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Finding Happy: In A Few Tea Leaves

Photo by Jason Leung on Unsplash.com

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.

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As Controversial As A Porg

Photo By Matteo Catanese on Unsplash.com

I’m going to say something so controversial that I think some of you might never talk to me again. There will be rage, hurt, and maybe some tears. Strong emotions. Overwhelming? Perhaps, but just know that your feelings are valid. How you express these feelings might need some fine-tuning. Yell into a pillow and not at me. Silently call me an idiot instead of typing it in the comments. In other words, be kind and respectfully agree to disagree.

Also, I encourage you to resist the urge to throw your computer, tablet, or phone out of the window or over a steep embankment. I’m not a lawyer, and I don’t think watching who-done-its gives me any level of expertise. However, to cover my bases, here’s a disclaimer: Technology is expensive, and I will not be held liable for its replacement should you, out of an abundance of emotion, chuck out or at something or someone. Damaging it and rendering it useless is your own fault. Prudence, my friend, is the name of this dance. 

Even if I borrowed it from a friend? Yes, not cool. It doesn’t matter who owns the thing, don’t discard that overpriced piece of tech in a moment of unbridled rage. Control yourself. Resist certain urges. It will pass. This moment is fleeting. My opinion, no matter how incomprehensible it may be, is not worth the loss of a device or friendship.

Do you think that disclaimer is legally binding? Yeah, I’m not sure either.

Brace yourself against a wall, the sofa, or a trusted loved one because what I’m about to say will knock the sandals off your feet. Summer is an overrated season and it should join the noble Porg bird-thing in the annuals of Star Wars lore. There, I said it and you know what? It feels good to say the words out loud.

Keeping them locked deep down in my bowls, afraid to let them out into the world, is a lie I can no longer live. It’s not good for my digestive system. I have to be true to who I am, and I hate summer. I’m tired of pretending that I like the smell of sunscreen because the sun is, allegedly, fun.

Before you say it, I don’t live in fear of that carcinogenic death ray. I live in abject abhorrence of it. The sun burns my pasty white skin and I turn bright red for just one day. One day of looking like an overripe tomato and then I develop this orange hue. I look like I slept in a tub full of a sweet, refreshing, beverage that’s commonly associated with breakfast.

Orange. I turn orange and then I peel. I’m a peeling orange! I don’t want to be a fruit of any kind. An itchy, peeling, fruit.

But hey, if you think a limping Cheeto is sexy then, I’m your girl.

Oh, then there’s the sweat! Oops, I mean a glistening glow because heaven forbid women sweat. Who came up with that rule? Sure, I don’t look like there’s a sprinkler system hidden in my hairline. Contrary to popular belief, I’m human which means that I have sweat glands or pores or whatever they’re called. I sweat. Water leaves my body in a fruitless attempt to cool me down. It never cools me down. It’s useless and now I’m hot, sweaty, and uncomfortable. I have to take copious amounts of showers to make sure I don’t smell like a barn animal. Okay, that’s an exaggeration. I shower because sweat makes me feel sticky and I can’t focus on anything when I feel sticky.

If you’re wondering why I won’t hold your baby, now you know. They’re probably sticky. Kidding! Somewhat. Mostly. You create cute people. Well done you.

I hate being hot, and the accompanying perspiration, but I love a good, snuggly, hoodie or sweater. Is there anything better than an oversized, wrap-around, melt into the sweet embrace of an over-worn hoodie? Or an oversized, wrap-around, melt into the sweet embrace of a sweater. The difference is subtle but I don’t care. I love them both and I will not be denied this simple pleasure.

Even if it makes me sticky?

Damn it, you see why I don’t like the hot summer months, don’t you? No? You’re a normal person who welcomes these months with the glee of a fifth-grader released from the scholastic quagmire known as school? Cool, I mean yay you. No more school, no more books, no more teachers giving inappropriate looks.

What? That’s not how that goes. 

If you like summer, the smell of sunscreen, the feeling of the sun charring your skin and the sticky sensation of coagulating sweat? Well, I have nothing against you personally but I question your taste and, perhaps, sanity. No! I don’t, I’m not that self-absorbed. Good, enjoy what you enjoy as long as it’s legal and everyone is a consenting participant.

To each their own and since I like pineapple on pizza, who am I to judge your taste. Nope, I’m passing no judgements. I am shaking my head in confusion, but that’s a me problem. I don’t like summer, and I won’t apologize for it.

You know what I love? Besides sweaters, hoodies, and all things snuggly? Rain, and right now I’m listening to the joyous sound of raindrops pattering against the window behind my head. The wind is rustling the trees. I can’t see them, it’s behind me, but I know the leaves are floating to the ground in sweet surrender.

Glorious! Wonderful. This is what heaven will be like. A never-ending fall, autumn if you prefer, and I’m living for it. Well, if I’m in heaven, I won’t be living, per se. Existing? Inhabiting? Oo, that’s a game of Mental Twister. It’s like the physical game, Twister, only in the brain and it’s played with thoughts like, “Do we live in heaven if we got there by dying?”

It’s a thought that comes down to a single word choice and a dented can of semantics. After all, in the grand scheme of life, liberty, and the pursuit of non-perishable ideas; what does it matter? I certainly don’t think that if, should I be so fortunate, I ended up being welcomed into the Good Place that I’d ask for clarification on an abstract-noun, verb, thingy.

Grammar gives me a headache. I love to use it. I love to play with it. It’s a fun toy filled with catnip, but naming it always makes my eyes move in opposing directions. As if my eyes needed another reason to take separate vacations.

Maybe it’s my dyslexia or my ADHD? I have the focus and attention span of a border collie puppy after a shot of espresso. Oh, but don’t give your animals coffee. I’m not a vet, but I think that might be a bad idea. The zoomies are all fun and games until they run through a window and you’re stuck paying your neighbours’ repair bill. That’s not a personal anecdote, but I assume it’s possible. All things are possible when you’re writing the story. 

The fact that I’m about to ask you what I was saying should prove my point. Which point? Uh…Focus! It proves I lack focus. Right, so what was I saying?

Ah, I’m a lover of rain, but not in a creepy way. I find joy, peace, and contentment under dark skies. Raindrops on just about any surface is hypnotic. The wind bellowing outside is soothing. Oh yes, my friend, call me a Pluviophile, if you like. I won’t be offended. There are worse ‘philes’ out there and this one is rather innocuous.

It might sound odd to some and peculiar to others. After all, dark grey skies and raindrops are often attributed to sadness or depression. They symbolize doom and gloom. In poetry and song, these images are used to convey heartbreak, loneliness, and tears.

Even in movies or tv shows, if you want to show that a character is struggling then you have them sit by a window peppered with rain. If you want to show them, down on their luck then you catch them in a sudden downpour. It’s an age-old trope that I’m sure we could date back to the ancient Roman or Greek playwrights because let’s face it, everything dates back to one of the two.

Have I been watching documentaries at 2 Am? You betcha.

When a weather warning pops up on my phone, I get excited. Rain, wind, and blistery forecast? Jackpot! I love a good strong wind. Nothing shakes the cobwebs out of my neurological attic like a gust of wind. Especially if it’s strong enough to knock the air out of my lungs. It’s exhilarating! I feel alive! I feel the full force of Zeus power through me and for a brief moment, I feel whole.

Oh, contented sigh.

Have you ever been caught in a mountain storm? Sudden and mighty. The clouds roll in — No! They rush in as if they’re an invading force on the backs of winged horses. They use the element of surprise to conquer and vanquish. The sky growls and opens its jaw. The downpour that follows overwhelms the senses and sends a shock of electricity down the spine.

Most run for cover. They scream or squeal. They cover their heads and use words that might not be suitable for young ears. It’s chaos.

Me? Well, I don’t run, and I’m not a noise-making kind of person. No judgement if you are. I’m more of an internal, silent, screamer. However, when it comes to a storm, I feel the need to laugh, not scream.

Years ago I was in Banff, up in the Canadian Rocky Mountains, and one of these storms rolled in. It came in so fast, and there was no warning. A sunny day turned cloudy in seconds. Within minutes, every layer of clothing was drenched and dripping. There was no point running for cover. The damage had been down and the nearest covering was almost an hour away.

Most of the people I was with, were absolutely miserable, but I felt giddy. I looked up at the sky, and the rain pounded my face. I shivered from the cold and pure happiness. I opened my mouth and drank it all in. Arms stretched out to the side, I welcomed every second of that storm and I laughed with with all my heart.

Maybe this sounds too hippie-dippy but, I feel this deep connection with nature, with the earth, and with God. It’s even more profound when I’m standing out in a storm. The power, the majesty, of this cleansing breath, makes me feel grounded to the earth, and in something more spiritual.

I think that’s why I love the rain, and stormy weather, so much. I don’t feel grounded very often. The opposite is true. I usually feel like I’m floating aimlessly. But there’s something about the simplicity and power of a storm, that brings me back to earth. It serves a purpose. It’s rejuvenating and renewing our resources. It’s washing away a multitude of sins and, in that, there’s an invitation to start fresh.

Especially now, when the world is literally and figuratively on fire. The air is heavy. It’s hard to breathe. The storm that’s moving past my window is clearing some of that heaviness away. The air is lighter. It smells sweet. The grass is turning green, and the trees are shedding their old leaves which will, eventually, make room for new ones.

We’re literally and figuratively being given a chance to start fresh and clean. A new chance to right old wrongs? A chance to rebuild on stronger foundations? The storm can’t tell us what to do with the fresh canvas it’s given us. That choice is ours, and that means we’ve been given a little bit of hope.

Which is something I don’t feel when I’m a sticky limping Cheeto in the middle of summer.

Also, that moment when the eye of the storm moves overhead? The rain stops, the clouds part, and the sun peaks through. That moment, I love that so much. Standing outside and looking straight up at the sky. All around me, there are storm clouds waiting to break, but above me it’s bright blue. The allegory is a little too on the nose, but why complicate a simple moment?

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Spritually Unenlightened

Photo by Mike Erskine on Unsplash.com

I ask not for a lighter burden, but for broader shoulders. — Jewish Proverb

Um, if I’m being honest, I wouldn’t mind a lighter burden. If my shoulders get any broader, the hip to shoulder ratio will be way off. I’m going to get too top-heavy and topple over. Even if I managed to stay on my feet, from a purely practical standpoint, how would it work? How will I ever leave my home? I won’t fit through the doorway. I’ll have to go out sideways, and I’ll knock a lot of things over. It will be a mess!

Breaking. Crashing. A cat squealing. Sorry, was that your tail? Oops, I really didn’t mean to step on it again. Yeah, I said again. Don’t judge. I’m not trying to do it, but that thing is small and my shoulders are really wide. They’re restricting my field of vision. I can’t see where I’m going, and I swear, that damn cat comes out of nowhere.

Can you imagine having to walk through life sideways? You’d have to spend half your time begging someone’s pardon and the other half cleaning up the mess. To make matters worse, your shoulders grow wider every time life slaps you across the face with a glove and yells, with a caricaturish accent, “Challenge!”

A duel at ten paces! Or, is that twenty? I’ve never been in a duel before. What? Like you have! Really? Huh, well done you, I guess. It hasn’t come up in my day to day life. Yet.

What are the rules here? When it comes to dueling, how does it work? In this case, I imagine it’s something like an obscure Monty Python sketch that requires a great deal of inebriation to fully appreciate. I can’t be the only one who can’t get into that show without a little something, right? Okay, maybe I have a particular sense of humour that can’t relate, but I can appreciate it. Peripherally.

This is something they would’ve come up with if they were very low on ideas and getting a lot of pressure from the man upstairs. Whomever that maybe? I imagine it’s someone named Bob. Bob’s the kind of fella that’s a stickler for punctuality with little regard for the creative process. 

Poor Bob. He must spend a lot of time in frustration and consternation. There’s a pill for that, Bob. Just take the pill.

Desperate for ideas, the pitch goes thusly: The two combatants, with shoulders wider than the hood of a 1970’s Cadillac, crab walk onto the battleground. It’s a wide-open field, to accommodate their extraordinarily broad shoulders. It’s ringed with trees that sway in the early morning breeze. Bird’s caw in the distance. The sun, barely awake, stretches and yawns. The grass glistens with the fresh morning dew. It’s so peaceful that it’s hard to imagine a duel to the death is minutes away.

The duellers move with purpose, but it takes them a while to get to their marks. After all, those exceptionally broad shoulders are not easy to maneuver on legs that look like match sticks under black cloaks. They shuffle along with fierce, yet comical, determination. They finally hit their mark and take a moment to catch their breath.

Standing shoulder to shoulder, they turn their heads to glare at each other. This is it. The moment of choice. Go ahead with courage or go home in shame. Neither will back down so, with a nod, they shuffle off in opposite directions. 

The sun moves higher in the sky and by the time they get there, it’s already high noon. Whatever the means? I heard it in an old western movie once. It was two AM and sleep hates me.

Where was I? Right!

Weapons in hand, the call to aim is given, and their arms flail in a desperate attempt to raise their pistols. While broad shoulders may carry a lot of burdens, those tiny arms weren’t given adequate rotational axes to produce a coordinated movement.

A shot is fired, but it goes wild and splinters a distant tree. Another one goes straight into the ground. They give it their all but in the end, these mighty warriors, with hysterically broad shoulders, collapse with an echoing thud. Too tired to carry on. Too sweaty to keep a grip on their pistols.

Yes, it’s a duel with an anticlimactic ending but, isn’t that just life? A comical confluence of absurdities that cause us to explain, “Oh, common on! Seriously?”

My point, if I have one, is that life needs to stop slapping me across the face with a glove and challenging me to some archaic ritual. It’s just silly. I fail to see the logic behind it, and I don’t like guns. No, that’s not a political statement. It’s simply a personal preference. They’re loud and make holes in things that shouldn’t have holes. A persons body, for example, and we’ve all been given all the holes we’ll ever need, thank you very much.

But I digress.

Let’s get one thing out of the way, real quick. I’m not saying this because I want sympathy or pity. I certainly don’t think my life’s been harder than yours. Even if, by some lucky flip of the coin, one of us has gotten off easier? No, even then it’s just silly. What I’ve been through doesn’t make me extra special or deserving of something shiny. 

Oh no, my friend, I’m sure your life has had plenty of challenges and you’ve faced them admirably. This isn’t a measuring contest. We both deserve something shiny. You and me? Equal footing.

I’m not proclaiming woe is me and I’ve never swooned a day in my life. I’m a little curious about the whole smelling salts situation. Not curious enough to time travel and give swooning a go, though. Besides, I’d look ridiculous in a hoop skirt and corset. 

“I’m not asking for fewer burdens, but for broader shoulders.” Huh. Silly sketch aside, this one is a real head-scratcher. In sentiment, I agree with the message it’s conveying. In practice?

It’s just that, I think my shoulders are proportionately accurate and I’ve gone through enough. I don’t need any more challenges. I’ve had plenty and I still have enough to keep me busy for the rest of my life. Hell, I don’t want the ones I have. I’ve tried to send them back, but that’s a no go. So, sorry to make this awkward, but why would I want more?

I’m not going to welcome more burdens into my life with open arms. Knock on my door all you like. Go on, keep knocking, and see what happens. Have I ever slammed a door in someone’s face? No, but if life keeps this up, it will be my first.

Stop it. Just stop. Please and thank you. My kingdom for a moment’s peace and quiet! It doesn’t matter how many times I offer my kingdom, life doesn’t take it. Maybe I need a kingdom first? Add that to the growing pile of unsolvable mysteries.

If I was a little more spiritually enlightened then, yes, I’d embrace this sentiment with an open heart and mind. Asking not for less of life’s hardships, but an unwavering fortitude. The courage to face adversity rather than the speed to avoid it. The strength to stand my ground, to fight, to look life’s challenges dead in the eye and not flinch. If I was more evolved as a spiritual being then maybe, just maybe, I’d ask for these things.

But no, I haven’t evolved beyond my meager self. I’m simply me. Tired. Weak. Completely flummoxed. Which is why I’m asking for less worry, stress, anxiety, fear, challenges, hardships — There’s a list. It’s long. It’s a little petulant at times but mostly, I think, it reflects the weariness that a lot of us are feeling right now. The thought of more? The idea that, if we were more enlightened, we’d not ask for less? Is it just me or is that sentiment a bit unpalatable? Or, just unrelatable?

The small voice of a tiny character, in a long-ago movie, is rolling through my head, “Please sir, I want some more.” More? More! No, I’m good but thanks for asking. So sweet of you.

When it comes time to carry more burdens, for me, it’s less about the width of my shoulders and more about the strength of my community. The people around me who’ve held me up when the burdens became too heavy. In many different ways. Big. Small. Silly and serious. They didn’t stand around, waiting for my shoulders to grow and that, I think, is the key to surviving burdensome times.

Or is that too Pollyannaish?

I watch the news or, heaven forbid, go onto social media and it seems that this idea of community is becoming as archaic as a duel. It’s been so devalued that we’re slowly turning ourselves into a cluster of deserted islands. It’s becoming all about the individual and our own personal needs, desires, comforts. The idea that someone might have differing needs? Yeah, sorry, “Not my problem.”

When someone points out that they have needs that a community can fill? They’re called selfish and yelled down. All the while, the rest of us are locked in our own selfish pursuits to the detriment of those around us. That includes strangers, friends, loved ones. It gets easier and easier to ignore the whole when we spend all of our time preserving ourselves.

Which one is being more selfish? Honest question. Both might, technically, be correct.

Oh, you know I’m going to say it right? Just in case you need to read it: I’m no better. I have a tendency to isolate and withdraw from people. I push people away. I don’t want to be a burden or get in the way. I’m more comfortable on my own. My life is my problem, but then I’m at home, alone, and the loneliness is deafening. 

If the voices online are any indication, then it’s safe to say I’m not the only one feeling like they’re being drowned in the loneliness. 

Yes, the news and social media tend to focus on the worst and most sensational. It gives a megaphone to the angry, sad, lonely people who take their feelings out on others. These people are propagating a fallacy that all for one and one for all is a fairy tale. They’re selling a lie and we’re buying it. Or, so it seems. 

I need to remind myself that this loud minority doesn’t speak for the majority of us who still believe in the power, strength, of community. They don’t speak for me, for my friends, for you. But they are hard to ignore and, sometimes, it feels damn near impossible.

Maybe that’s why I’m looking at this quote and wincing. I can’t imagine asking for more or not asking for less. It doesn’t matter how broad my shoulders become! If the concept of community is now fading into the ancient past then what? What do I do? I’m not strong enough to carry my burdens alone. I need my small community to help me and, yes, when they need my help I’ll be there. 

That’s how communities work, right?

In the spirit of complete honesty, I’m not evolved enough to fully absorb this proverb as truth just yet. I’m not wise enough to fully understand it either. I am asking for fewer burdens. Leave my shoulders alone. I’m not a fan of touching. One more thing? No, just no.

If, however, more burdens are placed on my shoulders then I ask for a community to hold me up. I ask for the courage to let people in. I ask, no matter how selfish they may be, that my needs are met with kindness, love, and understanding.

Oh, and this might be pushing my luck, but I really don’t want to walk through life sideways or duel in a field. I just don’t wanna do it.

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A Case Of The Wibbly Wobbilies

Photo by Jeremy Thomas on Unsplash.com

Time. A swirling vortex of mass, substance, and neon luminescent gas. Ever-changing, evolving, turning itself inside and out. A chameleon and a con man. The good guy and the villain. The hero and the arch-nemesis. All-consuming and apathetic. It is everything and it is nothing at all.

An illusion. A game. A lie, but one that holds so much truth. Look into its eyes and you’ll see it. Like a gospel etched into stone, its veracity can’t be denied but, in its infallibility, lays the fantasy. A story that sounds too good to be true, but one that can mend the very heart it has broken.

If there’s one thing I don’t handle very well, it’s the passing of time. It feels like I’m on a roller coaster that’s malfunctioning. Sometimes it goes so fast my vision blurs and I become disorientated. The past, present, and glimpses of the future coalesce, and they become this abstract painting of colour, light, sound. I’m grasping at it, trying to hold on to each fracturing shard, but it moves too fast and my hands are too small. It slips through bloody fingers and it’s lost forever.

Other times, it stops so suddenly that the breaks lock and the tires smoke. I’ve been whipped around so violently my head snaps back and I’m sure something must’ve cracked. The tracks underneath the car groan. Weightlessness takes over, and I’m pulled out of the moment. Helpless, I’m set adrift and pulled away as if I’m at the mercy of an unseeable beast.

A low, rumbling, howl comes from deep inside an ever-changing nucleus. A rush of breath gusts past me, through me, and I shiver. The air is warm, but it leaves me feeling chilled to the bone. I try to breathe, scream, free myself but the more I struggle the deeper I go. I beg for mercy, for a moment’s reprieve, but it’s denied. It’s always refused with glee, a growl, and a grimace.

As violently as I was pulled out of time and into space; I’m thrown back into the seat of the broken coaster. It rocks side to side. For a moment, it threatens to tip over the edge, and I know, I know, I shouldn’t look down but who can resist the temptation? I look, of course I do, and I see — Nothing but the swirling vortex of light and neon luminescent gas that can’t hold its form for a second longer than it takes to blink just once.

I close my eyes, squeeze them tight, and grip the lap bar with white knuckles. The rocking stops. Everything stops. Suspended in space and time. Hanging in that moment before the drop. Floating aimlessly amongst nothing and everything. Waiting. Hoping. Wondering, what’s next? 

At that moment, as brief as it may be, there ceases to be sound and colour. A vacuum in space. A black hole that sucks everything up and leaves behind an emptiness that can’t be filled. Pulling. Tugging. Dragging. Hold on! To what?

A silent rush of air takes my breath away, and I have to look. I don’t want to. I’m too scared to see what’s left and what’s been taken. I try to keep my eyes shut. I fight the urge, the pull, but it’s too strong and I’m too weak. I beg, I plead, with my own eyes to stay behind the blinds but the blinds are pulled opened. It’s too late. As far as the eye can see, in this fractured moment, there’s nothing but haze and confusion. Lost? Without purpose? A mere toy for the time lords amusement? 

Is that all we are? Is that all I am? Is time something that happens to us or with us? Are we at its mercy or can we bend it to our will? Am I in a bit of a morose mood? Do I ask too many questions? Oh, but I have so many more and I’m not sure if there’s an easy answer to any of them.

Looking back is too painful. Looking at this moment seems too translucent. Looking forward? I’m afraid I’m a bit short-sighted. I just can’t see that far ahead. Maybe if I look at something more abstract or ethereal? I can’t seem to find my answers in reality so, perhaps, I can find them in fantasy. At the very least, if I can’t find answers there, then I’ll find a reprieve from a moment that feels too real to process.

Am I the only one that finds reality unpalatable?

Centuries of myths, legends, and lore created by people whose reality was harsher than my own, would suggest that I’m not alone. For thousands of years, we’ve tried to understand the things that seem to defy understanding or reason. Time. Life. Death. Love. Hate. Coming to terms with these ideas in a reality-based setting has left generations unsatiated. Which is why, I theorize, so many of us have had to look elsewhere.

We’ve created gods and demigods. Divine beings with superhuman powers and mere mortals who’ve done the unthinkable. Somehow, despite all odds, these hero’s rise up to vanquish the unvanquishable. We’ve written their stories and those stories become legends. We’ve taken the almighty and shrunk it down so it doesn’t loom over our heads like a dark cloud on an otherwise sunny day. Or, we’re simply trying to understand things that seem far beyond our meager comprehension.

That old saying is true, isn’t it? We fear what we don’t understand; we strive to understand so that we’re not afraid. If fear can’t paralyze us or send us drifting off into madness then we stand a chance. A chance at surviving the fugacious reality of our existence. It’s a simple equation that should add up, but does it? We keep creating, keep writing these stories, so I think, at the very least, the hope is still alive.

After all these centuries, the creatives are keeping hope alive? That speaks volumes to our need, our desire, to truly understand the things that are beyond our, or my, level of comprehension. It speaks to our, my, deeply felt need for hope in times of despondency.

For me, I understand death. I’ve died a few times already. My heart has stopped. My life, soul if you prefer, left my body and went to the hereafter. Obviously, I was sent back, and my heart started to beat. I’ve been there and back again so it doesn’t scare me. Death doesn’t scare me. I understand it. I welcome it when my moment comes. Though, it needs to be said that I’m not actively seeking that moment. With a small amount of luck, I’ll have years ahead of me but when those years run out, I’m ready to face death with a smile.

Life, the meaning of it, still eludes me to a point of frustration and aggravation. I’m torn between looking for meaning and creating it. Stuck in a limbo of the unknowable, but I’m not scared of life or this state of unease. Maybe I’m used to it? I’ve always felt a little lost in life, like a puzzle piece in the wrong box, so it’s a familiar state of being. Comfortable. A warm blank, a hot cup of tea, and a trashy novel on a day that’s too hot. Uncomfortably comfortable? Does that make any sense at all?

Making peace with time, on the other hand, is something that escapes me and creates this deep unease. I’d even say that it creates this desperate anxiousness. It makes me feel like I’m crawling out of my skin. I want to scream, cry, and curl up into a ball until it stops moving. It’s too fast. It’s too much. I can’t make peace with it because I can’t understand it. I fear what I don’t know?

Making peace with that seems impossible. What about a friendship with time? The swirling mass of neon luminescent gas. That malfunctioning roller coaster that has a mind of its own. That beast from ancient myth that’s a man, a god, or a planet. Befriend that?

I don’t know if I can make friends, or peace, with Father Time. That genial old man, with a long white beard, carrying a scythe and an hourglass. He seems to be a friendlier, more palatable, version of the grim reaper. He’s a reminder that we’re all moving forward, towards our end, and in its inevitability time does not wait for us to catch up or keep pace. It moves on with or without us by its side. Ready or not, time marches on and on.

Father Time, in this legand, is married to Mother Earth. Life and death united as one. New beginnings, full of wonderful possibilities, walks hand in hand with the bleakness of an inevitable end. Is it possible to see one without the other? How do these strange bedfellows exist so harmoniously? 

Is there harmony in the chaos of that luminescent gas? Is there harmony in death? In birth? In god’s, heroes, and our eternal quest for hope? 

There is a perverse beauty in the chaos of life and death. A dance that’s been carefully choreographed over the millennia. Moving in perfect step and flowing gracefully between joy and tragedy. Happiness and sadness cavort on the dance floor with all eyes on them. Mesmerizing. Hypnotic. Elegant.

Time moves on, there’s no stopping it, and I don’t know if I’ll ever truly enjoy the dance without moments of hesitation or resistance. I pull away, wanting it to stop or slow down, but it grabs on tight so I’m at its chary mercy. All I can do is hold on to the lap bar of this broken roller coast as it follows its own whims. It laughs, sings, and dances through the swirling vortex with me on its back.

A reluctant passenger with tightly closed eyes. Well, they stay closed until the temptation becomes too much and I look down. I’ll always look down. Even when I know it’s to my detriment. It’s compulsive, instinctual, a whim I can’t help but follow.

I wonder, if I kept my eyes open, would I be less afraid of the beast in the vortex? Closing the blinds hasn’t helped. It hasn’t lessened my unease. Diving into the fantasy of the creative giants, while a nice reprieve, hasn’t brought any answers. On the contrary, they’ve brought out more questions and uncertainties.

So, instead of fearing this great unknown, what would happen if I embraced it like I embrace the idea of death or the uncertainty of life? If I got comfortable being uncomfortable. If I stopped fighting against the tide and started swimming with it. If I joined the dance as a willing partner instead of a reluctant courtier.

Would my state of mind become more harmonious? Or, would I just become another creative straddling the line between sanity a madness? 

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The Meaningless Meaning Of An Outbreak Monkey

Photo by Andrew Neel from Pexels

“Life has to be given a meaning because of the obvious fact that it has no meaning.” ― Henry Miller

I’ve been stuck in a time loop for a few weeks so maybe this is coming from a place of madness, loneliness, or too much alone time with my demons. Isolated in my eight hundred square foot apartment with my dog, a geriatric cat with poor bladder control, and the relentless chatter of an overactive mind. Fun times. Plenty of laughs. Words dripping with sarcasm.

In case you missed my last post, here’s a short recap of something that sounds so dramatic but, in reality, has become an awful bother. COVID, that bitch in a black cloak, paid me a visit and then overstayed her welcome. I’ve been sick for…Wait, what day is it? I can’t keep track anymore. It’s Monday, right? Yeah, okay, I guess it’s been almost three weeks since my symptoms popped off and I retreated to my very own fortress of solitude.

I’m getting better! It wasn’t as bad as it could have been. It was nothing like the flu. Whoever made that comparison is either a compulsive liar or had the flu and diagnosed themselves on a popular search engine. Or, I’m being a little snippy. I feel snippy. I’ve been alone, stranded on this island, with a volleyball named…No, wait, that was a movie. A movie. Not my life. Wow, I can’t even tell the difference anymore.

Then again, I think Wilson was a cool dude. You know, for a ball. As far as ball-shaped companions go, he seemed all right. He really knew how to listen, and that’s a dying art. If only people could be more ball-like, but I’m letting the current sweep me into the shipping lane.

Paddle harder Wilson. Wilson? No, Wilson!

Ah, but as I was saying, I’m getting better. I’m out of the proverbial woods and onto a makeshift raft. I’m just waiting for the rest of my symptoms to vanish, so I can reenter society plague free. Oo, now I need a shirt that says, “I survived the plague.” Yeah that would be cool because I, quite literally, survived the plague. That deserves a t-shirt! Guess who’s going to spend some quality time with a popular search engine this evening? And I’m not looking up random symptoms or other questionable content.

I will be spending that quality time alone because I have to stay in isolation until my symptoms are gone. Did I say that already? It’s so hard to keep track of time and space and the words coming out of my mouth. It’s like I got stuck on a merry-go-round for several hours and the verbal vomit is splattering in every direction. It’s a blurry concoction of neon food dye that’s ten-part slime and ninety parts WTF is going on. I don’t even know anymore. It’s been so long since I saw other people.

I think I might be going loopy.

Usually, I like to find loopholes in my doctors’ orders. If they don’t specifically say that I shouldn’t do something then they didn’t tell me I couldn’t do it. It’s not my fault they didn’t list every possible scenario that exists in all of the temporal multiverses. Find the hole, make it a little bit bigger, and then plead ignorance. I’m not a doctor! How could I know that climbing a mountain four weeks after having my leg surgically realigned was a bad thing?

Yeah, that happened, and I wondered why it took me so long to heal. Geez, forehead slap!

Alas, this time I’m playing by the rules that were both expressed and left to interpretation. If there’s any chance that I’m still contagious, no matter how infinitesimal it may be, then I’m not going to be the outbreak monkey in my community. You don’t want to get sick. I don’t want you to get sick. So, here I stand, I can go no further.

Actually, here I sit is more accurate but it’s way less dramatic.

My usual dramatic sigh may sound a little wheezier than normal but it’s out in full force. I’m not usually one to go for the whole, “Woe is me” way of thinking. It’s not productive and it’s kind of a downer. Usually. That’s the keyword because right now I’m feeling a little woe is me. No, I’m not asking for pity or sympathy. Though I appreciate the latter. You’re very kind. Thank you.

I’m just saying that my life, my future outlook on my corporeal existence, is feeling rather bleak. Oh yes, I know, I’ve said it before; feelings aren’t facts and I need to repeat that little mantra from time to time. It just helps me keep myself in check. I’m saying it now because the feelings are feeling a little too solid.

The culprit is obvious, and it’s not the butler in the library with a candlestick. I don’t have a butler, a library, or a candlestick. Hell, I don’t even have a library card. Even if I did, I couldn’t wander down the aisles, running my fingers across the spines of literary masterpieces, and huff the scent of slowly decaying paper. I love the smell of old books. If they bottled that smell I’d buy the perfume.

The fact is, at this moment, I may very well be the outbreak monkey of tales and lore. As such, I must stay alone in my cell. Stare through the bars and ponder the meaning of life as I once knew it. Or, perhaps, what I imagine it could be when I’m once again free to wander the earth. Freedom? I dare not shout that word too loudly. I fear I might jinx my progress.

Too dramatic? You’re right, I hear ya, I’ll tone it down. Sort of… Just a little…Who am I kidding? I can’t help myself. Free the outbreak monkey!

I’m an introvert with moderate social anxiety, so you would think that this solitude would be a gift. After all, isn’t it the very thing I’ve spent a lifetime craving? The moment when I have to seal myself off from society and the human rat race. Lock me up. Hideaway. Keep myself company. Talk to the air and revel in the fact that it can’t talk back. If it did talk back? Well, I’m not an expert in primate psychology but even I know that’s not a good sign.

Then again, when I ask a question and I’m met with silence, I can’t help but wonder if that, in itself, is an answer to the most primordial question of our species. What is the meaning of life? Why am I here? In my case, I often ask why I’m still here because, by all rights, I shouldn’t be alive, but I am. Why? Is ‘why’ the singular question that dominates our time on earth or is it just me?

I send out these questions on a whispered breath and in return…Silence. The air I breathe doesn’t answer. The God I pray to doesn’t reply. I ask. I seek. I search and still I’m met with stillness.

There are times when this muteness is disheartening and there are moments when I find it oddly comforting. If there’s no answer to this ageless question then, what does that mean for me? I would love something solid to stand on. A path with an arrow pointing me in the right direction. A map. A compass. Preferably a GPS with voice command because I mix up my right, left, north, and south too easily.

Sometimes my GPS get’s so frustrated, it yells at me, “No, not that way you idiot! The other left!”

I’m more comfortable with certainties and exactitudes. Finding the meaning of life, my life, seems to be so far removed from either of those things. In that, amidst the frustration, lies an ounce of solace because my meaning isn’t set or preprogrammed. I’m not at the mercy of some powerful force that will overrule my deepest desires, needs, or dreams to keep me on its chosen path. I have a say, some control, or maybe it simply means I have a fool’s hope of changing the meaning of my life.

Or, I’m going about this all wrong. I’m looking at the meaning of life like it’s an entity all its own. A creature with its own identity, desires, hopes, and dreams. It’s something that I need to assimilate or coerce, by force if need be, into cooperation. Wrangling it in, tying it down, and forcing it to submit to my will. A will that can’t be fully known or understood without the meaning of life. 

It’s a vicious circle. A no-win scenario. I can’t tame this specter without knowing it intimately but to do that? Around and around it goes until exhaustion sets the being free. 

But what if I changed my approach? Instead of viewing it as something to vanquish or homogenize; I need to look at it like a painter and their tools. Life is a blank canvas set up on an easel. Meaning is the paint that comes in a wide array of colours and brushes that come in a variety of shapes. I am the artist and it’s up to me to bring it all together. If I can do that then I can create my own sense of meaning in my own life.

There’s one small problem. I, uh, don’t know how to draw. My stick figures look like inebriated squiggles and my circles defy the accepted norms. Calling it a circle is laughable, at best, but it’s the only descriptor that comes close to identifying the shape. If you can call it that. It’s almost, kind of, sort of shapely if you squint really hard.

Well, it’s no wonder my life feels sort of shapeless and like it’s a hodgepodge of random colours. Then again, I suppose I haven’t found my style of expression yet. I’ve been trying to mimic the greats and, given my limited range of skills, that’s never going to work for me. I need to find my own brush strokes and define my own genre. Maybe then I’ll be able to create a meaning to a life that, at the moment, feels meaningless.

Or, I just need to get out of my tiny apartment and look people in the eyes again. Yeah, I need out. I just said I was hungry, and I think the air said, “Me too.” The air is talking back. Don’t panic. Don’t freak out. Oh for the love of all that is precious in this world; free the outbreak monkey!

Way to keep your cool there.

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The Cripple Versus The Zombie Apocalypse

Photo by Apollo Reyes on Unsplash.com

*Before I get into today’s post, I want to take a minute to remember the lives lost and the lives changed nineteen years ago. 9/11 is a painful anniversary for so many of you and the constant reminder, constant coverage, can make it worse so I’ll keep it short. Please know that you’re in my thoughts. I’m sending you a big virtual hug or fist pump if your hug adverse. Be kind to yourself and let us all be a little kinder to each other.*

Did you miss me? In my head, it sounded like what’s his name in the movie about the scary stuff. You know the one, right? Okay, I’ve only seen that one clip and it gave me nightmares for a week. Here’s the thing, I’m basically a coward in a cute lion onesie. Grr, I’m a badass. Roar. Meow. Purr? Fine, it’s impossible to take anyone seriously when they’re wearing a onesie and making animal noises.

Sure, when you’re three, it’s cute. When you’re a grown woman? Well, now it’s just sad and a little weird. But there’s nothing wrong with being a little bit weird and screw sad. It’s comfy, damn it! Snuggly. Soft. Gosh darn it, I’m standing in the middle of my very own zombie apocalypse! If I can’t have my mommy, I’ll take a comfy lion onesie and you bet your bottom two cents that I’m going to roar, meow, purr, and shout, “I’m a badass.”

Will anyone believe me or take me seriously? Of course not! I’m wearing a lion onesie, but it makes me feel good. So, as the saying goes, suck it. 

Petulance aside, how have you been? It’s been a minute or two dozen. I’ve been…Oh, I feel a dramatic sigh coming on. I would try to suppress it, but I fear it might do some damage to the gastrointestinal sigh hole. Which, I know, is not “medically accurate” but if you’ve ever suppressed a dramatic sigh you’ll know the pain of straining that special place. It sits a little bit to the right of the gallbladder.

A couple of weeks ago I mentioned that I wasn’t feeling all that good. Way back then, in a moment of whimsical optimism, I theorized that I was experiencing nothing more than a minor sniffle brought on by pollen or a cold. Oh whimsy, you always abandon me to the nuisance that is, and will forever be known as, reality.

I’ve been saying it for six months now. Has it been six months? What? Really? March. April. May…Is it just me, or has time been grossly distorted ever since the plague hit our shores? It feels like time is being dragged by a lassoed snail. Yet, at the same time, I blinked and six months passed. It feels like an abstract painting that’s been pummelled by a power washer and then gently kissed by a talking elephant.

It’s all a blur and all of it feels like a dream of a dream that’s being relayed through a tin cup on a string.

Or is it just me?

When this whole deadly infectious disease shenanigans got its sea legs, I said that it was only a matter of time before I’d have to face it down. Like a gunslinger in one of those old movies with the fella who talks real slow but shoots real fast. The spurs on my boots clanging with each step. Villagers running for cover. Lower my head, raise my hat, and stare down the wanted fugitive with a steely gaze. It’s just you and me, partner. Do you feel lucky? Well, do ya?

Nope, not at all. I don’t feel all that lucky. Never have. Never will. Lady luck doesn’t seem to like me all that much and, if I may be quite frank, I think she’s kind of a bitch. There, I said it. Someone had to say it. You were thinking it. I was thinking it. The filter between my brain and my typing fingers needs new batteries so out it comes. Lady luck can suck it.

Feeling a little bitter, are we?

You would too if you got the damn virus that hung a closed sign on the entire planet. Yeah, turns out those sniffles were the warning shots fired across my eyebrows. The sniffles turned into a sore throat and then it quickly migrated farther south. It got comfortable in my chest and in muscles I didn’t know I had.

Breathing is uncomfortable, but the muscle aches are horrible. I can’t get comfortable. It doesn’t matter how I lay down, sit up, or try to walk it off. It just hurts. I got some medication to help with that, and it’s taking the edge off. It’s bearable and for that, I’m grateful. It’s still there, though, in the background but, right now, it’s not as bad as it was a few days ago.

Count the blessings where you can! Even the smallest ones mean a lot when it feels like nothing will ever go right.

Getting diagnosed was tricker than I thought it would be. I thought I’d go for the test, get my results, and that would be that. Turns out, the test has a significant failure rate which is worrying. A negative test doesn’t mean you don’t have COVID. It means the test was negative, and you could still have it which is what happened to me.

The first test I had came back negative for COVID 19, but after talking to Public Health they were concerned that I was sitting well within the failure rate. My symptoms lined up too perfectly to risk it and we had to make sure nothing more sinister was going on. Oh yes, my friend, there are things more, or equally, sinister than COVID. We had to rule them out while running with, what they called, a presumptive positive. Act like it is but hope it isn’t.

I was sent for more testing which included blood work, more swabs, and x-rays. Honestly, it started to feel more like a process of elimination than a straight-up diagnosis. Long story short, I talked to the doctors and they said, despite my best efforts, COVID had caught up to me. 

This moment has been something I’ve feared, dreaded, but they told me something that completely blew my mind. One of the reasons this virus is so deadly, as far as their research can tell, is that it attacks the immune system and creates a firestorm. That storm spreads through the body and destroys, or damages, everything it touches. 

I’ve had a kidney transplant which means I’m on anti-rejection medications. These medications lower my immune system so, in the context of COVID 19, there’s not a lot of fuel for the fire. Instead of a hurricane, I have a thunderstorm and some rain. Yes, I’m sick. I feel horrible. I don’t wish this on anyone. However, the virus can’t use my immune system against me so, for once in my life, I have the advantage.

How is that possible? It doesn’t make sense. This goes against everything I’ve ever been told about infectious diseases. If there’s one thing that’s been hammered into my very thick skull is that I can’t fight off infections. If I get sick, I’ll get sicker than most people and it will take longer for me to get better. 

To put it in even simpler, less grammatically correct, terms: Infectious diseases are badder than bad, and, for someone like me, it will get worser than worse.

Except, this particular virus is well and truly mad as an anthropomorphized rabbit in an oversized top hat. It’s not doing what it should do according to just about every scientific standard. At least, every standard that has been explained to me in very simple terms. They talked to me like I was five years old, and I genuinely appreciated their overestimation of my level of comprehension.

In this very peculiar situation, it seems that the one thing that has always made me so incredibly vulnerable is the very thing that’s saving my life. Take that giant wad of mental bubblegum and chew on it for a while. It’s sticky and slightly slobbery. The gears are sticking and they’re making whining noises. Do you smell smoke?

If you thought getting gum in your hair was a mess? Try getting it out of your cerebral cortex. What a bloody mess! 

Having a chronic illness is the physical manifestation of an emotional state. Being emotionally vulnerable is something that takes courage but, at least for me, it’s something I can choose to be or acknowledge. Being physically vulnerable, however, has always felt like it’s been forced upon me. Having a life-threatening, or life-challenging, disease and/or disability means that I’m often at the mercy of others.

There are times when my physical needs are reliant on someone else stepping in to do things I don’t have the strength or mobility to do. Simple things like having a shower, getting dressed, or brushing my teeth are just a few examples. It’s not all the time, usually after surgery, and I’ve been fortunate enough to have people who’ve helped me while still giving me the dignity everyone deserves. Still, these moments have not left me feeling strong or empowered. Actually, I feel the exact opposite.

Straying onto the dark side of the moon, having to face an ableist world with a body that betrays me with unpredictable frequency can be terrifying. I don’t know when my legs are going to lock up or my hearts going to dance to its own rhythm. One day I’m fine, and I can walk up that flight of stairs with no problem. The next day? It’s slow going for me and anyone who’s unfortunate enough to get stuck behind me. How will they respond? Will they understand or am I going to face abuse?

In those moments, I’m so vulnerable, and it has never felt like, or been, an advantage. I’m fortunate that nothing drastically horrifying has happened to me. I’ve faced verbal abuse and some minor physical altercations. There hasn’t been a situation I haven’t been able to handle or get out of safely, but that’s not true for everyone. The stories of people being abused, hurt, even killed because of their disabilities is gut-wrenching, and it’s something that’s always in the back of my mind.

Being vulnerable? It’s never worked to my advantage, and it’s often put me at a distinct disadvantage.

But here I am, facing down a zombie whose sole purpose is to consume and destroy human life, and the advantage is mine. Uh…What? No! When you’re looking for someone to vanquish a zombie apocalypse do you go for Wonder Woman’s Gal Gadot? Or do you turn to me, the cripple, and say, “Go get ’em, slugger.”

Don’t worry, I’m not offended if you chose Wonder Woman over me. I wouldn’t pick me either. I happily relinquish the stage. Just, don’t start the show until I’ve had a chance to grab some popcorn. Who watches a zombie death match without snacks? Nobody. We’re not animals.

Nothing about this makes sense, but I am looking at the idea of vulnerability a little differently. Partly because I’ve been in isolation for over two weeks and I have to stay here until my symptoms are gone. That could be a while and the prospect is making me lose my mind. Well, what’s left of it because, by this point, I think a large portion has gone AWOL. Which explains the zombie apocalypse. Oh, and I binged watched the Umbrella Academy on painkillers. A talking monkey, ape, thing? Dude, that show’s messed up when you’re doped up!

Vulnerability as a superpower strong enough to defeat a zombie apocalypse? I can’t wrap my brain around that idea. I’ve said it before, vulnerability in other people is something I greatly admire. Emotional and physical vulnerability, when worn with courage and compassion, is awe-inspiring. It’s so hard to do, and when I see you doing it I applaud you for it because you’re a hundred times more resilient and powerful than I could ever allow myself to become.

Sure, that’s a double standard that favours you and diminishes me. Which, I agree, isn’t a mentally stable or healthy approach to life. If I was a more evolved person then I would strive to become more like you. I would embrace this very strange superpower and use it to fight the zombies alongside you. Alas, I have more in common with that talking monkey, ape, thing than I care to admit.

Now that I’m thinking about it, is vulnerability a superpower, or is it a superconductor? A powerful phenomenon that transmits energy in the darkest, coldest, harshest environments. Providing light and sustaining life in a time, place, when the brightest lights seem to dim and life as we know it is being threatened or changed.

Could acts of vulnerability be the very thing that saves us all from the zombie apocalypse? Could it be that simple and still be that hard to transmit?

I know what I’m doing right now isn’t working for me. I’m very protective of my heart. There have been a lot of hits, and my flinch response is highly developed. I’m scared of being hurt again. I’ve been too vulnerable in the past, in every meaning of the word, and it’s left me feeling weak, breakable. But here I am, once again facing the very thing that’s always made me so vulnerable, and it’s my vulnerability that’s kept me safe. 

By all rights, I should be in a hospital bed fighting for my life, but I’m sitting on my sofa binge-watching silly shows on Netflix. What? No. It’s not right.

For the record, COVID is nothing like the flu and having had both I can tell you, this is worse. Don’t believe the special few who want to downplay the seriousness of this virus. It’s killed too many people. It’s left too many with life-altering illnesses that will make them very vulnerable for the rest of their lives. Healthy people. Strong people. People who had every advantage going into this pandemic will walk out of it changed forever.

I, however, am going to be okay because I walked into this pandemic vulnerable, weak, and at, what I thought, was a massive disadvantage. Vulnerability saved my life, and I don’t know how to unpack that idea. This post, these words I’ve typed, has been a clumsy attempt at breaking through a sticky wall of bubblegum. I think I might be stuck somewhere between hemispheres. Send help, or a shovel, or some solvent. 

Oh dear, I think I might be stuck in this wad for a long time. Well, I’ll be in isolation for a little while longer so I might as well keep chewing. Metaphorically. Don’t stick bubblegum in your head. I’m not a doctor, but that can’t be good for you. Is that the weirdest public service announcement ever?

Did I mention that I’m on painkillers right now? Yeah, that should explain a lot.

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The Existential Crisis Of Chipmunk Urine

Photo by Arthur Brognoli from Pexels

“I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be.”  ― Douglas Adams, The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul

I struggle to consolidate the differences between what I expected from life and how life has turned out. The dreams I had when I was little. The picture I’d drawn in my mind. The trajectory I’d mapped out for myself. The good old ten-year plan that I so neatly laminated. It was so perfect, in my head, but dreaming or planning is not the same as living or doing.

Sitting here, looking out at the trees being rustled by a gentle wind, I feel a little hollow. The trigger was a conversation that was random and benign. An off-handed comment. A desire, a longing, that was shared with me and now I can’t stop thinking about it. It’s something I’ve wanted but, given my life up until now, I think it’s out of reach. A long shot at best. Utterly improbable would be more realistic.

A few off-handed words. A joke with a touch of a sad truth. I can’t stop thinking about it. Sorry, I’m not sharing the exact thought here. It’s something that was shared it in confidence. Despite the fact that I share the sentiment and the desire, I hold it for them with closed fists. The thought, the sadness of never having that need met, and the grief in knowing it won’t happen is very real in me too. Though, the specifics will stay between them and me.

The conversation got me thinking about life as a separate entity. A creature that floats through space and time. Searching for a home to set its roots and grow. The dreams it has, as its search for its place in the universe, are wild and imaginative. They’re big, wonderful, and full of magic. But they’re also small and simple. Things no one else would look at but, to the creature, these trivial pursuits hold immeasurable meaning.

As long as it’s floating out there in space then all of these dreams are still possible. They’re boundless! They can’t be restrained or tamed by the burdens of reality. Reality isn’t even a concept that factors into the equation. Not out there among the stars. Reality is too heavy, too weighted, for the lightness of space and the abstract nature of time. Out there, it can’t breathe so it can’t live. Reality needs terra firma to survive but the stars thrive in a weightless vacuum. 

Life goes along, taking in the endless wonders, and as it grows, its imagination grows too. Wilder. More creative. Anything is possible. If it can dream it then why can’t it live it? Then it dreams up a perfect home on a solid planet. It dreamed it and now it lives it. Out of space and down to earth. Hard ground. Dryland. It’s found its home amongst the wildlands of reality.

That was me, growing up I always had my head in a dream world. I created these lives for myself and played them out in my backyard or inside my closet fort. They were grand and exciting. In these dream worlds, I was strong and healthy. My body wouldn’t betray me. I could go anywhere and do anything. As long as I could dream it then in my dreams I could live it.

As an adult, I still create these dream worlds to escape to when real-life presses down on me so hard it feels like gravity has taken performance enhancers. The problem is, these dream worlds aren’t as satisfying as they were when I was a kid. When I was a kid, they were easier to believe in. I didn’t know any better so everything seemed possible, but now? Now, I know better and very few things seem possible. The older I get, the fewer things seem probable.

That sounds a bit morose and defeatist.

I didn’t start my morning feeling this way. It actually started out with a nice cup of tea and a homemade cinnamon roll. When I thought about what I would write today, I felt like writing something funny. Well, something that gave me a chuckle at least. I started to write something entirely different. I got halfway through and then it fell away.

An off-handed comment intended as a self-deprecating joke and now my mind is whirling.

Is it inevitable? As we get older, do we naturally lose our love of dreams? Do we become so consumed by reality that we forget about the time we spent floating through space and dancing among the stars? Is it a foregone conclusion?

Losing faith in life. Losing the dreams I once had. I thought my life would be so different. Not perfect. Not pain-free. Despite my dreams, I never once believed I’d live a blessed life filled with fields of dandelions. You heard me right. Dandelions.

I know they’re weeds but when the light catches them just right they sure are beautiful. Sunset, the sky is glowing red, orange, and fading blue. The last rays of light slipping down the horizon. It catches the field at just the right angle and these weeds shine bright. For a brief moment, the humble dandelion is lit on fire and in the mirage you just might think you’ve found a lost city of gold.

As a kid, I had a soft spot for this much-maligned plant and I haven’t been able to shake it. Maybe it’s because, as an adult, I often feel like the weed in a field of wildflowers. The one people step around to take a picture of something grander. It’s just waiting for its moment to shine. Brief, as it may be but a moment is all it needs. 

It waits and waits, but its moment has yet to come.

My life, the person I thought I’d become, is nothing like I’d imagined. If my childhood self stopped by for a chat, I don’t think she’d recognize me at all. What happened to you? What went wrong? This is our life?

Ah to be young and believe in dreams.

Wow, I didn’t start out my day feeling like a downer and I didn’t mean to write all of this down. I wish my brain wouldn’t spin so fast or latch on to things so quickly. Maybe I won’t post this? Did I post this? I could leave the day blank and start fresh tomorrow. That sounds like a good plan. 

Then again, who’s life ever turns out like they thought it would when they were ten years old? Maybe there are a few lucky souls who live out their childhood fantasies. Never say never, they say, but they don’t tell you it’s highly unlikely…

You know what? I wrote that line and then stared at blank space after it for a solid five minutes. I sighed dramatically and then walked away. I made another cup of tea and now I’m back. Sure, I stared at the line for another sixty seconds, but I couldn’t fill in the blanks.

Why? One, my brain is functioning at half capacity today, and my thoughts are coming slow and sporadically. Two, that last sentence sounds too sad, even for me. I have pessimistic tendencies. If you asked me if the glass is half full or half-empty? I’d tell you that glass contains urine from a hundred rabid chipmunks. With that knowledge, who cares how full it is?

I don’t know if this tendency towards the bleak is a naturally occurring pattern or if it’s something I’ve picked up along the way. Probably a bit of both. Sure, one can never count out the genetic component, and life has been, for me, one very long challenge. When the worst tends to happen, it becomes a lot easier to expect that the worst will keep happening. 

Whenever I have some kind of medical procedure, they give me a list of possible side effects and negative outcomes. I always ask them what’s the least likely thing to happen? On that list, at the very bottom, it will say something like, “In rare cases.” What’s the rare case because that’s the problem we’re going to face.

If I got a penny every time I’ve heard, “This isn’t supposed to happen.” Well, I’d own an island and a fleet of yachts. For some reason, my body likes to challenge scientific norms and go for the worst possible outcome, And yes, that includes death because I have been clinically dead a few times but, they keep bringing me back.

Glass half full? Glass half empty? Nah, the glass contains chipmunk urine.

I have a highly developed flinch response which might lead to a pessimistic outlook. Not always. I have moments of reckless optimism and hopefulness. Moments that are fleeting, though I try to hold on to them with everything I have. I want to be more hopeful and spend more time in that reckless headspace but I’m just not sure if that’s my lot in life.

Ah, but there I go. I really need to mind my head.

I’m not where I thought I’d be. I’m not even close or in the general vicinity. But, I’m where I need to be? Is that how this works? Just like that, no matter where I am, that’s where I need to be? Even if I don’t feel like I’m needed there? It seems so laissez-faire. I don’t have a say in my life. I’m floating along on a river of time and I’m at the mercy of the current. Leave it alone and it will work out. 

Really? That doesn’t sit very well with me, but I’m a bit of a control freak so the problem could purely be mine. Then again, life has to be more than an aimless wander through each breath. Surely there’s a participation trophy at the end of all this. I may not win but at least I played. Actively involved. Pushing my life towards…Something even though I don’t know what that is.

Again, I know I’m not where I thought I’d be, but I’m also not sure that I’m where I need to be either. This moment. The next. Tomorrow or next year. Here, where I am in my life right now, I don’t feel particularly needed. I don’t mean that in a woe is me sort of way. 

This isn’t something that can be fixed by anything, or anyone, external. This is an internal unrest. I’m looking for direction, meaning, purpose. I’m trying to figure out what I need out of life rather than letting life happen to me. I want to happen to life. I don’t think that sentence structure made sense, but the sentiment is there, hopefully. 

Sure, with the pandemic it’s a little hard to go anywhere or try new things. It’s hard to put life to the test inside my tiny apartment. Maybe it’s bringing out the restlesness. I don’t know, but surely there’s something I can do right here, right now. Right?

I’m on mental journey, along an overgrown path, and I’m stumbling along. There’s movement in the shadows. A bear? A cougar? A guide leading me forward? I feel like I’m being led somewhere but I don’t know where or why. I don’t even know if this guide is real or if it’s wishful thinking. All of the above? None of the above?

There’s also a chance that this existential crisis will pass the same way everything else does: Inside a tall glass of chipmunk urine.

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A Moment of Pettiness And Petulance

Photo by: Andre Hunter on Unsplash.com

I don’t want to do this. I don’t want to sit down and write. I don’t think I have anything to say that will be of value or contribute to the greater discourse. At least, not today. Today, I’m not feeling that great physically or mentally. My body hurts, my heart aches, and I just want to go back to bed or maybe watch a stupid movie. 

I’m too tired for this and that and everything in between. I don’t want to do anything but doing nothing feels like a waste. I’ve wasted away enough time and now’s the time to do something. But what? What do I do when I don’t feel like doing anything? When all I want to do is nothing at all? When all I want is simply to know what I want?

I don’t think that made any sense at all but I’m feeling kind of senseless. In every sense of the word! Have you ever been in this incongruent state? As if someone has dissembled you and thrown you into a melting pot. Stir, stir, stir with vigour but the substances are not compatible. Oil and water. Water and flame. Flame and sulphur. Neither can exist while the other is near.

The reactions vary, as do the extremes, but one or the other has to go if the sum of the whole is to be preserved. If that’s not a mood then I don’t know what is.

It’s petulant. I’m being petulant. A spoilt child having a fit because her toys didn’t want to come out to play. Words are my toys and today they don’t want to come out, come out, where ever they are. Well, in my case, I think they want to play, but we can’t agree on the game or the rules.

Put words on a page? Nah, I don’t wanna. Find something positive to say about the darkest of days? Ha, no! Tell you that it will all be okay if we choose to be a little kinder to each other? Okay, yes, I believe that’s true, and I want to play with that some more. Just not today. Today, I’m too weary of the world, of us as a species, to embrace this simplest of truths.

Our selfish ways. Our cold hearts. It’s me first and you look after your own. Oil and water. Water and flame. Flame and sulphur. Fear, anger, righteous indignation, and more coffins feed the earth. Still, feel like playing a game? 

Another man shot in the back and the perpetrators hailed heroes. A kid with an assault rifle opens fire on peaceful protesters, killing at least two, and people want him to run for office. That kid, destroys so many lives and that includes his own. Still, there’s applause?

What is wrong with the human race? People who claim to fear God but, load God into a gun like a bullet. We lock and load him then pull the trigger. We shoot him at people and then wonder why people are running away from God, the church, or the bible. Running for their lives? Damn straight. Wouldn’t you if someone started shooting?

In my city, amidst a global pandemic, thousands of people went to the beach to participate in a drum circle. Their desire for fun in the sun outweighed my right to life. Their right to party came before your right to breathe. They ask, “What are the odds it’ll happen to me?” They say, “If I get it, so what? I’ll be fine. I’m young and healthy.”

Our numbers were down, the risk was dwindling, but then the selfish masses tested the odds. Those masses are now infected, and our rates are on the rise. How many of them are singing the same song right now? Their age hasn’t protected them, and they’re finding out just how fragile their health really is.

I’m angry and tired. The small, bitter, petty, vengeful part of me wants these idiots to get the virus. Not the dying kind. No one learns anything when they’re dead, and I’d hate for their loved ones to pay a tragic price. Let them get sick enough to pull their heads out their asses and have lasting effects that are just enought to remind them not to stick it back up there.

I don’t like this side of me very much. Quite frankly, she’s a bit of a bitch, and I try to keep her locked up in the basement. She’s well fed and watches lots of Netflix so don’t feel too sorry for her. Every once in awhile, though, she breaks the lock and goes for a walk. That’s when these petty, small, vengeful thoughts dance around my mind. 

No, I don’t want these people to get sick, but I wish they would care more about the people they’re putting at risk. I wish people cared more about others period. We’re all so locked into our own wants, needs, desires, and dreams that we forget the person next to us is there at all. We forget that they also have wants, needs, desires, and dreams. 

We forget to care about them completely!

Well, I’m tired of caring too, you know. I’m tired of thinking about other people and taking precautions for their safety. Today, I’m staying home because I woke up with a sore throat and a low-grade fever. I’ve been careful but, it doesn’t matter how careful I’ve been if so many people don’t care that much at all. It’s a cold, probably, or allergies. In a day or two, I’m going to be fine but what if I’m not?

What if, because of the selfish masses, I’m really sick? Will these drum circle idiots care then? Probably not, so you know what? I’m tired of caring when so many of you don’t.

But I do care and I hate that I care so much. I hate that I feel so much. I wish I could turn it off for a minute, an hour, a day. Caring is exhausting and I don’t wanna do it anymore! And yes, I just stomped my foot a little. So what? It’s a mood and I’m not ashamed. I’m too tired to feel shame right now.

From what I’ve been hearing from you, you’re feeling it too. You care so much it hurts. You care while others don’t. You pick up the slack and hold on tight. You try so hard. You’ve fought for so long. Are you as tired as I am?

I recently heard a term that was new to me: Toxic positivity. We’re told to look on the bright side. That things will get better. Smile through the pain. Look forward and not back. The sun will come out tomorrow. Positive emotions are the heroes and negative ones are the villains.

However, life isn’t one long rainbow with dancing unicorns. Bad things happen all around us. Ignoring that, pretending we don’t feel it, is as bad for us as living in the negative headspace. Looking for the good in the bad, is great, but you can still feel bad. You know that right?

Toxic positivity denies the reality of our situation and minimizes our authentic human experiences. It trivializes our emotions and invalidates our experiences. Negative emotions are normal and finding healthy ways to express them is good for us. But, we’re told that this is positive vibes only zone or that we’d be prettier if we smile. (That one carries a loaded wad of BS). So, we swallow our feelings, lock them in a basement, and let them eat a hole in our stomach lining.

Ulcers aren’t healthy! Living in denial isn’t helpful. Owning all of our feelings? In a healthy way, hell ya, feel them and express them.

In this moment, I’m angry, tired, frustrated, and sad. The world is a sad place. People are idiots. I’m being petty and petulant because I’m so over all of it. The blatant hypocrisy and bigotry. The pandemic and the fringe groups living in denial. The selfish assholes going to drum circles. People getting shot and killed because of their skin colour. People cheering on murderers while their victims are villainized. People using God as a weapon.

I’m over it and I’m angry and I’m furious and…I’m so fucking tired!

Today, I’m giving myself permission to feel what I feel without judgment or condemnation. I’m not going to push it away or shove it down. My poor stomach needs a break. These negative emotions aren’t comfortable but sometimes they’re necessary. Right now, they feel…Well, they feel what they feel.

No, I’m not going to let myself wallow. I all ready have plans to watch a movie with a friend this weekend. Thank God for technology! We’ll be in our own homes, watching over Zoom, and enjoying a physically distant laugh. It will be fun, and it will replace these negative emotions with the positive ones we all know, love, and greatly prefer.

But today I’m feeling the bad feelings and letting go of the judgment. I’m not going to control these emotions or real them in. They’re out now, on this page for you to read, and you know what? Letting them out feels pretty damn good. They aren’t clanking around in my brain, making noise, and now I feel like I can breathe a little easier.

So thanks for letting me share my feelings in a safe and healthy way.

In case you need it, here’s your permission slip to feel all the feelings swirling around in that beautiful brain of yours. There’s so much going on in all of our lives and our hearts. Feel it. Express it. Let it out. It’s okay to feel sad, angry, petty, petulant, and any other emotion. It’s a natural part of our authentic human experience. 

Feeling the negative is necessary and healthy. Wallowing in them is a different story. It’s a balancing act and that’s problematic. I’m very clumsy. I once broke my foot walking across a flat surface. True story! Balancing my emotions? Maybe I should try juggling steak knives first.

Or, I can take a nap. Yeah, that seems safer.

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It Doesn’t Have To Be A Genie In A Lamborghini

Photo by Clay Banks on Unsplash.com

One can pay back the loan of gold, but one dies forever in debt to those who are kind. – Malayan proverb

The call had come late in the afternoon, the previous day, and we’d been waiting in the hospital ever since. Six hours. Ten hours. The hands-on the clock ticked away loudly. It was as if someone had wired the damn thing for sound and hidden speakers were amplifying every tick, tick, tick. The hands pointed and laughed. Mocking me with their obnoxiously large tentacles.

We were waiting for a kidney to be flown across the province, but mechanical issues had delayed the flight. They were working on it, but once a donated organ is out of the body, viability starts to degrade. If it isn’t connected to a new blood source, a living person, then a life-saving opportunity is lost.

There was nothing we could do to speed things up so we waited, hoped, prayed. I watched some tv but that damn clock wouldn’t shut up. It was almost comical. I was half expecting it to wink at me, and break out into a musical number. The lights would dim, and an orchestra would set up in the closet. The lampshade would dance with the bedside table. The cups would serenade the curtains. Cartoon creatures would bumble into the room, slip on a banana peel, and smack each other over the head with toilet paper. 

Wait, did I get sucked into a Loony Tunes Cartoon?

Did I just date myself?

I know what your thinking but, no. They hadn’t given me anything to help me “relax.” I was in complete control of my faculties. My faculties just happen to choreograph elaborate dance numbers with inanimate objects. Anthropomorphizing them and creating fantastical characters that only I can see or appreciate. Ah, it’s a tragic love affair of delirious proportions but alas, it is what it is.

What does that mean?

The music died away, the curtain fell, and all the objects returned to their natural state. I was alone. The room was quiet, except for the droning clock that made my teeth itch. Time was running out for me, and the kidney. I sat there, on the bed, restless but there wasn’t anything I could do about any of it. I was helpless but not yet hopeless. Though, the latter was dwindling.

There was a gentle knock on the door and a cleaning lady smiled sweetly. I think they are the most undervalued and under-appreciated employees in any hospital. Correction, they’re the most undervalued people in every setting. They do the dirty work no one wants to do, but it’s a job that’s desperately needed. Imagine a hospital without cleaning staff. Blood. Germs. Bodily fluids. Need I say more? Ew, no, please don’t!

These unsung heroes of the industrial world move through the hospital virtually unseen. They do their jobs diligently but silently. For one to stop and chat was rare. Unfortunately rare, but maybe seen and not heard is in the job description? Can we change that because this woman changed my life with what she did next?

She walked over to my bed and, in a quiet voice, said, “I’m supposed to tell you that it will be okay.”

Um, excuse me?

Her eyes looked up, her fingers deftly retrieved a rosary from her pocket, and she smiled. “It’s going to be okay. It’s going to work out. Can I say a prayer for you?”

I nodded and shrugged. Sure why not? As a general rule, I never say no to a prayer or a blessing given in a moment of genuine kindness. We might not share the same faith, and I might not believe in your deity, but it can’t hurt. Besides, an act of kindness is a kind act. I never want to turn my back on that kind of gift.

The woman bowed her head, her fingers danced over the beads, and her lips moved as she silently said her prayer. She nodded once, opened her eyes, and smiled again. She placed a prayer card on my bedside table. “I want you to have this, for good luck. You don’t have to believe in it for it to work.” She walked back to her cart but turned around, she smiled and said, “It will be okay.”

With a wave, she was gone, and I never saw her again.

About an hour later, my transplant team came running in the room and told us it was time to go. I kissed my family good-bye, and I was wheeled out of the room. The surgery was long but it was a success. The kidney worked, and I was given ten years that I would not have had if the donor family hadn’t signed the paperwork.

That day I experienced two acts of kindness, and I learned a valuable lesson. Kindness comes in many sizes, but that doesn’t diminish the size of the kindness. Did that make sense? Did I get it off a greeting card? Am I being overly influenced by a loony cartoon and an anthropomorphized dance number?

Two out of three are quite possible, but I’ll let you decide which one didn’t make the cut.

Too often, I get pulled down into a dark place where it seems that kindness is a dying art. It’s the last resort if it’s resorted to at all. We’ve bought the lie that kindness is hard, and the cost is too high. There are other alternatives that are cheaper and easier. We’re a lazy species so guess which one we choose more often than not?

Too cynical?

I know we’re all stressed. There’s so much going on in the world and in our tiny corners of it. I don’t feel like being kind, tolerant, or accepting of differing views. I’m a little snappier than I usually am and, it seems that most people are feeling the same way.

Tired. That’s the word for it! We’re tired and that means, at least for me, that the fuse runs a little shorter than normal. Our saint-like patience morphs into a tiny devil on a short leash. That leash is frayed and it was sewn together with ten year Cheetos that someone found tucked in the sofa cushions. I don’t know if it will hold for much longer. Did anyone hear a rip?

Kindness? It feels like a weighted blanket which, in theory, should feel like a hug but instead, it feels like a straight jacket. I’m not saying, I don’t belong in a straight jacket. I’m saying, it’s just not as comfortable as a hug. But I can’t hug you right now. Virus and a straight jacket. You know how it is.

Oh, and how can I treat you with an altruistic spirit when my spirit has its arms tied down? I can’t. I just…It’s so hard.

The struggle is real! Which is why acts of kindness seem to be dwindling. It’s being replaced with childlike petulance. Foot stamping the ground. Fist clenched at the side. Eyes squinting, and huffing out a classic, “I don’t wanna.”

Why should I? Why should I be kind to you, if you aren’t going to be kind to me? If you aren’t going to respect my choices, beliefs, or ideas then, screw you. You want me to respect you? It’s a two-way street, buddy. I treat you the same way you treat me. Boom. Done. Bye!

Except, that lady in the hospital got nothing out of her act of kindness. I don’t know if I thanked her or not. I’m not even sure I smiled back. I was shocked, kinda numb, and I kept looking at the cups to see if they’d start singing again. She was kind without expectation, and she didn’t stick around for a tip. 

She was kind, to be kind. That was it.

It was such a small thing to do, and it cost her nothing but three minutes of her time. What’re three minutes in the course of a lifetime? What about thirty seconds? What’s a smile cost? What about holding a door open? Wearing a mask? Respecting others who choose not to, or can’t for medical reasons, wear a mask?

Or, keeping the judgment inside my head instead of letting it come out of my mouth? Wiping the look off my face would be a good start. Minding my own? Yeah, I could do that too.

It doesn’t cost me anything to be kind, and that includes energy. Energy I don’t have because, I said it before, I’m tired. I feel like I’m waiting for a bomb to go off. A preverbal explosion that will level my life and leave me in ruins. Too dramatic? Sure, but this constant state of tension is wearing me thin, and I’m feeling the fatigue.

Still, I have to be kind?

Yeah, because kindness doesn’t have to be a sweeping gesture. The kidney I received was one of those kindnesses. It was huge! It was lifesaving. It showed an immense amount of compassion, empathy, and selfless courage to think of strangers in a time of incredible grief. I can’t even begin to imagine what that moment was like for them, and I can’t even begin to thank them for it either.

But to this day, twenty-plus years later, I still remember the cleaning lady that knocked on my hospital room door. I still have the prayer card she gave me, and I’m not Catholic. I don’t believe in saints or rosaries. As a religious object, it holds no emotional value to me. But, what she did for me that day was so special that I treasure that card, that memory, as much as I value the life-saving organ transplant.

The value of kindness lays in the heart, and it’s not something that can be quantified by size or measure. It’s given freely and without expectation. It’s done, in its purest form, simply because it can be done and not doing it, doesn’t cross our minds. It’s less of a reaction, more of an action. It’s instinct. It’s a calling. It’s a purpose-filled moment that leaves both hearts satiated.

I know we’re tired right now, and the world seems to have lost its collective mind. Kindness has taken a back seat to rightness. We’re up to our necks in the all-mighty “IT”, and it doesn’t look like it’s going to give in, any time soon. It’s no wonder we’re going at each other instead of helping each other.

But it can be different!

Kindness doesn’t have to be big. You don’t need to donate an organ. Though, if you want to donate, that’s amazing. Oh, and blood banks are always looking for donors too. Call your local Red Cross or blood donation service in your region, and ask how you can help. If you’re so inclined and/or able too.

Okay, the PSA is over.

Donating blood or organs? That’s an amazing kindness and lives will be saved! But sometimes a small act can save a life too. I was sitting on that bed, in the hospital, climbing out of my skin, and a few words helped me settle down. It gave me comfort. It helped me hold onto hope. That day, she saved my sanity. My donor, and his family, saved my life. 

Two acts of kindness, seemingly miles apart, had such a drastic impact on my life.

What would happen if I focused more of my energy on kindness instead of rightness? Does that change the world? Yeah, probably not. Would it change my very small corner of it? I think it could because one woman’s kindness changed my life in three minutes flat.

If, by some miracle, you’ree that cleaning lady from BC’s Children’s Hospital? I know the odds of you reading this are slim to none but, thank you. What you did? It meant everything to me.

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First World Smudges

Photo By: Ed Leszcznskl on Unsplash.com

Damn it, I have to clean my glasses again. It’s the pandemics fault! No, I’m not being ridiculous. You’re being ridiculous. What? I don’t know! Before this, I didn’t have to wipe smudges off my glasses nearly as often. Now, every ten minutes there’s a new smudge. I blame the mask I have to wear. Stupid muzzle smudging up my glasses. Doesn’t it know I need to see where I’m going? I’m clumsy enough without my vision becoming obstructed by the stupid smudges.

Gawd, it’s so…Arg!

Am I being petty or humbly bragging that I wear a mask because I, in my pixie-like frivolity, care about the strangers that cross my path? Oo, now I’m being passively snarky. At least it’s passive, and I didn’t suggest that peoples reactions to recent events just might prove Darwin’s theory of natural selection. Oh no, that would completely erase the passivity of my previous statement, and we wouldn’t want that. Would we? 

Well, someone’s in a mood today!

I know, and I half-heartedly apologize. To say my whole heart backs the apology would be a downright fib, crock, loaded piece of mendacity. Who else loves the thesaurus? Me, pick me! Actually, don’t pick me because I’m in a mood for which, I’m afraid, I will not willingly part with just yet.

Sooner rather than later it will burn itself out and I’ll, once again, be the same old me. Weird, awkward, a little frayed around the edges, but quirky in a way that’s a little endearing and slightly terrifying. Yes, my friend, the mood will fizzle out and we’ll return to our regularly scheduled programming. Until then?

Do you ever find yourself in mood that seems quite contrary? I’m easily irritated by trivial things, but in a way that mildly amuses me. There’s a silliness that’s irked by an almost overwhelming sense frustration because I can’t pull it together. Curiosity tickles a head that feels bloated and teeming with canned sardines. I’m restless and I feel like I need to do something important, fulfilling, or constructive. I also feel this exhaustion that’s seeped into every bone, joint, and ligament. It’s making my eyes twitch and pulling the blinds down despite my best efforts to stay wide-eyed.

I want to see the world, enjoy life, and experience every second but, damn it, my glasses have a brand new smudge. How? I haven’t moved in several minutes. In fact, the only part of my body that’s flexed with intent would be the fingers typing this very long sentence. The rest of me is locked and loaded. Sitting rigidly just in case the smallest vibration interrupts the creative juices.

Is that what I’m experiencing? An excessive rush of juice. That sounds disturbing and/or wildly inappropriate. Next, I’m going to use the word moist and set off a wave of cringing groans. I’m incorrigible! 

Alas, I think my juice to creativity ratio is well within an acceptable range. Which can only mean that this is nothing more than a mood that’s been brought on by…Uh…Something?

What, pray tell, is going on? Why am I so frustrated by something as trivial as smudges on my glasses? Why do simple sounds grate on my last never? Why did I just watch the same video three times without registering a single frame? Why do I have the attention span of a squirrel that accidentally ingested illicit drugs? Why did it just take me three attempts to write the word squirrel? Why is the mere thought of making dinner so aggravating? Why do I feel like I’m living the same one hundred and sixty-eight hours over, over, over again?

I know that these are all first-world disgruntlements and I should feel lucky that they’re my only “problems” at the moment. If Life, the entity not the temporal illusion, really wanted to be a vindictive little shrew, it could make my life really miserable. The entire month of July was a prime example. Back-to-back-to-back health shenanigans and that was Life being moderately vexing.

A full-blown hissy fit? I shudder at the thought. 

I don’t think I’m the only one experiencing this mood disorder. Is it a disorder? I’m not a psychologist or a mental health expert of any sort. I have seen a number of these experts but I don’t think that qualifies me to pronounce something a disorder. Or, does it? Hm, we may never know.

How else do we explain peoples behaviour as of late? Adults who, by all accounts, are usually calm and rational are turning into toddlers throwing tantrums. A woman is told she can’t go into a big chain store without a mask, so she sits on the floor and pouts. A man berates an employee, who isn’t paid enough to deal with it, because the store was out of toilet paper. A group of, let’s call them, “special” people are suing the Canadian government because the government is trying to stop people from contracting a virus that’s already claimed hundreds of thousands of lives.

Now, when it comes to governments and politicians, I’m a cynic. Power and money are corruptible forces. Even the most righteous among us will be swayed by the Sirens call. It’s inevitable, but that doesn’t mean everything they do is wrong or motivated by greed. They want to keep people alive and healthy. What good is money and power with no one around to watch you gloat?

How’s that for cynical?

Oh, and politicians might actually care about the country and the people they were elected to serve. Especially in times of crisis. In Canada, our government has listened to the scientists and followed their lead. This is why, compared to some of our allies, we’ve had fewer cases of this damn virus and fewer deaths. But sure, sue the government for not letting its citizens suffer and die you witless, puerile…

No! Be nice. Be nice. Be nice.

But they make it so hard!

My apologies, I lost control of myself for a moment. I normally strive to be understanding and when I can’t do that, I aim for compassion or tolerance. This mood of mine is getting the better of me, and a lot of other people, it seems.

We’re all being a little more glib and short-tempered. Some are taking it out on strangers or the government. While some of us are keeping it closer to home. Standing at the kitchen sink, on the verge of tears, staring at the dishes we need to clean. Again. They keep getting dirty! I wash them so I can use them and once I use them I have to wash them. It’s a vicious cycle. When will the madness end?

Sure, I just have to rinse them and put them in a machine. Push the button and walk away. It’s really not that hard. It’s not like I’m scrubbing the damn things by hand. I’m certainly not kneeling by a river filled with animals that could eat me. Oh, and I have food to put on those plates that I’m crying about washing. I could be crying about an empty stomach.

I look myself in the mirror and remind my reflection that this is a first-world problem. Pull it together and realign the wayward priorities. It could be worse. A lot of people have it so much harder than I do. What is wrong with me?

What’s wrong with all of us?

The things we complain about are trivial in the grand scheme of things. There are much larger problems to deal with and complaining about the lines at the grocery store won’t solve them. Crying over a pile of dishes doesn’t help. Yelling at an underpaid, and under-appreciated, customer service employee? Well, that’s just asinine and it doesn’t solve the problems we face.

So why are we doing these things?

I don’t know about you, but there’s only so much I can take before my resilience runs low. I start crying because the dishes are piling up or I can’t find that one thing I went all the way to the store to get. I refer to the special people as witless and puerile and I call them special. I’m easily frustrated and my attention span is…Where was I going with this?

It’s not about the dishes, poorly stocked shelves, or how special other people may or may not be. I’m tired. We’ve been running at this heightened state of alert for months now and I don’t think our minds are supposed to do that. The whole fight, flight, freeze, or ignore reality and believe every conspiracy that pops up onto Facebook thing is supposed to be a one-off. It’s a short-term survival strategy who’s helpfulness is questionable, at best.

The key words there: Short term. 

Five, six, months? I don’t know how you define “short term,” but this is starting to look more like a longing running tv show that should’ve been canceled three seasons ago. The plots running a little thin and the characters are derivative. I’m starting to look forward to the commercial breaks because at least they offer a few minutes of rest.

When do the commercial breaks come on in this pandemic? I’d like to mute them, get some snacks, and empty my bladder but, uh, I don’t see a break coming.

The mood I’m in, the things that are upsetting me, are symptoms of emotional exhaustion and frustration at a situation I can’t control. I’m tired of fearing for my life because people would rather be comfortable than safe. I’m missing my old life. I’m grieving the plans that were lost. This year, I was going to do a lot of things, and those things have been put in storage.

I want my life back, but my life hasn’t gone anywhere.

I’m still alive. My heart is still beating. When I take a deep breath in, I feel my lungs inflate and deflate on exhale. I know I’m still alive because I’m feeling so many different things, and those emotions are causing seepages in unlikely places. Crying over silly things. Getting angry at smudges on my glasses. Forgetting to be kind when kindness is a much-needed commodity. 

There’s nothing wrong with feeling frustrated at this situation or grieving the losses of things that, in the grand scheme, are trivial. Yeah, they’re first world problems but that doesn’t mean the emotions behind them aren’t real and valid. Dismissing or diminishing that because we don’t have it worse? It doesn’t help the people who do have it worse. It just makes us feeling more alone because we aren’t free to feel what we feel.

If we were free to own our emotions and express them in healthy ways? Well, we wouldn’t stage a sit-in at a big-box store or hold our breath and stamp our feet in the middle of a fast-food joint. The special people? Yeah, okay, there’s always going to be a few outliers, but even they could use a good cry every once in a while. It’s cathartic. It’s freeing. These feelings have to come out at some point, and I don’t want them to come out in viral video or in a police record.

First world problems or not, if I could cut myself some slack, and let these emotions roll out more often then this mood wouldn’t interrupt an otherwise beautiful day. I’m going through a lot, you are too, so let’s give each other a little space to feel it, own it, and get through it. It won’t last forever, and when it’s over we can either be better for it or not.

I’m hoping we come out stronger, but maybe that’s just me being a silly optimist. For a change. It’s new. I’m giving it a try. Optimism tastes funny. 

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Blessed To Be Weird?

Photo By:Ryan Stone on Unsplash.com

“Blessed are the weird people. Poets, misfits, writers, mystics, painters, & troubadours; for they teach us to see the world through different eyes.” –  Jacob Nordby, Blessed Are The Weird: A Manifesto For Creatives.

I’ve said this before, but in case you’re new or have a memory like mine: I’m weird and awkward. No, it’s okay. I am. I know it. The people who know me best, know it and some kind of like the weird. If we ever meet face to face, you’d soon see it too. Try as I might, I can’t be normal. Whatever that is?

Our first meeting would play out like almost all of my social interactions. I mutter a few words that sound like English but, perhaps, an ancient dialect. You frown, ask me to repeat myself, and then there will be a long stretch of awkward silence. My mouth opens and closes like a fish chewing on a juice piece of kelp. We stare at each other. Glance over our shoulders, looking for a polite exit, and wave goodbyes.

You don’t have to back away slowly, you know. I’m weird, not psychotic…Yet. Jokes! I swear. I have no intention of being lured to the dark side of the forced perspective. There’s a Star Wars/Star Trek joke in there somewhere.

*Cough* Nerd! Oh, shush you. Age of the nerd, baby. Whoop.

Thing is, I love words. I love playing with them, turning them inside out, and exploring their depths. Words are beautiful! But I have a hard time forming them with my mouth or any other orifice. They can’t seem to make the long journey from my mind to my mouth. Mind to fingers? Most of the time, that’s not a problem. Say them out loud? Engage in conversation? Use them to socially connect with another person? Uh, what we have here is a failure to communicate.

Wouldn’t it be great if we could project our thoughts onto a flat surface and let them play out like a movie? That’s how I see the world, by the way. Or, more accurately, how my mind translates the world. My mind projects life onto the surface of my skull like I’m out at the drive-in theatre. Sometimes it’s an epic tale with dramatic music and breathtaking scenes. Other times, it plays out like a home movie on one of those projectors my grandfather had stored in his garage.

The old machine whirs loudly behind my head. It gives off, what I can only assume is, copious amounts of radiation. The whole room turns into a sauna but at least there’s popcorn. The movie doesn’t have any sound and there’s a click every time the scene changes. People move like robots that need a good lube job. The edges of the film have started to bleed. It’s ancient technology but the nostalgia is comforting.

That’s my brain in a nutshell. A literal nutshell? Ancient technology? A radioactive projector? There are days when I genuinely wonder what’s going on up there. Other days? Some mysteries aren’t meant to be solved, young Sherlock.

My brain interprets life like a movie and emotions like a twenty-one gun firing squad. I feel things so acutely, it hurts. Not just my emotions. Well, actually my own emotions are hard to access, and they have the speed and range of an asthmatic slug. They’re there but I prefer to bury them deep down and pretend that I have any feelings. It’s easier that way. Healthier? Good gracious me, not even a little.

I rarely feel my own emotions, other than intense anxiety, but I feel yours with an overwhelming intensity. The good, the bad, the things you try to hide because now is not the time or place. Which is fair. You don’t owe me anything. If you want to tell me, by all means, but it’s none of my business. Except I feel it radiating off of you, and now my mind is on the blink. I smell smoke. I can’t think of anything to say. 

Words, where are all the words? I…Can’t…Must smile awkwardly. Danger Will Robinson. Danger. Reboot. Must…Reboot. Damn robot brain.

It’s an annoying personality to quirk, and I’d love to find the off switch. If nothing else, it’s something I would love to dial back just a sniff. If only I could be more…Normal? 

No, that doesn’t feel like the right word. I appreciate and value uniqueness. More so in others than myself but, still, it’s admirable. It’s certainly not easy to be different in a world that pushes us all to conform to the ever-changing norms. Those of you who boldly go out as you are, whatever that may be, are stronger than most, braver than some, and completely, unequivocally, badass.

Me? It’s easier for me to communicate and be my weird self here on this page. In fact, the weirder I get, the more you seem to like it. You respond to the weirdness, the absurdity of my mind, in a way that surprises and perplexes me. 

Usually, when I let my inner weirdo out into the world, people walk away. The looks come out like lasers darts filled with enough tranquilizer to knock out a hippopotamus. Their eyes squint, their noses twitch like an over-stimulated raccoon, and they swallow their lips. 

Occasionally there will be a laugh but it’s not filled with good humour. It sounds like a bat testing its surroundings. Is it safe? Is it okay? Poke it with a stick and make sure it doesn’t move. I won’t bite you. I promise. Unless it’s a full moon then all bets are off.

Here, when I just let go and let my mind venture into dark caves with sleeping werewolves? You welcome me with open arms. I can be who I am, as absurd as that is, without editing my personality. I can be open, honest, and free to be me without the judgment, irritation, or confusion I receive in the real world.

It’s both baffling and delightfully refreshing. To find a place that welcomes a different way of thinking and communicating is precious. Rare! So, very rare, but that’s what makes it worth more than any gem nature can create. That makes this a deeply treasured space for me so thanks for that. Sincerely.

The most talented writers, poets, painters, musicians, I know are some of the strangest people I’ve ever met. I mean that in the best way possible! I admire their talent and the way they lay their hearts bare in their work. They see the world in ways I can’t even begin to understand or fully appreciate. They’re brilliant but a bit odd.

They, like me, struggle to communicate in way the outside world can understand. They stumble over their words. They get overstimulated in crowds. They’re ungraceful in conversations. They stand out, marked as different, so clearly that most people don’t know what to do with them so they don’t try. They, like me, are often left standing in their gawky silence. Hoping no one notices how far off the line they’ve strayed.

These are my people. The blessed few. The ones who don’t fit in and don’t belong. Brilliant and talented. They posses skills I envy and admire. I’m in awe of these people. The way they communicate transcends the norm and reaches an undiscovered depth of knowing, of understanding.

I’m nowhere near their level but they inspire me to go deeper. Being able to learn from them is a privilege. Being inspired by them is a gift. They’ve found a voice when all traditional forms abandoned them. They found their own, unique, way to share how they see life, love, humanity. If they can find a way to transform their weirdness into an asset, an aptness, then so can I.

And just like that, they’ve given me another gift.

Maybe that’s the reason so many of us weirdo’s are drawn to the arts? We’re looking for a voice, a way to be heard, and someone to listen. More than that! We’re looking for a way to be heard. It’s one thing to listen to the words coming out of someone’s mouth. It’s another thing to hear the beating heart behind each syllable. 

Weirdo or not? That’s something we all have in common. We all want to be heard, seen, valued. But when you’re too weird for the normal world? Then finding a way for the world to see you is…Well, it’s an art.

One of the things that make us weird is our view of the world itself. It’s different than what most are used too. Sometimes the colours of the tree leaves are painfully vibrant. Sometimes we hear a song when others hear noise. We see beauty in chaos. We see the pulse of electricity flowing between the lines that connect all living things. We see lines connecting all living things. We feel the earth move beneath our feet as it rotates on its axes. We feel more of everything and that creates a deeper appreciation, a deeper connection, to the lives that are so often overlooked.

Blessed are the weird because, without us, so much of life’s intricacies would be lost to a binary world. Throughout the history of our species, creatives have been challenging the status quo by simply saying, “Life is my wondrous than we can even imagine.” Don’t settle. There’s more out there. Can’t you see it? Can’t you feel? The heavens and the earth have so much to offer. Beauty, wonder, miracles, and angels. 

Look up. Look out. Look within. Without creatives and misfits, the growth of humanity would come to a standstill. Seldom challenged. Rarely tested. The status quo would be maintained because it’s comfortable. Thank God for the weirdo’s who make things a little awkward, and ask silly questions.

Can I capture the starry night on a plain white canvas? Can a few notes move someone tears? Can these few words, on this one page, bring peace to a tormented soul? Can I look into a person’s blood and find the code to humanity? Can I touch the face of God? Can, what, how…All of these questions were asked and look how far we’ve come because someone was just the right amount of weird.

We’ve sent people to space and found the genetic make up of a person. We’ve found cures for diseases. We’ve found a way to pull some people back from the brink of death. We’ve built cathedrals and captured precious moments on film, or canvas. Our story as a species can be told because someone started putting marks on a cave wall and then words on a page.

Blessed are the weird for they don’t settle for what is comfortable or easy. That’s their gift to the world. That’s their purpose, your purpose, on this planet. We, the weird few, are here to remind the world that life is more meaningful, beautiful, wondrous than one moment, one troubled time, or one breath. We’re here to show the endless possibilities of a world seen through different eyes.

Thank God for the weird people!

Including myself? Well, I’m a recovering human being with flaws and foibles. One day, perhaps, I’ll fully appreciate my weird and awkward ways. A work in progress! That’s what I am. But thank you for accepting me, eccentricities all. It’s nice to be heard and it means more than you might realize.

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A Discovery Of Locution

Photo by Marcus dePaula on Unsplash.com

Words are hard. That’s it, that’s all I wanted to say so, good night.

I should probably write more than fourteen words, right? Oo, look at that, I’m at twenty-three…No Thirty. Can I just fill up this entire post with a running word count? Has anyone done that? If so: ballsy. Has anyone read that post all the way to the end? If you have, good on ya. What a legend!

Or, was it pity? It was a pity read, wasn’t it? Wow, you have a kind heart or were exceptionally bored. Either way, you’re still a legend.

Writing nothing but a ten-page word count is impressive. Not as impressive as say, the first person to perform an organ transplant, or strap their hindquarters to a rocket and go for a ride. That reaches a monumental level of intensity that’s hard to surpass. You did what, now? Nice!

As a writer, or someone who dabbles, one of my greatest fears is sitting down to write and discovering that the words I love have vanished. That heartbreaking moment when locution fails me and I start writing numbers with a delusional hope that no one will notice. Accepting a pity read because it’s better than no one reading it at all. 

One hundred and sixty-eight.

Words are hard and some days they’re harder to find than others. Is today that day? One hundred and eighty-nine. Uh…

These little nuggets of gold-encrusted chocolate are hiding deep down inside a dark mine. Flecks shimmer in the light from my torch. Hints of what lies within the depth of these jagged cliffs offer a fleeting glimpse of a treasure that’s just out of reach. I follow their lead and venture further into the unexplored caverns.

Somewhere in here, hiding in the shadows and buried deep under the untapped bedrock, lies the sweetest gems. They’re waiting to be discovered. They’re calling out, begging to be found, and all I have to do is…How’s that word count coming?

Anyone who writes for a living, or for fun, has ventured down into those lexeme caves with a pickaxe and a pound of TNT. The same explosives the Road Runner used to outsmart the Coyote. Big red sticks, a long wick sticking out the top, and a boldly printed ACME stamped on one side. It’s an oldie but a goody.

We go down into those caves, and we use every trick in the book. Blood, sweat, a bucket of tears to splash over the burning fuse. Safety first kids! All that effort, only to emerge from the darkness with scraps instead of treasure. Worse than that, we’ve found a bounty of fools gold. Sure, we can sell it to the tourists, but it’s pennies to the dollar.

The real gold nuggets of gooey chocolate? Where, oh where, could they be?

Words fail me and my mind goes blank. I stare at the computer screen; my fingers hover over the keys, but nothing comes. Not a thought or an image. There are no ideas or musings. My fingers flex in anticipation, ready and willing to transcribe my, um, genius (?) but I’m mentally constipated.

I apologize for that deeply disturbing image.

I draw my words from life but, right now, life is stagnated. I spent most of last month at home, sick. I’m spending a good part of this month recovering. It wasn’t anything too serious. My blood work came back normal and my doctors say that I’ll return to full strength soon enough. I just have to take it a bit easy and let my body heal in its own time. Which, annoyingly, is slower than a snail on a dried-out slip and slide. 

These mild symptoms are irritating, at best, but given our current viral situation, I’m being extra cautious. Also, I’m trying to be considerate which seems to be a dying art. It’s not complicated! Stay home if you’re not feeling good. Got it? Check. 

Staying home is the right thing to do, but my home is small which means my world is very small. As the incredibly vexing song suggests, it is indeed a small world after all, but a small world means a small life. Doesn’t it? It feels small. That’s probably more accurate. Feelings aren’t facts. I have to keep reminding myself of this simple truth, and then I sigh quite dramatically.

Even when I do leave my home, I don’t venture too far away. I may not be contagious, but there’s a very contagious virus floating around out there. My immune system doesn’t function like it should, which means I’m…I…I can’t say it. Yes, I can. Suck it up! I’m…Vulnerable. Boom, got it out. Thank-you. Thank you. The applause is unnecessary which is why no one is clapping. Cool. Cool.

I have a very sensitive gag reflex, and that triggered it. I might throw up. No, wait, I think I’m okay. Kept it down. Whew! I hate being vulnerable. In every conceivable context, I hate it. Life, love, health. All of it. Vulnerability is repugnant.

Then again, it’s an admirable quality as long as it’s in the possession of others. Does that make me a hypocrite or a complex human being? Huh…Both might be true and it’s something that needs to be unpacked in great detail. To do that, though, I think words would be a valuable asset. Unfortunately, at the moment, all I can think about is how bizarre words are.

Bizarre in an extraordinary way. I love words. The way they look on a page. The way they feel rolling off the tongue. The way one word can mean so many different things. I love how a single word can create a picture that’s more vibrant than anything Picasso or Liberace could ever dream up.

When I hear a word, an elaborate painting starts to take shape. Out of nowhere, not a paintbrush in sight, colours and shapes are splashed on a canvas. Lines reach out to each other and they start to create a detailed scene. A scene that comes to life as if by magic. It’s breathtaking. It’s powerful. It’s stunning and, sometimes, overwhelmingly heartbreaking.

A single word can be the most beautiful thing in the world or the most tragic. How is that possible? How can a few letters, strategically placed, have so much power?

“Sticks and stones may break my bones but words can never harm me.” 

Hum the tune and sing the words. I’m pretty sure we’ve all heard it. It’s been sung at us ever since we were pint-sized. The problem is, bones heal but the wounds left behind by a single word can last a lifetime. A few well-timed words can cut a life short. They can also heal, save a life, and lift people out of the darkest of places. 

That’s the power, beauty, and grace of a few letters strung together, and it’s such a wondrous thing. 

These symbols, that are akin to scratches on a cave wall, carry our lives in their misshapen hands. By themselves, they’re meaningless. Put them together and we can craft a whole new world. They can cure diseases. They can bring about war and peace. They create communities and bonds that last far beyond the beating of a single heart.

They inspire this solitary soul, sitting in an eight hundred square foot apartment, to look beyond a bland, tasteless, existence. They pull me out of my head and show me an energy that flows between each letter, word, and person. They encourage me to let go of my hyper-reality and explore a deeper meaning. These words, of all shapes and sizes, dance across the page. They open my mind to new definitions and let me explore the dream world they’ve created.

Even if that world doesn’t line up the dictionaries’ definition.

My mind is strange, weird, and it likes to follow streams of thought that deviate from socially accepted norms. It hears a word and the real meaning doesn’t matter all that much. It’s the image it paints or the movie it produces. An association between one word and another. Drawn together with the flimsiest of wires but, I can’t help but follow the line and see where it goes.

For example, here’s a word I don’t hear in conversation very often but one I love: Prosaic. Say it out loud, and it rolls off the tongue. It sounds like a song. String instruments with a solid bass line run in the background. Not too harsh but not too soft. Uplifting. Hopeful.

If you thought my mind was weird before, hold on. Prosaic sounds a lot like mosaic. When you think of a mosaic, where do you go?

For me, it conjures up images of the Italian countryside. Fields, rolling hills, and cottages speckled across the horizon. Maybe there’s an old monastery hiding behind that overgrown hedge. Abandoned. Forgotten. Left to decay but instead, it’s become home to some of nature’s smallest creatures. In its retirement, it’s become a home and a piece of art that adds mystery to a peaceful valley.

I know the dictionary would have a field day with my overactive imagination. Prosaic is the exact opposite of the image it invokes. It simply means commonplace or ordinary. The word itself speaks to a lack of imagination, but its use in our ordinary and commonplace lexicon has diminished. Its lack of use transforms it into something striking, melodic, and alluring.

Again, I know what the word means and I have a dictionary to prove it. But for a second, imagine that the word is new. Close your eyes and let your mind go blank. The word flows out of someone’s mouth and images start to form. For me, with prosaic, I see the Italian countryside. I’ve never been to Italy, but I would love to go! I’m a history buff and it’s a country that’s rich in all of the wonderful things. Also, I hear the food is amazing but I digress.

It’s bizarre, I know, but my mind is a very strange place to visit or live. It creates movies, paints landscapes, out of random and unrelated word associations. Literal meaning, while wondrous and breathtaking, steps aside and lets the melody create its own reality. 

But that’s the beauty of words! That’s their power, their elegance, and their magic. That’s what I love about them and why I go searching in dark mines. It’s also why I fear losing these precious gems and start writing word counts with a delusional hope that no one will notice.

It’s not about letting people down or missing a deadline. It’s about missing that connection to a power that can lift me up from my darkest of places. It’s missing the community the words create. Words, when they’re at their best, give me hope that beauty still exists. Even here, inside my eight hundred square foot bubble because words turn those eight hundred feet into eighty thousand miles.

So, uh, how’s my word count now?

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At The Risk Of Being Cancelled

Photo By Markus Winkler on Unsplash.com

“Saints are sinners who kept on going.” – Robert Louis Stevenson

How bored are you right now? On a scale of absentmindedly channel surfing to reorganizing your kitchen cupboards for the fourteenth time. Where are you sitting? Somewhere in the middle? Like, what, mop the floors, or try a new banana bread recipe? It had chocolate chips so, you know, that changes everything. It’s a completely different recipe.

Today, I think I refreshed the recommended page on Youtube thirty-six times. It’s not a personal best but, the day isn’t over yet. Am I looking for something specific? Nope, I don’t know what I’m looking for but I keep looking. Do I have something better to do? Of course. Will that stop me from trying to break my record? It should. It really should. I should not, under any circumstance click…Thirty-seven. Damn it!

No self-control. I have no self-control. That’s my problem. My only problem? Oh, how I wish. Oo, maybe I can alphabetize my neuroses. That should kill a good two hours. That’s a conservative estimate, but I don’t want to peak too soon. If I do…Click…Thirty-eight. Come on! I wasn’t even trying that time.

I think my clicking finger has a mind of its own. Just clickity clicking all of over the place. I’m afraid of what it’s going to click on next. Maybe I should close my eyes just in case. There are some things you simply can’t unsee, and the internet is full of strange, weird, and un-unseeable things. I shiver at the thought of what will pop up on my screen if my clicking finger keeps this up.

Life is a bit dull, uninspiring, and blasé at the moment. Clearly! I may have a little too much time on my hands, but I haven’t stooped to an all-new low, yet. Refreshing Youtube thirty-seven, thirty-eight, thirty-nine, times isn’t a new low? Oh no, I assure you, I can go much lower. 

I could, for example, go onto Twitter and join a cancel party. Jump in with all ten of my clicking fingers and have it. Fall head over toenails into the steaming pile of righteous indignation and build a catapult to launch the festering goop right up that mighty mountain.

Let’s topple a king. Let’s oust a queen. Destroy them, and tear them apart. Why? They did, said, or became something we can’t tolerate, abide by, or maybe they just smell funny. Does it matter? They’re wrong. We’re right. That’s all that matters. Burn the motherfu…

Sorry, that almost got away from me. Lost my head for a second, but I’m reeling it in. Inch by inch. It’s coming back. Nice and slow. Give it a spin, a good shake, and there ya go. My head has been screwed on, and it’s backward. Damn it! Give me a second. Just need to give it a flick and…Oo, it cracked! That felt good. Oh yeah, it’s much better now. Well, it’s facing the right direction so, yay.

It seems like these cancel parties are happening more often. Every day, every few hours, someone is being declared, “Over.” Is it boredom? Have we run out of banana bread recipes? Are our homes too clean so we’re forced to go digging through someone’s trash? Dig deep enough into anyone’s past and we’ll find something juice, smelly, and covered in maggots. They might not have a whole collection of skeletons, but there’s gotta be something to uncover and publicly berate. 

I’ve scrolled through the hashtags, and I don’t get it. I don’t understand the culture. I don’t know why we feel the need to throw someone out and erase their entire life because of a mistake or stupid moment. It’s not simply calling out a wrong. If that’s what it was, then, okay, it would be justifiable or, at least, understandable. But that’s not what we’re doing, is it?

Don’t get me wrong, I believe in consequences and we all have to face our own at some point. I’ve had to face the repercussions of my actions and choices. So far, knock on wood, I haven’t done anything dramatically idiotic and my sincerest apologies were enough. We do something wrong and we face what comes but when is it enough? When do we go too far? Is there a point where redemption is no longer possible?

But who doesn’t love a genuine story of redemption? A person does something that should, by all rights, be completely unforgivable. They face the fallout head-on. They do the time, in whatever way it comes, and then they dedicate their lives to making it right. Whether that’s by amends and forgiveness; or stopping someone else from making the same mistake.

There’s something so inspiring about watching a person go as low as humanly possible and then build themselves back up. Or am I just a sap? I get teary-eyed at the beer commercial where the puppy finds his lost horse friend and they reunite and… Sniff.

That’s the thing, I think. We’ve become so jaded that all attempts at atonement are seen as insincere or motivated by greed and self-preservation. We’re so wrapped up in the certainty of our piety that we can’t even imagine granting someone else the leniency, the forgiveness, we’ve received or needed. There’s no chance for growth or recovery. Their life has to be destroyed because of a moment, mistake, or ignorance. 

If someone holds bigoted beliefs, for example, is there no chance that they can learn, grow, change? What about something like physical harm? Can we, as the perpetrator come back from that or are we doomed to live a meaningless, empty, shell of life? And if that’s true, do we have a right to life at all or, are we better off wondering off this mortal coil?

Before we continue, let me own my own misplaced piety. I’ve fallen down the rabbit hole, and you know what? It’s fun being on that end of a tweet. Typing words of condemnation sends this jolt of energy through my body. There’s a fire in my veins that surges out of my fingertips. It takes my breath away just a little, and it catches in the back of the throat. Jaw clenched, eyes narrowed, lips turned down in disgust. I’ve fired off a scathing rebuke with the appropriate hashtag. 

Then I sat back, slowly exhale, and muttered, “They reap what they sow.” I’m so dramatic.

There’s a feeling of accomplishment. At least, in the face of this wrong, I didn’t stay quiet. I said something and therefore I did something. Online, sure, but it’s, well, something. Raise a glass to their demise, take a sip, and then look for another target. Let’s face it, that jolt of adrenaline doesn’t last all that long. The endorphins that surged a second ago fade pretty quickly. Without another hit?

While my current level of boredom hasn’t sent me online just yet, it has in the past. I’ve taken the bait. We all have, haven’t we? To differing degrees, we’ve all done it, but I don’t think I’ve #cancelled anyone. Not yet but it is tempting. When does that temptation shift between speaking up against injustice, to righteous indignation?

Maybe it’s the tone that counts more than the words. Then again, tone is hard to produce in written words. So much is left up to interpretation. So what then? Do we speak words of encouragement to the victims, instead of attacking the guilty party? Not giving in to herd mentality is a good start. Resisting the urge to pile it on can’t hurt. Supporting the person, or the group of people, who are taking massive hits goes a long way.

But here’s harder question: What about the person in the wrong? I don’t know if I have a good answer to this one. I hate to see an injustice go unchallenged. It’s so unfair. That feeling of helplessness is repugnant. But what about redemption? Is it still possible? Can sinners become saints?

Or, is all hope lost?

There has to be a glimmer of hope in their story because, without hope, there’s not much left. Whether they choose to follow the light is up to them but, it has to be an option. There needs to be that fleck of light, far off in the distance, otherwise what hope do any of us have? Redemption has to be a wish on a star for everyone, and not just the saints safe in their castles. 

That has to include, and this is a challenge, the person who’s become the hashtag du jour. If someone can come back from something so big, so monumentally villainous, then a simpleton like me can come back from whatever I’ve done. Right? Like the time I spoke cruel words to a good person because I thought it was funny. Sure, I was young and stupid. Other young and stupid people laughed, but that’s hollow when I remember the look in the eyes of the person I hurt.

How about the times I didn’t show up when I said I would and let people down. The time. The Time. The time. There’s a list of things, moments, that I’m not proud of, and I’ve apologized as best as I could. But what if that wasn’t enough? What if my worst moment was caught on film and put out into the virtual world? What if I became that dreaded tag online?

That’s the problem with canceling someone. We lock them into a moment and brand them a sinner. We become judge, jury, and condemn them to a life of unknown suffering. How long did it take to come to that verdict? The length of time it took to write the tweet? 

Oh, the arrogance! Who the hell do we think we are? Who do I think I am? What gives me the right to ruin someone else’s life while claiming the high ground? The high ground is a long way off from where I currently stand.

Don’t they deserve it? I don’t know but, if they don’t deserve the chance to earn their redemption, then who does? We’ve all done things we’re not proud of so, it stands to reason, that one of those moments will catch up to me, you, any one of us. If we can’t afford to give someone else an ounce of kindness in any circumstance, will it be afforded to us?

I’m not saying everyone will go from sinner to saint. The desire to change has to be there, and active steps have to be taken. We have to keep going, keep moving forward, and take advantage of every opportunity to make it right. There will be consequences, and we have to face them without flinching. Or, face them as best as we can without running away.

But once we do that? We should get the chance to write our redemption story and, with some grace, make the transition from sinner to, at the very least, a decent human being. After all, granting someone this opportunity now means that there’s hope for me, for you, when our fall from piety comes. For me, that’s the glimmer of hope I need to hold onto.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I think my clicking fingers want to refresh the “Youtubes” one more time. It sure beats going onto some other platform and falling down a rabbit hole again. I suppose the allure of that temptation is proof that I’ve got a long way to go before I become saintly.

Yeah, I’m not holding my breath.

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All I Need is A Good Reason, A Fedora, & A Theme Song

Photo by Slon_Dot_Pics on Pexels.com

Does everything happen for a reason? Does there have to be a reason? We go looking for one like we’re treasure hunters with noble intentions. Looking for lost artifacts and glittering coins in a far off jungle. Hacking through the overgrowth, undergrowth, ingrown toenails with machetes. Toss snakes off of our shoulders and kick tarantulas out of our path. Take off the fedora, wipe sweat from the brow, then look up at the blue sky, peeking through jungle canopy, with steely determination. It’s out there somewhere. It’s calling to me. I can feel it. 

Cue the dramatic theme music and roll the opening credits. Ba da ba ba. Hm da hm….So, I was watching Indian Jones on Netflix a couple of weeks ago. Just before I got to the good one, hello Mr. Connery, they took it away. Arg, I feel robbed. Cheated. Damn you Netflix! Why? Why!

Did it happen for a reason? Was it a sign from above? What could the reason for this madness be? Other than the obvious expiration of licensing agreements. Then again, maybe the universe is trying to tell me something. The stars are aligning. It’s shoving me towards…What? 

Where’s my fedora? I’m going on an adventure.

I’m not doing it for selfish reasons. No! Of course not. Perish the thought. My intentions are pure. I’m all about preserving history and keeping shiny objects out of dastardly hands. I’m trying to find the truth at minimal personal cost. Sure, a little gold would be an added bonus. I’d share it with my nearest and dearest or donate it to a museum. Help people in need because that’s what hero’s do!

Am I getting carried away? Well, of course, I am. I think it’s time for this pandemic to end so I can leave my home. Look at people’s whole faces instead of just their eyes and foreheads. You have very lovely eyes and an excellent forehead, by the way. I want to walk through the real world instead of fantasy worlds because they are just plain goofy. Fun! But riddled with goof-ish-ness. 

Yep, I think I might be losing touch with reality. Not completely. I haven’t totally lost it just yet. Then again, I was only touching reality with my fingertips before the goof invaded, but it still counts. Go on, argue with me. You won’t convince me otherwise. An inch of sanity is as good as a mile.

If I keep saying it, then it will come true. One day, I will be a real girl Toto. Wait, those are different movies. Whatever, the point has been made and on we shall move.

You’ve heard the saying. It’s hard to miss, though I would hardly miss it. It’s the go-to mantra for exceptionally horrible situations. Take heart, my young hero, everything happens for a reason. That includes a global pandemic, racial inequality, and the murder of innocent people. Apparently? 

I like it! The saying. Not the global pandemic, racial inequality, or the murder of innocent people. Those things are horrible. Vomitus. There’s nothing to like about any of those things. Obviously! But for the record, I morally, ethically, and as a basically decent human being, oppose the aforementioned, but not limited too, list of despicable things.

The saying, however, is kind of nice. It sounds pretty and pithy. It rolls off the tongue like spit in the desert. One problem, though, and it’s a minor thing. It’s probably nothing. I could be making a mountain out of a turnip seed. It’s just that, well, no one ever tells you what that reason is, and heaven forbid you ask. 

Have tried asking? Go on, just ask, “Like what, pray tell? What is this reason you speak of? Can you give me an example?” What reason could justify a massive explosion in the middle of a crowded city? Thousands wounded. Hundreds dead? I haven’t seen the latest numbers but, still, there’s a reason for that?

Did you see that explosion in Beirut this week? I still can’t believe the devastation. Those people! God help them, please.

No, sorry, I don’t see it. It’s hard to imagine there’s a reason for that kind of suffering. What possible reason could there be for that level of pain? It’s a rotten cherry on top of a curdled sundae. I don’t have to recap the last six months again, do I? 

Someone’s screaming, “Good God, no please don’t say it out loud!” Okay, deep breath my friend. I won’t say it. Let’s just go with something like, I don’t know, this year has been a whole lot of WTF and it keeps ongoing. It’s too much. My brain can’t process it all.

I just keep muttering, “What the actual f***?” Only, I say the word without the asterisk. I’m trying to swear less, but this year was the wrong year to break that habit.

Just when I think something worse can’t possibly happen, I’m proven wrong. Killer bees. Alcohol addled alligators. (Purely for the alliteration). Normal life stressors on top of what has to be the worst apocalyptic movie of all time. Whoever’s writing this year must’ve must be related to someone pretty powerful. It’s the only explanation! Damn you, nepotism.

We’re facing a lot of the conflicts on multiple fronts and most of them are built on a strong foundation of suppression, bigotry, denialism, and blind faith in corrupt systems. But everything happens for a reason so we’re going to be okay. Right? 

Right. Sure. Okay, but did anyone say those reasons are good reasons? Way to deflate that balloon. Geez, we were building up to a nice and pretty wrap up and then: pop! You couldn’t just let it ride, could you?

But it’s a valid question.

I automatically think that it’s referring to something good. It’s the teaspoon of sugar that helps a bitter pill slide down a little bit easier. It’s a meaningful spin on a bad situation. A light at the end of a very long, dark, tunnel? Then again, I could be making an ass out of you and me.

I assume, please correct me if I’m wrong, when we say that there’s a reason behind something, we’re not just looking for an explanation. It’s deeper than that. Contextually, whenever I hear this particular cliché, it sounds like we’re looking for a purpose or meaning. More than that! We’re looking for hope in a situation that seems devoid of anything positive or advantageous. 

And there’s nothing wrong with that! I do it all the time because, without hope or the possibility of hope, carrying on would be, for me, virtually improbable. Not impossible. I’ve carried on with little more than a wish on a star that might’ve been a satellite. The chance that, if I hold on a little longer, something good will come out of all of this? Yeah, when it’s all I’ve had, it was better than nothing.

After multiple decades of living with a chronic illness, countless surgeries, near-death, and actual death experiences, I have yet to find a reason for any of it. At least, nothing substantial enough to create a sense of purpose or meaning. There have been times when I’ve found, let’s call them, micro reasons. Small moments that created a positive context to otherwise horrible situations. Those small moments, though, are fleeting and they haven’t added up to anything emotionally sustainable.

A doctor destroyed my kidneys and left me with an illness that’s ravished my body. I’ve spent years being cut open, sewn back up, and jumped started. My body hurts. My mind is fractured. Purpose? Meaning? I don’t think I see it but does there have to be meaning or purpose to make peace with what happened? Will that give me a sustainable hope?

I like the idea, I understand why we do it, but I’m questioning the pragmatism. What if things just happen? There’s no reason or purpose. No grand plan or divine design. Bad things just happen. Horrific things just happen. Good things just happen. That’s it. It just happened. What then?

How do I go on living in a world were things just happen for no reason? If I can’t find the meaning behind everything I’ve gone through? It feels hollow and vapid. Abandoned. Betrayed. Has my faith, hope, been wasted? If, despite all my best efforts, my quest ends in an empty tomb in the middle of a jungle then, what?

There’s always a chance that I’m going about it all wrong. I’ve misinterpreted the text. Classic treasure hunter mistake! It happens to the best of us. Won’t beat myself up too hard, but I will reevaluate.

Look at the text without my previous assumptions. Fresh eyes. A new perspective. It says that everything happens for a reason, but it doesn’t say how that reason will manifest itself. I’ve been looking for it, hacking through the overgrowth, but what if it isn’t something I can find? It isn’t out there. It isn’t hidden. It isn’t waiting for discovery.

It’s waiting to be made. Reasons, purpose, meaning. They aren’t lost treasure. They’re art and I’m the artist. I might also be the canvas or the clay. How do I create art out of a broken body? How do I reshape my pain, my scars, into something meaningful?

Uh…Huh…Well, if I knew the answers to those questions I wouldn’t have bought a fedora.

If reasons are something we make, instead of find, then the power is firmly in my hands. I’m not at the mercy of some unknowable force. I can’t blame the obstacles in my path. I am my biggest obstacle! My strengths and my weaknesses. My desire for more and my fear of the unknown. It comes down to what I want and need my life, my past, my future to mean. 

I suppose, when they say that everything happens for a reason, that means that I am the reason. The meaning. The purpose. Oh, I don’t know how that makes me feel.

I’m not sure if it’s comforting or disturbing. It’s easier to go looking for something than spend hours, maybe even years, crafting it from salvaged scraps. It certainly takes a lot more energy and the accountability stops with me. I get out of it what I put into it. More. Less. I can create a masterpiece or I can leave the canvas blank.

Maybe, to a certain degree, that’s life in a nutshell that’s been cracked open by a bullwhip. We get what we put in with the add bonus of broken shells. You know what? I liked it better when I got to wear a cool hat, have my own theme music, and look up at the sky with steely determination.

Ba da ba ba…Hm da hm…

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Nothing But An Alien Etch-A-Sketch

Photo by Francesco Ungaro from Pexels

“I remember a friend many years ago who had taped a sign to his refrigerator: There’s a dream dreaming us. If you try to think about what that means it makes your mind silly, but that silliness is good.”  ― Natalie Goldberg, Wild Mind: Living the Writer’s Life

I’ve often wondered if I’m just a character in someone else’s dream or novel. My thoughts are thought up by them as their head rests on a pillow, or their fingers type the words onto a page. Every emotion I feel is a figment of their imagination. Every choice I make, action I take, is being controlled, decided, by someone out there in the vast galaxy. Their subconscious or creative mind is deciding my fate as we speak.

Are we even speaking or is this just a part of their made-up world? Oh, we can get silly with this, can’t we!

Well, writer of my life, I don’t mean to be critical but maybe you should eat less spicy food before bed. I hear it can mess with the rhythms of the sleeping cycles. Oo, and dairy. Avoid dairy. Maybe then you’ll be able to create a more imaginative storyline? Just a suggestion.

Everybody is a critic! But honestly, blogger/struggling writer is kind of prosaic don’t you think? A romanticized caricature that lives a grand, lavish, adventure in the pages on which they write. This mysterious figure, hunched over their typewriter, smoking a cigar and nursing some beverage on the rocks. A smoke-filled room. The sound of keys being tapped and the clinking of ice against glass.

It’s been done, a lot. Not as often as a private investigator but still, it’s getting old. I understand the allure, though. It’s tempting to create a character that fits a certain mold. Especially one that’s so, what’s the word, enigmatic. They get lost in a creative process that only they understand. It looks mad! Maybe even a little exciting. It’s an unknown that’s so alluring and, dare I say, titillating. The wonders they create. The magic they conjure. Oh, the life of a writer must be so invigorating. 

Mm, now I’m even more convinced that I’m a character in someone else’s novel. They sure think highly of themselves. Titillating? Really? Stretching it a bit far don’t you think? Geez, man/woman/alien creature you’re a writer, not the master of a universe. Tone it down.

Unless you are a master in your universe then…Carry on, I guess.

Have you ever wondered who’s writing your story? Not in the biographical sense. Very few people live such grand lives that they will be written about in the decades to come. Then again, maybe you are a master of your universe, and they should write about your life long after you’ve lived it. Who am I to judge? I’m just a figment of some aliens’ imagination.

But is this the best they can come up with? A disease-riddled, struggling writer, who puts her rambling thoughts on the internet because, well, she has a bit of a narcissistic streak flowing through her veins. Hey, now! I object…Then again, I called you prosaic. That’s a rude thing to say to the life form in charge of writing my life. Still, I think you could try to be a bit more inventive? Stretch your imaginations a little further.

Watch me get hit by lightning on a clear day! Oh bother, I think my mind is going silly.

I suppose it’s hard not to go a little goofy when you start riding this gravy train. Who writers our stories? Is there a master manipulator somewhere in the universe? They put pen to paper, and our stories unfold with each stroke. Or, are we the writers of our own story, and we’re only limited by our imaginations? The more we can imagine, the more colourful our stories become. 

Do you think it’s true that, if we can dream it, we can achieve it? If this is all one big dream than sure, why not? Let’s have cotton candy shoes and twirl Twizzler canes as we dance down Chocolate Block Lane. Was that too cynical? Yeah, maybe I should ask simpler questions.

Such as: Are we at the mercy of someone else or are we masters of our fate? Fate! How could I forget about that little fella? Does that even come in to play? Is it real or is it something we blame when things don’t work out as we’d hoped? Fate, God, bad luck, or bad timing. They all take the fall when things fall apart and the praise when it all works out.

But where do we come into all things great and small? Do we have a say or are we pawns in an intergalactic game of Jenga? Is your brain silly yet? My brain is getting sillier by the nanosecond. I’m not sure if it’s a good silly, yet, but time will tell.

Oh time, there you are. Let’s go back in time! I grew up in a church, and one of the tenants of most religions is handing over control to a higher power. Correct me if I’m wrong. It’s been a minute since I dived into doctrine and dogma. What I do remember is being told to hand my life over to a being that can’t be seen or heard. Well, we’re told that the problem isn’t that God isn’t speaking, we’re just not listening. Maybe? Maybe not? I’ll leave that to the theological theorists. 

We hand over our lives, place them in God’s hands, and then? Trust that God will do what needs doing. Simple. Easy. Where do I sign over the deed?

Except, I have issues with control and trust. What you’re telling me to do is a pretty big ask! Trust someone, something, that I can’t see or hear. Hand over my life to this creature I think I can feel. It could be a placebo sensation. I think I can, so I do. So it’s real? Stop asking questions! Here you go. Take the wheel, leash, or remote control. Well, clearly I paid attention to the sermons.

Uh…Awkward.

The idea that there’s this power out there with complete control over my life, kinda freaks me out. Not completely. Maybe it should freak me out even more than it does but I’m very clumsy. I do things without thinking, and a lot of my life choices have been questionable at best. At worst?

Uh, well, I’m not dead yet, and I haven’t caused anyone else grievous bodily harm. So, I guess it’s not that bad. Or, the bar is set at a very awkward angle.

The thought that someone’s gently pushing my life in the right direction is comforting. The idea that there could be this all-knowing being stopping me from making a monumental mistake is, intriguing. Being asked to completely surrender my life to an invisible, out of this world, entity is terrifying. 

It kinda feels like I’m being asked to buy a timeshare in a country I’ve never heard of but, on the upside, twenty people have read the Wiki page. It doesn’t feel right. It doesn’t feel safe. Something seems a little off, but I’m a natural-born skeptic. It’s in my DNA. I’m not sure which strand controls the “Bitch please” response but it’s in there somewhere.

On the other hand, my life feels like it’s quickly becoming a stagnated pool of deep, dramatic, sighs. Maybe having someone take over for a while wouldn’t be the worst idea. I highly doubt they could do any worse. Did I just tempt fate? Did I anger the alien who’s already crafting my narrative? 

Imagine having a character you create, turn around, and criticize your creation of them. Oh, that’s mind bendy. 

If there is someone, or something, out there writing my life on a galactic etch-a-sketch then I have some questions for you. The main one being, “What the hell, dude?” You couldn’t come up with a better storyline? Did you get your writing prompt from a mail-order program that got held up in the post office for sixty years? What’s the big idea? Writing my life to be this…Whatever this is?

This isn’t the life I would write for myself, that’s for sure. 

Oh, well here’s an awkward counter-argument: What if no one is writing my life and I’m the only one responsible for how it’s turning out?

Uh…Well…Thing is…You know the alien etch-a-sketch doesn’t sound so bad after all.

I’m not a religious person anymore, but I am spiritual. Yeah, I know a lot of people don’t like that distinction. Maybe it feels like an accusation or a status symbol. I don’t know. It seems to tweak the itchy spot in people’s brains. Sorry, I wish I could help you scratch that itch, but I’m not a certified brain tickler. Best of luck. Maybe your etch-a-sketch guy can help you out.

For me, the idea of a God who looks out for me is comforting and reassuring. It’s nice to have someone to yell at when life goes off the rails. It’s also nice to have someone to help put it back on track and, eventually, get the engine running again. The thought that there’s a plan is a relief because, from where I’m sitting, it sure doesn’t feel like anyone knows what’s going on.

Or, I have no idea what’s going on, and that freaks me out more than handing over the wheel. I mean, I’d rather keep it attached to the drive shaft, but if it gets me moving in the right directions then, um, sure. No, that wasn’t overly enthusiastic but I try. I’m very trying.

Not to be too dramatic but, after everything I’ve been through and survived, I often wonder if there’s a reason for it. I shouldn’t still be alive. The science is clear. Plenty of doctors have asked, “How the hell are you still alive?” It’s an anomaly, wrapped up in an enigma, coated in a layer of mustard. No one has an answer.

But there has to be an answer. It can’t come down to simple dumb luck or a random twist of fate. I mean, it could but that just feels like a cosmic letdown. There’s a chance I’m being delusional, or grasping at straws. I concede that point, but even if it is a placebo or a delusion, I like the idea of my story being written in real-time by something greater than this mere mortal typing these words.

It feels more hopeful than leaving it to the whims of fate or leaving it up to my inadequate devices. If it’s solely on me then I’m well and truly hooped. I don’t think I could last all that long if I had to write my own story. I’m barely functioning enough to write this post. Life? That’s a long story to write so maybe we could split up the chapters. I write a few lines then hand it over. Wouldn’t that be easier?

I seem to have so many questions and so few answers.

Ah, but what if the answer has yet to be written or dreamed up? What if there’s an answer, and I just can’t hear it over the scribbling on the etch-a-sketch? Damn aliens and their noisy toys! What if none of these questions matter and I’m just transcribing someone else’s dream? 

Oh dear, my brain is a silly little beaver.

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Quite Accidentally Controversial…Oops!

Photo by: Markus Spiske on Unsplash.com

Ah, that awkward moment when you realize you have two beliefs, opinions, ideas that completely oppose each other. They sit comfortably on a spectrum but firmly on the farthest ends. Good twin? Bad Twin? Separated at birth? I always wanted a twin, but my mom wasn’t up for a do-over. Claimed it, “Wasn’t medically possible.”

Yeah, screw medicine and science. I want a twin but I’ll have to wait for human cloning. That’s going to be a thing one day, right? Sheep. Dogs. People would be a natural progression. So, yay, I can still get that twin I’ve always wanted. Is that still considered a twin? No, it’s a clone but of twin-like consistency. Morally wrong? Ethically ambiguous? Can I have my “twin” without crossing the line into creepy sci-fi?

The kind of sci-fi that’s far enough from reality to make it improbable, but close enough to make you wonder. It tickles a part of the brain that can’t be scratched. It wakes you up in the middle of the night. The dreams! Oh, they’re disturbing enough to take REM and put it in the trash. Slam the lid. Put it on the curb. Wave at the garbage people as the take it away to the sleep disposal site.

Well, I think I’m ready to abandon my twin dream. Finally! It’s only been how many years? Never you mind. It’s over. It’s done. Just because you dream it, doesn’t mean you can, or should, achieve it. Like human cloning, for example. If the movies have taught us anything? Human cloning doesn’t turn out well for humanity. Sure, the apocalypse might still come, but do we really need to give it a helping hand?

Then again, what if we could clone a human organ? Heart. Lungs. Kidneys. What about limbs? Your kidneys shut down or your leg goes missing. No problem! Pop your genomes into a centrifuge and give it a spin. A few tweaks, maybe give the machine a gentle kick, and ta-da! A perfect match. Surgically implant or attach the missing part and off you go on your healthy, merry, way.

Ignore my glaring scientific inaccuracies! 

Believe it or not, when I was a kid, I wanted to be a doctor. A cardiologist or a neurologist. Head or heart. Huh, ironic considering that now, as an adult, my greatest internal conflict is a war between these two factions. Thoughts and emotions. Ideas and feelings. What I know to be true versus what I feel is true. 

I’m either all head or all heart. If they could work together then we’d have peace in these lands. Ah, but today is not that day, my friend. No, not today.

Two ideas, thoughts, and feelings. Contradictions of the heart and the mind. Both of these ideas, thoughts, feelings are true. They both hold merit. I can’t find fault in either, but I can find fault in both. To dismiss one would be dishonest, but holding on to the other feels hypocritical. 

Did I put my brain on the spin cycle again? Did I leave it running a little too long? Is the motor burning out because I smell smoke?

It’s giving me a headache! Why can’t it be simple, straight forward, easy peasy lemon cheesy? What? My head hurts more now. 

If only we lived in a one-dimensional world with a two-tone modulator. It would be a simple yes or not. Go right or go left. To believe or not to believe. One dimension. Two colours. Right and wrong. Things are either sweet or salty. Boom. Done. Simple. Straight to the point

Wait, so like, do you believe God can exist in a godless world? 

I’m sorry, what now?

Like, if there is a God can he/she/they exist in a world that has no God? If God is omnipresent can that world still be out of his/her/its service range? And, if everything is possible with this God than is it possible that God can un-exist himself/herself/themselves?

My head! My poor head. There’s this twitch now. Can a brain twitch? Where the hell did that come from?

Dude, hell! 

No, please don’t.

If you believe in heaven, don’t you have to believe in hell? And if you believe in heaven and hell then you’ve gotta believe in God. But if God is all about unconditional love then how can God send people to a place where they will be tortured, suffer unimaginable horrors, and be punished for eternity. Eternity is, like, a long time.

Why does my inner voice sound like a stoner hippie? Am I the only one who’s inner voice turns into a character from some cheesy 60’s tv show? Don’t get me wrong, reruns of the original batman are my jam! I live for the booms, pows, and cracks. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with cheesy. Except when your inner voice uses it as a wind-up toy and sends your brain spinning wildly around a confined space.

Stop bringing me down man!

Should I venture into more controversial topics? What could go wrong? Nothing goes wrong when you stir the pot too vigorously. A little spillage, a bit of a mess, but go for it! Why the hell not?

Oo, hell! Not brain, we’ve covered that one. It’s time to move on.

Here’s one I struggle with: My body, my choice. I firmly believe that we all have a right to dictate what happens, and what we do with, our bodies. That includes pregnancy and all related topics. We choose who we love and who we make love with. It’s our right to die or live as we choose. Vaccines. Masks. It’s my body, so I get to decide what I put on it or in it.

I’ve read the reputable studies. I’ve listened to reputable experts, and they all agree that vaccines don’t cause autism. The keyword in that sentence was neither “vaccines” nor “autism.” The keyword was “reputable.” Board-certified. Peer-reviewed. Time tested. Argued, disputed, try as they might they can’t find proof that vaccines do more harm than good. Those studies have shown, proven, that vaccines save lives.

Bringing it down from the clouds to a more personal level. I’m a person with a compromised immune system which means that I rely heavily on herd immunity for my safety, my life. Not every person can get every vaccine. I, for example, can’t have “live vaccines” like whooping cough because my immune system won’t respond to it in a healthy way. Instead of preventing the disease, it would be the equivalent of walking into a smouldering forest with a flame thrower.

Herd immunity slows the spread of the virus and makes it less likely that it will reach me or others like me. It gives us a fighting chance. It means we stand a good chance of completely avoiding an illness that could have devastating consequences on a body that can’t fight back. Herd immunity saves lives. Herd immunity is acquired through vaccines. Vaccines save lives.

I get very frustrated by the anti-vax community, and the message they spread, because they’re threatening my life. Not directly. They don’t have a weapon pointed at my head. Let’s not get too dramatic but, they make the world a very dangerous place for me, and people like me. There’s no way for me to tell who has been vaccinated, and who hasn’t. I can’t avoid the ones that haven’t so every time I walk out of my front door, I’m walking onto a battlefield I can’t see. I can’t fight back. I could take a very deadly hit and have no way to protect myself.

If this pandemic has you, a healthy person, afraid to walk out your front door? You’ve got a taste of what it’s like to have a compromised immune system in the world of anti-vaxxers.

There are people in my life who are anti-vaxxers, and I’ve had to step away from them. Not end friendships but, since they aren’t taking precautions to prevent the spread of potentially deadly viruses, I can’t be anywhere near them. Not physically. We can talk over the phone. Chat on Facebook. Meet for coffee? Go to their house for dinner?

I can’t risk it because the smallest, most innocuous, infection is a flame thrower in a smouldering forest. I’ve had a simple cold turn into pulmonary oedema in a matter of hours. My lungs filled with fluid. I couldn’t breathe because I was drowning in my own body. Dry drowning is one name for it. I was so sick, the doctors called my family and told them to come and say goodbye because they didn’t know if I would survive the night.

That’s what a common cold did to me. Now imagine something like polio or measles. What do you think that would do to a body that can’t fight back? I can’t risk being around anyone who won’t get vaccinated. I just can’t. I have people who love me and need me around. There’s a whole world out there, waiting to be explored, and I’d love to get a chance to see some of it. I’m sorry, but I’m going to be selfish. I don’t want to die so, no, we can’t get coffee or have lunch.

There’s a big “however” coming so, for you anti-vaxxers warming up your yelling fingers, give me a second because here it comes.

However, if I believe that it’s my body so it’s my choice? I have to offer you the same courtesy. If it’s true for me then it has to be true for you. I don’t have to agree with you. I can’t, for my own personal safety, be anywhere near you, but I can acknowledge that it’s your body so you get to make the choice you believe is right.

Then again, choices have consequences, and the consequences of your actions could very well be the death of someone else.

Then again…again…It’s your body, so it’s still your choice. I can’t deny you something I value. I can’t refuse to respect your physical autonomy while demanding you respect mine. If I do, then I’m a hypocrite. It’s that simple.

But it isn’t simple because the consequences aren’t benign.

The struggle is real! How do I resolutely hold my beliefs, the things I know to be true, without compromise? How do I do that and still respect your differing beliefs or truths? Respect, I think, can be akin to tolerance. I don’t have to like it. In fact, I can wholeheartedly dislike your stance, but that doesn’t mean I dislike or hate you. We disagree, passionately, but we’re both just trying to do our best.

Can we agree on that? You’re doing your best for your body and health. I’m doing my best for my body and health. We’re doing our best. We’re making the best choices based on the information we have and how we interpret that information.

Then again, my life is being threatened, and the lives of people like me are in danger. I’m guessing, you feel like your life, and the lives of your children, are being threatened as well. How do we perfect the fine art of balance and compromise with so much at stake?

It’s no wonder we’re at each other’s throats. We’re so quick to feel defensive or to be angered. Name-calling. Belittling. Physical attacks as well as the dreaded, “Cancel Culture.” We try to tear each other down and destroy each other because this feels like war.

But maybe we’re fighting the wrong battle or we’re just killing each other for the wrong reasons? I honestly don’t have an answer or a solution other than respect. Even if that means I begrudgingly tolerate your opinion and you do the same for me. Agree to disagree? It seems…Inadequate?

Or, it comes down to that good old golden rule: Do to others as you want them to do to you. I want you to respect, tolerate, my opinion without beating me up for it. I want to be treated with kindness rather than bulldogged aggression. I want you to see me, hear me out, without shutting me down or tuning me out. So, even if it pains me, I have to show you the same courtesy. Right?

Damn it, cognitive dissonance! You gave me a headache.

If you’ll excuse me, I need to take my brain off of the spin cycle before my frontal lobe becomes my earlobe.

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Spilled Tea and Angry Ostriches

Photo by Andre Hunter on Unsplash.com

“To be nobody but 

yourself in a world 

which is doing its best day and night to make you like 

everybody else means to fight the hardest battle 

which any human being can fight and never stop fighting.” 

― E.E. Cummings

Is it wrong to say that anyone who uses the word “Sheeple” loses approximately fifteen percent of their IQ points? An automatic deduction. No room for negotiation or haggling. It’s not a barter system. The second that word slips past their lips: Bam! Minus fifteen percent.

It’s wrong. Saying that, thinking that, is just wrong. It’s mean. Horrible. True? No! No? Be nice. I should be nice, compassionate, understanding, sympathetic but I don’t wanna. I wanna gag every time someone defends their stance by declaring that all who oppose them must be…I can’t bring myself to say it again. Can’t. Won’t. No thank you!

If I say the word, one more time, my IQ will drop and I can’t stand to lose any more points. 

Oh, I fear, that I’m in a mood. The moodiest of moods. It’s Monday, the Monday-ist of Mondays, and I might be a little piqued at the fact that it’s, um, Monday. It all started when I spilled a perfectly good, hot, cup of tea down the front of my shirt. It smelt so good. The first sip was so satisfying. Oh, if only I could drink the whole cup!

Tragically, I’ll never taste that sweet nectar unless I suck it off of my shirt. I’m in a mood, but I’m not that far gone…Yet. Ah, but then I did a thing and it was entirely my own fault. I know better but knowing what’s good for you doesn’t always translate into healthy actions. Stubbornness tainted with petulance. I’m an adult, damn it, and I’ll do what I want.

Where’s my Mommy telling me what to do? I miss the days when someone else regulated my actions and, by extension, my emotional influences. The negatives kept at arm’s length. The positives welcomed with milk and cookies. Every so often, a negative got by the defenses but there was a mother shaped wall between us. 

Oh, the good old days! Also, I could go potty in my pants, and it was perfectly acceptable. If I do that now? People point and stare. So not fair. Toddlers have it so good!

I made the mistake of starting my morning with a romp through the headlines and a stroll through the responses on social media. As if the headlines aren’t bad enough. It’s doom and gloom. Death and destruction. Good guys doing very convincing impressions of bad guys. Who’s who? Who do we trust? Are you here to help or hurt?

The world has lost its collective sanity! Assuming, of course, we ever possessed this alleged sanity, to begin with. Doubtful? Mm, I’m beginning to wonder if sanity is a construct of the place with the people who do the things. What? No idea, but let’s read the comments! That should reignite the fading embers of hope in humanity.

Did you just laugh, scoff, roll your eyes? Fair.

I have no problem with respectful discourse. We don’t all think the same. Our life experiences have been completely different. We come from a vast array of cultural, spiritual, and religious ideologies. There are a million different factors that influence our opinions and our world view. Sharing our views in a respectful and kind manner is a wonderful thing.

It’s the five percent that can’t muster up kindness or respect. They ruin it for everyone. Is that a generous estimation? Should I reverse it? Five percent act in a kind and respectful manner? I…But…Well, that’s depressing.

Those that respond with reason, an attempt at understanding, or respectful disagreement are yelled down. Angry, belligerent, voices use The-Word-That-Shall-Not-Be-Used as if that justifies their righteous indignation. If we are not with them, then we are against them, and that makes us the enemy.

Insert eye-roll here.

The most obvious example, during these pandemic days, would be the use of masks. I wear one whenever I’m out, and can’t avoid people or maintain physical distance. I wear it for a number of reasons. It’s recommended by the people who study and treat infectious diseases. According to science, masks help reduce the risk of infection and transmission. Is it perfect? Will it totally eradicate the virus? No, but it slows it down and protects the most vulnerable people in our communities.

Science! Amazing.

I’m a “vulnerable person” in my community. I’ve had a few kidney transplants. The one I have now is working quite well. (Yay science!) I want to keep it working well, so I take anti-rejection medication. Awful stuff. If you don’t need it, don’t take it. Then again, if you don’t need it why would you take it? You can’t get to happy town on this stuff. It just makes you nauseous, grows copious amounts of hair, and makes your emotions bounce around your brain like a ping-pong in space.

It also lowers the immune system so it can’t attack and destroy the life-saving kidney that was selflessly given. Sorry to harp on this, but how amazing is science? They figured out how to take an organ from one person and put it in someone else. That’s so f*ck cool!

But now I have an immune system that can’t fight off a common cold. What do you think will happen if COVID invades my body? Nothing good, I assure you, so I wear my mask and I’m so appreciative of those of you who wear yours. This is a team sport. We win together and…Well, let’s leave it at winning, shall we?

I know not everyone can wear one but those of you who can, and do: Thank-you.

If you choose not to wear a mask? Well, it’s your body so it’s your choice.

While this hasn’t happened to me, most people I encounter are respectful, I have seen it happen to others. Yelled at, called names, and belittled for wearing a mask. That word, the one I won’t say again, thrown at them like a knife aimed at a bullseye. How utterly bizzare is that?

It doesn’t have to be your choice and you can believe that this pandemic is a scam or a conspiracy. That’s your thing and godspeed, friend. But the anger? The vitriol? The name-calling? What’s your damage?

If you call me a sh…Oops, almost slipped. If you call me, that word, then is it okay if I call you an ostrich? Their startle response is to deny and ignore the reality of their predicament. What lion? I don’t see a lion? I see an earthworm and it’s so cute. Do you want to be my friend little worm? What’s biting my ass? As long as I ignore it, it’s probably nothing. 

Calling them a small-brained, flightless, bird isn’t exactly kind or respectful. It kind of make’s me a hypocrite, doesn’t it. Which means, if I really think about it, I’m not being true to the person I want to be. In fact, if I go down this road, I’m abandoning myself, my heart, and giving in to the cheap and easy. Which is tempting! So, very, very, tempting. Why do you make it so tempting?

And, I give into temptation way too often! Do as I say and ignore everything I do. There’s my advice: You’re welcome.

My gut response, when I see conspiracy propaganda touted as hard science, is usually anger and some creative name-calling of my own. Okay, the name-calling isn’t that creative. Ostrich is about as good as it gets. The usual suspects come out of my mouth as I shake my head and clench my fists. I ask questions like, “How stupid do you have to be?”

Put on the brakes! The real question I should be asking is, “Who do I want to be?”

The type of person who gives in to frustration and anger? Going for the cheap shot and the low blow. Take them down at the knees and then beat them over the noggin with a grad school biology book. I’m sure I could find a real thick and heavy one online. Maybe I can transfer some knowledge straight into their processor.

Or, I could stay calm, pass along some hard science and peer-reviewed studies. Information that has been verified, tested, retested, and still held true after a thousand hours of scrutiny. Combat ignorance with knowledge. I can try kindness and if, or when, that doesn’t work I can wish them well and walk away.

Which one would be more fun and offer the most immediate sense of self-gratification? It’s not a trick question. I think we both know the answer. But, uh, now I’ve gotta ask myself which one would I be proud of? That feels more like a trick and less like a treat.

E. E. Cummings said that being ourselves in a world that’s trying to change us, is the hardest battle. True, when faced with ostriches and sh***le staying true to our true nature is a fight. It feels like they are taunting us, needling us, pulling us down to their level. Maybe they’re more like an octopus? So many tentacles wrapping around us and we’re fighting to stay free. 

Stooping, meeting them where they are, requires less energy than fighting. Staying true to who we are? They make it so hard.

But, and this could just be me, I think the hardest fight isn’t against a world that’s trying to change me. If a mob is going one direction, I instinctually want to go the other way. Peer pressure? I’ve never had time for it and if you try, I’m just going to obstinately refuse. The herd mentality has been proven to be disastrous so, sorry, I’m not playing along out of principle.

For me, the real war rages internally. I’m fighting with myself, my own identity, and sense of self. I won’t compromise my standards, who I am, for a world that’s ripping itself apart. A world with its boxes, its pretty labels, that I don’t fit inside. The desire to fit? The need to belong? Now that’s a fight.

I want to fit but to do that, I need to change myself. I need to compromise my true identity and become someone else entirely. I don’t want to change. Not completely. I have problem areas that need repair or replacement parts. We all do. But upgrading to a new model? Downgrading to an old one?

The fight, with the world and myself, isn’t one of change but of self-love. If I love myself, flaws and all, the fight would be so much easier. If I liked myself, that would help too, but I focus too much on the challenges of being me. The flaws that I see as glaring. The weaknesses that are all-consuming.

The conflict I have between my mind and my body. The bickering between my over-intellectual mind and my over-emotional heart. Harmony? If I can’t find that in myself, how can I find it in the world? Can harmony exist in a creature at war with themselves and others?

To fight the world’s desire to change me, to stay true to who I am, I need to find that harmony in myself. I need to fight for self-love, self-acceptance, and just like myself. If I like who I am, then who you think I am wouldn’t matter as much. Your attempts to change, control, or provoke me wouldn’t be as successful. You, me, the world, wouldn’t stand a chance against a person who actually likes who they are.

That’s where my fight starts. Learning to like, love, and accept who I am. Once I do that, the angry ostriches can run wild for all I care. Though, I think, for everyone’s safety we should transfer them to a wildlife conservatory. What? I said I had to learn, not that I had it figured out.

Or, I need to make a fresh cup of tea and put on a clean shirt. Let’s start small, shall we?

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This Side Of The Story Is Too Taboo So Share

Photo by Tỷ Huỳnh from Pexels

So, you’ve been having a rough time and you get up the courage to let it all out. You find a friend that you trust and love. Someone who loves you, wants the best for you, and is an all-round good soul. They listen, hold your hand, and they cry with you because seeing you hurt, hurts them. Well now, that’s a great friend you’ve got there! Hold on to them because that relationship is a keeper.

Unburdened and free, you let out a sigh as you lean back in your chair. You wrap a hand around your cooling cup of tea and close your eyes. Holding it all in was hard work and now that it’s out there, you feel a little lighter. The tension in your shoulders is dissipating and your jaw unclenches. That tension headache is slowly fading away.

A moment of silence passes and your friend speaks, “I’m sorry you’re going through all of this. If there’s a silver lining, you know what they say, ‘What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.’”

Do you agree with them? Is it true? It may have been bad, whatever you went through, and it didn’t kill you but, uh, now what? Muscles like Hercules? Kickass warrior skills like Wonder Woman? Lasso of truth in one hand and demigod powers flowing out of the other?

It sure sounds sweet, superpowers would be cool, but fiction and reality rarely coexist. I’m not saying they can’t or don’t mingle from time to time. We call them miracles of science or of God. They happen every day, in a million different ways. It’s just that, when fiction meets reality, it’s usually a bastardized version that’s kind of watered down. A bit disappointing?

What doesn’t kill me makes me stronger. What do you envision when you hear that phrase? What image does it conjure? What’s been your reality and how did it compare to what you expected? Far too often, the two just don’t match up and the let down is a heartbreaking.

I’m not calling out a lie or screaming BS. Surviving, becoming stronger for it, almost assuredly holds some truth, or people wouldn’t keep saying it. There is truth and wisdom in those words but, from where I stand, it’s been grossly oversimplified. Boiled down to fit on a bumper sticker or a tattoo. The reality? I don’t know if anyone wants that covering their whole body.

Then again, I could be wrong and a skilled artist can work magic. Something with a phoenix maybe? Or, is that too obvious? It’s too obvious. You’re right, I’ll leave art to the magician. 

All I can do is speak from my own experiences and for me, the worst moments of my life haven’t left me stronger than I was before. I didn’t rise from the ashes like a majestic creature and spread my wings. I didn’t fly off into the sunset. It’s what people imagine when they hear my story, but it’s just not true. 

There are some people, on the peripheries of my life, that have this image of me, of what I am, that’s borderline mythical. A creature that burns down to ashes but is reborn in the flames. Stronger. Faster. Better than ever before. They want me to be that person but the reality isn’t as fanciful as fiction. So let me rip off the bandaid as fast as I can because I’m going to shatter the illusion.

One diagnosis followed by another. Surgery after surgery. Treatment after treatment. A palm-full of medications and an arm full of Iv’s. A heart that’s stopped and been restarted more than once. My body is damaged, it’s not as strong as I need it to be, and it’s covered in scars. 

Look at the scars, the track marks from the Iv’s, with an objective eye. If my body is this damaged, wouldn’t it stand to reason that, after everything I’ve been through, my mind would be damaged too? My mind weakened? My mind covered in scars? 

I survived and I keep on surviving but it hasn’t made me stronger. I didn’t come out of those moments, the ones that damn near killed me, standing tall. I didn’t walk out like a victorious warrior. My armour didn’t glisten in the new day’s sun. My hair wasn’t blowing behind me. My leg perched on the remains of my enemies. I can promise you that I did not have a hero’s stance.

My story of survival didn’t end with a bag or a parade. The reality of survival, my survival, is that it starts with a whimper. I crawled out of those moments on my hands and knees. Bruised. Bloody. Covered in sweat. Tears streaming down my face. I could barely lift my head, let alone look up at the heavens with a spirit of gratitude. I wasn’t strong. I wasn’t brave. I wasn’t even me, anymore.

What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger? I’ve heard that phrase so often it makes me flinch. If only they knew. If only they looked a little closer. If only they took a closer look at my life, put it under a microscope, then they’d see the hairline fractures running through every aspect of my consciousness. Would they still tell me that it didn’t kill me so now I’m stronger?

I want them to see, to understand, that’s it simply not true but I hate confrontation so I smile and shrug it off. It’s a response that’s met with approval because, I think, they need to believe that the sentiment is true. They need to believe that fiction can coexist with reality. They need to see a phoenix rise out of the ashes. They need to believe just like the need to breathe. 

For them, it’s a survival instinct that they will fight to preserve because if it isn’t real? If there are things in this world that can break us? If there are things that can preserve the body but kill the mind, the spirit? We need to believe that as long as we’re breathing we’re strong, brave, and can handle anything because the alternative feels like surrender.

But, is surrender a bad thing? I’m not talking about taking extreme actions to end the pain or life. If you’re struggling with those thoughts, please reach out for help. There are crisis lines that you can call. Hospitals. Please, reach out for help. There are people who are qualified, who care, and they can help you get to a better, safer, place.

In this instance, I’m talking about something different. It’s about a moment. A single moment where exhaustion meets agony. It’s a spiritual, physical, mental depletion that brings me to my knees. It’s a moment where the thought of continuing this is fight is so overwhelming I can’t breathe. There’s no strength left, and I don’t know if I can keep going.

There’s only one choice but it’s not a popular one. It’s met with arguments and derision from the spectators. It’s frowned upon and cursed. Their chants, their jeers, are loud and clear: Surrender is not an option. But they don’t understand, they aren’t living in this moment, and they aren’t the ones in this fight.

Surrendering to that moment is not giving in to the pain. It’s living in it, acknowledging it, experiencing it without fight or judgment. Allowing myself… No, it’s giving myself permission to be whatever I am in that space. Broken. Tired. Bruised. Beaten. Weak. 

I can’t be strong all the time. I can’t keep fighting without rest. The battles keep coming! The war rages on. I have a chronic illness. The fight will never stop. I will never win; not in the traditional sense. There’s no finish line. There’s no armistice. I keep fighting but sometimes I have to surrender to find a moment of peace.

Throughout history, surrender as been viewed as weakness and cowardice. The strong keep fighting. The weak lay down their arms. But if laying down my arms keeps me alive for one more day? If it means I get a chance to catch my breath? If it means I buy myself some time to recover whatever strength I can muster?

I’ll wave my white flag high and proud because I can always lower it when this moment passes. This will ruin the illusion for some of you, even disappoint a few, but I have surrendered to my wounds, my illness, my shattered mind. I wasn’t dead, this illness hasn’t killed me yet, but I wasn’t stronger for it so I gave into it. 

I’ve encountered things in this world that have broken me and left me in pieces. These moments have turned my life into a million piece puzzle with no points of reference. How do I put it back together again? There are no guidelines, there’s nothing to follow, so I sort through the pieces and do my best. But putting the pieces back together isn’t simple or quick. 

Even when the pieces start to come together, I’m not the person I was before I was broken. The picture is different, it’s warped and misshapen. It will never look the same. I will never be the same. Will I be strong again? Will I be stronger? Even after all these years of healing, I can honestly say, it’s too early to tell.

This isn’t a story of triumph over tragedy. It’s not the story we’re supposed to tell, and it’s not one that’s supposed to be written. We’re supposed to be stronger because we survived. That’s how this is supposed to go because this one fallacy, a tale of redemption, is so ingrained in our culture that contradicting it is taboo.

Maybe even forbidden?

For the record, I don’t believe it’s entirely fictitious but, rather, misunderstood. What doesn’t kill you can make you stronger if you read the story all the way to the end. It’s not a story that’s told in one chapter. It’s not a straight shot. It’s complicated and messy which is why most stop reading way too soon.

With time, help, and a lot of self-compassion we can become stronger. We can heal. We can find our inner warriors. But first, we need to give ourselves permission to surrender to the moment that we’re in. To take time to heal, grieve, and sit with our brokenness for a little while.

For me, it’s in those moments, that I slowly begin to rediscover who I am after the war drums have fallen quiet. I say goodbye to who I was, and I grieve for that loss because losing ourselves is a death of identity. It’s left me feeling empty and hollow. A space that can be refilled with a new me, eventually. After that, well I have to get to know myself all over again.

Simple? Easy? Not even close.

What doesn’t kill me makes me stronger? Maybe, but it will change me forever and I’m going to need some time to be okay with that.

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I’m Sorry To Inform You That I’m Not Sorry At All…Except

Photo By Klara Kulikova on Unsplash.com

“I lied and said I was busy. I was busy; but not in a way most people understand. I was busy taking deeper breaths. I was busy silencing irrational thoughts. I was busy calming a racing heart. I was busy telling myself I am okay. Sometimes, this is my busy -and I will not apologize for it.”  ― Brittin Oakman

I all but shut down for about ten days. My body decided to throw one fit after another. I tried to fight through it, get things done, but after a while, I just couldn’t fight it anymore. I gave up or I gave in. I’m not sure which. You win body. You win. The white flag has been raised.

I posted my apologies and lay my head down on a pillow. I closed my eyes but I didn’t sleep. I tried to rest but my mind kept spinning. I tried to distract myself with Youtube videos, movies, and social media (we all make mistakes) but there was a nagging voice whispering softly.

The voice was so quiet, I couldn’t hear what it was saying but I felt its intent. Guilt. Laziness. Quitter. Not to be a smart ass but, technically, only one of those is a “feeling word.” The others are symptoms of other emotions. Things we don’t want to feel or admit we feel so we find other words to compensate. It doesn’t matter, though, because I feel them the same way I feel happy, sad, silly, or contrite. They hit the same spots, poke at the same wounds, and draw the same blood. 

Lazy. Quitter. Guilt. Shame. Regret. Real emotions mixed with a queasy, restless, drive that feels like fire ants are crawling through my veins. It burns. I can’t settle down. I want to cry. I feel like screaming. If I could pull my skin off my bones and let the little buggers out, I would but they’re nothing more than an illusion created by a turbulent mind.

Or, I’m being overly dramatic and way too hard on myself, which wouldn’t be new for me.

Ten whole days, I didn’t accomplish that much at all. Getting up, having a shower, and making breakfast became a productive morning. All those plans I had, promises I’d made, were pushed aside. Abandoned but not forgotten. The people on the other end were kind and understanding. Of course they were! I wasn’t choosing to let them down or abandon them in their time of need.

Yes, I hear how dramatic that sounds but it’s a mood so I’m rolling with it. All moods are welcome here, as long as they are accompanied by a little kindness. That’s not too much to ask for, is it?

So, I shut down, but that didn’t mean I let it all go. I hate letting people down. Every time I have to call in sick for something I feel the ants doing laps. If I say I’m going to do something, I want to do it but sometimes my body or my mind play up and I have to let people down. I apologize. Profusely and repeatedly. But every word feels like an excuse when I’m just trying to explain. 

If only my words would come out how I intend.

Maybe if I talk faster and forget to breathe? Do you think that will get the point across? Well, it can’t hurt to try. Oh, the art of the over-explanation! The more I talk, surely, the closer to understanding they will get, and then I won’t feel the ants doing parkour in my spleen.

For some odd reason, the more I try to explain, the further from an explanation I get. Maybe my GPS is faulty? Damn Apple maps. The last time I used that app, it told me to cross an international border three times if I wanted to get to a location thirty minutes from my home. A location situated firmly in my country. If that ain’t goofy, I don’t know what is!

I’m a Mac lady, but Bud you need to sort out your maps.

While you’re doing that, I’ll try to figure out how to calibrate my emotional compass. It seems to be leading me in the wrong direction. I’m not sure where my passport is and there are travel restrictions. If I let it go on like this, I might end up violating international laws. Unintentionally, of course, but there’s no reason to risk it. Maybe I need to turn off my compass, count to ten, and then turn it back on. Do you think that will help?

It doesn’t work like that? Well, damn, now I’m really screwed. 

Oh, speaking of screwed! These last ten days have been really difficult because I’ve had to cancel numerous plans and commitments. I was sick, my insides decided to throw a tantrum, and then, just as I was healing, I had a really bad allergic reaction. My body took one hit after another and it was struggling. Taking a break, resting, staying home, and watching stupid stuff online was the right choice but the fire ants wouldn’t let up.

Am I the only one who feels the ants? This constant drive to show up, perform, be productive, and social. Don’t let up! Not even for a second. Rest is for the weak. Quitting is for losers. Push, push, push harder and harder. Never quit. Never say no. Never take a minute to breathe. Don’t take a minute for yourself because that is giving in to selfishness and that makes you, pathetic.

Anyone else hear those words rattling around in the middle of the night? It’s quiet. Sleep is hiding in some dark nook. It’s just you, the fire ants, and your thoughts. I hear them loud and clear. Sometimes I hear them during the day, in the middle of a large crowd, when I look around and see others just getting on with it. Living life. Getting things done.

I should be like them but I’m too much like me.

I think it’s, in part, culturally ingrained in us. In school, we work all day, learning valuable lessons, and then we’re given a mountain of work to do at home. Rest? Playtime? Self-care? No, keep working hard to become smarter, stronger, faster. 

We grow up, and with every milestone, we’re asked what’s next. Celebrate the accomplishment? Take a minute to appreciate how far we’ve come and how hard we’ve worked? Well, take a bow and then tell me: What’s next? We’re constantly being challenged to go, not just the extra mile, but the extra ten, twenty, a hundred miles. We’re never enough. We’re never complete. We’re never allowed to stop growing for one day because if we do, we fall behind? We won’t measure up? We’ll disappoint…Who?

Oh, and don’t forget about all the people telling us that self-care is important. I agree, it absolutely is! All the way, I’m with you on this one. Self-care is important but when we do take time to care for ourselves, there’s so much guilt coming at us from all directions. We try to justify ourselves or give an adequate explanation, but it’s never enough and we become overwhelmed.

Is it more overwhelming than the guilt from within? I suppose that answer is personal to each of us.

I feel guilty, so I try to make them understand my reasons and then I apologize profusely. Over and over. Long after they say it’s okay. I can’t help myself. It just keeps coming but what if I stopped trying to explain myself?

What if I leave it at the apology? What if I just said no and then said nothing else? If I say, “I’m sorry, I can’t do that right now.” Then leave it at that? Do we really owe anyone an explanation? Can our explanation be a courtesy and nothing more? Validation, forgiveness, understanding are wonderful things but what if we let those go and were okay, saying no?

I needed these last few days of recovery and I probably need a few more, but that’s tomorrows problem. The days I did nothing weren’t wasted. I took care of my needs. I gave my body what it was asking for and what it needed. Taking care of myself without thought of others, while selfish by definition, did me a world of good. I know it makes me a better friend, daughter, sister. It makes me a better writer. It makes me a better version of myself. It helps me become a person I like and, one day, it’ll help me become a person I love.

I think it’s especially important for those of us with chronic illnesses (mental or physical). We expend a lot of energy dealing with things few people will understand and that leaves us with very little strength for other things. Things like: taking a breath, taming our fire ants, or hunting for sleep. Keeping up appearances, looking like a functioning adult, or fitting in takes all the strength we have. Living, simply living, is hard enough, and yes, we have responsibilities on top of that.

On top of a body or mind that betrays us over and over again.

Sometimes I need to be a little selfish so that I can recharge, find balance, and reset. It’s healing. It’s freeing. It gives me the energy to turn it around, reach out, and be there for others. Sometimes being selfish is the kindest thing we can do for ourselves and for the people we love.

We could spend our whole lives apologizing, and I’m sure, most of us do. I do! I must’ve said I’m sorry at least three times today. I’m not sure what I was apologizing for but it’s become a gag reflex. What if I stopped apologizing for not hitting my marks? For not being strong enough today. For needing some time to breathe, still my mind, and slow my heart. Is that even possible? 

What if I start saying thank-you, instead of I’m sorry? Thank you for understanding. Thank you for your patience. Thank you for your kindness. Thank you for asking despite all the times I’ve had to cancel. Thank you for thinking of me. Thank you for your prayers. Thank you for your well wishes and positive energy. Thank you for seeing me.

On Friday, I was kicking myself for not pushing on and writing something. I was feeling guilty. I didn’t want to let you down so, there I was, saying how sorry I was. But you wonderful people were so kind. You understood! You told me to take care of myself. You thought of me. You said a prayer for me and sent good vibes. You were so kind and that meant a lot to me.

So, I’m not going to apologize one more time. Instead, I’m going to say thank you! Thank you for your kindness, your understanding, and taking a minute out of your busy lives to wish me well. The fire ants had no idea what to do with the warm feelings drowning them out. 

Maybe they were sipping cocktails in coconuts, bobbing along on the tide, and having a nap. Wow, that sounds amazing! Lucky fire ants.

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A Quick Note

Photo by Suzy Hazelwood from Pexels

Hey everyone,

I’m sorry, but there won’t be a post today. Two days ago I experienced a pretty gnarly allergic reaction. While the worst symptoms have subsided, I’m still struggling. My chest is clearing up, and I can breathe without pain. That’s a big relief! My eyes, however, are still swollen and my vision is limited. Everything looks snowed over and writing this much is a challenge.

I’m taking medication, it’s working, but it’s making me drowsy and nauseated. 

I’m getting better! I’ll be fine in a few days, but I need to take some time to rest and let my body heal. It’s had two blows in the last ten days. It needs rest. I need to rest. Hopefully, I’ll be back on Monday, and we can get back on track.

I’m sorry! I hate letting people down but it’s also important to take care of myself. See you soon. Hopefully in full focus.

Much love,

Keri-lee

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Black Holes and Hungry Hippos

Photo by Pawel Czerwiński on Unsplash.com

“There’s always failure. And there’s always disappointment. And there’s always loss. But the secret is learning from the loss, and realizing that none of those holes are vacuums.”– Michael J. Fox

This weekend, for the first time in months, I had plans that didn’t involve ordering pizza and scrolling through various streaming services. I was going to leave my very narrow area of safety and venture out into the world. By world, I mean my province, in my country, a few hours away from my home. So, a small, small, world but it might as well have been another planet!

Forgive my repetition, but I’ve been taking this pandemic very seriously and I’ve been doing my civic duty. I stay at home as much as possible. I wear a mask, wash my hands, and use hand sanitizer. I maintain physical distance as much as I can and when I can’t, I hold my breath and stamp my feet.

Just kidding, I don’t hold my breath. That’s why I wear a mask! Sure, it’s uncomfortable and sometimes I feel like I’m being suffocated by a pillow but I’m not. I can breathe. It’s only for a short amount of time. I can be uncomfortable for thirty minutes and if I can’t endure the indignity, well, I stay home. Civic duty and basic human decency. I don’t know why that’s so hard for some people.

Yeah, I’m heading down a rabbit hole full of angry squirrels, and I’m out of nuts. Or is that fucks? Oo, I said a naughty word. My bad. I swear, I’m trying to watch my language but sometimes it gets the better of me.

Do you know what got the better of me this weekend? My body! It hates me. It senses the rise of excitement, the sweet smell of anticipation, and it watches me prepare for a good time. It chuckles, hands over its beer, and then: Ba Bam! Captain Buzzkill, reporting for duty. How may I ruin this very fine day?

If only I could throw my body into the brig and carry on without it. Make it walk the plank? Feed it to the fishes? Arg, you scurvy… I think I’ve spent too much time on those various streaming services.

The pain started Thursday evening, and it kept me up most of the night. It wasn’t that bad. Certainly, nothing that required immediate medical attention, but I kept an eye on it. With a chronic illness, the list of things that could be going on is quite extensive and a few of them are seriously problematic. Since none of my symptoms fit into that category, I decided to wait it out a little longer and see if anything developed.

Let me just get a step ahead of the speeches. I can feel em. The concern, the eye roll, the deep intake of breath. Thank you for caring. Seriously! I appreciate the concern, but I’ve lived with these medical conditions for a very long time. I know my body and my illnesses. I know what symptoms to look out for and I know how they feel. I also know, with the symptoms I had, I’d be told to wait and see. Or, I’d sit in the ER for eight hours, exposed to all sorts of contagious diseases, while a lot of tests were run. Tests that would tell me to go home and rest.

I hate hospitals. I’m not a big fan of the needles and the touching. The smell of disinfectant, stale coffee, and bodily fluids. It’s either so noisey you can’t hear yourself think or it’s so quiet you can hear yourself think. Hopsitls, no thanks! I’m happy waiting to see if more concerning symptoms come up. It’s cool, I think I know what’s wrong. It’ll be okay in a few days.

A few days…Oh, man! That’s a few days after the road trip. I’ve been looking forward to this for weeks. Health authorities gave us the thumbs up with reasonable precautions. We’re taking reasonable precautions! I bought a new mask and enough hand sanitizer to bathe a herd of wild beavers. How many beavers are in a herd? Do beavers travel in herds?

I don’t know! I just found out you can milk a beaver. No, we weren’t planning on giving it a try on this trip. We were, however, going on a physically distant and socially responsible adventure. I need an adventure! I want an adventure. Why can’t I have an adventure? 

(Sob, fist clench, feet stomp, “Grr.”)

Maybe I could still go. Maybe I’d feel better in the morning. Maybe I could suck it up and drive for eight hours while my stomach feels like it’s being ripped apart by some alien fish creature. Maybe I should be smart and not drive into the middle of nowhere while experiencing something that could, potentially, turn in to a medical emergency.

Maybe I can stop writing ridiculously long sentences.

Oh, there are so many maybes and not one of them takes me on an adventure.

It’s one thing for a child to be petulant. It’s expected, and it’s cute in a funny, thank God I can’t have kids, kinda way. When an adult does it? Yeah, not as cute or funny. People stare. They shake their heads. Naughty words are used. A petulant adult is sad, kind of pathetic, and pitiful.

In my defence, I was also feeling really horrible, and my adventure had adventured without me. Can I just have this one moment? I’ll keep it brief, I promise. Thirty seconds of petulance and then I’ll move on. I’ll even find a silver lining if that makes us even?

Yikes, promising a silver lining is kinda risky don’t you think? Oh, I’m painting myself into a corner but let’s get some paint on our paws.

I knew I shouldn’t go, but I wanted too! I had everything ready. My camera batteries were charged, and my lenses were packed. I enjoy photography. It relaxes me and there were going to plenty of photographic opportunities. I wanna take pretty pictures. I wanna eat a picnic in the middle of nowhere. I wanna get in my car, put my foot on the gas, and drive. Just drive. Go out there into my small world and be free of the pandemic bubble for one day. One day! Is that too much to ask for?

No, no, it’s not, and I wanted to go damn it.

And time! Thirty seconds of petulance is over. I appreciate your indulgence.

I did the smart and responsible thing because being and adult sucks. I decided to stay home and situate myself within sprinting distance of a medical facility. You know, just in case my unqualified diagnosis was wrong or my body decided it wanted to be a drama queen. Act up all you like, body of mine, but I will never call you, Your Majesty so get off your throne.

My body can be such a diva sometimes.

Letting my travel companions know that I couldn’t make it was more of a disappointment to me than them. They were very understanding and kind. They agreed that it was a smart choice. After all, who wants to spend eight hours driving a car, when they’re in pain and miserable?

They got it but I was pissadointed. 

Have you heard that word before? It’s when you disappointing and pissed off at the same time. I was angry at my body for acting up just as I was about to taste a few hours of freedom. I’ve been so careful for so long. We all have! We were finally cleared to get out of our bubbles. We could go, with caution and safety, and now my body decides to throw a fit. Seriously?

How about any time during the last, what is it, five months of lockdown? When I couldn’t go outside and enjoy myself. When I couldn’t see my family face to face. When I couldn’t get into my car, put my foot on the gas, and drive. How about then? No, let’s wait until we’ve got one foot out the door. 

So close but so far and the disappointment hurts.

It becomes a vacuum that sucks us into a black hole. A swirling mass that consumes everything in its small corner of the universe. A hungry, hungry, hippo can’t be satiated. What goes in, doesn’t come back out. An emotional black hole is a lot like that except this hippo is ticklish and will spit you back out if you hit the right spot.

I’m so close to being a scientist but I keep missing it by that much.

Making the call to cancel the trip created a momentary black hole for me. It was the right call! If I’d gone, I would’ve been miserable and the pain wouldn’t have let me enjoy myself. But the pissadointment! I felt it deep as I texted my companions. I felt like I was letting them down but if I went it would be worse. Why should they suffer because of me? 

Oh, wow my body isn’t the only one with a diva complex! Just because I couldn’t go, didn’t mean they couldn’t. Just because I wasn’t there, didn’t mean they couldn’t have fun. Nothing was ruined for them. Nothing was ruined for me either, now that I look back on my weekend. 

It wasn’t what I’d planned or what I wanted, but I did find ways to enjoy myself. I cuddled my puppy. Made banana bread. Watched a delightfully ridiculous show on Netflix. Warrior Nun’s, if you’re curious and, yes, it was as silly as it sounds but there’s nothing wrong with silly. Especially when you’re in pain, pissed that your adventure got furloughed, disappointed that life doesn’t always go as planned, and wallowing in an ego trip.

Yes, I was petulant and pissadointed. I pouted and wallowed. I might’ve huffed and stamped my feet. But I also knew that I made the right choice. Even though I knew, or was fairly sure I knew, what was wrong the risk wasn’t worth it. Staying home, watching fighting nun’s, wasn’t all bad and it was smart. It gave me time to heal and get ready for the next adventure because there will be another one. As long as there’s air in my lungs, there will be another adventure.

So, here’s my silver lining take away: Disappointments happen but, they aren’t the end of the world and sometimes they lead to something better. Like banana bread, puppy cuddles, and silly nuns? Sure, and face time with a friend, a nice long nap, and time to heal. It all worked out for the better even though it wasn’t the adventure I’d wanted.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed by disappointment? Don’t get sucked into the black hole. Instead, tickle the hippo and see what happens because, you know: Science.

Oh, and I’m starting to feel a lot better thanks to a smart choice and kind friends.

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The Rickety Old Boat Is Sinking!

Photo by Zoltan Tasi on Unsplash.com

I wouldn’t call myself a hoarder. At least, not in the clinical sense or in a way that would get me cast on some “reality” show. When you walk into my place, you won’t find mountains of boxes, old newspapers, or a maze of dead and useless artifacts. You won’t hear distant sounds of gnawing critters, step on the skeletal remains of their ancestors, or endure the cries of newborn vermin. Not here Satan!

Oh, but what about the babies? They need a place to live and grow. Shush you! Not in my humble abode because it’s not that bad!

Stop it! Don’t look at me like that. I’m not delusional or ignoring the glaring reality of my situation. Yes, I’m sure. No, you don’t need to call in a biohazard team to cordon off the area. The building does not need to be evacuated. There’s no reason to stick a big bright biohazard sign on the door. Let me reiterate: IT’S NOT THAT BAD!

Well, not yet anyway and I’m sorry I yelled. That was just rude, but I assure you I’m fine. It’s fine. It’s okay. It’s all right. It’s fine. I promise you it’s…Fine? Do you know what it is? It’s controlled chaos. Yeah, let’s go with that. Controlled chaos. 

Mm, I like the sound of that. It’s eccentric and we all know that eccentric is posher than madness. It adds an air of whimsy and mystique. It tows the line between lunacy and individuality. It’s a person that has a, shall we say, character that’s endearing in a quirky sort of way.

Even though, if we are being truthful, one is just a fancier way of saying the other. A kinder way? Uh, sure why the hell not? And, as someone who tows that very flimsy line behind a rickety old boat, I appreciate the kind gesture but it’s really not necessary. I’ve made friends, all be it reluctantly, with my rickety old boat and the line that binds us together.

Ah, but I digress.

Over the last few months, I’ve come to realize that my rickety old boat has sprung a leak. I really need to do something to reign in my chaos. Not because I’m worried about being overrun by a camera crew or people in bubble suits storming my barricades. Sure, those images aren’t pleasant, I’ll give you that, but what’s bothering me is: me. 

I can’t look at it anymore. It’s gnawing at me. It’s a termite that has burrowed its way into my brain. It’s tickling the connective space between my left and right hemispheres. My eye is twitching, and I think I’m losing control of very random parts of my body.

(Please not the bowels. Please not the bowels. I’m crossing my fingers that it’s not the bowels.)

I thought my hand tremor was annoying but this is getting ridiculous! That damn termite is causing me a lot of problems. If I don’t do something about it, it will sink the both of us. Listen you, little bastard, you better hope the tide is low because I can’t swim. If I drown? So do you. You damn insect!

Ignore the fact that a grown woman can’t swim and focus on what really matters. The controlled chaos has slowly evolved into a basic, average, run of the mill, ordinary chaos. I’m know longer eccentric! It has become a very real problem that will, quite rapidly, become a full-blown situation.

Nobody wants to deal with a full-blown situation! I don’t want to deal with a full-blown anything and this mess, oh boy. I just can’t take it anymore. Something has to be done, but it’s so overwhelming. Where do I start? There’s so much to do! Do I just pick a spot? Pick something up and hope nothing jumps out and eats my face? That can’t happen. Can it?

Well, now I’m imagining all forms of menacing, facing eating, creepers and I’m tempted to back out of the room very slowly. What’s that sound? Oh, it’s a bird outside. It’s nothing. I’m fine. It’s okay. Reeling in my imagination. I mean, what are the odds a chimera is living in my laundry pile? It’s a mythical creature so, like, one in one thousand?

I’ve seen clips from those shows, the ones that capitalize on someone’s mental condition, and I’ve thought, “How do you let it get that bad?” Yeah, that makes me a judgemental ass because, apparently, channel surfing mutes my empathy. Instead of seeing the person, I saw the mess and, for some idiotic reason, I equated the value

The person’s value wasn’t in the mess they lived in, but it was a reflection of their state of mind. For the record, I’m not a psychologist, so I don’t know if this is scientifically accurate but if they’re like me then, maybe? I’m just pretending I’m a fictional private eye who once lived in London, on a street named Baker.

Deduced from logic, dear Watson! Or my unique brand of it. Uh, five minutes ago there may or may not be a mythical creature living in my laundry pile. I think my state of mind is very clear. Please don’t call the padded room people. I’m exaggerating for literary effect.

What isn’t an exaggeration is the state of my home and how it very accurately reflects my state of mind. Cluttered. Visually noisy. A lack of care given to even the most basic of necessities. Things tossed around or left abandoned. I’ll get to it later but later comes, and it’s still there. Now it’s been there so long, it hardly seems worth the effort. Maybe it likes sitting there, precariously balanced on a pile of forgotten and abandoned toys. Discarded. Unloved. Uncared for in thought, but maybe not in reality.

Everything about my life reflects how I’ve been feeling these last few years. It feels like I’ve been floating along on a tired, rickety, old boat. Looking for something but, damn it, I forgot the compass and, no, I don’t have a map. I don’t know what I’m looking for, so I bob along with the current. Hoping, half-heartedly, that the wind will pick up and give me a sense of purpose.

It should come as no surprise that this strategy hasn’t worked out for me. I haven’t found direction or purpose. Floating along, hoping against all hope, hasn’t brought me to my destination. It has brought about a sense of chaos that I keep on a tight, strained, rope. Sure, at the moment, it’s controlled, but the line can only take so much tension. How long until it snaps? How long can I keep the chaos tied down?

Slowly, I’ve been working on decreasing the chaos on the outside. Looking at the mess, as one giant entity, was too overwhelming so I narrowed my vision. Taking one day of the week to work on one spot for one hour. One-One-One. It’s so much easier and I’ve started to see some progress. It’s looking like a home again.

When I walk in my front door, I smile a little more because I’m not assaulted by the chaos. There’s one less physical reminder of my mental state which means, for me, I’m able to take some breaks from the madness within. I’m not being haunted by it. The glaring state of disarray isn’t stalking me. It’s calmer which is easing the tension on that old rope.

It hasn’t fixed the rickety boat, but it’s patched a few holes. I think I might be able to stay afloat a little while longer. In the meantime, it’s bought me a grace period to find a map and maybe a compass. Do I know how to use either of those things? Do they come with Siri? Can I ask a computer to do the work for me? 

Ah, so we’re working with an analog system, eh. Brilliant. Fantastic. Wonderful. Groovy. Did I just thumb through a thesaurus? Maybe.

So, I’m going to have to go old school. A couple of paddles, an old sextant, and a clear starry night. That’s all I get? Did I mention that I can’t swim, and the boat is getting old? Because uh, it might sink and then I’m metaphorically screwed. I wanted to write metaphorically and literally, but that seemed inappropriate and I think the paddles have splinters.

What was I saying? And what’s a sextant? Oh, thanks Google. Look at that, I typed a word that actually turned out to be a thing. Am I smarter than google? No, just smarter than I realize because the chaos inside my brain can be very distracting. It overruns my wise mind and spills over into other aspects of my life.

The outside matches the inside.

As hard as I try to patch over the holes, it still finds a crack and drips out. If it was a burst pipe, I’d notice and try to stop it. A drip, though? That’s some master level spycraft, right there. It slowly builds up until one day I find myself standing knee-deep in a substance I don’t want to identify. It’s a little sticky and oozey. Ew. I think it’s moving. What do I do?

It’s overwhelming and paralyzing. I want to ignore it, but it’s too late. I’ve seen it. It’s glaringly obvious and now it’s become a choice. Do I live with it or do I change it? Yeah, I gave you my answer already and totally forgot to include a spoiler alert. My bad.

I’m decluttering my outside, and it’s restoring some sense of calm on the inside. No, it’s not a cure-all, and there’s still a lot of work to do on the barrel full of monkeys rocking my rickety boat. Nothing will ever be a quick fix when it comes to my mental health. However, living in external chaos has only stoked the internal chaos. 

The outside may reflect the inside but the two seem to feed off each other. By minimizing one, it’s minimizing the other. Not taking it away. Not curing it. I’m not selling some miracle here. It’s just helping. That’s it. Helping.

At least, it’s helping me feel a little less seasick so I’m taking the win.

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Chasing The Happy Hit

Photo by: Denise Jones on Unsplash.com

“Be happy for this moment. This moment is your life.” – Omar Khayyam

So, I did something this weekend that I haven’t done in months. The last time I did it was way back in February. I think it was the last weekend in February? That’s, what, five months of not doing it? I can’t tell you how happy it made me. Dance, giggle like a little girl, and I might’ve squealed at one point because I needed to do it.

I love the word ‘It’ because, when used correctly, it makes everything sound so naughty. The simplest, purest, thing in the world suddenly sounds forbidden, scandalous, and torrid. It triggers the imagination and, if you’re anything like me, once that little bugger gets going there’s no stopping it. It’s a raging bull inside a dollar store. 

It’s cheap, easy, and made from plastic but if it gives you a second to pause, giggle, shake your head, and feel a shot of dopamine? IT’s a good thing.

What did I do this weekend that’s long overdue and brings so much happiness? I went for a hike. Is that what you were thinking? “It” equals hiking? No, that’s not a euphemism so this might be a bit of a letdown. Sorry to disappoint, but if you think this blog will ever be titillating then your disappointment will only grow deeper. 

Shake it off my friend and go for a hike! That’s what I did and I feel great. Refreshed. Rejuvenated. My mind is clear, and it’s running a million miles an hour. It’s exhilarating! If only my fingers could type as fast as my mind is thinking. There are so many spelling mistakes but I will fix them all. I hope. Probably. Might miss one or two but you’ll be okay with that. Right? Great. Damn decent of you!

Where was I? Doing it. Going hiking…Right! I’ve been a good little blogger and I’ve been following all of the guidelines for this pandemic. It’s my civic and social duty! And I’m deathly afraid of getting the virus, which, given my proclivity for ailments, isn’t out of the realm of possibility. Not just because it’s highly contagious, that’s a part of it, but I tend to catch the viruses. Like, all of the virus. I’m just waiting for the day when a doctor looks at me and screams, “The plague! The plague!”

Again, not out of the realm of possibility. Though I hope they handle it a lot better than that. Be a little more sensitive.

If you’re new, welcome to the zoo my new friend, I have chronic renal failure. Kidney disease. I’ve written more about it in the past, feel free to check out those posts, but for today I’ll skip to the juicy bits. After my kidneys failed, I had to have a kidney transplant which I did. Three of them. Yay!

The upside of a transplant: Life! The down sound: Immunosuppressants. 

Medication lowers my immune system because, if it was left as is, it would attack the new kidney. The transplanted kidney is, after all, a foreign body. The immune system is there to keep the body safe from anything that’s not supposed to be there. It can’t tell the difference between a splinter in the big toe or a life-saving organ transplant so it attacks everything. The only way to keep the transplant alive and functioning is to render the immune system useless.

Okay, that’s a bit of an exaggeration. It’s not completely useless. It feels like it is because I catch every bacterial or viral infection known, or unknown, to humankind. Good thing we’re not currently experiencing a deadly global pandemic. That would be a nightmare!

Silence. Crickets. What? Oh right. Damn it!

Maybe it goes without saying, but I’ve been taking all of the recommendations very seriously. Washing my hands every five minutes. Wearing a mask when I go outside. Not going out unless I absolutely have too. Limiting time and exposure to other people. 

You know the drill by now, and I’m sure you’re decent enough to do your part. Which is more than I can say for some people. Those precious few who use words like “sheeple” and “scam-demic.” I have a few words for these people but I will refrain because, for this moment, I am actually feeling…Oh, what’s the word?

Right! I’m feeling happy. Oo, just typing the word on the page makes my fingertips tingle. How odd? I don’t feel the usual suffocating weight of depression sitting on my chest. I think I might even, oh dear…Yeah, I might giggle and I never giggle unless I’m very intoxicated.

This is a peculiar feeling and it’s kinda freaking me out. What do I do? What do I do? I don’t know what to do with this light, tingly, sensation known as happiness!

Inhale through the nose. One, two, three, four. Exhale through the mouth. One, two, three, four. Whew, I’m good now.

I’ve been taking this whole pandemic situation very seriously and I’ve avoided a lot of things, and places, that make me happy. I haven’t gone to the movies or out to dinner. I haven’t even gone to the grocery store in about four months. Thankfully, I have people who can do that for me so I don’t have to risk it.

I stopped going to my favourite trails because hiking requires exertion, and that means heavy breathing. Breathing releases particles and those little bastards could contain a deadly virus. Why risk it? Even if it is safer than a grocery store. Is it worth it? No, too many people have taken the risk and paid a very heavy price for it.

I’m not going to risk it.

But now, here in western Canada, our viral situation seems to be under control and we’re opening up again. We’re at level three, the highest we can go until there’s a vaccine, and so far our numbers are holding steady. There are still new cases every day but the number of active cases is going down. It’s a good sign! It’s not over, but we’ve done enough to flatten the curve and lower the risk.

So, from this immunocompromised person, thank you British Columbia, Canada, for all your hard work and for doing the right thing. I’m so thankful for all of you. Look how we’ve come together! We’ve looked after each other. We’ve put our communities before our own comfort. We’ve done it, we’re still doing it, and the rewards are slowly being felt. 

It’s amazing what we can do if we come together, isn’t it? And there I go! Feeling happy again. Arg, it’s weird.

Thanks to the diligent efforts of our health experts, and our communities, we’re slowly getting into our new normal. I’ve watched from the sidelines. Choosing caution over reckless optimism. You know, if this is some sort of trick played by…aliens? No! That’s just silly but I’m in a silly mood.

Despite the reopening, I’ve been reluctant to join in. I’m still scared of getting this virus. I don’t want to get sick, it sounds awful, so I’ve held back but this weekend I took one small step out into the world.

The park isn’t far from me and I went early. There were plenty of cars in the parking lot and I almost turned away but I grabbed my mask, my walking stick, and my dog. I set out on the trail, and it was magnificent. I walked through the forest until I came to the rocky wetlands. My legs were stiff and sore. They aren’t used to the terrain but they’ll get there. I took my time. I took in the scenery. I breathed in deep, and all the stress of the last few months just melted away.

Yes, I ran into a few people but I pulled up my mask and they did their best to keep a respectful distance. No-fuss. Respect other people’s boundaries. Enjoy the scenery. Maybe it’s the scenery that puts people into a good mood? There’s something about nature that makes everything feel like it’s going to be okay. No matter what’s going on, the trees still grow and the birds still fly. The wind rustles the leaves. Ducks land on the calm water.

In that moment, it feels like everything is going to be okay. Even after everything we’ve been through? Yeah, it feels like it’ll work out. And there I go! Being optimistic. What’s wrong with me? So out of character.

Did you have a list of things you thought you’d miss? At the beginning of all of this, when we were told to shelter in place, did you think of all the things that make you happy? The things you couldn’t do. The places you couldn’t go to. Has it held up?

I had a list of things that, I thought, made me happy but I was wrong. Sure, I missed them, but not nearly as much as the things I took for granted. Those things weren’t even on my list. I didn’t even think to put them on my list. I didn’t know how happy they made me until I couldn’t have them anymore.

Riding in the elevator with a neighbour and standing in the lobby of our building, talking for twenty minutes. I’m not even a people person! I’m a socially awkward introvert with moderate social anxiety. I thought, when this all started, that this was my moment. I’ve been training for this my whole life. No contact with other people? Hell ya! Bring it. But I missed seeing my neighbours. Even the racist woman who went on about “those people” and I called her an outbreak monkey.

My mouth, honestly, I have no control over it sometimes. She won’t let me pat her dog anymore. Oh well, I have my own puppy to pat so take that racist elevator lady.

Every weekend, before this started, I’d open my hiking app, pick a park, and go check it out. I didn’t know it made me so happy. I didn’t know how much I needed that time out in the woods or walking through marshy, rocky, wetlands. I didn’t know that it filled me up with energy and joy.

You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone? Even happiness?

Happiness, it’s something we spend our lives searching for but when we find it, we take it for granted. I take it for granted. I feel it. I’m grateful for it. My gratitude lasts a solid thirty minutes and then it’s off to chase the next hit of happy. A drug of sorts?

Sitting in the moment and feeling it. Letting it permeate deep into my mushy places. Experiencing it fully instead of looking for another hit. That’s rare for me but this weekend I stood by the water’s edge and felt it. I sat in it. Stewed in it. Let the flavours mix because my diet has been pretty bland lately. A steady stream of stress and anxiety isn’t good for anyone.

For me, it’s easier to stay in those dark moments, the stress and anxiety, than stay in the happier ones. I stay in the dark moments and I rush through the happy ones. I chase another happy. I need another hit. Maybe if I stayed in one moment a little longer, I wouldn’t need to keep running?

Staying in that moment, standing by the water’s edge, has carried over. Two days later, I’m still feeling calm and content. I walked for an hour but that hour made a world of difference. I feel stronger. I feel more level. I feel more present in this moment and I’m not rushing for the next. At least, not yet.

It’s a work in progress. I’m a work in progress. But this weekend I did it and I’m feeling happier than I have felt in a long time.

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Panic, Patriotism, and Purple Penguins

Photo by Hermes Rivera on unsplash.com

I woke up this morning in a panic. One minute I was dead to the world. The next minute I bolted out of bed as if my sheets were molten lava. I stood there muttering, “Oh crap,” over and over again. My eyes blinking wildly. Focus. Focus. Is that the time? Oh crap!

I ran into the living rooming and looked around wildly. My dog looked up at me, cocked his head to the side, and yawned. By the look on his face, I assume he was thinking, “What the hell’s gotten into you?”

Excellent question my furry friend!

I picked up my phone and checked the time again, just to be sure there wasn’t a glitch in the matrix, but it all lined up. Except for the extra minute of panic. Wow, I’d been in a stone-cold panic for one whole minute and I still didn’t know why. Okay, I slept in and I never do that. Not even on a holiday. 

A holiday? Today’s a national holiday. Wait, hold up, take a deep breath. Today’s a holiday. Oh, okay that changes a few things. I can unclench all of my orifices. Bend over, hands on my knees, and exhale slowly because today is a holiday.

I’m writing this on July 1, 2020, which means today is Canada Day. Happy Birthday Canada! My home and adopted land. You are a beauty, that’s for sure, and I’m so thankful for everything you’ve given me. Safety, security, a health care system that’s kept me alive while not sending me into bankruptcy. 

Was that a humble brag? No, just overwhelming gratitude for the country I call home. 

We immigrated to Canada when I was five. My parents wanted us to grow up in a safer country than the one we were born in. No shade to that country. Lovely place. Beautiful scenery. Delicious food. A health and safety record that leaves a lot to be desired.

I’ve said it before, but it’s amazing how much fear you can live in, and not know how afraid you are until it’s gone. I didn’t know I was so scared. I didn’t know that it wasn’t “normal” to live behind bars or hide every time I heard a loud bang. I didn’t know that doing home invasion, bomb evacuation, and active shooter drills weren’t the norm for everyone.

Coming to Canada opened my eyes to a different lifestyle that felt alien. Actually, when I first heard the name Canada, I thought my parents were taking us to a different planet. What is this Canada you speak of? I’ve never heard of it, therefore it must not be real. Is it a trick? Are you sure it exists? What if it isn’t real and when we get there, nothing’s there? Just a barren pink landscape full of purple penguins with three yellow feathers sprout from the top of its head.

What can I say? A child’s world is very small but their imagination is very large. Or, the hypnotic power of Dr. Seuss was a little too strong.

We were welcomed into this frozen tundra with warmth, compassion, and generosity. It was, we’d come to learn, the stereotypical Canadian way. Kind to a fault. Open doors and open hearts. It’s not something that’s done for show. It’s a way of life.

For me, when I look at my country now, I see a diverse society with an ingrained social conscience. The self, the individual, is defined as much by their community as their personal attributes. That means that we’re all in this together, and we strive to help the weakest of us become strong again. We work together to protect the vulnerable even if that means we sacrifice some of our strength because our greatest strength is unity.

To me, Canada means acceptance, kindness, safety but I’m not foolish enough to think that this is true for everyone. I wish it was! I wish you could experience Canada like I do but, sadly, the stereotype doesn’t encompass all. We’re imperfect. We have a system that’s broken, and those fractures damage the very thing that makes us so amazing.

We’re a young country with a long history that’s not the storybook we like to pretend that it is. We have a lot of growing up to do. We’re still stuck in our old ways of systemic racism and colonial idealism. We’re trying to break down those walls and turn it into a lush field with room for everyone. It’s hard work, but the work is being down.

Three steps forward and two steps back? Baby steps, that’s the best description, because, if you’ve ever watched a baby walk, you know they fall down a lot. That’s us, I think, moving forward with clumsy, jerking, movements that trip us up. Sitting still is easier. Crawling is more comfortable. Taking a nap sounds nice but up we get. Reluctantly and with plenty of fist-clenching tears. Sometimes with full-blown temper tantrums.

There are a lot of good people that are putting in the work to help us grow. Parenting us, if you will. Social activists. Leaders from diverse communities. Kind people with hearts of courage and boundless empathy. People from all walks of life and ethnic backgrounds are putting in the time, the tears, and the sweat because being Canadian means, to me, not settling for good enough. It’s not enough for the greater good to succeed. No, we want everyone to succeed. This isn’t simply in idealism but it’s action and deeds that go beyond an anthem or a flag.

When we stand for our national anthem we sing, “In true patriots love…” Patriotism isn’t about that flag waving high in the sky or a song we sing before a hockey game. True patriotism isn’t seeing the best and ignoring the worst. Yes, patriotism is loving this country for what it is but, contrary to all the songs, love isn’t blind. 

Loving this country doesn’t mean stagnation but growth. We love her so much that we want her to become greater than anything we can imagine. It’s seeing the flaws, the broken pieces, and doing everything in our power to fix what’s been shattered. It’s acknowledging our dark history and doing everything we can to heal the very deep wounds.

I love my country so much that when the wounds are exposed my heart breaks. I can’t even begin to understand the depth of the pain some of you have experienced. As I said, my experience as a Canadian has been idyllic. I’m spoilt rotten. Hearing your stories though? Seeing your reality on a tv screen? It’s a tale of two countries within one border.

How many indigenous people have lost their lives to a system that, we’re told, was put in place to “help”? A system that hurt so many of you and a system that’s continues to play our history on a loop. There are people living without clean water in a country that has the ability to send a person to space. We can put someone on a space station but we can’t deliver adequate medical care to remote communities within our own borders. 

It’s shocking, heartbreaking, and I’m so sorry for my own ignorance. We’re better than this! I know we are because you welcomed me, this stranger from a distant land, with open arms and a heart of gold. You gave so freely of yourselves and I’m so grateful. If you can do that for me, for my family, then surely we can take care of the people who’s land we stand on. The land we stole. 

That’s right, I said it. But, saying it is still controversial which says a lot about where we are in our development. It says a lot about how much work still needs to be done.

When I woke up this morning, I was in a panic because I thought today was tomorrow. In my half-asleep haze, I thought I’d messed everything up. I thought I was letting people down. I thought I’d missed some important deadlines. Then I woke up and now…

I’m trying to write a tribute to the country I love and it’s morphing into something I’m afraid to post. Pointing out our flaws, our failures, is akin to treason. Especially on a day we celebrate her birth. It just not done but birth, of a person or a nation, is not without suffering. How can we celebrate a birth without acknowledging the labour? The pain, the tears, the blood that’s been spilled. Some of that blood has been spilled for our freedom. Some has been spilled for our pleasure.

Acknowledging one doesn’t negate the other. It’s is not contrary to love our country but want it to change. Two things, no matter how opposing they may seem, can be true and wrapping our brains around that is enough to trigger a little bit of panic. It feels unnatural. It feels like an assault. It feels too big so we fight it or pretend it doesn’t exist. 

Not here. Not in Canada. We’re too nice for that sort of thing. We turn our eyes to our flag, place a hand over our hearts, and sing as loud as we can. We look away. We drown out the cries. We call anyone who objects a traitor and tell them to go back where they came from.

Don’t get me wrong, our flag and anthem have their place as symbols of noble idealism: Unity, community, human rights, peace, freedom, and the list goes on. They do represent these ideals on a global, and personal, stage. They have meaning and I would never discount or dismiss their significance.

I wear my flag with pride because I’ve lived under another flag that, for me, holds reminders of fear and pain. I love the flag that flies overhead. It saved my life. It saved my family. It’s given me so much and asked for so little in return.

When I travel, I proudly stitch the maple leaf onto my backpack because I am proud to be Canadian. I’m often treated with a great deal of respect because of the flag on my bag. It’s my shield that protects me from harm, but it’s also a sign of kindness. That’s our reputation. We’re kind. Sure, some make a joke out of it and our politeness is a little extra, but we can take a joke so keep em coming.

Back home, however, we fail to protect our own and we don’t treat them with the kindness that we’re famous for. We perpetuate tired old stereotypes and turn away from people who are asking for nothing more than basic human decency. We do this while hearing the cries from other lands and we rush to help them, as we should, but what about our own?

Can’t we help our own as well?

You might read these words and hear treason in my voice, but please hear the love instead. I love my country with all of my heart but that love hasn’t stolen my sight. On the contrary, love has opened my eyes wide, and I see so many of you experiencing a vastly different Canada to the one I know. I see you struggling. I hear you asking for decency, kindness, and respect.

The same decency, kindness, and respect that I was unreservedly given when my feet landed on Canadian soil. It’s not too much to ask. It’s not the world. It’s the most Canadian thing we can do! We can be kind.

Maybe we can even get people clean water, adequate medical care, and there are a lot of women still missing on the Highway of Tears. You know, while we’re being kind and all.

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Shut up! I love you.

Photo by Gratisography from Pexels

“We must find time to stop and thank the people who make a difference in our lives.” ― John F. Kennedy

Yesterday marked the thirteenth anniversary of my kidney transplant. Thirteen years. I’m actually shocked. It’s hard to believe so much time has passed. I know it’s a cliché, but where did the time go? It feels like it just happened a couple of months ago but, at the same time, it feels like an eternity has gone by. How is that possible? 

Is time a construct of our global overlords or is it just messing with me?

The latter. It’s definitely the latter. Government what-now? It’s Monday and I have horrible cramps. (I know: TMI)

Thirteen years ago, yesterday, I was sitting in pre-op with my brother. The doctors and nurses had just done their final checks. The IV was put into his arm, and we were wearing matching blue gowns. The whole family was there, but we had this moment to ourselves. It was early, and it was surprisingly quiet for a hospital.

Or the ringing in my ears blocked out all the noise.

I was so afraid. My heart was racing. My palms were sweaty. Mom’s spaghetti…Wait, no sorry that’s not my story. Confusing myself with a white male rapper again. Typical.

I’ve had hundreds of surgeries, most of them pretty major operations, and I know the drill. One more scalpel cut, one more line of stitches, one more scar? No big deal! It’s a part of the game. A game I’ve been playing my whole life but my brother had never been through anything like this before.

Having a kidney removed isn’t the equivalent of an appendectomy. You can live without an appendix. You can live with one kidney, an heir and a spare, but a kidney is still a major organ. Having it removed is major surgery. Donating a part of your body is no small feat. It’s a monumental undertaking! An incredible thing to do, absolutely, but there are a lot of risks.

Risks my big brother was about to take to save my life and, that’s as heavy as it sounds.

I was so scared for him and if anything happened… I can’t finish that thought.

We had a few minutes alone and I asked him to back out. There are protocols for these things. If a donor wants to back out, but save face then they’ve got it covered. They can say the bloodwork is off and they need to do more testing. They can say that I had an infection, and we can’t go forward with the surgery until it’s cleared up. There are a dozen excuses. All we had to do was pick one. 

Please pick one. For the love of God, pick one and we can call this off. 

My brother, bless him, shook his head, and said, “Don’t be stupid. We’re doing this. You’re getting my kidney. You’re going to get better. That’s it. We’re done talking about it.”

The surgical team came and took him in first. I’d go into the operating room next to him, about forty-five minutes later. I sat on my gurney and waited. My eyes moved from the clock on the wall to the door down the hall. I nearly chewed off all of my fingernails. Time moved so slowly, and every time the hand on the clock ticked, I felt a sharp stab in my chest.

My brother, brave and selfless, was in an operating room having his kidney removed. All I wanted to know, all I cared about, were two words: He’s Okay. I needed to hear that he was all right before I went in. Just tell me he’s okay. Come and tell me he’s okay. I looked at the clock and back at the door. Come on, tell me he’s okay.

The nurse came to get me and she gave me the thumbs up. “Kidney looks great,” she said, but I didn’t care about that. “And your brother is doing just fine.”

There it is! He’s okay. Now, we can go and get my part of this show started.

We walked through the doors at the end of the hall, and down a long corridor. There were a lot doors leading to other operating rooms. Carts filled with gear. The air smelt like disinfectant and stale anesthetic. If you’ve never smelt anesthesia, it’s a bittersweet smell. I’m trying to find something comparable but it’s very unique. It’s kind of sweet like bubblegum but bitter, sour, like bleach mixed with lemon juice.

That’s an awful description but if you’ve smelt it, then you know. If you haven’t, well that’s brilliant, I hope you never need to fill your nostrils with that putrid odor.

We reached my door, and I looked back at the operating room next to mine. “He’s fine. He’ll be out soon,” the nurse said as she gently guided me into my room. 

Pro-tip, if you find yourself in an operating room: Don’t look around. The surgical tools look like medieval torture devices, and knowing they will be used to cut into your body is unsettling. The nurses count everything out, gotta make sure nothing gets left inside of you, and the process is a bit grim. From a patient standpoint, it’s grim. Don’t look. Focus on the bed, the ceiling, the kind nurse telling incredibly inappropriate jokes. Laugh at the jokes, focus on the ceiling, and let the anesthetic pull you out of your body.

I love anesthetic. Is that weird? My body gets heavy but my mind becomes light as air. There’s this moment of fear when mind and body disengage but then…I’m flying up, up, up into a clear blue sky. Do a few acrobatics, test out those wings, before the darkness pulls you down into a deep sleep. It’s a very strange moment that’s also, just little bit, fun.

Thirteen years ago I woke up in the intensive care unit, intubated (a machine breathing for me), and I heard the two phrases I need to hear: The transplant worked and your brother’s doing just fine. The kidney was a perfect match and my body welcomed it, with the help of anti-rejection medications, without a fight. It would take over a year to fully recover, which is normal, but today my brother and I are doing all right.

Without my brother’s gift, I wouldn’t be alive. I had six months left. If my luck held out which, let me be honest, I don’t hold much stock in the luck game. Six months to live, but thirteen years later I’m still here because of my amazing, sweet, brilliant brother.

There’s no way to thank someone for that kind of gift. There are no words, no deeds, or gifts that adequately convey the depth of my gratitude. Believe me, I’ve tried and I’ve searched. There’s nothing. I don’t know what to say and every time I try, my brother shrugs it off and says, “Shut up, you’re my sister.”

The only explanation needed. 

Is it, though? Are there moments, gifts, that don’t require explanation or expressed gratitude? After all, selfless acts aren’t done for applause or recognition. They’re done because of love. Unfiltered, untainted, uncomplicated love. They’re motived by the most innocent of desires. They act out of a genuine concern for someone else. It’s a desperate need to act that’s not based on greed, but of a purity that we seldom see anymore. 

An action so rare it borders on the miraculous.

How do you thank someone for being the miracle you prayed for? I’ve never found a way, and I’ve had thirteen years to look for one. “Shut up, you’re my sister.” I love you. I need you. You’re a valuable part of my life. A necessary part of my life. Food, water, air, you. Shut up, I love you.

If you’re lucky enough to have someone say that to you, and mean it with their whole being; hold on to them as tight as you can. It’s overwhelming. Emotionally and spiritually, it feels like too much electricity is passing through your circuits. You feel like you’re going to blow a breaker. Maybe you will, but hold onto them because the lights will come back on. When they come back on?

How do you say thank-you? Do you even need to say it or is this a moment of bonding, on a spiritual level, that surpasses expressed gratitude? A connection so deep, so selfless, that it makes words superfluous. A knowing. An understanding. Two entities united as one in this moment of kindness. No words needed. No deeds of recompense. 

All that’s needed, all that’s exchanged, is a knowing nod, a wink, or a hug shared by two people who’ve gone through a battle and survived. Survived through selflessness. That’s all that’s needed because, again, “Shut up, I love you.”

That’s not to say that I haven’t taken time to say thank-you. At least once I year, on the anniversary of the transplant, I say the words because it’s the least I can do. Needed? Not by my brother, but I need to say it. I need to take a minute to remember that moment, and poorly express emotions that are beyond words. I need to do that because it’s important to take a second to acknowledge the people who’ve impacted my life in positive ways. For them, absolutely, but also for my wellbeing.

I don’t know about you, but sometimes I forget how loved and needed I am. I get caught up in the pain of the past, and I struggle to find hope in the future. There are days where I’m dark and twisty to the point of self-destruction. Taking time to mark these anniversaries, and express my gratitude does me a world of good. It’s as if I’d blown my breaker and now I’m flipping it back into place. Let there be light?

Six words can make a world of difference: Thank you. I love you too.

They might not need to hear it, but I need to say it. Whether it’s superfluous or not, these words have to come out of my mouth so I know how loved I am. I need them to know how loved and needed they are. If I can forget, then maybe they’ve forgotten too. I say the words out loud because it means something, on that spiritual level, and, yes, it feels inadequate but it’s not the words that matter. It’s the person saying the words, the heart beyond each syllable, that counts for so much more.

Thirteen years is a long time, and it’s time I almost lost. This isn’t hyperbole, without my brother, I would be dead. Believe me, I know that anything I can say will sound hollow, but please know that my heart is so full it hurts. A good hurt. A volcanic eruption, hot lava, of love and gratitude. I can’t express it well enough, but I can’t contain it either.

So to my brother, one of the most honourable men I will ever know: Thank-you! I love you too.

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A Genuine Menace

Photo by: Hans Eiskonen on Unsplash.com

I should’ve just gone back to bed. I should’ve called it a day. Hidden somewhere safe. Zipped myself up in a bubble suit, and rolled into a padded broom closet. I know it’s usually a room but, in a pinch, the minimalistic solution will work just fine.

Mm, yeah let’s go with a closet with extra cushioning and a lock. You know, for added security and peace of mind. Oh, there should be a slit in the door. No, not for oxygen, though it’s a good idea and I’m glad you thought of it. I almost forgot that I needed to breathe. See! I’m a hazard to myself all ready.

Right, so a slit in the door for breathable air, and snacks. Maybe a hose? Snacks make me thirsty, and I should stay hydrated. Air. Food. Hose?

What’s the hose attached to? Uh, I don’t really have a preference but please be kind. I know quite a few smart asses who’d… Well, you know, ew. Hook the hose up to something suitable for human consumption and make it yummy. Um, maybe something that goes well with snacks?

So let’s see, we’ve got a bubble suit and a padded closet. Snacks and yummy drinks. What else? Entertainment! Right, boredom leads to fidgeting, and fidgeting always makes these situations worse. Fidgeting gets me into a lot of trouble so let’s avoid any further fidgets.

Have you ever said a word so much that it stops sounding like a word? Fidget. Fidget. Fidget. It sounds like I’m speaking Latin. Who speaks Latin nowadays? On no! I sat still for too long. My contemplations are causing an itch. An itch to, you guessed it, fidget and this is when things go horribly wrong.

Am I the only one who’s had a day where everything goes wrong? I’m not talking about a bad, no good, horrible day. Bad days are a dime a dozen, especially this year, and they’re something to endure with a glimmer of hope that better days are on the horizon. Bad days happen, but the day I’m talking about isn’t one of those days, per-se.

Oo, now I am speaking Latin. Fancy.

No, my inner werewolf wasn’t trying to make a bid for freedom. I didn’t get drunk on beaver milk. I’m fine, at the moment, but I think I experienced a bit of a glitch. A hiccup in my programming. I’m not sure if it was a coding issue or if some wires got crossed while I slept. Either way, I had a day where I couldn’t function according to factory specifications.

I couldn’t coordinate my limbs. My mind and my body weren’t on speaking terms. I was a little more absent-minded, clumsy, and accident-prone than usual. Oh, and I’m a clumsy one, Mr. Grinch. 

On a normal, average, no-nonsense day I accidentally injure myself once, maybe twice, during the eighteen hours I’m awake. I’m working purely on the bruise count here. I’m so clumsy I barely notice the slips, bumps, and scratches. I wake up, check for new bruises, and try to figure out where they came from. What can I say? It’s a hobby. 

The day I’m talking about was quite exceptional and I don’t mean that in a fantastical way. I woke up in the morning and I had a feeling. It was an alarm bell in my gut. Screaming at me. Telling me to stay in bed. Don’t risk it! It’s not worth it. Stay where you are for the foreseeable future.

Did I listen? Sigh.

To be fair, every morning I open my eyes and think, “This again? No, I’m staying in bed. I’m not going to do it. I’m not going to be a person today.”

If I stayed in bed every time I had that thought then my body would become one with my bed. Melded together for eternity. A new form of life. A bed-person? No, there’s gotta be a better name for it. Why can’t I think of a better name? Think. Think. Think.

Nope, nothing, and I refuse to become a mattress. I just can’t do it. It’s so…Off-topic.

The urge to stay in bed all day is always there, and every day I ignore it. I peel myself up, swing my legs over the side, and mutter a lot of incoherent words that, I assume, contain a lot of profanity. That day, the day that will go down in infamy, was no exception but it really should’ve been the one time I caved. Why wasn’t it the one time I caved? Arg!

I got out of bed without looking, because my eyes were too busy talking to the manager. It’s cruel, that’s what it is, expecting eyes to focus and pupils to dilate. Not at this time of the day! It’s inhumane. The sun’s barely up and you expect us to see clearly. Ha! That’s right, my eyes ha’d at me. My own eyes ha’d. Well, aren’t we’re off to a great start?

My eyes laughed, and I tripped over my damn cat who, coincidentally, decided to dart from under the bed at that exact moment. No, she’s wasn’t trying to kill me. Nope. Uh uh. Then again, sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night and she’s staring at me. Just staring and licking her lips. For a second, I wonder if she’s thinking about eating my face. Then she purrs and I know, with absolute certainty, that she’s contemplating my demise.

The cat darted, I tripped, and I landed face first in a pile of dirty laundry. I really should get on that or I’m going to have to air dry my entire body. What will the neighbours think? Screw the neighbours! This was my chance. The warning shot. I could’ve listened. I should’ve listened. Alas, with a dramatic sigh, I called my cat an asshole and got to my feet.

The bed was behind me, and the bedroom door was in front. A choice was made, and it was a choice I’d come to regret. Fist to the heavens, head thrown back, and with all my might I yell, “Why?” Why didn’t I go back to bed?

Yeah, I’m being very dramatic. Overly dramatic? Quite possibly but it adds flare. I love a little flare. 

By 12:36 pm, I’d slipped in the shower twice, slipped on the bathroom floor three times, and almost fell over towel drying my hair. I’d opened my front door a fraction of a crack before realizing I didn’t have any pants on. Then, you guessed it, I nearly fell over putting my pants on. I walked out of my front door, and got all the way to the lobby before I realized I wasn’t wearing shoes. After putting on my shoes, I left my apartment for the third time. Did you know you can’t lock your front door or start your car without keys? Go figure. 

If you’re counting, it took me four tries to successfully leave my apartment.

At this point, most reasonable people, would’ve taken the hint and found a safe place to lick their wounds or count their losses. It would seem that reason had abandoned me because I kept going. I broke two cups, tripped three more times, and shattered my apple watch. Did I get the warranty? If only you could see my face and hear me sigh.

Thankfully no one else was hurt in the making of that day, but by the end of it I felt like a complete menace, and seriously started to question lady luck. Okay, I don’t know if I believe in luck, or fate, or the stars doing things when other things are in retrograde. Clearly, I’m an expert. Yes, that was sarcasm and I know you know that, but this is the internet. One can never be too careful on the inter-webs.

Inter-webs is a fun word to say.

I’ve heard people say that there’s no such thing as luck. Life comes down to hard work and perseverance. I’ve also heard people say that hard work and perseverance will only get you so far, and luck takes you the rest of the way. My mom always told me to get out of my head, and watch where I’m going. I don’t know about the first two, but my mom’s a smart woman and, in this case, she’s probably right.

I’m a very heady person and, by that, I mean I spend far too much time inside my own head. I get lost in thoughts, daydreams, ideas, and riddles. I follow a rabbit down a hole, and I lose hours of my day. I forget the outside world exists. I look through things and people. I walk around in a haze because I’m so busy trying to get a straight answer out of an overdressed rabbit.

Most days I catch myself, and heed my mom’s advice. I write out my rambling thoughts, questions, or riddles so I can solve them with you. I let the rabbit run in the open air so I don’t have to get wedged inside another hole. It’s safer for everyone, but mostly myself because when I get lost in my head, bruises form.

As I follow the rabbit through a maze of twisted roots my body tries to keep up. How can a physical being keep pace with an imaginary creature? It can’t, obviously. Which is why I walk out of my apartment without pants on or try to start my car with my toothbrush. It’s why I break an overpriced watch, think my cat is a homicidal maniac, and why I’ve run out of cups.

Trust me, making tea in the palm of your hand is inadvisable.

I really like my rabbit, it asks interesting and provocative questions, but maybe I can leave some questions unanswered for a little while. I don’t have to follow every thought or solve every riddle. Oh, that makes me want to sigh dramatically, yet again. It makes my eye twitch! Ignoring an intriguing flight of fancy? I mean, that seems a little extreme, but it sure beats tripping over my own feet. 

Or am I making a rather large assumption?

If my assumption is true, does it mean that, instead of pulling my head out of out arses, I need work the other way round? I’m not sure how that’s physiologically possible. Should I do yoga first? You know, limber up a bit before I give it a try. I don’t think I’m flexible enough and, honestly, milking a beaver sounds easier.

Damn it, now my rabbit is bouncing up and down waving its top hat. Not this time you little menace. I won’t follow you…Oo shiny.

Ouch! Not again.

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Yeah, You Can Milk A Beaver!

Photo by GEORGE DESIPRIS from Pexels

“Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work.”– Stephen King

I’ve been trying to write this post for a couple of hours now and all I have are a whole lot of words on a page. They aren’t horrible words. They make sense and are, for the most part, grammatically correct. There’s a logical progression of thoughts. There’s nothing wrong with the words I’ve written, other than the fact that they feel wrong.

Does that make sense? Can something be both right and wrong at the same time? Apparently, yes, they can because I’ve been writing the wrong words for three or five hours. I’m frustrated. I’m uninspired. I’m…Here, alone with my thoughts and very little inspiration.

I thought I had it! An idea, a concept worth exploring, and I was ready to dive into it with both feet. I opened my laptop, clicked on a new document, and started typing. I got about seven hundred words deep and then it hit me like a blunt object to the side of my head. I’ve been working away for who knows how long and I’m not saying anything.

Well, that’s a sucker punch! What am I going to do now? I’ve gotta put something up and now I have nothing. Perfect.

I’m a quiet person. Painfully shy. If we were to meet in person, you’d find that getting words out of me is as challenging as getting milk from beaver. Technically possible but really not practical or sustainable in the long term. How many of you just googled: Milking a beaver? Mm-hm, don’t be shy. We’ve all done it.

The reason I’m so quiet isn’t a lack of vocabulary or knowledge. Which is just a nice way of saying, “I know how to use my words and I’m not stupid.”

I’m quiet because I’m way too thoughtful. Not in a kind and generous way. Though, I hope I’m kind and generous. I mean, who wants to be an asshole? No one. At least, not intentionally and certainly not as an alternative lifestyle. We all want to be kind, right? Some of us just pull it off with more conviction than others.

Where was I? Right, I’m thoughtful in a different way. It’s a: stop and think things through until the moment has passed and now we’re on to a new topic and you just stood there making weird squeaking noises…Sorta way. I know, that was a run-on sentence. I apologize with half of my heart. The other half is still googling beavers.

It’s not a personality quirk that plays well at parties. I’m always the odd duck sitting in the corner all alone. Slowly inching closer to the nearest exit. Hoping my subtle movements won’t draw anyone’s attention because if they see me, they will try to engage. It’s kind of them to try, but we both know it won’t go well.

On the other hand, as far as personality quirks go, if you’re a writer who’s trying to produce thoughtful content on a weekly basis then, you’ve found a home. Welcome! Seriously though, did you google the beaver thing? I’m not saying it’s required reading, but you’ll thank me.

My excessive thoughtfulness has created one particular life motto: If you can’t say anything productive, shut up. Or more often than not, if you can’t say anything, do yourself a favour and stop making weird squeaking noises. It’s creeping everyone out. It’s not as subtle as you think. For the love of all that is unicorn in this world: Shush.

All that to say that, about twenty minutes ago, I realized I was saying a whole lot of nothing in particular. Well, more specifically, my heart wasn’t in it. I was fighting to find the inspiration, the motivation, to keep going and that’s usually my cue to stop. It’s not working. I can’t do it. I should give up, walk away, and shut up because my voice isn’t working very well.

Oh, the panic! It’s Monday, and I said I’d post something every Monday and Friday. I owe it to… Huh, maybe I’m putting too much pressure on myself? Maybe I should just cut myself some slack? Maybe it would be okay to miss a day? 

Maybe it’s time for me to shut?

Or, inspiration is overrated and I need to put my head down and do some hard thinking. Put my back into it a bit. It’s not all sunshine and dandelions. I may be artsy-fartsy but sometimes I need to be less art and more…Uh, never mind.

Those of us who are creative by nature, by instinct, tend to put a lot of faith in the magical power of inspiration. It’s the key that unlocks many different worlds and it allows us to see beyond our limitations. It’s a magic carpet that transports us to other realities where boundless wonders reside. It’s a spiritual experience full of bright colours and beautiful music. A technicolor wonderland.

Without its wondrous gifts, we’re lost or, worse, we’re left stranded on a barren island. Wordless. Voiceless. Creatively alone and forlorn. Just us, a coconut named Steve, and a single question floating around in our minds: What about the beavers? I’ll never know about the beavers!

There was nothing wrong with the words I put down on the page and I’ll go back to it tomorrow. It’s not all lost. I’m not a complete failure. Inspiration may have left me to my own devices, but my own devices will suffice. When I let go of the strings, let inspiration fly off on its own solo adventure, I found some odd thoughts clanging around. Slightly amusing, kind of bizarre, and perhaps you’re wondering what I’ve ingested.

Nothing. I’m completely sober. I know, right!

It’s amazing what we can accomplish when we’re forced to work a little harder instead of relying on old faithful. That applies to other fields, not just the creative side, because where would we be if a mechanic only fixed cars that inspired their genius? What would we do if our doctor only operates when the mood is right? How would we learn if a teacher can’t teach until the stars align? How would we taste the sweet nectar of the beavers if beaver milkers…Too far?

Don’t get me wrong, I love a super-boost of electrical inspiration. It’s the spark to my fire but somedays it rains and I’ve got to light my own fire. Rub two sticks together or something and, yeah, it’s nice to know I can do it on my own. I can create my own inspiration with a little elbow grease and a few cues from Frankenstein. Hammer and nails. A little more brute force. Gritting my teeth and squinting my eyes. It’s almost there. Now, I just need a silly little google search and… You can milk beavers! Who knew? 

Wait, who’d want to? Two words: Anal glands. I know! Ew.

Inspiration isn’t something that comes to us after we wish on a star and it’s not a tap we turn on and off. It’s us. We’re the inspiration. Go look in the mirror, focus on your eyes, and don’t look away. Keep looking. Don’t blink. There! Do you see it? For a second, there was a spark. You are all the inspiration you need to get it done. 

Whatever it is you’re working on right now? Don’t look away. Don’t back down. Don’t sit and wait for the right moment. Inspiration is the result of a lot of hard work and a hefty dose of perseverance. If I can get a blog out of beaver milk then just imagine what you can do!

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Bring Back The Clowns

Photo by Paolo Nicolello on Unsplash.com

Clowns. They aren’t that bad, are they? I mean, if they’re hiding in a sewer and offering kids red balloons then, okay, that’s kinda creepy. Is that how that movie went? Yeah, I never saw it and I never read the book. I’m not a fan of scary stuff. Too many real-world scary stuff. I don’t need to add a dash of it to my popcorn.

Not that clowns are scary! A little off-putting, maybe, but they just wanna be loved. Is that too much to ask for? No, no I don’t think it is so let them be loved, damn it.

There’s a chance that I’m a little bit biased and it’s important to admit to one’s biases. Let’s not start off with two secrets and a lie. That’s just not cool so, I readily admit,  I have a slight clown bias. There you have it. Full disclosure and all of that.

It’s a trust thing, isn’t it? Admitting a clown bias straight off the tip of that big red nose. It’s better than pretending I’m a nonpartisan pollster. Going door to door conducting “research” and collecting “data” for the Clown Institute Of The Place. Nope, honesty is more endearing and a bit refreshing in these batty times. 

Wow, how’s that for an indictment of the human race? Honesty has become a refreshing beverage instead of a full meal deal. We’re so used to hearing half-truths and outright lies that when someone actually speaks the truth? Those damn rubberneckers cause a traffic jam!

Where am I going with this? Be damned if I know, but if we keep going there’s a chance we’ll find out together.

So, bring back the clowns! In a manner of speaking. Don’t worry, a gang of clowns aren’t about to flash mob your humble abode. I’m good but I’m not that good. Okay, I’m not even all that good but I put my back into it so that counts for something.

Here’s a little known fact and, I assure you, there’s no word of a lie to be found: I was a clown. Not a class clown. I’ve always bee too shy, quiet, and easily distracted by shiny objects to pull that off. Oh, and I’m way too socially awkward to be that kind of clown. Perish the thought.

 I was a real-life clown.

I had the full get up. The painted face, gaudy wig, and silly costume. That’s right my friend, I went all-in. I know, it doesn’t really sound like me. Putting myself out there in a costume, and situation, that’s so bizarre it’s sure to trigger my social anxiety. You’d be right to assume that it’s something I wouldn’t even entertain but I did it. Shocking. I know. It’s weird, right? 

There was a theatre group and, in a moment of uncharacteristic whimsy, I thought, “What the hell? Let’s give it a whirl.”

So I whirled it, and I gotta say it was a lot of fun. There’s something so liberating, pure, and almost innocent about clowning. The make-up. The hair. The goofy outfits. Coming up with a character that defies our usual identities and pushes us out of our comfortable little holes. Finding new ways to move the body and express thoughts, emotions, without words. Changing yourself into a different person, creature, entity type thing, means you can be anyone or anything. You can play freely without judgment because, look at yourself in the mirror, you aren’t you right now.

I can see that, for some, the idea of wanting to be or pretending to be, someone else could strike a sad note. After all, we’re all told to love who we are and the best gift we can give ourselves is self-acceptance. Well yeah, of course, that’s true but how often is that our reality? How long are we able to maintain that reality? 

We all have things we’d like to change about our lives, personalities, or our bodies. We all have moments when we don’t like ourselves very much. Do we all have moments when we hate ourselves, our lives, our bodies? Maybe we won’t go that far but a lot of us come very, very, close.

How often have you looked at yourself in the mirror and thought, for a fraction of a second, that life would be a lot better if you were someone else? If you looked different or acted differently. If you could change that one thing about yourself. Would life be better? Have you had those thoughts or am I’m the only one. 

It’s possible that I’m out here alone but I doubt it. Even the most evolved among us have experienced moments of depleted self-esteem, self-love, and self-acceptance. It’s a natural part of the human experience. We aren’t all in, all the time. The thought of that is exhausting!

Or, I’m just looking for some reassurance that I’m not the only one. Who knows? It could go either way.

The moment I put on the face paint, tucked my hair into the wig, and zipped up the parachute onesie I felt a surge of confidence. I wasn’t sick, crippled, or any other moniker life had bestowed upon me. Everything that had happened, or could happen, ceased to exist because I wasn’t that person anymore. I got to choose who, or what, I was. I decided what my own identifiers would be and I had the power to use them in any way I, or my clown, wanted because I had the power of self-creation. 

Creating my identity meant that I could be anything, anyone, and that gave me the freedom to explore. I got to play. I got to try things I never would attempt in my regular human form. I could be weird, strange, kinda out there and that was okay because clowns are supposed to be a little odd, goofy, and whimsical. They’re supposed to act in unpredictable ways. They’re supposed to be unique and it’s their uniqueness that’s celebrated. 

Their uniqueness is also feared. Their unpredictability, their lack of known identifiers, and their painted faces are abhorred. Clowns are scary for a lot of reasons, I know that, but for some of us, it’s their lack of conformity that triggers something very deep inside of us. Repulsion, aversion, or intense hatred.

So, is anyone else picking up on a lot of mixed signals or am I reading too much into things? Be unique. Be different. Love yourself. Accept who you are. Be proud of who you are. Be true to you. Be you!

Whoa, hold up now! We don’t want that kind of uniqueness and, while we’re at it, dial back on the you-ness! It’s a lot. It’s making me uncomfortable. Don’t you know how the world works? You should be unique like everyone else. Quit clowning around and get in line.

Arg, I’m so confused. 

When I was a clown, I was able to freely be whoever my clown wanted to be and no one thought worse of me, er her…Us? We were unique, different, and we could be proud of who we were. We could be true to ourselves. We were being exactly who we were. Unrestrained, unfettered, and free.

But the wig comes off, the make-up washes away, and the onesie is hung up in a closet. My clown vanishes and I slip back into my body, my identifiers, my life. Restrained, fettered, free but in a way that, I imagine, closely resembles parole.

Sorry, I know I’ve been talking about the idea of identify a lot lately, and maybe you’re getting sick of it. It’s something that’s been consuming my thoughts and it’s something I’m trying to understand. It’s something I’m struggling with in many ways. Personally. Professionally. My health. My life. My identity as a whole person. 

There’s the person you see, the person my family sees, the person the world wants to see, and the person I see in the mirror. It’s a jumble and I’m trying to line them all up but something’s missing. I’m not sure what that is but I know I’m not whole yet.

Maybe I’m missing the sense of freedom I felt when I was a clown, on a stage, in front of an audience. There weren’t those mixed messages. I could be my unique self. I could identify as anything with anyone. I could step out of one body and into another. I could test the waters. Experiment. I could try out new skins. I could play without fear or be burdened by doubt.

No, I don’t think I’m going to paint my face, put on that wig, and zip up that parachute onesie anytime soon. While the freedom was nice it was also a bit of an illusion. Pretending to be something, or someone, else is fun and it’s a nice vacation. It can help us test our limitations in the safety of a small community.

But it’s very easy to deadhead the exploration when the costume comes off and leave the work half-finished. Testing my limits was great and I learned a lot about myself but when it was over, I stopped learning. The safety net was gone and I was left with a clean face staring back at me in the mirror. 

I have so many questions about identity as a broad concept but also in the microcosm of my world. My place in the world. Who I am? Who I want to be? How do I become that person when all around me people are telling me to dial it back? How do I accept the person that I am when, who I am might scare people? How do I accept myself when who I am scares me?

I’m looking for answers and exploring the concept of identity. I’m digging through it but it’s not as simple as I’d like it to be so I doubt I’ll have any answers, anytime soon. If only it was as easy as painting my face, putting on a garish wig, and twirling around in a parachute onesie. If it was easy everyone would do it? Maybe everyone should give it a try at least once?

Full disclosure: I miss my clown. Clowns are an underrated species. The deserve more respect. We need to bring back the clowns!

Just not the creepy red balloon clown. Nope, he’s not invited. So much drama! Geez.

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When I Look In A Mirror

Photo by The East London Photographer on Unsplash.com

“I am not my body. My body is nothing without me.”  ― Tom Stoppard, Rock ‘n’ Roll

There are times, when I look at myself in the mirror, that I don’t know who I’m looking at. I bite my lip, and the stranger in the mirror bites hers. I close one eye, and she winks back. I hold my breath, she holds hers, and we wait for each other’s will to break.

Sometimes, I see myself, my body, and it feels like a stranger is looking back at me. A stranger but a kindred spirit. I trace my fingers across the scars. I feel the silky smooth skin, sunken into the flesh. I feel nerve endings trying to make connections across severed lines. I feel the muscles ripple and shiver. Those are my fingers, I know they are, but they’re tracing the lines on someone else’s body. 

No, it is my body and I feel it, but it still seems foreign. 

I’m standing there, all alone. It’s just me and my reflection but it still feels like it’s not my body. It feels like I’m an invisible entity, standing off to the side, watching the movements of those fingers, seeing the affects they have on the skin. A head tilt. A furrowed brow. The invisible me is curious but detached.

It’s an odd sensation. Not a terrifying one. I’m not afraid of what I see or feel. It’s a little uncomfortable but that discomfort isn’t bothersome. Maybe it should be. Maybe I should be afraid of it but, no, it’s a curiosity inside one of those old circus tents. A traveling freak show? Is that what they were called? I don’t like that comparison any more than I like those tents. Those people, in the real-life tents, deserved a hell of a lot better.

But that’s a conversation for a different day.

When someone asks me about my life, or I’m telling my story, I feel an odd sense of detachment from that as well. It’s not like it happened to someone else. I don’t feel like I’m watching a movie and spoiling the storyline. It happened to me, I’m very well aware, but it kinda feels like it happened in a different life. Like I’m doing some past life regressions. Is that what it’s called? No idea, and I don’t know if any of this makes sense or if I’m being an obscure oddball?

I suppose both can be true.

I’m sure there’s some psychological term for what’s going on and I could spend five minutes googling it. The name, the diagnosis, isn’t important for this conversation. It serves very little purpose, for me, other than adding a label to a box. I have enough labeled boxes in my attic and I’m not sure I can fit one more so let’s leave this one for another day.

This phenomenon has brought up an interesting question for me and that’s: Who am I if I’m not my reflection? My scars? My illness? My past? My Story? I’ve been asking myself these questions a lot over the last few months. I’ve been trying to redefine myself or, at the very least, challenge my internal dialogue. A measure of self-exploration that I hope will help me find a more settled, balanced, life.

Are we all defined by our most dramatic moments, appearances, or life experiences? We’re all so quick to try and put each other, and ourselves, in boxes with pretty labels. It makes us feel safer when we can clearly identify the people we come across. It makes us feel safer to have a definition of ourselves because it’s easier to find others who are like us.

It brings a sense of belonging. Isn’t that a universal need, desire, craving?

I’ve defined myself, been defined by others, by my chronic illnesses. I’m a kidney patient, a transplant recipient, and a survivor of multiple cardiac arrests. These scars on my body are my badges of honour. They prove that I’ve walked through hell, and I’ve survived death. That’s who I am. I’m not ashamed of who I am because it’s my story. 

I just want my story to be more complex, vibrant, and a little more silly. Why so serious? No idea. Despite my best efforts, my life has been pretty serious and I want a bit more variety.

I have no idea what that is. I’m fresh out of ideas. No clue. Not even the foggiest. What will be my “more” and how will that define me? I can’t even begin to picture it and the thought of having another definition added, makes me cringe. I don’t think I want another definition, another labeled box, but I don’t want the boxes I’ve collected to become the sum of who I am. 

Or, is that all ready predestined?

I have to be more than this body I inhabit. This shell of a human. A physical representation of something more complex. It’s not who I am but, at the same time, it is exactly who I’ve become. I am my body but what is my body without me?

Without my soul or spirit, if we have to give it a name, my body is nothing more than a reflection of who I was. Oh, but now I’m inching my way into something that’s a bit morbid. Sorry about this. Hold on tight. I’ll get through it as quickly as I can.

Ready or not…

Have you ever seen a dead body? A human body. Let’s be clear. This is no time to spin the wheels. Have you ever seen a dead, human, body? An open casket, for example. There they are, lying in repose, and it’s a bit surreal. Or, was that just my interpretation? You look down at someone you used to know but that person isn’t there anymore. What made them, them, is gone and what’s left is nothing more than a memory.

My grandmother passed away several years ago. We were very close. I adored her and we spent a lot of hours together. Drinking tea, eating cherries, and talking about everything or nothing. She was someone I’d call a kindred spirit, and that’s not a term used very often. It’s not often you find someone who so clearly mirrors who you are.

After she passed, I sat by her bed and looked at her face. She was smiling. A tiny little smirk. She was the picture of peace. I stared at her for a very long time. I wanted to memorize every little detail of her face so that I wouldn’t forget what she looked like. I was worried that if I forget her face I would forget her, but that was silly.

Whenever I think of her, I struggle to picture her face but I clearly hear her voice saying, “Hi Luv.” I hear her laughing, as if she was standing next to me. I remember the stories she told me. I remember the way her long fingers knitted blankets for newborn babies. I remember how safe she made me feel. How loved I felt when she smiled at me and the light in her eyes when she told me she loved me. I remember her, the person she was, but her body has quickly become a faded photograph.

Why? Simply put, she was not her body and, once she was gone, her body was no longer who she was. Her body was never who she was. I’m sure she was defined a hundred different ways by everyone that met her. Mother, grandmother, nurse, friend. But who she was, went so far beyond the person we all saw. That image didn’t determine her character. Her character far exceeded any definition our limited imaginations could conjure.

I can see that in her, I can see that in you, but I’m struggling to see it in myself. Can I be more than a diagnosis? Can I be more than knees that won’t bend or a heart that won’t keep its rhythm? Can I be more than the pills I take or the doctor’s appointments? Can I be more than a limited definition of what a disabled person can or should be?

If you asked me these questions, I’d say without hesitation that you can be whoever you decide you want to be. That power is yours. You aren’t your body, diagnosis, or any other label the world wants to pin on you. You are more than all of those things. I see so much potential in you, and I hope you see it in yourself.

When I ask myself those questions? Well, there’s a kindness that we’re able to extend to others, but when it comes to ourselves? Kindness is harder to find.

One day, I’ll stand in front of that mirror and my two halves will come together. Logic and emotion will realign. Not only will I know, without any doubt or reservation, that I’m more than my body but I’ll feel it in my soul. A kindred spirit of sorts? Without which, neither body nor mind can exist.

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So I Became The Smoke

Photo by Jaroslav Devia on Unsplash.com

Let’s just make a few adjustments, shall we? We need to cover the dark circles under those eyes and add some colour to those cheeks. There, that’s a little bit better. Now the hair, the clothes, and…No, no slouching. Stand up straight. You look like a question mark! Who’s going to believe anything you say, looking like that? Now, stand up straight. Put a smile on your face. A little wider, a little brighter, almost there. 

Mm, no, no this isn’t working. It’s all wrong. So very wrong.

A box is pulled from a shelf. It’s a very old box. The edges are torn and stained. There’s a thick layer of dust on top. A deep breath and a mighty exhale. The dust is caught in a gust of air and it flies up, up, up before floating gently to the ground. The box is dropped onto the counter with a dull thud, and the lid is slowly lifted.

Lean in a little closer, furrow those eyebrows, and bite the bottom lip. Its features are delicate and the design is elegant. It looks so real! They’ll never know the truth. It’ll have them fooled for sure. Lift the mask out of the box and secure it in place. It blends in so nicely. No one will ever know that the real me is hiding underneath. They’ll never know the difference. They’ll think that this is me, all dolled up and ready for their approval.

We all do it. I know we do. We have different faces for different events. Like a theatrical mask, we give the audience what they came to see and hope they don’t see through our play-acting. The curtain rises and falls. We’ve played our part. The applause reaches the stars and a hum of gratitude soon follows. We’ve done it. They’ve bought it and without question. Take a bow. It’s well earned.

Different faces for different places. A necessary part of our social graces. There it is, written in bold letters. Be who you need to be, who you’re expected to be, to pass as one of them. Pass inspection, and you’ll be welcomed with open arms.

We do it for them because its what’s expected but we also do it for ourselves. A protective mechanism. A way to cover up the parts of our identity that’s sensitive to light. Exposure is painful and we burn easily. Who we are, the real version, can’t handle the spotlight. We’re not ready to step out onto that stage. We’re not ready to stand in front of everyone completely exposed. Naked. Our imperfections on display. There to be judged, ridiculed, and humiliated. 

It’s all too much so we cover up our inadequacies. We take that dusty box off the back shelf and put on our masks. Stand up tall. Don’t slouch. Smile, whether that can see it or not. Walk with confidence and elegance. Make them believe you are who they need you to be, and everything will be okay.

Calling me socially awkward is very polite, and I appreciate the overestimation of my ability to interact with other people. Socially inept is probably more of an accurate description. Then again, it could just be a matter of semantics. Either way, I put a mask on that closely resembles a smokescreen. The outline is there but you can’t really see anything. If you can’t really see me than I can blend in and disappear because that’s where I feel more comfortable.

That space, behind the smoke, is more familiar which is why it’s more comfortable. Growing up, I was always the sick kid and no one knew what to do with me. What do you do with someone who’s sick all the time? It becomes trickier if that person looks sick, fragile, weak. That’s so uncomfortable. What do you say? What do you do? No one seemed to know, so they sidestepped me and went to my brother or parents. It didn’t take long for the mask to become muted because I became the smoke.

Going to a Christian school, as the token sick kid, made it a little stranger. Not worse but, well, let’s call it an interesting experience. I’ll preface this by saying that nothing was done to be hurtful in any way. It was never intentional. In fact, I believe that it was all done with a genuine, perhaps misguided, desire to be helpful in a helpless situation. 

In school, for reasons I struggled to understand, I often found myself pulled upfront as a target of prayer. Again, it came from a good place. They wanted to help and prayer, in a religious setting, is the preprogrammed response. It was meant as an act of kindness but, for me, it often felt like I was being placed on some kind of an altar. I was never quite sure if I was there as a sacrifice or a show of good faith. I just knew it was my duty to let it play out.

During school assemblies, I’d be called upfront, and I would stand there, awkwardly picking at my fingernails, waiting for the performance to start. I knew the role I was expected to play and playing that role never felt optional. Maybe it was. Maybe I could’ve politely declined but I had the mask all ready to go. It was polished, and the craftsmanship was impressive. It would be a shame to put it back into its box and shove it back up onto the shelf.

I would make sure the mask was straight, square my shoulders, and stand at the ready. Prayers would be offered. Smiles would be shared. Sometimes there would be clapping if people were feeling frisky. Then I was ushered back to my seat, and they’d go on to announcements. Oo, pizza day on Thursday. Yum!

The one thing I noticed, while I was waiting for the floor to swallow me up, was the look in their eyes. No one really saw me. Most wouldn’t make eye contact but when they did, they weren’t looking at me. They were looking through me. No one noticed how uncomfortable I was and no one asked if this is what I wanted. I was the smoke caught in a glass jar.

Then again, let’s be fair, my mask was very good and I became very adept at playing the part they wanted me to play. Stoic. Stiff upper lip. Smiling at the right moments. Looking sober or reflective when the tone shifted. Grateful and appreciative. I could pull one mask off and put another one on without anyone catching a glimpse of the real me underneath. It’s a sleight of hand trick that would be the envy of any master magician.

Did you need me to be brave, strong, indomitable? Got it. See, I’ve got steel in my veins. You won’t see a teardrop roll down my cheek. You won’t hear a sniffle. You won’t see me flinch. I’ll set my jaw, clench my fists, and look death square in the eyes. Is that what you need?

What do you need me to be? I can be anything but if I have to be me then we might have a problem. I’ve gotten too used to being what other people need me to be because, so often, I was expected to be something other than who I was. Who I was, the sick kid, seemed to make a lot of people uncomfortable. If I was, who I was, then they’d walk away so I became what they needed. I became the smoke.

We look over, around, and through the person in front of us but we don’t see them because they don’t fit into our societal norms. They don’t fit our understanding of how things are supposed to be, and that makes our brains itch. It’s an itch we can’t scratch so we shut them down or push them out. We breathe a sigh of relief because out of sight relieves that uncomfortable tickle.

When we’re the evictor, we feel relief. When we’re the evicted we feel isolated, lonely, unworthy and our brains don’t itch; they break. Even socially awkward introverts are social creatures. We just don’t fit into society and who we are, makes people uncomfortable. What do we do then? In my case, I created a new mask for every occasion and built and big old shelf to hold them all. Some of them collect dust while others get used a little too often.

It’s not the healthiest thing in the world but sometimes it’s the safest. When we make someone uncomfortable, they take their discomfort out on us because we’re “making” them feel that way. It rangers from childish name-calling, or what I like to call the Doo Doo Head Offensive, to outright violence. I’ve been called a lot of awful things because of my disability and I’ve faced threats of harm. I’ve been shoved aside, and I’ve had sharp objects stabbed into my back. I’ve been ignored. I’ve been dismissed. I’ve been looked at with disgust. I’ve lost jobs, and I’ve had friendships end. All because my mask slipped and who they saw made them uncomfortable.

I’m lucky! I can wear a mask. I can play pretend. I can become the smoke. I can hide who am if I need too. Not everyone has that luxury. Is that the right word? It might be a luxury but it’s not alright. Wearing a mask for physical and emotional safety shouldn’t be necessary. In a perfect world, we wouldn’t need to do it but if I need to, I can. I can minimize my limp, cover up my scars, and hide my illness. I can play pretend when someone else’s discomfort becomes toxic. I can make myself disappear into that smoke when pretending doesn’t work.

I can do that. Some of you can’t. Neither one of us should have to turn ourselves into smoke to walk through this world unharmed and loved. 

Some of you have managed to keep your form. You haven’t turning into smoke. There’s so few of you but you have the courage to maintain your identity despite the challenges that brings. You are who you were created to be and you’re proud to be who you are. Thank God for you! You precious few. The ones who dare to be different. Who dare to be true. Who dare to show the world the different is beautiful. Bless you for fighting on the side of angels because you will make the world safer for those of us too beaten and bruised. 

Keep standing tall and be proud. Be who you are. You wondrous, magnificent, miraculous human being. Bless you!

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A Long A Silver Wire

Photo By Carlos Alberto Gómez Iñiguez on Unsplash.com

“Remember, remember, this is now, and now, and now. Live it, feel it, cling to it. I want to become acutely aware of all I’ve taken for granted.” ― Sylvia Plath

My life has been put on hold for a few months now as I’m sure, has yours. The global pandemic has been a real monster and it’s hard to find an upside but I’m trying. Sure, I spent the first half wallowing in self-pity but now’s the time to turn it around. Look for the silver lining on the bright side of the moon. I’m sure it’s there. It has to be there. Maybe if I lift some rocks? Kick some dust. Move that flag over just a bit. Oo, a footprint!

Okay, maybe there’s not a whole lot of good floating around right now but there’s been plenty of time to think. Yay? No, I’ve had a little too much time to think. I’ve just about run out of things to think about. Can we run out of thoughts if we think too long? Huh, that’s an excellent question if I do say so myself.

Before I run out of thoughts, here’s a thought I’ve been turning around in my noggin. I’ve come to the realization that I take a lot of things for granted. Small things mostly. Going to the grocery store and smiling at strangers. We do that in Canada. Smile at each other as we walk by. Having to wear a mask has been a cultural nightmare. It’s hard to smile at someone when you’re wearing a face mask. Sure, we try to add a little more light to our eyes and we arch our eyebrows in a way that, hopefully, conveys a good old fashion, “Hey bud!” Maybe I need to get a mask with a smiley face on it so I can just point at it and they’ll know.

For the most part, I take the small things for granted but I try very hard to keep enough gratitude in storage for the really big things. You know, important things like family and friends. The love of good people. People who’ll come to my rescue when I’m stranded on the side of the road. It was forty below zero, Celsius, and there they were; putting a new battery into my old car. Yeah, I didn’t take that for granted.

There’s the time my kidneys failed and they all rushed to get tested. No hesitation or a million ultimatums. They dropped everything to see if they were a match for transplantation. They actually yelled at me because I didn’t ask them for a kidney. Clearly, I was being very rude. How could I not ask? Geez! Then again, how do you ask someone for a part of their body and not sound like a complete creep? Buy them a cup of coffee and when they thank you, say: “No worries! Just give me one of your kidneys and we’ll call it even.”

Maybe I should’ve offered them some fava beans and a nice Chianti.

Okay, maybe not but they were still willing to donate their kidneys. If that’s not love, I don’t know what is and I’m so grateful to have these people in my life. I don’t always express my gratitude. Sometimes I don’t know how and other times, I fear, I take their kindness for granted. Maybe it’s because, in some ways, I’ve lived a very blessed life. When you don’t go without things like kindness and love? It’s too easy to get comfortable and forget that, for once, the coin landed in your favour.

I have a family who loves and supports my crazy endeavours. Whether it was an odd rock polishing phase or writing a blog. No matter how questionable or how many times I’ve failed; they’ve been there to cheer me on or pick me up when I fall. Their support has always been unwavering. If I’m in trouble, all I have to do is pick up the phone, send out an SOS, and they’ll come. Two simple words: Help me. That’s all it takes and my people show up. 

I’ll never take these people for granted but, as I said, sometimes I overlook their kindness. When your lucky enough to have it, it’s easy to assume it will always be there and maybe it will. Maybe my luck will hold out, and these wonderful people will be in my life until my last breath. But that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t be acutely aware of their kindness or assume it will never go away.

Without a doubt, I could endeavour to show more gratitude than simply saying, “Thank you.” Though I find expressing gratitude, or any emotion, is harder than it seems. I don’t know why, but I always feel awkward, or do I feel inadequate? Either way, it never feels enough. No matter what I do or say; I feel like I’m ill-equipped to express the depth of my emotions.

It’s easier to assume that they know how I feel without feeling all the sticky, icky, sentimentalities. An assumption that has caused me to have a very costly lapse in judgement. If I don’t express how I feel than I find myself taking it all for granted.If I do that, then how will they know how much I love them? I can’t just leave it at that. If I do?

But what if the already know without me saying anything? What if there’s a chance that’s true? I’m not saying telepathy is real because, you know, science and all that. But, with the people we’re deeply connected to, is there some sort of emotional telepathy that lets words go unspoken? Is there a bond so deep that it renders those words superfluous?

What a nice thought! When words fail me, when my body is too weak, there’s this silver wire from my heart to theirs. I can close my eyes and simply feel the emotions I want to convey. Those feelings, thoughts of love and gratitude, travel along that silver wire like a spark from a flint. As soon as I feel it, think it, the spark shoots off and it reaches the kindling. The fire’s lit and they feel a warmth spread throughout their body.

Every time I think about them, the fuse is lit and off it goes down the silver wire. They’d know how much I care. They’d know that I’m thinking of them. Never, for a second, would they wonder if I take them for granted because the fire would keep them warm. It wouldn’t matter where they are in space or time. The wire can’t be broken and the spark can’t die out.

What a beautiful image! If only it were true then words wouldn’t be needed. 

When the roles are reversed, I don’t need their words of gratitude. They don’t need to buy me coffee or fava beans. I love them and would be there for them in a heartbeat. Just like they are here for me without complaint or judgement. But, it’s nice to hear that I’m not taken for granted. Necessary? Not at all but it feels good so why wouldn’t I send that feeling back along the wire? 

I think, for most people, we don’t need verbosity or grandiosity. We don’t need a master production. We don’t need an epic soliloquy. We don’t have to be Shakespeare to get it right. We just need to show up and remind them, and ourselves, that we’re lucky to have each other.

Life is hectic, it’s easy to slip into a holding pattern and forget about the things we take for granted. Big or small. Smiling at strangers or standing in freezing weather. The people that have shown up for me? I can’t take them for granted. I can’t take their kindness for granted. I can’t take my good fortune for granted because it’s a gift and gifts can be returned to the sender.

I’m sitting in my little apartment, hiding away from the world, and I’m traveling down a morose thought. I’ve always had this precious gift. It’s always been this way. I’ve always had good people in my life but what if I didn’t? What if a time comes that I make a call that isn’t answered? Out of all the what-ifs in the world? This is probably the most terrifying of the lot! 

Wow and with that one thought, I realize how often I squander a very precious gift. Not out of malice or greed but laziness and presumption. What has always been may not always be so I can’t take any of them for granted. My people. My family. My friends. I am so lucky to have you all and I wish the silver wire was real so you could experience that emotion as intensely I as I do. Just in case, I’m lighting the fuse and sending it your way.

As for you, dear reader, know that I don’t take you for granted, either. You could be anywhere, doing anything, but you chose to spend some time with me. Believe me, that means more than you’ll know.

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But I’ve Never Even Changed A Diaper!

Wanna hear a joke? Me too! What a coincidence. Funny how things work out when you write the script. I can’t tell you how much I need a good laugh. It needs to be a deep, from the toes, full-body, laugh until I cry kind of thing. When I laugh too hard my ears pop. That’s what I need. I can’t express how much I need it right now.

So, um, do you know any good jokes? I’m flipping through the archives but nothing’s jumping out at me. For some reason, the only ones I can think of are really nasty or involve a poor, unfortunate, chicken. Not funny haha. More funny ew or aw. Actually, most of them would make an adult groan and a prepubescent blush. 

I need funny haha! These last few months have been really heavy and it doesn’t look like it’s going to ease up anytime soon. 2020 has been a monster and we’re only in June. We’ve got a long way to go before it’s over and who knows what next year will bring. 

Damn, that’s depressing. I just brought the room down several degrees, didn’t I? I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to. All I wanted was a joke. A real good rib-tickling haha kinda joke but I’m not really up to date on the latest knock knockers or chicken crossers.

Google! That’s what we should do. Google knows everything! Oh no! Wait. Parental permission. Google it with parental permission if you’re under the legal… Googling age? I don’t know how the fuck these things work. 

Oh crap! If you’re not old enough to google then you’re not old enough for cursing. I don’t know much, obviously, but I know we’re not supposed to use “bad words” around impressionable minds. That’s detrimental for…things. For some reason. I think it’s science. Maybe? Or, is it superstition? I don’t know but I’m sorry I said a bad word. Kids, don’t do what I do. Seriously! You can do better. Easily. You can easily do better than me. You’re probably doing better than me right now. Good on ya. Keep it up!

Here’s a shocker: I have no child-rearing experience. I know mind blown. Egads! I’ve always wanted to use that word. Egads! Check that one off the bucket list.

Puppies. Kittens. A tiny, little blue parakeet. A couple of goldfish but they only lasted two weeks so forget I mentioned it. I have plenty of animal rearing experience but I’m told it’s not, “The same thing” or something like that.

I had to get up every two hours with a puppy. Pick up poop. Wash bottoms and bathe the rest. Hold the thing when it cries. Teach it right from wrong. We can’t have the kid, or pup, chewing on the sofa now, can we? Do kids chew on sofas? No idea.

Sure, animals grow out of it a lot faster and kids need other… Stuff?

Yeah, clearly I don’t know a baby from a pre-teen. Then again, given my proclivity for profanity maybe you shouldn’t entrust me with the lives of anyone under the legal googling age. Unless, of course, they love sarcasm, offbeat humour, and don’t repeat anything I say. Then we’re good to go. But to be safe let’s have a responsible teenager take over. That’s the age right? Babysitters. A kid enters the double digits, and they get paid to watch other people’s offspring. That’s how it works, yeah?

Don’t look at me like that! I know I should know this stuff, but I didn’t have a normal upbringing. I wasn’t a normal kid. Sure, I had a child-like viscosity but in every other way, I was the farthest thing from normal. From here on, it’s safe to assume that I didn’t learn what you learned, at the age, you learned it. Just because everyone is supposed to know it, doesn’t mean everyone does. 

For example, I never babysat. Ever. 

No, I’m lying! There was one time, but I was helping a friend take care of a couple of kids. The kids were old enough to be cool, and I basically played video games with them until bedtime. My friend was the “responsible” one. I was just there. Which is why she got paid, and I got snacks. 

Wait! Was she babysitting me too?

I know babysitting is a right of passage. Especially for girls because society loves stereotypical gender roles. Hit a certain age and start earning some money looking after small children. The fact that a teenager’s frontal cortex isn’t fully formed is a minor inconvenience. After all, who needs complete control of the decision making part of their brain when looking after tiny, breakable, people? I’m sure everything will be okay. 

Babysitting is a normal part of growing up. I should stop using the word normal. What is normal? Not gonna say it’s a setting on the thingy. That would be cliche. I’m a lot of things but, damn it I don’t want to be a cliche. Then again, not being a cliche is a cliche. Huh, is life one giant cliche? No! I’m getting on a tangent. Don’t worry, I’m reeling it in like a teeny, tiny baby tuna because I have very poor upper body strength.

Where was I?

Not normal. Right. Okay for those of you who are new, hello, and welcome. I’m not always like this but sometimes I can’t help myself. I haven’t slept, the world is too banana pants for sleep, and I had two sips of coffee. Coffee doesn’t agree with me so now I’m talking a hundred miles an hour in a ten-mile zone. I’m gonna get pulled over any second now.

I have kidney disease and I was diagnosed when I three years old. The disease was managed with medication and diet for most of my childhood. Right up until those pesky double digits. When I turned 12, my health problems blew up. We knew it would. The doctors told us that my kidneys wouldn’t be able to handle the stress puberty put on my body. Those damn hormones!

My kidneys were already fragile. They did the job but barely. Once my body started to change, they couldn’t keep up and they crashed. Complete system failure. Turning it on and off again didn’t work. A swift kick? Nope, didn’t do a damn thing so I went on dialysis, that’s fun, and started the workup for a transplant.

Between school, hospital visits, and dialysis there really wasn’t time or energy for normal things like babysitting. Not that I wanted to do normal things like babysitting or standing in front of a 7/11 looking all emo. I wanted to climb trees or go sit in my closet fort and read a book.

What? You didn’t have a closet fort? You’re telling me that you never went into your bedroom closet to clear out some space. Brought in blankets, comfy cushions, and a nice little tray for your favourite beverage. Oh and a flashlight. When that door closed, it got dark. Wait! Never shut yourself inside something. It’s probably bad. Look at me being maternal. Safety first kids!

Okay, maybe it’s weird. Going into a closet, nesting down with a book, and reading by flashlight. Most kids don’t do that right? That’s not a rhetorical question. I’m really asking. You didn’t do that? Yeah, it was strange, but it was also kinda perfect.

Almost as perfect as climbing the tree in our front yard in my church clothes. That’s a special feeling. Knowing it’s wrong. Knowing I shouldn’t. The look on my mom’s face when she found me sitting on the biggest branch. Her long, exasperated, sigh. 

“We don’t have time for you to change!”

Then you shouldn’t have made me wear these ridiculous clothes. Oh, the look she gave me! I definitely didn’t want to come down after that look which was kind of the point. I liked my stains. I liked the quiet of my closet fort and the solitude up in the trees. Does that make me weird? I think we both know the answer to that one. 

Weird kids like me don’t do normal kid things. Sleepovers, softball teams, taking care of other peoples kids. Yeah, I’ve never changed a diaper or chiseled Cheerios off of a kids face. I didn’t do any of that stuff when I was a kid. This might be why I, as an adult, have no idea how to actually take care of a child.

It doesn’t come up that often but it has, recently, become slightly problematic. See, I’ve been told that it’s a good idea to do some inner child work. I told them I couldn’t do that because I have no child-rearing experience. Pause for laughter. Huh, they gave me the same look you’re giving me now. What a coincidence!

I might’ve promised you a joke so there you are. At least I tried. I think it was moderately funny. Not roll on the floor, receive fifty stitches, funny but worth a giggle. Not a pity giggle either. No? Okay, fine, I’ll take your pity giggle but our relationship is off to a rocky start.

The problem is, my inner child has always been a ninety-year woman sitting in a closet fort. Flashlight tucked into the neck. A half-empty glass of milk on a wobbly try. A stack of books that have been read a dozen times. Her clothes are covered in stains. Her knees are scared over from climbing a little too high. She’s stuck in her ways and a little hard of hearing.

She’s also kind of a bitch but that’s what you get when you live in a closet fort for eighty years. Not saying she’s antisocial. Out of practice? Yeah, that seems more polite.

Who can blame her? The outside world is scary, mean, and it hurts. There’s a global pandemic. Countries are on fire. Threats of world wars and nuclear fallouts. People are being killed because of their skin colour and the good guys look a lot like the bad guys. All we’re missing are dragons and trolls but hey, it’s only June. 

None of that stuff exists in the closet fort. Nope. It’s not allowed. There’s a sign on the door and everything. Monsters and cooties have to stay out. Cookies and milk? Yes please! Supplies are running low.

Every once in a while my inner child peaks through the crack in the door to see how things are going. Nope, the outside world is still too scary! You can try to beg, coax, or bribe but nothing will convince my inner child to come out and play. 

Do I distract her with shiny objects? Maybe I should bounce her on my knee until she vomits. Guess I could try to put her on top of the tumble drier until she falls asleep but that doesn’t seem safe.

Kinda feels like inner child abuse. Is that a thing? Seems like a thing. A very bad thing. Damn, there is so much to learn about parenting my inner child. It’s been five minutes and I’m exhausted. I need a nap. Maybe I should sit on top of the drier. Do inner child parents get to take naps? Please tell me there aren’t any diapers. I just can’t handle that right now.

There is so much I don’t know about nurturing my inner child. I don’t even know where to begin. It almost seems like a shame to pull her out of her comfy little closet. She looks so peaceful and safe. You’re not supposed to wake a sleeping kid right? Maybe I can let my inner child sleep a little longer. Tucked away in her closet fort.

You know, just until the world finds its way and life becomes a little bit safer for everyone.

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It’s Time To Be Uncomfortable!

Photo by Maria Oswalt on Unsplash.com

“We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference.” — Elie Wiesel

Today, I’m keeping this short because, honestly, I’m at a loss. So much pain and sorrow. So many people standing with their hands up and peacefully saying no more. They’re asking for the right to live, to breathe and they’re being beaten for it. How is a breath of air too much to ask for? They shouldn’t have to ask. I don’t have to ask! Why do they? It makes no sense. I don’t understand any of this. 

I don’t have the words.

I’m at a complete loss. 

I was born in a country ruled by apartheid. Race and inequality were staples of daily living. Living there, seeing the violence and the segregation, I was well aware of the privileges I add. It was blatantly obvious, and it was flaunted, by many, with violent glee. The pain. The fear. I’ll never forget.

Then we immigrated to Canada and those inequalities were hidden. I thought it was over. I thought I was living in a different world. I was young and naive. 

Turns out, the machine works hard here too but the engines are a lot quieter. Its disguise is pretty damn convincing or maybe I just wanted to believe that things were different. Either way, I’ve lived inside of a system that’s designed for my convenience and success. I ignorantly, and sometimes arrogantly, believed that systemic racism wasn’t in this country. I happily believed, so I never thought twice about the life I was living. I never noticed the privileges afforded to me because of the colour of my skin.

Ignorance is bliss until you learn the truth. 

The truth is a powerful punch to the side of the head and my head’s still spinning. It’s been many, many, years since my eyes were opened by very kind, very wise, people who took me aside and shared their stories. They owed me nothing. The didn’t have to teach me but I’m grateful for their compassion and grace. They opened my eyes and for the first time I saw what they went through and I’m…I have no words. Plenty of tears, anger, and confusion.

But the words? I don’t know what to say.

As a general rule, when I don’t know what to say, I try not to say very much. In this case, I think that it’s best to listen to the voices that have been silenced for way too long. Not just listen! Hear them. See them. Respect the courage it takes to speak truth to people who are afraid to listen. Thank them because I’ll say it again, they owe us nothing.

But if I stay silent for too long, then what? I would call myself anti-racist but if I stay silent then I empower the oppressors. If I stay silent, I become the thing I despise. That’s not something I can live with, so I’m taking a deep breath, and with all my strength, I say: BLACK LIVES MATTER!

Please don’t come at me with all lives matter because if they did another black man, George Floyd, wouldn’t have lost his life. If all lives mattered then a black woman, Breonna Taylor, wouldn’t have been shot to death in her own bed. Ahmaud Arbery wouldn’t have been killed while exercising if all lives mattered. There are so many more. How many black and indigenous lives have been taken? Stolen. Silenced. How many names have been lost to history?

They didn’t commit a crime and even if they did; I doubt I would’ve been treated the same way in their position. That’s privilege. The colour of my skin would’ve, I’m sure it already has, saved my life. Again, that’s privilege and we can’t have equality with that imbalance in place. We can’t claim to be a just society until we have equality for everyone.

I know it’s uncomfortable, no one wants to believe they’re on the wrong side of decency, but being uncomfortable isn’t fatal. Being silent is! People are dying. People are suffering. People with dreams, hopes, aspirations, and loves are losing their lives. That should make us all very uncomfortable. It should make us all very angry. It should, but we’re so focused on what we’ll lose if this system, the one built for our comfort, is dismantled.

The thought of losing that power and privilege is worse than the lives being lost? Really? That makes no sense! I’d rather lose my privilege than watch someone lose their life because that life is precious. That life is needed. That life deserves the chance to shine bright.

Something has to change, but I don’t even know where to begin. I don’t know what to do. I’m not the strongest, my voice isn’t the loudest, but I’ll help in any way you need. For whatever it’s worth, please know that I am listening and I’m learning. I see you. I’m here for you. I have your back. I am an ally and a friend.

Now I’m going to step back, shut up, and let you speak. It’s your voice the world needs to hear.Now more than ever:

  • Why I’m No longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge
  • Natives by Akala

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The Power and Limitations of Prayer

Photo By Toa Heftiba on Unsplash.com

I believe in the power of prayer. Thought I should just get that out before I go on to contradict myself or stir up a nest of angry fire ants. Made that mistake once and, believe me, there are someplace you just don’t want ants to bite. Sensitive places. So…So sensitive. But I digress!

Prayer is a big part of my life but I’ve started to wonder if there are limitations to this magical little friend. Like Superman holding kryptonite, can prayer be drained of its strength and turned into a puddle of goo? When do these words become nothing more than silly incantations? Is that even possible or should I just stop asking stupid questions?

I’m sure there are plenty of you that believe prayer is a waste of time. That it’s a childish superstition. It’s the equivalent of staring up at the sky and wishing on a shooting star or blowing out the candles on a birthday cake. If you tell me what you wished for it won’t come true. That’s how that goes right? Huh, when you put it like that, um, yeah fair play. Prayer does sound pretty silly.

Kneeling on the floor, clasping folded hands, and bowing the head. Eyes closed and words sent out into the vast unknown. Believing that this great entity is listening to every word, taking notes, and then…What? It’s kinda like therapy only cheaper. Plus, no one asks, “How does that make you feel?” Feel? I don’t know. Itchy?

Does this great entity say anything or are we just putting words out into the ether and hoping for the best? If we don’t hear a response, does that mean that God isn’t real, or does it mean we haven’t learned how to listen? Are we looking for answers in all the wrong places? Or, are we seeing answers that aren’t there because we believe there should be answers?

There I go, asking way too many questions but I have more. A lot more. Way too many and your time is precious. Let’s boil it down to one or two. That’s a little closer to bite-size. Is the power of prayer real or is it a figment of our wishful thinking? If it’s real, is it all-powerful or are there limitations?

Two questions instead of two hundred? Not bad. If you think I’m about to answer them then this is gonna get awkward. I was kinda hoping you knew. No? This is a one-way form of communication. Cool. Cool. Forgot how this thing works for a second. Are you okay if we just sit in this uncomfortable silence for a few minutes? 

Okay, let’s talk this out and maybe I’ll stumble on something that closely resembles an answer.

As I said, I believe in the healing power of prayer. For me, that’s a done deal but I’m not someone who blindly follows beliefs. Even my own beliefs. Just because my heart tells me it’s true, doesn’t mean I don’t have doubts. I ask a lot of questions. I’m dubious when an answer sounds too good to be true or too pretty. I’m a cynic and it’s not one of my finest qualities but I think asking these big questions is important for growth. It’s vital, as someone who has a system of belief, to keep digging because if I don’t, I become complacent. 

A complacent faith, for someone like me, is a dying light in a dark world, and I need all the light I can get. So I ask more questions. I doubt my faith. I question God. I wonder if he’s real or if he’s brunching with Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny. I pray with one eye open just in case the answer falls out of the sky like a cartoon anvil. 

Beep Beep…Ouch.

Oh boy, let’s start with the positive because I think we could all use a little more positivity. After all, these are dark times Harry. Dark times.

NERD! What? Who me? Positively.

It’s easier for me to believe in something I can see, touch, feel. Tangibles are harder to argue with than hypotheticals. If I can experience it first hand then doubt can’t wake me up in the middle of the night with its endless stream of questions.

Ah, but when it comes to my firm belief in prayer? How do I know that something intangible actually manifests itself in a reality-based mindset?

Before my last transplant, I was in the hospital, and I was taken down to the inpatient dialysis unit for my regular run. I was hooked up to hemodialysis. Two tubes ran from my body to the machine. Blood was pulled out through one line, sent through the filters, and pushed back into me through the other. It usually took three, three and a half hours, of sucking (literally and figuratively) to get my blood clean.

Want some science mixed in with your religion? Sure, here we go. Think of dialysis as an external artificial kidney. The kidneys filter out the waste from our blood, convert it into urine, and then we flush it down the pipes. If the kidneys don’t work then that waste builds up in the blood, it’s dispersed throughout the body, and that would be fatal if we didn’t have a machine to clean out the waste.

Dialysis isn’t a perfect system but it did buy me some time. Time to find a donor, go through all of the testing, and have a life-saving kidney transplant. Thank God for science!

Most of my runs were pretty bad. My body didn’t respond well, and I always felt a lot worse when I was unhooked than when I went on. This day, it went from bad to horrible very quickly. I’d just had a big surgery. My already weak body was a lot weaker. Dialysis is incredibly hard on the body and this day my body couldn’t take it.

The pain started about an hour into my run. My muscles started to cramp and it felt like my blood was boiling in my veins. I was freezing cold, my teeth were chattering and I was shaking, but I also felt like I was on fire. Can fire be cold? The staff were working as hard as they could to figure out what was wrong. Cramping is normal on dialysis but feeling like your body is on fire? No, that’s not normal so no one knew how to fix it.

While they were trying to figure it out, my mom was on the phone with my dad. My dad’s a paster, and he was about to give a sermon. Instead of preaching, he asked his congregation to pray and they did. I don’t know what they said, but I knew when they started because I felt it.

I know that this is going to sound crazy. Believe me, I know but the fire in my veins was replaced by a different sort of heat. It started in my chest and slowly spread throughout my body. It was like a warm summer breeze hitting your sweaty face. That moment when you sigh, look up at the sun, and a hard days work just melts away.

That’s what it felt like. I didn’t know they were praying, but I knew they had. I felt it. The pain stopped. I relaxed. I closed my eyes and sighed. I felt their prayers and I felt the response. 

Or, you know, science?

Nah, at that moment my cynical mind was flummoxed because I told the team I was feeling better and they told me they hadn’t figured out what was wrong. Huh, coincidence? Maybe but what I felt was love, not medicine. That’s the word I was looking for! I felt this indescribable love extinguish the fire in my blood. 

Again, I know how it sounds but that’s how it felt.

When I look back I can see other moments when praper saved my life. I can’t even tell you how many times doctors have said, “How the hell are you still alive? You should be dead. You know that right?”

I’m never sure how to respond. Do I apologize? Promise to do better next time? 

I believe that prayer has the power to heal. It has the power to save and change lives. Prayer can be a superpower. I’m absolutely sure of that, but that doesn’t mean it’s without limitations. Nothing is perfect. Even the Garden of Eden had one big red flaw.

Then again, without human error, that flaw wouldn’t be a part of the story.

Is that the key here? User error.

I don’t know about you, but I pray with certain expectations. A list of things I need and I take them to God hoping he provides. Kinda like Santa? Is that what I’m doing? Sitting on his knee, reading off a list, and crossing my fingers. In my defence, isn’t that what were told to do? Take it to God. He’ll provide.

Lay it at his feet. Ask and you’ll receive. We’re taught to go to God, and we’re told he’ll give us what we need. That’s how the system works. Every lesson in prayer that I’ve ever sat through has taught me that, when I ask, God will provide.

Until he doesn’t and then what? Huh…I feel an anvil rushing towards my head.

There’s a chance that these lessons lost something in translation? What if these words we recite, these snippets of scripture, lack context? No idea what that context is but it feels like something is missing. Prayer has become this centre for wish fulfillment. It’s all about what God can do for me, my life, and for the lives of the people I love. I go to God when I need something, and yeah he’s there for that too, but if I take and don’t give? I think that maybe we need to give a little.

Prayer isn’t just about looking for answers. That’s a component but it can be so much more if we stop asking and just start talking. A conversation. Build a relationship. Sit in silence. Go with a willingness to simply be present without an agenda. What happens to our prayers then?

Here’s someone who says it better: “Prayer asks us to break out of our monologue with ourselves and to imitate Jesus by turning our lives into an unceasing conversation with the One we call God.” (Nouwen, Henri J. M. Clowning in Rome: Reflections on Solitude, Celibacy, Prayer, and Contemplation. New York: Image Books (Doubleday), 1979, pp. 68-70.)

A conversation. Two people, sitting, talking, enjoying each other’s company. Sure, God’s voice is a little hard to hear but do we need to hear the words to build a connection? Yeah, it would help but if we’re so used to talking, or asking for things, then we haven’t learned how to listen. Once we do that, how will our experience with prayer change?

It’s easier, sitting down with our lists or reciting the prayers we were taught as kids. Bang one out, get off our knees, and get on with our day. Listening is hard and learning to recognize God’s voice is harder but what will happen when we finally hear what he’s been trying to tell us? Imagine the possibilities.

I know that opening ourselves up is uncomfortable. Being vulnerable is miserable. Having an open conversation feels awkward. Especially with God which is odd. If there’s ever a time, place, person, that I can bare my soul too it’s now. God is, well, God. All-knowing. All-seeing. I’m not saying anything he doesn’t already know. I can be honest and it’s safe. There’s no agenda. It’s just the two of us being honest for the first time in a long while.

At least I know that God’s going to keep my mess, my fears, and my insecurities safe. I can be my true authentic self without judgment, condemnation, or criticism. I can let it all out. I don’t have to hold it all in. With God, in prayer, I’m safe. That is so liberating and maybe that’s where we’ll find the true power of prayer.

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A Werewolf On An Open Road?

Photo by Osman Rana on Unsplash

“In three words I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life: it goes on.” – Robert Frost

It’s a clear night and the stars shine brightly. The air is warm, almost too warm for this time of year, but no one’s complaining. Well, no one else is awake right now and the silence is perfection. Everyone is tucked away in their beds which means the streets are empty and it’s time to play.

A little more pressure on the gas and the engine roars. It’s been a long time since it’s pushed the limits but tonight is the night it comes alive. The steering wheel shakes ever so slightly as the speed increase. Tighten the grip and hold on. Look in the review mirror and smile. The cities lights are fading fast and the open road is calling.

Faster. Faster. The smile widens. Life is good. Life is great. It will never be better than this moment.

There’s a flash of fur. White teeth bare as it crashes into the windshield and its red eyes shatter glass. The brakes lock up and the tires smoke. The seatbelt locks. The airbag deploys. It came out of nowhere. There was no warning. There was no way to prepare. What was that thing? It looked human but…Not.

Does it matter? The moment is lost. Perfection has been shattered. Happiness has been destroyed. Life has come to a complete stop.

Sometimes, when I stand very still, I can feel the earth moving beneath my feet. Is that weird? Maybe my overactive imagination is playing tricks on me, but I swear I feel the ground hum and groan as it’s pulled along by mighty force. As acutely as I feel it move, I feel it stop and my face slams into that airbag with momentums full force.

Uh, I guess for legal reasons I should point out that I’m speaking metaphorically. Don’t get into a real car, drive recklessly, and cause a major motor vehicle accident. That’s just wrong and senseless. Be sensible. Drive safely. There’s my public service announcement for the day.

That should appease the litigious folks. Now, let’s get back on the road…In a manner of speaking.

Have you ever felt the earth stop spinning? You were walking along with a skip in your step. Maybe you were humming a song you heard on the radio. There you are, happily living your life, on a beautiful spring day. Then, in a moment of recklessness, you thought, “What could possibly ruin this perfect moment?”

Well, that woke up that bloody little fairy! It cracks open a cold one, takes a big gulp, burps, and says, “Hold my beer.” 

Out of nowhere, that drunk little bastard runs right in front of you and the brakes engage. You come to a complete stop and feel your face cave in as you stick a hard landing. Maybe it’s shock or some psychological defence mechanism, but suddenly you feel like you don’t exist anymore. Worse, it feels like the world has vanished and you’re left stranded on the last remaining patch of earth. Coincidentally, it’s about the size of your home.

Your life comes to an abrupt halt. The earth stops spinning. Everything just stops and it becomes too quiet.

A few years ago a very dear friend of mine passed away. We met when we were little kids and we were both fighting the same illness. We were always in the hospital at the same time and we were usually there for the same reasons so we became very close, very quickly. Her mom called us the Timex Twins because we, “Took a lickin and kept on tickin.”

I called her mom, Ma and she did the same to mine. We played together. Fought together. Argued and forgave each other. She had my back and I had hers. No matter what, I knew I could pick up the phone, and she would be there for me. We were like sisters and losing her felt like I lost a part of myself.

For the first few days, I hunkered down and let the haze cover me like a blanket. I felt restless but I didn’t have the energy to move. My arms and legs felt like they were being weighed down by a thousand pounds of sand. It also felt like I had ants crawling underneath my skin, tugging on my nerve endings, and I needed to run around, shake em off but I was too tired. When I had some energy, I walked around aimlessly, and when I found something to do I’d just stare at it because my ability to comprehend the basics were nonexistent.

Thoughts didn’t register. Feelings couldn’t fully form. I was on autopilot, and I couldn’t flip the switch back on to manual control. After a few days, I had enough strength to give it some elbow grease. The switch didn’t flip all the way and the fog didn’t lift all that much. I just became adept at navigating it. Still, it took months to feel like myself, but at least I wasn’t completely lost in the haze.

It’s the strangest feeling. Going back out into the world after a period of grief-induced hibernation or hibernation for any reason. Have you noticed how everything and everyone just carries on as if nothing has happened? Something big happened, but the world just kept going. What? How’s that possible? I don’t know how to process this information.

There’s this part of me that wanted to stand on a busy street corner and scream at people for acting too normal. That irrational, overemotional, reactionary part of me that’s locked away in a soundproof room, down in the basement. Honestly, it’s better for everyone if she’s kept far away from the control centre. If she had her way, there would be anarchy up in my nervous system.

But it is a strange feeling, isn’t it? Your world is crashing down. It’s imploding. You can barely breathe, let alone take care of your own basic needs. Eating, sleeping, bathing. Everything becomes so much harder, but outside everything carries on like it has for hundreds, thousands, of years.

People get up, get dressed, go to work or school. You watch them walk down the street, smile at familiar faces, wave at old friends. There’s laughter and music. A bus drives by and puffs diesel into your face and the smell is so familiar that’s it’s almost comforting. Everything is the same except everything has changed.

Well, the way we see it has changed because we’ve been changed. Someone we loved has died, or we’ve been given a grim diagnosis. It can be a hundred different things and the exact moment doesn’t matter. What matters is how that moment changes us and what we do after we’ve been changed.

Kinda like a werewolf? I…Well…Yeah okay, sure, kinda like a werewolf. In the stories, they’re defined by this one thing that happened to them. They were changed forever. They tried to go back to life as they knew it but that life was over. They didn’t belong there anymore. So what did they do? They couldn’t go back. They were trapped in that one moment. They can’t go forward, continue on as a monster, so what do they do? They’re stuck until villagers with pitchforks set them free and then they’re at peace.

I’ve spent a good part of my life stuck in moments of grief and pain. The wounds heal and grief dissipates. The scars remain and that spot at the dinner table remains empty. The immediate aftermath dulls, but I haven’t been able to make peace with those moments so I stay inside of them. I don’t let myself walk outside and see that life goes on because I don’t feel like I belong. Maybe, if I see what I’m missing, then I’ll want to move on too?

I’m scared of what moving on means because I don’t know who I am, outside of these moments.

These big moments tend to define us but a lot of the time we’re the ones writing down the definition. Yes, other people contribute and sometimes they instigate it. But we’re the ones who put pen to paper. I’m the one who’s chosen to define myself by these moments. I’m the one who’s accepted their definition of who I am.

I don’t have to define myself by these moments. I don’t have to accept what others think of me. I don’t have to sit here and wait for their pitchforks. Who they say I should be isn’t who I have to be, but I’ve absorbed it, brought it to fruition, way too often. It’s easier to stay in the moment than let life carry on because carrying on means accepting that I’ve changed.

Just when I thought I knew who I was I get bitten by an oversized dog, human, hybrid…thing. Oh, this calls for a very dramatic sigh.

Lately, I’ve noticed a slow change in how I think and feel. It’s new. It’s strange. I don’t know what this change is and that scares me. Change always scares me. I’m not a fan. Too many unknown variables but for once I’m not trying to stop it or fight it.

I think I’m more curious than fearful so maybe I can try acceptance over suppression. Unless, of course, I grow fangs and develop an unnatural thirst for blood. In that case, suppression might be advisable. Since that seems highly unlikely, maybe I can let it ride down the open highway for a few miles.

Slowly, at a reasonable speed for the road conditions, and maybe even a little tentatively. After all, Mr. Frost was right when he said that life goes on and it will carry on whether we’re a part of it or not. I, for one, have spent a little too long sitting on the curb. My reasons were good. I’d go so far as to call them reasonable under the circumstances, but those reasons don’t represent my current state of mind.

I’m changing, evolving, becoming a creature I don’t recognize and that’s a little exciting. The change is happening, and it’s not even a full moon. I don’t know what or who I’ll be tomorrow morning or next year, but for once I’m looking forward more often then I’m looking back. 

This time, when life carries on, I’m going along for the adventure. Maybe I will meet a werewolf on a lonely stretch of highway or a fairy by a lake. Maybe I shouldn’t have had six cups of tea over the last three hours. Clearly the caffeine is getting to me.

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Please, Don’t Pity Me

Photo By Daniel Schludi on Unsplash

Dread crawls up my spine like a snake wrapping itself around a tree branch. It clings to my bones. I feel its muscles flex as it holds on for dear life. It lifts its head, its tongue laps up the air, and it waits. There’s a strong breeze. It’s bitter but sweet. There’s a ripple of tension. Any minute now. Just wait for it. Here it comes… “Oh, you poor thing.”

There it is! Their voice rises and falls. Their tongue clicks the back of their teeth and a tsk slips through downturned limps. Their head tilts to one side, a sadness flickers through their eyes, and they sigh tiredly. It’s as if my presence is exhausting and the thought of me is a bit too much. They look to the left, then the right, and finally over their shoulder. They’ve said their peace and now it’s time to execute their exit strategy.

Everything about this interaction screams one thing: Pity.

I’ve been on the receiving end of this particular emotion plenty of times. If I’m being completely honest, I’m sure I’ve dished it out a time or two. It’s not something I’m proud of because being pitied is demeaning and isolating. It has a heaviness that carries the weight of a lead-filled hot air balloon. There’s a metallic bitterness that stings the back of my throat. When I look into their eyes I know we’re thinking the same thing. Turn away. Melt into the floor. Disappear and be done with this whole sordid affair.

Or, I’m just projecting.

The look, the tilted head, and the clumsy attempt at consolation doesn’t have the desired effect. I frantically look for an exit while I resist the urge to stand and fight. Yell, scream, ball my fists, and stamp my feet. That word, this feeling, the attitude of pity is exacerbating. It’s dismissive. It’s invalidating. Pity is dehumanizing. It strips away the person until all that’s left, all that anyone sees, are their scars.

That person? Their thoughts, dreams, silly quirks? Instead of reading their whole story, we learn all we want to know in one chapter and throw out the rest. The other eighty-nine chapters? Pity doesn’t have that kind of time. If it can’t be summarized in one paragraph on Wiki then forget about it.

Unless it’s turned into a movie but it better have car chases, big explosions, and an A-list cast.

Pity comes in many forms, and its motives vary. I’m a fan of giving people the benefit of the doubt, so I like to assume it comes from a place of genuine concern. It’s a blunderous attempt at kindness, compassion, and empathy. It’s like going in for a hug but smacking them in the head with a phone. The pain was unintentional, but there will be a bruise. 

By the way, that’s totally a hypothetical scenario and it didn’t happen in real life. On a completely unrelated note: Why am I so clumsy?

I think, in these situations, we’re trying to create a connection but we don’t have the right tools. The job has to be done so we rig something out of nothing and try to make it work. But it’ll never work. Instead of building a bridge, we’re putting up a wall and once that thing is standing, it’s almost impossible to tear it down. 

Walls don’t cover the distance, but they do keep out the icky feelings and uncomfortable ideas. There are somethings, some pains, that are too big and scary. Opening ourselves up to that? Letting ourselves feel it? Compassion and empathy require understanding but to understand we have to sit with the person and hear their story. We have to drop our guard, feel a small portion of their experience, and walk with them over some hot coals.

Of course, we’ll never fully understand what they’re going through unless we’ve gone through it ourselves. Even then, we can have the same experience but experience it in very different ways. We’ll never fully feel it, not like they do, but we can put ourselves in their position. We can close our eyes, paint a picture, and imagine how they’re feeling.

Yes, it’s a lot easier said than done. 

I don’t want to feel your pain or imagine what it’s been like for you. You’ve been through a lot, and I don’t know if I’m strong enough to handle it. I don’t know if I have your courage. If I’m too scared to even try to paint that picture? How can I let myself experience it enough to feel compassion or empathy? That’s so hard and pity is so much easier. 

I might be hyper empathic but I have my limits and I’ll hide behind that wall for a moments peace. Somethings are too big. Some things are too painful. There have been moments, quite recently actually, when I’ve wanted to say “the right thing” but the words just won’t come out. The right words failed me because there’s nothing to say. Keeping my mouth shut would’ve been preferable, probably more helpful, but I opened it a words fell out. 

Instead of offering comfort, my words came out in a way I didn’t intend. I instantly wished I could shove them back down my throat. I wanted to take it all back. My motives were pure, as are yours, but the execution fell short and pity draped over the good intentions.

Sometimes intention has nothing to do with our automatic response. If we venture into the shade, we see pity as a by-product of relief. The situation is so horrible, and the thought of being in that position is too much to process. We’re so glad it’s not us! We don’t want it to happen to them, we’re not monsters, but we are human. If we can’t imagine going through something so terrible than how could they go through it now? Relief and sadness unite. Pity is their love child. 

All children are deserving of love, but pity isn’t an act of love.

In my experience, it can be a weapon used to silence and dismiss. I’ve been in situations where pity quickly turned to disgust and they treated me like I wasn’t even human. The nose turned up, the eyes narrowed, their lips pressed together so hard they lost pigment. Their arms wrapped around their chest and their feet spred wide as if they were blocking an entrance. The didn’t feel sorry for me. They hated me because I, my illness, represented weakness and that, for some, is a moral failing to be pitied, despised, and dismissed.

It’s sad. Not for me! I don’t have time for people who behave that way. They’ve chosen willful ignorance over basic human decency. Their insecurities, their need to stand above others, has turned them cold. There’s no other word for it. They’re just sad and I feel bad for them. I suppose, one could argue, that this is a trait that should be pitied. Choosing exclusion and cruelty? Choosing to live in a delusional world of superiority? They are limiting their lives, their experiences, and living in a very small world filled with darkness.

What a tragic waste? Do I dare say, “What a pity?” It’s, I’ll say it again, sad but I’m not sure if they deserve pity. I’m not sure they deserve that energy at all but I could be wrong. I choose to focus my energy on the other 99% of people who just want to be kind.

The vast majority of us are coming from a place of decency, kindness, and compassion. We aren’t trying to be hurtful. We just don’t know how to be helpful so we fall back onto pity. Except, we’re told we shouldn’t wallow in self-pity because it isn’t healthy, it’s isolating, and it’s self-limiting. If self-pity isn’t okay then why is it okay to pity someone else? Isn’t that just as unhealthy? Isn’t it just as isolating and limiting?

How many of us, when we receive pity, enjoy it? How many of us feel loved, seen, accepted for who we are beyond the scars on our bodies? None of those things ring true for me. The opposite is almost always the case and that’s a very lonely place to live. It isn’t a healthy place to be, that’s for sure.

I don’t want your pity. I don’t need your pity. Compassion: Absolutely. Empathy: For sure. Patience: That would be lovely. But pity? Please don’t.

I’m more than my scars. I’m more than my diagnosis. I’m more than my past, present, and I’ll be more than my future. I’m a leather bound bestselling novel that should be enjoyed in its entirety and not left to the cliff notes. I’m more complicated than that and so is my life.

So is your life! You’re all of those things and more. Let’s not limit each other with pity. Let’s not dismiss each other, marginalize each other, with something so dehumanizing. Please, don’t pity me and I’ll offer you the same dignity.

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The Storytellers Lies

Photo by Hasan Almasi on Unsplash

“I could no longer discern what was real and what was fake. Everything, including the present, seemed to be both too much and nothing at all.” ― Clemantine Wamariya, The Girl Who Smiled Beads: A Story of War and What Comes After

I enjoy a good conspiracy theory but it better be well thought out. If there are holes, I will find them and playtime is over. I love a good game of ‘what if’ that’s played for funsies but never taken too seriously. The grassy knoll. Area 51. Did Hitler really kill himself or did Odessa help him escape to Argentina? Oh, the possibilities are endless but here’s a question: If any of these are true, then what? Do we change history, rewrite it, or let it ride? If the past changes, does it change our future? Does a paradigm shift alter the course of our species or is our path locked?

Oh, once you pop, you can’t stop. 

Theories, stories, or flights of fancy? They’re bizarre enough to make me stop and think things through in a new, often weird, way but it’s a fun mental workout on a stationary bike. Work out those muscles, get the blood pumping, but be careful. A strained muscle is a bad thing, and straining this particular muscle can be dangerous. Take some breaks. Drink some water. Go outside, in accordance with health guidelines, and get some fresh air. It’s important, vital even because once you get going, the brakes just might fail. 

Pull one thread and another one rolls off into a lonely, dark, dank concrete bunker. There are spider webs and a distant drip, drip, drip of water from a leaking pipe. Smell that? Yeah, I think it’s mold. Door hinges groan and squeak. A loud clunk. The door is closed. Try to push it open, but it won’t budge. There’s no way out! Why did I follow that damn string? Why?

It’s one thing to look back at history and question the stories we’ve been told. History, as they say, is written by the winners so maybe we don’t know the whole story. Asking questions, digging a little deeper, is better than blindly following the status quo. Imagine what we could learn if we asked more questions!

On the other hand, what do we do when people start questioning our present-day realities? That’s a different story, isn’t it? It seems like everyone has an agenda and they’re all pointing fingers at the one person, or group, they believe is at fault. We all seem to believe that someone has to be at fault because without someone to blame the world becomes an even scarier place.

Except, the world becomes a scarier place when we divide ourselves into opposing factions. Yelling at each other instead of listening. Pointing guns at each other because a show of strength, combined with the raised voices, adds gravitas to our righteous indignation. Rights! I have rights! We scream over and over. One person’s rights have become more important than the community. Now we’re all running scared because who’s rights will win out?

Yours? Mine? The one neighbour down the street who thinks the squirrels in his backyard are reincarnated relatives? How about the rights of one government, country, religion? What if that religion, country, or government isn’t your own? Do they still have the right to tell you what to do with your life or your body?

It’s all well and good, defending our rights until our rights don’t line up and then the conspiracy theories start brewing. It’s easier to point fingers at an organization, religious group, political party, or ethnic group than diving into a very messy reality. A clear target is more reassuring than the ghosts floating around somewhere out there. At least, with something we can see, we can defend ourselves and save the lives of people we love. 

Even if that means killing someone else? Even if that means we die? Do either of us have to die? Huh…There’s a head-scratcher! I’ve asked this before, but I haven’t gotten an answer so let’s ask it again: What’s the magic number? How many people have to die before we say, uncle? A hundred thousand dead. One million dead. What’s the magic number here? What will we accept and what will be a step too far?

You’re going to call me a snowflake for saying this but, as far as I’m concerned, one death is one too many. I’ve buried a lot of friends, and each of them was worth saving. Each of them was loved, needed, and are sorely missed. Losing them? A very small part of this world is worse off without them in it. 

Look around at the people you love. Which one would you sacrifice for your theory or your rights? Which one are you willing to gamble? I’m willing to bet your part of this world would be worse off without each of them. Then again, maybe your right to a hair cut is worth the risk? That’s a question only you can answer, so God bless and good luck.

As for me? I believe in science, facts, and logic that’s been put to the test. Sure, it’s not above reproach and mistakes happen. Science doesn’t have all the answers. They say, “I don’t know an awful lot.”

How comforting is that? Yeah, I’m not feeling all warm and fuzzy over here.

Especially now, when science is our only hope, there are too many questions that it can’t answer and that is terrifying. I need answers. I need a cure or a vaccine. I need out of my damn house! I’m not sure if you can tell, but I’m going a little bonkers. The walls are closing in…I can’t breathe…Oh, dear…

Nah, I’m all right and in this fight, I’m still putting my money on science. That being said science takes time and logic has to be put through a test of fire before it’s ready for public consumption. Do we have time? What about all the people getting sick, losing their jobs, struggling to put food on their table? All the people that have died or will die? I know it seems like a shallow concern, all things considered, but we have to worry about the economy and what impact this virus is having on it. What impact will it have on the future of global economics?

Yes, lives have to be the number one concern but the economy comes in second. Oh boy, there are just so many things to worry about. So few answers. We need answers but time feels like it’s running out. Maybe, we’ll all feel a little bit better if someone would sit down and tell us a story? Maybe it can have a government conspiracy? Oo and international espionage! Don’t forget the biological weapons that threaten our rights and freedoms. Yeah, that sounds like a good distraction.

It’s amazing what a great storyteller can do with a few well-placed words. Especially when everything is scary and the monsters won’t stay in the closet or under the bed. The shadows grow long, the wind howls through the trees, and a branch taps, taps, taps against the window. The covers are pulled up high, and we bury ourselves just a little bit deeper. The hinges on our bedroom door groans, squeaks, and we gasp.

The light from the hall hides his face, but we know that silhouette. The Storyteller is here to take our minds off the monsters, ghouls, and ghosts we can’t see. He’ll give us something we can hold onto. Something we can fight. Something we can do so we don’t have to hide under the covers like little children. 

No one wants to feel like a coward. Very few of us are willing to lay down and die. We don’t want to go out like that, so we look for something to fight, someone to blame, and a story that makes it all okay. Oh, the lies we tell ourselves when fear, ignorance, and deeply buried bigotries bubble to the surface. A perfect storm in an imperfect world.

Turns out we didn’t have to worry about the monsters, ghouls, and ghosts in the shadows. Not when we catch our reflections in the mirror and see the anger, hatred, and lust for vengeance burning in our eyes. It’s not a good look on anyone and seeing it can be quite jarring. Believe me, I’ve seen that reflection too so I’m not saying this from a pulpit or soap box. I’ve fallen for the Storytellers charms. He’s really very good, but the only power the story has is the power we give it.

Like I said, I enjoy a well thought out conspiracy theory but that’s all it is: A theory. A mental exercise. An exploration of thoughts that I would never, in my hyper-rational mind, come up with on my own. As fun as they are, if I can’t back it up my peer reviewed facts and time tested logic? Then these theories stay in the hands of the Storyteller and I go back to the land of the living.

The alternative? That’s not a theory I’m willing to play out. Not again.

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Can You Zip That Up, Please?

Photo by: Nick Fewings on Unsplash

Do we dare to compare our scars or our pain? Is it measuring contest? Do you have a ruler or should I find one? We can whip it out right here if that will make you feel better. On the count of three? One…Two…Hold up, this is just silly! Do we really have to do this now? Do we have to do it at all?

Can you zip that up, please? I was speaking metaphorically and now everyone’s staring!

People often say to me, “Well, I mean, it’s nothing compared to what you’ve been through.” They apologize for “complaining” about their life and, once again, draw parallels between their struggles and mine. In an instant, it becomes a pissing contest, and they feel like they can’t measure up to my story. Worse, they feel like they can’t share their story with me because theirs isn’t worth sharing.

Perhaps, if we’re making a blow by blow comparison then okay? I guess? Maybe? No, sorry, I’m squinting but I still don’t see how this contest plays out. How do we run the measurements? Duct tape. Hopscotch. Yardstick. Who gets points for what? Do we just have to stick the landing or are there points for style? Oh, and you know there’s going to be that one judge who just has to be contrary. Who gives a score of 3.263? It’s so random!

It’s just about as random as that analogy.

Do you really want to go through with this comparison? I’m not asking to be cocky or to brag. This isn’t an ego trip for me. I’m asking a very genuine question: Why are you comparing your struggles and pain, to mine? What does it accomplish? Do we really have to go there because it won’t end well for either of us? Neither one of us will feel like doing a victory lap because there are no winners in this game. There will be two people, sitting in awkward silence, because this kind of competition breeds division, not unity.

When someone makes the comparison, I have a lot of questions! Such as: So what? What does it matter? Why is my pain more valid than yours? What makes my struggles special or more deserving of sympathy, empathy, and compassion? What is it about your story that makes yours worth less than mine? Why do you feel like you have to make the comparison at all?

Is it a matter of self-worth? Self-doubt? Insecurities? Or, is it self-deprecation for the sake of humility? Do you think I’ll think less of you for speaking up? I won’t. Spoiler alert! I don’t think less of anyone for telling their story. It takes courage and strength. Believe me, I know how hard it is to open your heart up so I’ll celebrate you for it. I won’t criticize you and I won’t draw the comparisons. So why are you?

You’re right, I’ve been through a lot and, if we crunch the numbers the price differential could be quite significant. I have a chronic illness, kidney disease, and I’ve had more surgery than years of life. (Stole that line more my dad.) I’ve been clinically dead at least five times. The scars on my body look like a road map to nowhere. They tell a very dramatic story so, again, yes I’ve been through a lot.

Then again, you might outpace me by a hundred miles. Does that mean my suffering has less value? Does that mean I don’t get to feel what I feel? Is there are chart somewhere that colour grades our problems or struggles? Red is extreme duress. Yellow is mild discomfort. Does that make it easier? Does that make it more legitimate?

When someone compares what they’re going through to what I’ve been through, I get uncomfortable. It’s not the comparison itself. I think it’s only natural to compare ourselves to others. Our need to compare is instinctual and, in a way, it’s a clumsy attempt at connection and intimacy. We compare ourselves because we all want to measure up to our contemporaries. If we do, then maybe we’ve found a place to belong. A home. A family. A safe space. It’s a primal need that keeps us alive.

At least, I think that’s the hope. Often the comparison leaves us feeling like we’re falling short of a very high bar. We can’t see it and, in some cases, there’s no hope of reaching it. That doesn’t seem to matter, though. We still take a running start, stick our pole-vault in the dirt, and do our damnedest to soar through the air like a fighter jet. Look Mom no hands!

It quickly becomes apparent that we’ve made some serious miscalculations. The pole’s not long enough. Our legs aren’t fast enough. That jet engine doesn’t have enough fuel. The disappointment is almost inevitable, and the fall will leave a mark. We lay on our backs, look up at the sky, and dejection presses down on us harder than gravity. We’ll spend hours trying to figure out what went wrong and beat ourselves up for it.

Isn’t that the price we pay for comparing our falls from grace? Our failures, bad luck, and life’s right hooks? When we’re comparing those moments, are we looking for reassurance that we didn’t fall as far as we thought? Is it a way to protect ourselves from pain, shame, guilt, or any other emotion that’s uncomfortable and isolating?

As much as I don’t like people comparing their experiences to mine; I’ve done it a hundred times. I’ve tried to play this game when I really should’ve kept it zipped up. That pissing contest, the dare to compare, doesn’t end well for me either. I don’t feel more connected and I don’t feel grateful for what I have. What am I doing when I compare myself, my experiences, and say that others have it worse? 

I tell myself that I’m just gaining some perspective by looking at the world around me. Seeing what others are going through? The magnitude of their suffering? Sure, that perspective is great. Sometimes we need to step out of ourselves, our own little bubbles, to appreciate what we have. It’s better than wallowing, isn’t it?

In theory, you’d think it would take the sting off of my own pain and maybe it does? Occasionally. Sometimes. Maybe. Usually, it doesn’t make me feel better about my circumstances. More often than not I feel defeated and more alone because comparison doesn’t alleviate torment and it doesn’t bring me closer to the people that care about me. 

Someone said that comparison is the thief of joy, and they’re right. Not only does it steal joy, but it alienates and divides. Whether I’m doing it to myself or others get in on the gig; I end up squished inside a tiny box and I’m extremely claustrophobic. Add twenty pounds of solid wood, a ton of fertilizer, and seed some grass. Wait a couple of weeks. Yeah, I’m not getting out of there.

Did I just describe a coffin? Wow, that’s a mood.

Just because our experiences differ, doesn’t mean one is more valid than the other. It doesn’t mean you don’t get to feel hurt, sad, grief-stricken. It doesn’t mean your pain is worth less than mine. More importantly, it doesn’t mean you can’t share it with me or anyone else because keeping it in, won’t do you any favours.

When we find someone who’s willing to listen, hear us out, and support us? Don’t push that person away. It doesn’t matter what they’ve been through! Maybe what they’ve been through makes them the perfect person to talk too. People who have been through hell and made it through to brighter days? We understand what you’re feeling better than anyone else so don’t shut us out.

By making the comparison that’s what you’re doing. Unintentionally! It isn’t deliberate and it’s not hurtful. At least, I’m not hurt by it but I am frustrated. I want to be there for you. I want to hold your hand. I want to listen to your story. I want to help you if I can and if I can’t then I want to sit with you. If you need me? If you want me? I’ll be there but I can’t do that if you’re shutting me out or shutting others out.

Don’t sell yourself short! Whatever you’re going through, you don’t have to go through it alone. If you’re lucky enough to have a person in your life that will sit with you then let them in and let them be there for you. Your pain is valid. Your struggles are real. Adversity isn’t comparable and no one’s handing out medals for the most tormented.

It’s so easy to turn our lives into one big pissing contest but the only winners are the flowers that get watered. Maybe it’s time to zip it up, wash our hands, and start sharing instead of comparing.

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On The Winds Of Nowhere

Photo by: Tanya Nevidoma on Unsplash

“He’s a real nowhere man, Sitting in his Nowhere Land, Making all his nowhere plans for nobody. Doesn’t have a point of view, Knows not where he’s going to, Isn’t he a bit like you and me?” ― The Beatles, Revolver, Vocal Score

I have nothing to say. Maybe I should just post that one sentence and be done with it? Would that be okay? Arg, no words. They’re gone. Well, not gone but in hibernation. I’m trying to wake them up, but they’re throwing a temper tantrum. “I don’t wanna!” Yeah, it’s bouncing around in my head, and I think it’s coming from the part of my brain that houses my vocabulary.

Apparently my vocabulary and inner child are roommates. Those brats!

The harder I try to string these sentences together the thicker my brain gets. Like I’m trying to walk through marshlands after a heavy rainfall. Slip and slide but I can’t quite get my footing. It soaks through my boots and socks. Now my toes are cold…What am I saying?

No idea.

I’m sitting in the middle of this nowhere land and I’m trying to get out of it. Pushing. Pulling. Struggle a little harder. It’s not working. I’m just going to sit here and stare out at the approaching storm clouds until it passes. Will it pass? Will I ever get out of this nowhere land? I sure do hope so.

Maybe I’m tapped out? The last post took a lot out of me, and it brought up a lot of emotions that I didn’t expect. Just when you think you’re out, am I right? Wow, I’m still kinda feeling it.

Then again, there’s a chance that these last few months have finally caught up to me and I’m just tired. Tired of overthinking. Tired of being afraid, angry, sad, and lonely. Tired of the confusion. Tired of the news that seems to get bleaker and more contrary. Tired of worrying about everything and everyone.

Anyone else feeling like this? Tired. Tapped out. A wet rag rung dry. Feeling all the feels until there’s nothing left to feel. I want to give more, write more, create more content but the supply line has run dry.

I’ve seen a few people talk about this feeling with more poetic grace than I can muster. Creatives reaching the limit of their creativity. They desperately claw at the side of an empty ditch looking for more but find nothing. Is there any feeling more desperate than that? Okay, yes, I can think of a few, but for argument’s sake? Imagine a painter that runs out of brush strokes or a writer that runs out of words. It’s like a fish running out of water. It’s a panic that comes with a muzzle and a silencer.

If you’re not a creative, and that’s quite okay, then maybe this sounds a bit dramatic. What can I say? We’re a dramatic breed. Or is that just a stereotype? Either way, I know a few people who can’t understand how, or why, these dry spells send a creative into a tailspin. It seems like an overreaction, right? Maybe it is but losing our creative outlets are more than words on a page or paint on a canvas. 

These are our voices, our forms of expression, and losing that means we’re losing our one connection to the people around us. Have you ever lost your voice? Then you know how hard it can be to feel included or get your needs met. For me, speaking to someone face to face or even on the phone is very difficult. I struggle to articulate my thoughts, feelings, experiences. My mind goes blank and I go quiet. My voice, my spoken words, it isn’t strong and often it’s silenced by stronger, well-meaning, voices. 

I’m too quiet, too shy, and I understand that I’m hard to hear. I don’t blame the stronger voices, and I don’t hate them either, because they can speak and I can’t. Why blame someone else for my shortcomings? That’s just silly. And I know we all have a voice but some of us just can’t use it or, when we do, we aren’t heard. When we aren’t heard? Then often we aren’t seen.

When I write I feel heard and seen. I can express the thoughts, emotions, that I usually hideaway. This is my voice. The words I type, the thoughts they form, they’re who I am and I can finally share that with other people. I can connect with other people. That’s not something I can do with my spoken voice.

With my spoken voice, I feel like the “nowhere man, sitting in a nowhere land.” Sitting on a stump out there in this barren wasteland. For miles around me, the ground is bare. On the horizon, the sky is grey and it grows darker. The wind, the words of those stronger voices, whips up around me and I shiver. I want to move, to speak, but I just sit there on my stump making nowhere plans.

When I write, the grey sky turns a luminous mix of red, orange, and golden yellow. The wind dies down, and I can finally stand up on my own. The words I type create their own wind and for once my voice is carried far and wide. My voice becomes strong. I become visible. I’m no longer a nowhere person.

It’s a hard thing to lose when you’ve only just found it. Then again, I’ve written this much so maybe I didn’t lose it. I just needed to give it a chance to find its footing on unbroken soil. I’m walking new ground here. I’m still finding my voice, and I’m still learning to trust it. I’m so used to being quiet, invisible, stuck in the nowhere land. Out here, with you, is a new experience and it can be scary at times.

New things are always scary and speaking up is even scarier. Especially when you’re so used to be quiet. So when I sat down to write and the words didn’t come? I felt this panic rise. What if I can’t find the words? What if I’ve run out of things to say? I don’t want to go back to the nowhere land. I like it here, with you, and I’m not ready to leave.

There I go! Being all dramatic again. Maybe it really is more than a cliche?

Still, the dramatics highlight a need I have and maybe you have it too. A need for community, connection, and a way to belong. All of which require a voice and this is mine. You have yours, I’m sure. Losing that? The threat of losing that? The mere possibility of losing our voices?

That’s terrifying to me, but it turns out that being honest about how I’m feeling frees up my voice. Keeping it in? Fighting my feelings? I’m the one silencing myself. I’m the one holding my voice in. I have the power to free or enslave my voice. By being open, being weird and bizarre, I freed my voice and I found the words.

Once the words started coming I felt myself breathe in and let out a sigh of relief because I’m not sitting in that nowhere land anymore. I’m not a nowhere person anymore. I’m finding my voice, and I’m learning to use it. That gives me strength, hope, and a reason to keep going when I’m tired.

Today I’m tired but I kept going and that makes this, a good day. Even if I didn’t write more than that one sentence. Even if I didn’t post these ramblings. Even if no one ever reads this, it’s okay. I know that I kept trying, and I found my voice.

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Forgiving The Unforgivable

Photo by: Ye Jinghan

To forgive may be divine but, for us mere mortals, is the divine even possible? Should all things be forgivable or is there a line that can’t be crossed? A line we can’t come back from? Are there things that are simply unforgivable? Do I really need to forgive to move on or can I move on without forgiving the person for what they’ve done?

So many questions and I have even more. I could write two thousand words and every sentence would end with a question mark. When it comes to forgiveness, my questions are endless and I think it’s one subject I’ve devoted a lot my personal time too. I’ve looked for answers. Read a number of books from so-called experts and some religious figures. I’ve struggled to make peace with this subject because it has me split between two minds.

One mind firmly believes in forgiving and letting go but some things are easier to forgive than others. Some wrongs can be made right with apologetic words or acts of penance. Forgiveness, in these circumstances, comes quick and easy. They’re sorry for what they did, they won’t do it again, and so I let it go. Life’s too short to hold on to petty grudges.

But when it’s not petty? When the pain inflected is too deep to simply brush it off? When it’s something that changes our whole lives in a profoundly traumatizing way? This is where my thoughts diverge. 

I don’t know if everyone deserves forgiveness. I don’t know if every act can be forgiven. Especially when the betrayal, or act of cruelty, damages our physical and mental wellbeing so much that we’ll never fully recover. Our lives have been shattered into so many pieces; we’ll never put ourselves back together. In these circumstances, forgiveness feels impossible and it feels unjustifiable.

For the most part, I believe that life is too short to hold onto grudges, and I’m too lazy to dig up the past. It takes too much effort and manual labour isn’t my forte. What’s done is done. We’re good now. It’s okay. People make mistakes and you were decent enough to apologize. I respect that and, being a screw up as well, I appreciate how hard it was to own up but you did. Good on ya. Can we forget about it now?

However, there’s one thing I can’t forget, I can’t move on, and I’m struggling to forgive. It’s not something I can laugh about later or shrug off like it’s no big deal. It is a big deal. It’s life-changing. It will, one day, be life-ending. It wasn’t just a mistake made by someone who screwed up. This thing, the way he handled the fallout, goes beyond an apology I’ve never received.

Honestly, at this point, I don’t even know if an apology would matter all that much. Which is good because I’ll never, ever, get one.

I have an illness called Chronic Renal Failure. In simple terms: My kidneys don’t work. I’ve talked about this before, briefly. Brought it up in passing and moved on. My diagnosis, the event that started it all, was something that could have been prevented. Everything that’s happened over the last thirty-plus years? None of it had to happen. I didn’t have to go through everything I’ve gone through. The surgeries, scars, physical, and psychological trauma. None of it had to happen, but one man’s mistake triggered an avalanche.

When I was three, doctors discovered one small problem. Urine was traveling the wrong way. Instead of going from the kidneys down to the bladder, it was going back up into the kidneys. It can cause a lot of damage if it isn’t treated but it is treatable. The doctors decided that surgery was my best option so that’s what we did. Actually, small correction, it was supposed to be the best option but the surgeon made a mistake and blood clots formed. Now, the urine produced by my kidneys couldn’t go anywhere. It stayed in the kidneys and the damage was catastrophic.

The biggest mistake, in my opinion, wasn’t made in the operating room. Despite everything that’s happened, I know that doctors are human and human beings make mistakes. They lose focus. They get tired. Medical professionals work long hours in a very demanding profession and sometimes the pressure is too much. Sometimes they make mistakes and I understand that no one is perfect. I get it and I can forgive a tired, overworked, person who tried their best.

In my case, however, the real mistake was made in the doctors’ office. I was sent home to recover, but I didn’t get better. I was in a lot of pain, and my condition got worse. My parents took me to the surgeon and asked him to help me. They wanted him to take a look and figure out why I was in so much pain and why I wasn’t healing.

He didn’t take a look, he told them that healing takes time, and sent us home. My mom’s a nurse, she has the training and the knowledge, and she knew something wasn’t right. She took me back and, once again, the doctor refused to help. He called my mom neurotic and pointed out the medical hierarchy. She was a nurse and a mother. He was a doctor, a surgeon. How dare she question his position or his skill?

Luckily for me, my mom isn’t a pushover and she called a friend who’s a radiologist. An ultrasound was done and the problem was found. I was rushed into surgery, and the blockage was removed but the damage was done. My kidneys wouldn’t recover, and I was diagnosed with a life-threatening chronic illness.

I know you’re going to ask, a lot of people already have, and no we didn’t file a lawsuit. It was a different time, in a different country, and there weren’t the same levels of recourse that we have here in Canada. Besides, what would it have done? Money can’t buy a life back. It can’t undo a life-changing diagnosis. It wouldn’t erase the mistake or nullify the consequences I would have to face. It wouldn’t change the future that was waiting for me.

A future that’s included hundreds of surgeries, thousands of hours spent in hospitals, millions of needles, and decades of relentless pain. I’ve been clinically dead five times. That means that my heart stopped beating, my chest stopped rising, and there were no signs of life. I was gone, and my parents almost buried their child. My brother almost lost his sister. My grandparents almost lost their grandchild. I was almost laid to rest in a small coffin.

My body is covered in scars, which I don’t mind all that much, but the pain that lingers has gotten old. Because of the renal failure, I developed a lot of secondary conditions. Renal osteodystrophy, a type of bone disease, damaged my joints and made walking very difficult. The bone disease has cleared, but the damage hasn’t. Today, as I’m writing this, my joints are inflamed and I’m having trouble getting around. I’m limping a lot and groaning every time I force my knees to bend.

My heart doubled in size and for a while, the doctors thought I’d need a new heart as well as a kidney but, mercifully, the swelling went down. I do have an arrhythmia that’s potentially life-threatening. It’s stopped my heart a few times but we’ve already talked about that. I have an implanted cardiac defibrillator in my chest, with wires going into my heart. You can’t see it, it’s under the skin, but it’s there to keep my heart beating just in case it decides to take another break.

Seizures, vision problems, and three kidney transplants over thirty years. At this point, when it comes to listing my medical history, it’s easier to tell you what works. Apparently my liver is in remarkable good condition. The radiologist called it a sexy liver which was a little creepy but hey, you do you BooBoo.

One mistake. 

That’s it.

One mistake and my life was devastated. He took everything from me. My body, my future, my life. Because of him, I’ll always be in pain. Because of him, I can’t have kids. Because of him, my mind has been shattered by one trauma after another. Because of him, my life won’t be a long one. Because of him my family, the people I love, have had to suffer in ways I can’t even begin to imagine.

Because of him…

I have a very long list of things he took from me and my family. Some of them I’ve made peace with but I’m still grieving the loss of others. How can one person take so much from someone else? How can one person hurt someone else that much? How do I even begin to forgive him for something that’s unforgivable? 

I know that forgiveness isn’t for the perpetrator. It doesn’t set them free or absolve them of their sins. Absolution, I believe, is between the person and their God. A God that knows their heart, the true level of their repentance, and who’s far more divine than us mere mortals.

Forgiveness is for the one who’s been hurt. Pain, in all its forms, is a prison that keeps us locked inside ourselves. It keeps us in and life out. Joy, happiness, contentment…All the pretty feelings we want so desperately to feel. The pain stops us from feeling anything. 

For me, it makes me feel numb and disengaged from my own body. Forget about connecting with anyone else! I can’t even connect with my own thoughts, feelings, or desires. I can’t feel anything but the pain and I don’t want to feel that. So I shut down and shut out the world because the pain is too much and I just can’t handle it anymore.

But, by doing that, I’m letting him take one more thing from me and how much more does he get to take?

Forgiving him for what he did to me, to my family, isn’t setting him free. I’m setting myself free. I’m taking back what’s mine. I’m not allowing him to take one more thing from me. I’m standing up and saying enough is enough. Forgiveness will mean that I’m choosing to let go of the pain and step out into the bright, sunny, day.

Which sounds lovely but, to be completely honest, isn’t something I’ve totally mastered. I’d love to sit here and tell you how I’ve forgiven him for what he did. In a picture-perfect world, I’d tell you it’s done and I’m happier for it. Is this the part of the story where I lay out an easy five-step plan to forgiveness? If there’s one thing I won’t do to you, it’s lie.

So here’s the truth.

As I’m writing this, I’ve cycled through anger, grief, and a little bit of resentment. I’ve clenched and unclenched my fists multiple times. I’m swallowing back tears as I type these words. I’m hurt. I’m sad. He hurt me. He stole my life. He got to go and live his life as if nothing happened. All the while, I’ve spent my life in hospitals and operating rooms. It’s not right. What he did wasn’t right. I don’t know if I’ll ever fully forgive him for hurting me.

However, I think I’ve mostly forgiven him for what he did because there are days when I think about what he did, and I don’t feel the pain. There are more and more moments when I feel an acceptance of the situation and I’m content to let his actions live in the past. What is done, is done and I don’t want to be a prisoner to it anymore. I need to forgive so that I can enjoy whatever life I have left.

I used to think that once I’d forgiven him then that would be it. It would be over. I could move on. But some wrongs are too painful and too life-shattering to just forgive and they can’t be forgotten. It doesn’t mean we can’t forgive them, we can, but it’s something that will take time and practise because forgiveness isn’t linear. 

There isn’t a beginning, middle, and an end. I’ve made the decision to forgive, and I’ve grieved, I’ve been angry and then I’ve moved on. But something happens and the pain resurfaces. I feel anger and resentment. I want to put my fist through that bastard’s face. I want to make him suffer like I’ve suffered but I can’t. I need to live. I want to live so I decide, one more time, to forgive.

Around and around I go but the journey doesn’t take as long as it used to take. It’s like walking a well-worn path. It’s not easy. Most of the trail is uphill but at least I’m not bushwhacking. I know the way. I don’t get as turned around. Yes, I get tired and have to take some breaks but then I get up and keep moving. More importantly, I know I can make it to the top and once I’m there, I’ll have a moment of peace.

One more question but this one has an answer. Can we forgive the unforgivable? Yes, but only we can decide if, or when, we’re ready to forgive. No one else can make that choice for us or force us into it. It’s personal. It’s painful. It’s liberating but we have to be ready to put in the work.

I’m going to say this one more time because it’s a point that often gets lost. I’m not choosing to forgive that doctor for his sake, to set him free, or give him a free ride. That’s between him and his God. I’m choosing to forgive because I want to be free. I want to live my life, what’s left of it, free from the pain of his mistake because this is my life. I’m still alive, I’m still here, I can still make the most of it.

It’s not the life I would’ve chosen, maybe it’s not the life I should be living, but it’s mine. He doesn’t get to take any more of it. I’m taking my life back, and it starts with me saying three very hard, very heavy, words: I forgive you.