to the south. We are celebrating the bounty of our harvest. The brilliant efforts of the farmers and labourers who work so hard to keep us plump. Why not give them a day of thanks?

These fine folks, who work their posteriors off, don’t get enough credit or gratitude. I go to the grocery store, pop my produce into my cart, and I don’t think twice about who made it or how they did it. What they sacrificed? The hours of sweat and muscle strain? I can’t even grow tiny tomatoes in a flower box on my deck. These farmers produce enough food to feed an entire country, and send some abroad.

Yay, trade and economic semi-prosperity.

These people are very impressive! Seriously, I don’t know how you do it. I’m a city mouse with a weak stomach. Especially when it comes to certain smells and sticky hands. How do you do it? There must be a special gene that makes you almost superhuman. In my estimation anyway, because I can’t even imagine doing what you do every day, let alone, you know, doing it.

So once a year, as the weather turns cold and the harvest comes to an end, we take a day to savour the bounty of their tough grind. We say thank you and find other reasons to say those words as well. A day of gratitude and leisure. Family, food, and…Why can’t I think of another word that starts with ‘F’?

Who said football? Was it you? Yeah, okay, that would fit, but it’s not a big deal in my small corner of a very large country. We’re more of a hockey people, and the alliteration just doesn’t flow. Not to poo-poo on your favourite sport! It’s just not my thing so I didn’t include it. Sorry?

Why can’t I stop apologizing? Oh dear, my Canadian is showing.

Is Thanksgiving a North American holiday or is it celebrated in other countries, as well? Before I came to Canada, it wasn’t a holiday we observed where we lived. I don’t think we really knew what it was until we immigrated. I’m sure it was a vague concept in a travel brochure, but it wasn’t a part of our culture back in our old home country. Not that I can recall, anyway.

Then we came here and started colouring turkey’s in school. We dressing up as carrots for plays. There was a random Monday off of work or school. We were invited to dinners that were grand events. Tables were decorated with fallen leaves and carved out gourds. A giant turkey sat in the middle of the table, surrounded by side dishes that were topped with marshmallows.

Now, that’s a good invention! Whoever looked at a vegetable and thought: Marshmallows! Genius. I love how your mind works. Brilliant. Delicious.

Before we ate, everyone had to share one thing they were grateful for. Most people panicked and said, family or friends. Of course, they did! It’s the most obvious choice when the pressure is on, and the spotlight it bright.

Why do our brains go blank when we’re put on the spot? On any other day, I’m sure I could think of two or three things I’m thankful for that carries a vague hint of originality. The roof over my head. My cute puppy that really wants to go for a walk right now. The rain pattering on the window behind me. The smell of food cooking in the kitchen. 

And, yes, of course, I’m thankful for my family and friends. I can’t imagine my life without them. I don’t want to imagine that horrible scenario! I’m going to shake my head and get rid of that image. Poof. Gone! Ah, that feels better.

I’m thankful for each of them, I love them very much, but in a world of wonderful things? Surely, I can come up with something more original. Everyone else has all ready taken it. It’s my turn. People are staring. They’re waiting for me to say something. I can’t think. My mouth is dry. My throat is closing. Am I allergic to gratitude?

Family! There, I said it. I said something. It wasn’t original. At least five people said the same thing. Am I a copycat? Stealing their gratitude and claiming it as my own. A gratitude plagiarist? As a writer, that’s a horrible, no good, very bad word. A word that should never be uttered in civilized company. It’s a word that should never be put into practice, but here I am, plagiarizing gratitude.

Oh, for shame!

Growing up, for the most part, Thanksgiving wasn’t a holiday that we celebrated as a family. Not in the way other families did, anyway. We’d have a lazy day and a nice meal, but it wasn’t an event. There wasn’t the three-day prep, or the mad dash to the grocery to find the right kind of cranberries. It wasn’t 90% stress, 10% panic, before finally settling down to enjoy a meal.

In our home, it was small, simple, and it looked a lot like every other dinner we had as a family. We ate, we talked, and the day, as a whole, was a fun little family day. We’d go to a park or explore some corner of the city we’d never gone to before. There was no work, phone calls, or distractions. It was just the four of us, being a family.

It’s wasn’t the traditional picture of this holiday. At least, it wasn’t the image I saw on tv or on greeting cards. Did I miss out on the true meaning of the holiday? Nah, it wasn’t the stereotypical celebration, but it was special because of its simplicity.

It wasn’t about the theatre or production. There was no one to impress. It wasn’t about capturing that perfect picture. Not that there’s anything wrong with that! Every family has their own tradition that makes the holidays special.

It’s just, for me, Thanksgiving wasn’t a part of my life during my young, formative, years so it didn’t, still doesn’t, hold a lot of sentimental value. Most years it sneaks up on me because I forget about it. I forget that it’s a holiday. There’s a last-minute scramble to rearrange schedules so we can all get together and have a delicious meal. Some years we can make it work, but sometimes we can’t, and that’s okay. It’s not a stressful day, because the value isn’t in the holiday, but in the time together as a family. 

But this year, even though I still forgot it was coming, Thanksgiving feels a little different. Our family bubble is divided into two spheres, and we’re all taking the COVID precautions very seriously. Some of us have medical issues that need to be protected. Some of my family works in the medical field, in hospitals, and they’re directly exposed to the virus every day. For their sake, and ours, we cannot risk breaching the bubble. 

That means we’re a family divided by a global pandemic. Not in an emotional, argumentative, sort of way. We’re all in agreement. These protocols have been put in for a good reason. Science says this is the best way to stay safe and, hopefully, healthy. At the very least, it gives our family, and our community the best chance of getting out of this situation with the least number of casualties.

Which sounds so grim and callous. Way to bring down the room! All of those kids, colouring turkeys, just dropped their crayons. The decorations just sagged under the gloom. The turkey got off its serving tray gobbled out in disgust. Geez, who discusses causalities during a holiday?

Happy times! It’s supposed to be filled with happy times. That’s how holidays work, Scrooge.

First of all, that’s the wrong holiday. Second, my bad. I’m just saying that, despite these necessary precautions, not being with half of my family during the holidays kind of sucks. Even a holiday I don’t feel particularly connected too? Even a holiday I forget about? Yes, even then, because I’m not able to see my family. I can’t give them a hug; even though I’m not a hugger. We can’t sit around the table, break bread, laugh, raise a glass, and steal each other’s gratitude. 

We can’t, and we wanna, and it just sucks.

Yeah, that sounds petulant and childish. Wanting something I can’t have simply because I can’t have it? Stamping my feet, and pouting? I know, it’s not helpful, but it’s an emotional response to a very emotional year.

And it just sucks! Now, I’m just repeating myself.

This year will be different, for those of us taking the pandemic seriously, and it will be hard. We’ll have to find new ways to be together. When it’s our turn to express our gratitude, I’m sure a lot of us will say how thankful we are for the technology in our hands. We’ll get creative. We’ll connect. No, it won’t be the same, but it can still be special in a new, unique, sort of way.

I’m going over to my parents, today. We’re in the same bubble so at least we can be together. We’ll eat, we’ll talk, and at some point, technology will connect us to our other half. We’ll give thanks, and then we’ll enjoy a simple day, because, well, it’s our tradition. Maybe we’ll even spare a prayer? God, end this damn pandemic soon, so we can be with our loved ones.

If you’re in Canada, I wish you the happiest Thanksgiving! I hope you get to enjoy good food, brought to us by good people, and time with the people you love.

To those of you, all over the globe, happy Monday! Stay safe. Stay well. Be good to yourself and each other.

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Facing The End Of The World With Cynicism

Photo By Joel Filipe on unsplash.com

I read a quote that said something like, and I’m paraphrasing, a skeptic would ask God for their identification. I’m sure this person was trying to make a very insightful point, or simply aiming for pithy or piety. There’s a place for that, I guess. Who am I to judge? Nobody. I’m nobody at all.

If, however, some random guy walks up to me and introduces himself as God then I’m going to have some questions. Scratch that! I’m going to smile, slowly back away, and call mental health services. This situation requires special, and compassionate, training. I hope he gets the respectful care he deserves, and I pray that he lives a happy, fulfilling, life.

Does that make me a skeptic? I don’t think so. Possibly. I don’t know.

When I read the quote, my first thought was, “No shit.” Have you ever walked down a sidewalk in any major city? People from all walks of life are vying for valuable concrete real estate. It’s a crush of humanity. Most people are trying to get to their destinations without interruption or delay. Others, however, show up with a purpose and a message. 

If you stroll on down that busy sidewalk you’re going to meet half a dozen deities, at least. It’s amazing! What are the odds that so many gods, from so many faiths, would all gather in a five-block radius? I’m not much of a gambler, but the numbers have to be astronomical. Incalculable? Do deities have conventions?

Obviously, I’m not a religious figure so I wouldn’t know the answer to that question. I’m not on a mailing list or anything. I would only be speculating. A guess, that’s all this is. Pressed to make an assumption? I doubt there’s a convention, and even if there was that begets another question. How would they occur, simultaneously, in every major city, town, or village?

Well, they are gods so I guess that alters the logistical landscape just a bit. 

If God walked up to me, on his way to the convention, would I ask some ID? Of course, I would ask for some credentials. I’d request proof of their divinity. I’d want something more to go on then a verbal proclamation. I could stand on that street corner and claim to be Her Majesty the Queen of England. You could say you’re the president of an obscure nation. Does it make it true? No! 

I would ask for some sort of proof, and that doesn’t make me a skeptic. It makes me a level headed fool who won’t be taken in by random pronouncements of prophecy. The end is nigh! Really? Again or still? I’m confused. It seems to me that end is always just around the corner. One hundred years later. One thousand years after that. There’s always someone who’s looking to the sky and hoping it falls.

Thanks, Chicken Little, look what you started.

Even if the end is upon us, there’s one question that I’d like to ask, if you’re not too busy. If you knew that the world ends tomorrow, next week, or in six months — What are you going to do about it? The sidewalk prophets always say repent or despair. It’s a little aggressive, don’t you think?

I’ve lived a half-decent life. I don’t need to repent that much. I don’t think. When we were kids, I got my brother into a lot of trouble, and he took the blame for a significant proportion of my shenanigans. That’s not cool, but I don’t think it’s that bad. We were kids. Oh, I stole a chocolate bar when I was seven, but I felt so guilty I returned it five minutes later.

Oh, wow, repenting feels good. Getting that off my chest did me a world of good. Whew, I feel so liberated. So, am I good now? I repented so that’s it, right? No hell and damnation. The slate is clean. I’d go for round two, but I haven’t done anything, to my knowledge, that would lead me to despair for all eternity, or perish in fire and water.

I’m a good person. Well, I think I am, but I could be wrong. I’m not perfect. I try to live a decent life. I’m kind, for the most part. I care about others, usually. I’m not a saint, but I think I’m doing okay. Nothing, hell worthy in my catalogue of earthly experiences. I don’t think there is, anyway. Can I check the database to make sure? It’ll just take me five minutes.

You know what? Never mind. I’m as good as any half-decent person can be, in the grand scheme of decency. Hopefully. Fingers crossed.

So, assuming we’ve done nothing worthy of hell and damnation; what are we going to do about the end of the world? Stop it. Pray it away. Party like there’s no tomorrow. Or, live our lives and hope we lived it well?

You know, that whole thing started out as a mildly facetious rant, but now I’m actually asking for your thoughts. If you knew that everything was about to end, what does it change for you? Do you change? Does your life change drastically? I’m asking these questions with all sincerity because I’m genuinely curious. Or, is this too macabre given the state of our world right now?

I’ve seen a lot of end of days prophecies popping up on my friends’ pages. Biblical quotes spliced with images of current events. You don’t need to be particularly religious or have a background in theology to connect the dots. Basic deductive reasoning skills will serve you well enough. It all amounts to a collective cry of, “The end is nigh!”

Again. This isn’t the first time in human history that these calamities have arisen. The black death. Small pox. Racial riots in the 60’s. History repeats itself, and each time it does we think the world is ending. And maybe it is! Maybe this is a slow burn. Maybe speculating isn’t all that helpful?

I grew up in the church, the Christian faith to be more precise, so the imagery and the doctrine is etched into my cerebral cavern. Then again, there’s a lot of water damage and the images are fading so forgive me lack of specifics. Or, I’ve seen it so much that I’ve become somewhat numb, and a little cynical, to the message. I’m looking right at it, but I don’t know if I’m really seeing it anymore.

When I was a kid, though, that stuff scared the stuffing out of me. It gave me nightmares. Death, destruction, beasts consuming the earth. Copious amounts of suffering and screaming. It’s been a while since I read any of it so my imagery might a bit off, but I remember how terrified I was when I heard the stories.

I think it was the first time I asked why a God of love would let people get hurt like that. An age-old question. A question many scholars have spent centuries theorizing and debating. Is there a good answer? Maybe the answer that gives you a sense of peace and comfort is the only answer that matters. Maybe? What do I know? I’m still asking the question, and looking for an answer that makes sense to me.

As for the ghastly apocalyptic imagery, I was taught something quite simple and comforting: Live a good life, love God, treat people with kindness, empathy, and compassion. Do that, and you’ve got nothing to fear when it comes to judgement day. Maybe it’s too simple, and now that I’m an adult I should embrace a more complex idea.

Then again, we have this bizarre need to overcomplicate things that should be simple. It’s as if the complexities give it more credence and the simplicities cheapen it somehow. Why do we complicate things? Why can’t a childlike lesson apply to an adult mindset? Does everything have to have complexities to be valid, or could we find validity in simplicity?

That guy, waving his sign on the street corner, screaming the end is nigh. The people posting apocalyptic scripture juxtaposed with news footage. Does knowing change how you live your life? Will it change how someone else, who doesn’t believe, live theirs? Is the simple answer, not as comfort?

Am I asking too many questions again?

If I said I was a skeptic, a cynic, a photo or it didn’t happen kinda person — would you be surprised? If there’s a reason to doubt, to raise an eyebrow, or simply go hm? Then you can bet your weary sigh that I’m the person, in the back of the class, asking too many questions. Or, more passive-aggressively, I’m the one biting my lip, cocking one eyebrow and shaking my head so slowly it’s almost imperceptible.  

I feel like I should apologize, but I’m not all that sorry. My intentions aren’t to annoy, but to understand. A seeker of truth and wisdom with a nose for stone-cold baloney. Which sounds highfalutin and a tad bit egotistical. Seeker of what now? Geez, does anyone know a good proctologist? I need to remove my head from my back passage.

All I want to do is find a modicum of understanding, but when I’m met with a stonewall, I press my back against it and push. There have been plenty of times when I’ve asked a question and been told, “You have to have faith.” Why? How? In what exactly? You’re telling me to believe in an abstract concept without giving me actionable steps.

What do I do with that? How do I move forward? How can my faith grow when you haven’t told me how to have faith? Scary stories with monsters. Prophets on soapboxes. The end is nigh. Great, I’m sure they have their place, but how do they help me have faith?

I suppose, it depends on your definition of faith. Is it an inert gas that lives inside of someone and together they coexist as one? Is it alive and energetic? Engaged in a person’s life and the world around them. An active participant or a jovial spectator? I suppose it depends on the person, what works for you, and I certainly have no judgement either way

I need something that I can engage with, ask questions, and challenge. I need actionable steps or I start to feel stuck. For me, and this is just me, I need a teammate who will stand next to me when the sky falls or the robots take over the planet. This is why, when faced with a cookie-cutter answer or statement, I respond with cynicism and a hundred questions.

I’m not trying to annoy you or challenge your beliefs. I’m challenging my own because, in a world of information overload, it’s easy for beliefs to become corrupted or lost. If I sit idly by, blindly following faith down a dark alley, I know I’ll stumble and fall. The things I believe, the things I hold to be true, will break and with it, my heart will shatter.

Given how many prophets, deities, and spiritual gurus there are in a five-block radius. Given how faith is bastardized and weaponized in our society. It’s so easy to get turned around and inside out. If I don’t actively seek answers, ask myself hard questions, then I’m scared I’ll fall prey to those who would lead me astray.

For whatever it’s worth, if it even matters, I am a person of spiritual faith. I believe in God and love and compassion. I’m also a cynic who questions everything I believe, and everything my faith asks me to blindly follow. Cynicism won’t let me doing anything blindly.

Faith and cynicism. Strange bedfellows? Mm, probably. Then again, I think we’ve established that strange is my standard modus operandi.

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And Pivot!

Photo by Utopia By Cho on Unsplash.com

So, this is different. Mondays have a certain structure to them, and I’m acting like it’s any given Tuesday. What’s wrong with me? Have I no sense of decorum? Do I have little regard for schedules? Am I oblivious to the comfort found in routine?

I love a schedule, and my daily routine is so rigid, it’s been called obsessive. Too obsessive? Hm. I think, medically speaking, I should get a stick removed from a sensitive place. Oh, I love routine! Don’t mess with my routine. I might panic if things change too drastically, and that’s not hyperbole. 

So, what’s my problem today?

Clearly, I’m feeling reckless, and I’m demonstrating a shameful disregard for the norms that have been well established? Clearly. This hallowed day. A Monday of all days. A day that’s been set aside for motivation because just like any reasonable individual, I enjoy a half-baked alliteration.

Is it a perfect example? Not even close. I wouldn’t even call it a clever use of this sacred art. Someone saw a moment, and they seized it. They joined two words together and ta dee da. Thanks to a highly crafty marketing team, a meeting, and a flip of a coin, we now have a thing to look forward too.

I should see someone about my cynicism.

It’s perfect until someone decides to jump ship. Abandons this organically crafted piece of work. Breaks with tradition. What is wrong with Monday Motivations?

Nothing. It’s lovely. It’s inspiring. It’s…Motivating? Sorry, my thesaurus has a bug, glitch, hiccup. I’m a fan of the practice which is why I’ve been employing it for the last few months. I really need more motivation in my life. I need to challenge myself to look at my life differently. 

I needed it, but now?

On Monday, I dig through the vault of intellectual thoughts and find a quote that tickles the small thinking part of my brain. I put that to paper and follow it down a rabbit hole until a mad hatted rabbit gives me a cuppa tea. I take a sip, sigh contentedly, and plop myself down in a comfy chair. The much larger emotional part of my brain takes over, and I zone out.

But not today?

Obviously, I’ve spotted a rabbit with a large hat and a cup of tea. My thinking brain is following it down a hole. It’s a new hole. The edges are rough, sharp rocks are jabbing my thighs, so it’s a hole less travelled. I’m following it down until my thinking brain reaches peak exhaustion, and my emotional brain takes over.

The key to a Motivational Monday lays in the motivational part of that equation, and that’s my problem. I’m not feeling particularly motivated by the intellectuals. Their inspiring voices, with centuries of wisdom, have become a little grating. My nerves are already frayed. My sanity is tenuous at best. Pushing on through, wrangle the beast if you will, feels a little too aggressive, and I just don’t wanna.

Oh dear, my petulant emotional brain is voicing its opinion. Shush. Not now. No, you’ll have your turn later. Just be quiet. Does anyone else have to scold their brain like it’s a misbehaving child? I’m still trying to find the most efficient way to put myself in a time out while still accomplishing something. Turns out I’m not very good at multitasking.

In the spirit of honesty, and sharing is caring, I will say that I’m just not feeling it. IT. What is IT? I’m not sure, exactly, but when I feel IT there’s magic and energy. I feel a giddiness that makes my eyes feel shiny and a tiny bubble of laughter grows in my throat. I swallow, almost choke on my own saliva, but the bubble won’t go away. Not that I want it to go. I enjoy the sensation very much. Not the choking. The giggle-filled bubble. It tickles. I like being tickled.

Weirdo? To each their own. Leave me be, and yes, I’m weird. It’s a well-established truth in my tiny sphere of societal habitation.

Every word I type brings me joy. Every letter pulls me out of my body and onto the page. Finding a new word, or a new way to express a thought is like finding a leprechaun whose best friend is a unicorn. That unicorn offers me a ride over a rainbow made from candy. Do you know what I find on the other side of that rainbow? Leprechaun. Rainbow. The signs are all there! Do I need to spell it out? Fine!

Cereal. Sweet, childhood, cereal with a glass of ice-cold milk. Is there anything better than a happy memory coming to life thanks to an Irish stereotype, a stylish horse, and a pretty painted road? No, it’s a perfect moment, and that’s how I feel when I sit down to write, and the words flow out of my fingertips.

But lately, it feels like my fingers are plugged up with gunk. I’ve tried a plunger. The drain cleaner didn’t work. The pipes that carry the vocabulary juices have been clogged. Sure, there’s a small opening that’s big enough for a trickle. It will get the job done, but it’s slow, arduous, and not quite as enjoyable.

I don’t hate it! This isn’t anger or resentment. Frustration? Hm, yes, I think that might be a good word for what I’m feeling but it’s not all-encompassing. It’s not the subject matter or the intellectuals whose wisdom no longer tickles my fancy. They’re as wise as ever, and that wisdom needs to be shared, challenged, or explored in greater depths. 

Just, maybe, not by me right now? 

I’m still learning, and in the grand haven of the blogosphere, I’m a toddler taking very tentative steps. My eyes are wide, and I’m a little overwhelmed. There are so many questions, too many, and I don’t know if my thinking brain is big enough to handle the overload.

So out of my fingers, these questions flow. They land on this page in hopes, possibly in vain, that an answer will materialize out of nowhere. Who am I? What do I want to say? How do I want to say it? Am I serious? Am I funny? Do I want to be one or the other? Both? A combination of two opposing forces. Is that even possible?

Last night I met a dog that’s a cross between a Chihuahua and Bernese Mountain dog. How? Physiologically. Mechanically. Practically. How? And that’s how I feel right now. I’m the chihuahua, and there’s a big mountain dog who wants to be a daddy. Ew, no, sorry that image is disturbing. I would delete it, but it very accurately captures my state of mind.

If it helps, the dog was adorable and just the sweetest. I got a lot of cuddles, puppy kisses, and tail wags. It’s as close to heaven as I can get these days.

That dog was probably made in a lab by an eccentric scientist with untameable white hair and a curly white mustache. I assume they wear floral shirts and a white lab coat stained with mustard. A bit out there, might not make everyone feel comfortable, but they’re lovable in a goofy sort of way.

A bit out there, but loveable in a goofy sort of way? Huh, that’s me! Expect, my hair isn’t white, I don’t have a mustache, and I’m not a scientist. I’m not opposed to floral shirts. I think they’re stylish, and they make me smile. One day, I hope I get to own one that I bought whilst exploring the majestic Hawaiian Islands.

But, the future can wait.

I’m learning and growing. I’m finding my voice and my style. There are so many choices and so many toys to play with! How do I choose one? It seems rude to ignore all the others. Play favourites? Oh, perish the thought, but I can’t, in all practicality, squirrel away these delights and expect them to sprout fruit or fruit flavoured candy. 

Perhaps my mom was right when she told me to play with one thing and put it away before playing with something else. I played with Motivational Mondays, and it was fun. We laughed. We cried. We asked a lot of questions and put on our thinking faces. Now, it’s time to put it away for a while and try something new.

I don’t know what that is yet, and it won’t have a cute alliteration. I’m not that clever. Well, I have bursts and spurts of witty whimsy. I should give myself more credit. I shouldn’t be so hard on myself. I’ve been known, on occasion, to alliterate my posterior off, and I’ve been damn proud of myself for doing it.

At least, I giggled, and what more can I ask out of life? All I want is a simple giggle. Multiple giggles. A lifetime of giggles. Call me greedy, but I want to giggle my life away.

Which is why I’m pivoting! I feel a sense of accomplishment, and I do feel proud of my Monday musings. It’s just not making me laugh, and it’s starting to feel like a bit of a chore. That’s something writing has never felt like before. It’s something that brings me joy, relief, and escapism.

The best part of the creative process is trying new styles, new voices, and following a brand new rabbit down a slightly different hole. It won’t be completely different. I’m still me, and my thoughts are still my own. As is my opinion, by the way. It’s all me, for better or worse, and these are my musings on life.

If you, like me, love a half-baked alliteration, then maybe that’s what we’ll call this little ditty. Monday Musings with Me. Because, you know, the words start with the same letter. Except for one but prepositions aren’t real words. 

Oh, now I’ve gone and done it. Is this Controversy with Keri? No? Too much? Not enough? 

Well, I didn’t say it would be any good. I’m just saying that I need a change. Temporary, perhaps, but I need to try something different. I know it’s scary. I’m not a fan of change or the practice of implementing it. Change. Yuck. It tastes salty. Spit it out. Ptui. No, thank you.

Which is why I’m calling it a pivot and not that other word. If I don’t use the ‘C’ word then no one will freak out. Assuming anyone cares enough to freak out. Maybe I’m just trying to prevent my own freakout. Yeah, that’s more like it.

I’m continuing my adventure into the unknown, and not knowing is kind of— Well, you know, it’s freaking me out. I don’t want to freak out. Life is stressful enough. My anxiety level has been sitting at a solid seven out of ten for weeks. I don’t need to add to it by using a word that makes me want to vomit.

But, for my sanity, I have to make this move. I need to…Change…Yuck…It up so that I can write a truthful, full-hearted post. I deserve the fun, the giggle bubble, the unclogged finger tubes. You deserve an authentic, truthful, read because you could read anyone else. Instead, for whatever reason, you’ve gifted me your time, and I’m immensely grateful for that. Seriously, I recently hit one hundred subscribers, and I don’t know a hundred people. How is this possible? How can I tell you how much this means to me? 

I guess the best way to show my gratitude is to be as real and as honest as I can. Create content that brings joy, humour, and shares an experience you may, or may not, relate too. Maybe, if you see me struggling, you won’t feel so alone, and that’s why I started doing this.

Connection. Community. A small voice whispering, “You aren’t alone.” There are a lot of us out here. Struggling in the shadows. We feel alone, but we aren’t, and that’s all I want to share with you. In every post, every thought, ever wise crack — We aren’t alone.

So, my friend, let’s take a deep breath and say this together in our most dramatic voices, “PIVOT!”

If you catch that pop culture reference, then we can be friends. See what I did there? Yeah, okay, I’ll see myself out.

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The Eviction Of My Own Mind

Photo by JR Korpa on Unsplash.com

Three weeks. I was locked up, alone with my thoughts, for three whole weeks. Thanks a lot, COVID! Being sick sucked. Punch the ‘s’ and draw out the ‘ucked.’ It’s not fun. It’s not a vacation. Sure, I watched copious amounts of content on numerous streaming services. I didn’t shower for four days straight. My pyjamas became sentient and left me to study acrobatics with Cirque Du Soleil.

Am I jealous? Sure, who wouldn’t want to be incredibly flexible and fly through the air like a graceful seagull. I’m a clumsy, crippled, penguin so I doubt I’ll be invited to join those elite athletes and artists. Maybe my pj’s will remember the bond we once shared and send me a couple of tickets.

Oh, a girl can dream, but she can’t go on a vacation when she has a highly communicable disease.

Being sick was bothersome. Should I use a more dramatic descriptor? Probably. It would make a better story and add a colourful pizazz to the proceedings. Hold onto your very convincing hairpiece because I’m about to say something that will sound a bit histrionic. If it helps, you can picture me swooning and falling to the floor like a graceful penguin in a hoop skirt. 

Hell, even if that image doesn’t help soften the tragicomical edges? You should give it a go. Just for the giggles. A swooning, eighteenth century, penguin. I mean, come on, that’s what dreams are made of! I’m the only one who has dreams like that? Yeah, look at me, making things awkward.

Forgive the melodrama and the woeful self-indulgence. Being sick is merely bothersome because I’m used to it. I get sick a lot. I have a chronic illness, kidney disease, which means I’m always, technically, sick. Even if appearances easily deceive us both, I’m not well. I might not feel sick, look sick, or sound sick but at my core, I’m a penguin with a case of the vapours.

I don’t know what the vapours are. I saw it in a movie. I should probably look it up before posting this. Nah, let it ride and see what happens.

Now that I’m saying things out loud, on this page, a very serious question has popped up out of nowhere. How impulsive? That doesn’t sound like me. Asking random questions at inappropriate times? Yeah, that’s more like it.

Have I really gotten used to being ill or is this some sort of syndrome? Stockholm, perhaps? Feeling sympathy for one’s captor and, perhaps, even an affinity for them. Hm, in my case the captor is my own body and I do have a peculiar affinity for that, but does it count? Am I simply making friends with my demons in a vain hope of reaching an armistice?

If my body promises to stop breaking down so often then I agree to, uh, shower more often? Work with me here! There’s gotta be something you want. 

Wouldn’t it be amazing if me, myself, and my internal organs could find a way to work together to further our common goals? Yes, in theory, that would be the most prudent approach. In practice? My body is a little bitch who’s hell-bent on our mutual destruction. How do I work with that? By resigning to fate and watching copious amounts of content until the hissy fit is over. 

The whole process is bothersome at best. At its worst? It sucks royally, but at least I have a good reason to shrug off my responsibilities and give life the sophomoric middle finger. Yes, it’s childish. Sure, it’s beneath me. But screw it, when I’m sick, I’m allowed to be petty and juvenile.

I’m so fun to be around when I’m under the weather.

There’s always a bright side! Well, that’s what they tell me and they’re smarter people than I am. Fine, I’ll take their word for it and say that there’s always something good going on out there. Somewhere. It’s a big world and it’s gotta be five o’clock by now. What am I saying? I don’t drink for reasons that escape me at the moment.

There’s always something good? Sure, it’s a needle in a haystack, but it’s there. Bright and shiny. Sparkly too. Oo, pretty. Damn, that haystack bites. Splinters? How did I get a splinter in a haystack? That can’t be how science works. It’s turning gangrenes. It’s spreading. What do I do?

Go out and looking for the bright side, they said. It will be fun, they said. It’ll improve my mental health, they said. They said nothing about splinters and gangrene.

Oh, but if that was the end of the story then this would be an awfully short post. There’s nothing wrong with short. I’m 4’10 if I stand with good posture. Short is awesome. It’s brilliant! Except, everything on the top shelf no longer exists and I write my grocery list to focus solely on the bottom two shelves. So, you know, it’s practical.

As much as I try to look on the bright side, I can’t ignore the simple fact that sunny skies cloud over. Shiny objects are often found in dark and dirty places. Those places dull the shine and throw infectious splinters like blow darts. 

Does that make me a pessimist? I prefer realist, but is that splitting hairs? Then again, looking up at the sun without protective eyewear is dangerous and it can cause permanent retinal damage. Oh, and if you’re as clumsy as I am? It’s just not safe to look at the shiny things without looking out for potholes.

Did I just muddle my metaphors? Oh! Let’s muddle them further.

There’s one thing that pulls the aviators over my eyes and muddies my diamonds. It’s not being sick or how long it takes to get better. It’s not the muscle aches or raging fever. It’s not the inability to breathe or the need to sleep for eighteen hours. Which, to be honest, was a nice change of pace for this insomniac. 

No, what really put a damper on my sick bed reverie was the company I was forced to keep.

I’ve never had the delightful pleasure of a roommate but, from what I’ve heard, it can be a trying experience. Challenging one’s stability, perseverance, and the durability of the tongue. How hard and how often can a tongue be bitten before permanent damage is done? Only science can tell.

I’ve watched my friends compromise for the sake of peace and put up with idiocracies akin to apes in a docuseries. They had to find unique ways to have some alone time. Sought out a creative reprieve so that they could breathe without running into another living soul for five minutes.

Can I have five minutes? Is that too much to ask for? Five minutes of silence. Five minutes of peace. Five minutes to think about puppies, kittens, and little puggles. What’s a puggle? Well, it’s a baby platypus. I’m not sure if that’s the scientific term, probably not, but it’s fun to say. It puts a smile on my face. Oh, look at the puggle pictures. 

And that’s all I want! Five minutes to think about cute little puggles and google puggle pictures. Five minutes alone. Quiet. Peace. None of this incessant nattering. Just shut up!

I live alone so, uh, I’m making things awkward again. 

While I don’t have a roommate that takes human form; I do have one living inside my head. Where ever I go, there I am. It doesn’t matter how creative I get. I can’t find a moment’s reprieve. All I want is a single, solitary, moment of nothingness but my mind won’t shut up.

It latches on to the smallest thing and cranks it up until a puggle becomes a giant porcupine from outer space. It shoots lasers out of its quills. Its space ship has probes, and they aren’t shy about human experimentation. Do you think the gynecologist is bad? Do you hate getting your prostate checked? A giant porcupine from outer space with probes is so much worse.

What’s worse than that? Being alone for three arduous weeks with my dog, incontinent geriatric cat, and a mind that won’t shut up. It’s barely tolerable on days when I have things to do, people to see, and plenty of distractions. At least then, for a few hours, my mind is drowned out and I get a break from myself. When I can’t do that? When I have to be a responsible human being and not spread a virus to anyone in my community? My mind tests my sanity.

How do I evict myself? Thirty days’ notice? Get some boxes and hope my mind takes the hint? What if I get a really good pair of steel toe boots and lace them up real tight? Maybe stretch, do some yoga, limber up a little? 

I’m asking with moderate sarcasm and a small, fading, hope that it’s actually possible to evict my own mind. If I can get rid of it then there’s room for a new one to move in. Maybe I’ll have better luck with a fresh start? Am I that lucky? Does it even matter? I think the answer to every question I’ve asked would be a resounding: You need help.

Agreed, but help is expensive and I’m on a budget. I was hoping for a quick fix. Something I could put together with some construction paper and dollar store glue. If I’m feeling frisky, I’ll get the markers that smell like fruit. Allegedly. I’ve never actually smelt an orange like that and oranges don’t make my head feel buzzy. Coincidence?

If only a dollar store craft project would get the job done! Oh, but even the dollar store has its limits. Damn you capitalism! No? Too silly? I was hoping to pawn it off onto some kind of overlord, but I’ll just have to take personal responsibility. There’s a string of expletives sitting on my tongue.

Three weeks with my overthinking, ruminating, mind was a lot of time alone with myself. I’m free now. I’m out, in the world. I’m still trying to avoid people because there are too many unknowns with this virus. Can I get it again? No idea and I don’t want to risk it. I cannot spend another three weeks alone with such a horrible roommate.

Am I the only one who overthinks, ruminates, and chews things over so much that a hole appears in the stomach? I wonder why I get so many ulcers? Oh, life and its many mysteries. But I’m not the only one, right? Right? Please say I’m right. I’m begging. It’s not a good look. I’ll stop. Unless it’s working and you’re about to raise a timid hand and say, “Me too.”

I wish I had some profound words for you, but all I can do is raise a timid hand. Me too. Obviously. I just spent how long telling you I’m an over-thinker and now I’m second-guessing my decision to put words on the page at all. My mind is relentless.

I don’t have any answers, and if you were looking for a how-to guide? I don’t think it’s possible to evict one’s own mind. There’s no exchange program. We can’t trade in the old and get a discount on the new. We’re kind of stuck with what we’ve got. 

Who made up that rule, right? They can suck it. Where’s the complaints department or a manager? Let’s flood them with our over-thought complaint slips. Naturally, we’ve rewritten the thing seventeen times. We drove to the store, turned around, and drove home. Repeat that process a dozen times until we find an email address. 

I want a new mind, please, and I’m not leaving until I get one! No, I said please. That means something in a civilized world. Wait, does that make me a, uh, you know? Look at me, still making things awkward.

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Tubes In Holes To Motivate Your Monday?

Photo by Niklas Kickl on Unsplash.com

“Real courage is when you know you’re licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what.”  — To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee

There’s absolutely no reason to put a single word on a single sheet of paper. There’s even less reason to keep doing it until the words, and pages, start to take shape. It comes together and comes to life. It’s an entity with life, breath, and a soul. The latter arriving with a little luck, and no small amount of passionate coercion.

There’s no reason to go to bed at a decent hour, get eight hours of sleep, and wake up feeling refreshed. I’m hard-pressed to find a good reason to get out of bed and give another day a try. This is especially true when every other day has progressed with the same amount of vapidness as the previous day. 

How’s that for a mood? Geez, someone woke up on the grumpy side of the known galaxy. Doom and gloom. Woeful disillusionment. A pity party for one and ordering a large pizza. Pineapple? Why the hell not? I’m not giving anyone else a slice. Oh, that is, indeed, a mood of all moods.

Here’s the thing — Scratch that! No excuses or justifications. I’m in a mood. There’s nothing else to say. A mood has descended upon my house like a plague of historical significance. What? Please don’t tell me it’s too soon to make plague jokes, references, or take potshots? Having survived it, surely that gives me the right to crack wise.

Assuming, of course, that there’s wisdom behind the chuckle? Gallows humour. Laugh so you don’t cry. Cry until you laugh. Why so serious? There’s a time and place for seriousness and humour. I don’t see why those times, and places, can’t converge on a single moment and ease the tension a wee bit. 

I laugh at inappropriate times. It’s a fault in my wiring or maybe it’s just a defence mechanism. I’m not a fan of crying, especially in public, so I go for the giggle with gusto and hope it tickles my fancy. If I can make myself laugh then this mood won’t seem so bad to anyone looking.

To be honest, it’s not a bad mood but rather one that feels more contemplative. Why do I write these words? Will it matter? Will it make a difference? What will that difference, if any, be in the grand scheme of my life or lives of the people reading this prose? Why am I here? Why am I doing this? What reason do I have, or need, to keep trying when trying is tiresome?

I’m not looking for sympathetic responses or a line of cheerleaders. They’re nice and peppy. I’m sure there’s a time a place for pep, but not right now. It’s just not what I’m looking for at the moment.

Don’t get me wrong! External validation is needed from time to time. I need it, in an adequate dosage, which isn’t something we’re supposed to admit. The self-help gurus would have a go at me if they read that sentence out loud. It’s all about internal validation. That’s far more important than anything the world can give us. We should strive to validate ourselves, our lives, and our own experiences. Ignore the external. Don’t give a damn about what others think. Stand on your own. Blah. Blah. Blah.

Okay, they’re probably right, to a certain extent. They are gurus after all, and they don’t hand that title out to just anyone. I’m simply a person who puts words on a page then rinses and repeats. Who am I to disagree with a guru? What qualifies me to cast doubt? Uh… I like pineapple?

That seems like a good reason to me.

In my ever so meagre opinion, there’s a place for the external in the grand internal biosphere. Of course, I seek validation from my peers and my community. It’s not my only source of validation, but the encouragement certainly helps. When someone takes time to write a comment or send me words of support? I feel a rush of energy that I think I’d call a sense of happiness or fulfillment.

I could be misreading the sensation, though. It feels warm and it kind of tickles. Is that what happiness feels like? Seriously, I’m asking for a “friend.”

I’m only human so yes, I love a little external validation on a day when my internal well doth run dry. All the gurus are shaking their heads in disgust. I’ll never be invited to their parties now. No secret handshake. No insignia ring. I guess I should cancel my robe fitting. In hindsight, booking the appointment might’ve been premature.

Alas, my guru lifestyle has ended before it even began. Shall we take a minute of silence to mourn? No, a little too much? Okay, you’re right. I’m being silly. Besides, I can make my own robe, design my own ring, and throw my own party with a secret handshake for one. Take that, gurus! 

I sure showed them.

But for this moment, this mood that I’m in, I think a little introspection is needed. As much as it pains me to admit it? Well, the guru’s are kind of right. External validation only goes so far. It’s fun for a while but it wears off in a day or two. The only way to make it a sustained sensation is to have a steady stream injected directly into your system using tubes in holes.

Tubes in holes. As someone who has had many tubes in many holes, I can say, with confidence, it’s not a pleasant sensation. Medical people, for some perverse reason, love sticking tubes in holes. Just because it’s there doesn’t mean you have to plug it up! Oo, if you thought gurus got me running off on a tangent just you wait for my epic op-ed on tubes on holes.

Ready for an amazing topical transition?

There’s one hole that I fall into a lot, and I should probably fill it with something sturdier than a tube. This hole has been dug out by years, a lifetime really, of failures, and abandoned dreams. I’ve tried so hard, pursued so many dreams, but I always come up short or fall flat on my face. I put my heart, my hopes, into everything I do but it doesn’t feel like it will ever be enough. I will always miss the mark. My dreams will always fall away. I will always fail with a bang or a whimper.

Self-doubt feels a lot like inevitability. 

It’s only natural that, with a hole sitting heavy, I wake up and wonder why I should put a lot of words on a bunch of pages. What reason do I have to try? What will it matter? What will it accomplish? Why am I doing this when I’m so clearly going to fail?

Self-doubt isn’t a particularly unique problem to have, but it is a very human one. There are a few moments in my life where I’ve wished I was a robot. When my body parts start to fail, for example. Wouldn’t it be great if I could pop it out, then pop in a new one. No waiting. No pain. Just pop. Good as new. Carry on, my friend. Carry on.

If only I was a robot! I wouldn’t struggle with self-doubt like everyone else. Much to my disappointment I am, in fact, human. I struggle, just like you do. This is a problem for the masses. It’s not unique to the few of us, who’s sanity is strapped to a helium balloon by a fraying piece of twine. We all, to varying degrees, struggle to find a reason to carry on trying. It’s universal. Probably. I’m assuming. I could be wrong.

We could all be robots. Who knows?

Maybe it’s worse for dreamers and purpose seekers? People whose heads seem to live up in the stars, and who’s eyes never stop searching for the meaning of their existence. They haven’t found their place in this world, not just yet, so they keep searching. Floating along. Trying. Failing. Trying again. To make matters worse, their dreams always seem to come crashing to the ground and their purpose remains elusive.

We try. We put our hearts into everything we do. We fail. We try again. We fail again. Can I get off this ride for a few minutes, please? I’m feeling a tad bit nauseous. Motion sickness. Don’t want to make a mess.

After a while, the questions start and doubt becomes an echo in the void. Why keep trying? Why put your heart into it if it’s going break? There’s no reason for it. No reason to put words on a page. No reason to stand up and be counted. No reason… There’s a long list of no’s and why’s. Feel free to add your own if getting it out will shut it up for a bit.

Upon further introspection, I’ve failed to find these ‘reasons’ I’ve been searching for, the ones to satisfy my need for internal validation, but I have come to one conclusion. Being a dreamer, a holder of hope, takes courage. It asks us to see life all the way through, even when it appears that life has already given up on us. When all hope seems lost or shattered in broken dreams? Pick up a fragment, hold on tight, and keep going. 

We keep trying even when the list is long and the doubt is strong. We keep searching the sky for our North Star. We keep hoping that we’re heading in the right direction. When our sense of direction fails us, we adapt and make a change even though giving up, laying down, would be so much easier.

It would be so much easier to lay my head down for a day or two. Ah, but I fear that, should I let go of the abstract dream, I will miss it when it finally solidifies. If I give up now, what will I miss later? If I don’t try now, despite the lack of reasoning, would I regret it? Possibly, so I take comfort in a quote that’s been taken out of context.

“Real courage is when you know you’re licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what.” (To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee)

I might be licked, or beaten, or destined to fail but I like this definition of courage. Do it anyway. See it through. Who knows, maybe this is a period of transition and it will open up a new world? As unlikely as that seems, I’ll take Ms. Harper Lee’s well written words to heart.