Monday, 26 May 2014

The Dying of a Starfish

There was this story my high school French teacher told us all:

Making a Difference

A small boy was running up and down the beach, feverishly hurling starfish back into the water before they died. An old man approached him. "Do you honestly think your work will make a difference?" he asked skeptically. The boy looked at him with sparkling eyes, held up a starfish and said, "It makes a difference to this one!" and threw the starfish into the sea.

 She gave us a pin of a starfish with a card that had this story on it. Of all the things I hang on to, it means a fair amount. Because I, too, understand the difference one simple action – even if it seems futile to someone else – can have on another being’s life.  This story fuels my passion for making a difference in this world. Whenever I feel like the mountain is insurmountable, I see the card, hanging beside the entrance to my bathroom, and I remember that I don’t have to reach the summit of the mountain. I just have to help one starfish.

I remember the day I met a really special starfish. Her disjointed, awkward movements have been mprinted in my mind through these last 30 months since as the embodiment of her. She was nervous, I thought, but fighting really hard to be confident. She was brilliant, I knew it in the way she purposefully asked me the right questions and nodded her head as I responded. She was determined. I can’t believe I didn’t hire her on the spot. But, that was a lesson I still needed to learn, too.

Like the majority of my 20’s, the memories of our day to day interactions are blurry at best. What I do recall is noticing how much she changed. After she had been working with me for a year, I shared in an email with her my first impressions. Sadly, I can no longer find those words of pride I had for the amazing woman I had watched her become...

I felt like she had come to me as a girl, struggling to be the young woman she wanted to be. And, in less than 12 months, she was that woman in my eyes. And soon, I thought I could see that woman in her eyes, too.

I don’t want to belittle any of who she was or what she did by taking credit for the difference I saw. If any one could take credit for throwing the starfish into the water, it was the whole community that allowed her to show us how much she could swim! 

Perhaps the biggest difference that I saw was that I had gotten to know her better. I may never know if we really helped, or if that was just my hope.

The reason I love her so much is because I saw and see so much of myself in that young woman – both as the girl pretending to be the woman she wants to be and the young woman starting to believe that she was finally there. And, I saw so much of her struggles, from the outside, that I had felt on my inside. And, it made me stronger to believe that I had found her as a wounded starfish on the beach and thrown her back in to the water, where she could rejuvenate herself. Where she had a chance to not just live but thrive as the radiant starfish I saw the potential for on that first day.

We do not see people as they are, we see them as we are.  
~ Anais Nin

Part of me feels the guilt that happens whenever this tragedy happens. 

I feel like I could have thrown her back in the water when I suspected that she was on the beach again. There is an unanswered email from her in my inbox that cracks my heart right open with that guilt. How can I not feel that guilt when my suspicions turn into reality?!?

Another part of me knows that I can’t dwell on that. 

If I learned nothing through the experience that brought her and I into meeting it was to accept that time passes and events occurred.  We can’t change any of it. We can’t even change other people. But, maybe – just maybe – we helped them play in the ocean for a little bit longer. Maybe they rescued us when we thought we were the saviour…

This spring, I started to share that I had the scariest feelings again this winter. A dark pillow sitting on my shoulders, suffocating me from the person I wanted to be. I thought - after years of working my way through that feeling of hopelessness - that those feelings were gone now. I thought that life was more manageable. I expected it to be.  I had left my stressful jobs, I had found the love of my life. I accepted my body for what it was and wasn't. I was through the "Quarter Life Crisis" I had clung to for so many years as an excuse for feeling crappy. I didn’t think I would be here, with everything I have to be grateful for every day, and still need to watch out for the pillow. 

I wonder why I share that I had these feelings. At the time, I couldn’t even tell my fiancĂ©, the rock I tell so much to, for fear he would feel helpless, too. Because – as he has been telling me since I heard the news – outsiders are always just a little bit helpless. And that pillow is scary. Nobody wants to carry that pillow. I didn’t want to burden anybody with that weight. I remember a night this March when he was at work, and I needed to talk to a rock in my life...and I didn't want to burden any of them with the pain... So, I turned in on myself and let the pillow suffocate me until my fiance was done work.

And that is how the pillow wins. That’s why this is a terrifying disease! This is what gets me so riled up about how little we are dealing with it. Of all the illnesses out there that are at the epidemic level, this one is the scariest to me. And it matters. Because that pillow isn’t linked to genetics, or chemicals, or diet. Sometimes, that pillow just hits you ‘cause we live in a shitty society. We push each other to meet such ridiculous standards and we imply that being good and perfect are more important than being happy and accepting of the shitty things. Whether we are teaching our children the rat race that we know is futile, or only communicating through electronics because we don’t have enough time for other people. Society is sucking that pillow into our lives! And, I am so angry about that.

And, so, I have started telling people about the pillow I had, for one week, this winter. There were a lot of feelings before the pillow, but that week was the worst. And, I want people to know about it because it’s important to know about. If I don’t tell you about my pillow, how will you know that it appears in my life? How will you feel comfortable telling me about your pillow? pillow is little. My pillow goes away in the sunshine. I can still push that pillow aside after a lively chat with my fiance or a good friend. Some pillows are heavier. And, people who have heavy pillows need more than their friends to help them. They need the help of professionals. And, we should never take on the burden of thinking that "if only..." we could have moved that pillow for somebody else when their pillow is so heavy.

The last part of me that remains misses my friend.

I’ve been sorting through this pillow stuff, and trying to figure out how to live without it ever again. This takes a lot of energy. And, I avoid social situations when my energy is low. But, I always had hope and faith that I would get to the end of this rebuilding period and my friends would be there. Today, I found out that one of them won’t be. And that makes me incredibly sad.

The truth is, she helped me when I was on the beach, too. There is not just one little boy walking along the beach and throwing the starfish back in. There are tons of us doing it! And we do it because we know it matters. We go through different stages. Sometimes we are the boy, walking along the beach. Other times we are the starfish that needs a little push back into the safety of the water when we’ve found ourselves on the beach. And, for so much more of our lives, we are in that water, enjoying the company of other mending starfish. Every once in a while, we are mended, turn two legs into arms, another leg into eyes, and stroll along that beach helping the starfish again, so we can have more company in the water, making ourselves stronger again.

Whether 'tis Nobler in the mind to suffer
The Slings and Arrows of outrageous Fortune,
Or to take Arms against a Sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them? To die, to sleep—
No more; and by a sleep, to say we end
The Heart-ache, and the thousand Natural shocks
That Flesh is heir to? 'Tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wished. To die, to sleep,
To sleep, perchance to Dream; Aye, there's the rub,
For in that sleep of death, what dreams may come,
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause. There's the respect
That makes Calamity of so long life:
For who would bear the Whips and Scorns of time,
The Oppressor's wrong, the proud man's Contumely,
The pangs of despised Love, the Law’s delay,
The insolence of Office, and the Spurns
That patient merit of the unworthy takes,
When he himself might his Quietus make
With a bare Bodkin? Who would these Fardels bear,
To grunt and sweat under a weary life,
But that the dread of something after death,
The undiscovered 
Country, from whose bourn
No Traveler returns, Puzzles the will,
And makes us rather bear those ills we have,
Than fly to others that we know not of.
Thus Conscience does make Cowards of us all,
And thus the Native hue of Resolution
Is sicklied o'er, with the pale cast of Thought,
And enterprises of great pitch and moment,
With this regard their Currents turn awry,
And lose the name of Action. Soft you now,
The fair Desiree. Nymph, in all thy Orisons
Be thou all my sins remembered.

 ~ from Hamlet's infamous soliloquy 

Sunday, 19 February 2012


I don't know what I want...

I don't know who I really am...

I can't remember the last time I was truly joyful...

I can't explain why I feel like this right now...

I just want to feel better.

I just want happiness to be effortless.

I think this will pass soon.

I think that over-thinking it only makes things worse...

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Regrets...and Healing

I love TED Talks.  They have become my first course of action WHENEVER I need to inspire my mind.  And, today, I came across this one:

Kathryn Schulz: Don't Regret Regret

Throughout most of it, I thought, "I don't have regrets. I literally live life knowing that I made the best choice for myself at that time. I look at every mistake as a lesson learned!"

But....that's a lie.

I've spent the last three weeks working on some self care issues.  It began with a stress-related flu, taking some time on my couch, and then a return to work where I was able to uncover some deep-rooted issues ruminating below my surface. (Where I work now, this is the point of going to work ;-D)  I worked hard on self-analyzing (I know, a sarcastic stretch for the girl with five blogs...) the real cause of a lot of these issues and other things that I was becoming aware of as I became more self aware.

What entailed was some heart-felt discussions with close friends, gossiping about my romantic past and present, standing up for myself, and getting honest with my feelings.  Four days ago, this journey - seeking to open my heart - manifested itself in a chest congestion.  The next day, I lost my voice: my clue to stop talking about this problem and start doing the real internal work to get through it. Then, my nasal passages began to inflame. On the fourth day, I could feel it clearing, but still struggling to get me to deal with these real issues and not continue to live in this tortured reality I had created for myself.

Last night was the worst yet.  I had a cleansing bath. In it, I realized one of my deepest fears - a loss of independence -and it all began to sort itself out. The issue I was having with a romantic friend stemmed from my fear of vulnerability that kept me from admitting I had feelings for him in the first place. The recovery from family affairs stemmed from a desire to be recognized for my differences - a fear of needing to know they would love me regardless of how I am different. The issue with a coworker was based on my fear of not being loved in return if I chose to give love even if I couldn't get it back.

After the bath, I found an inspiring quote, blessed it with my love for everybody I know, and send it out into the world.

Every few hours, I woke up to use the toilet. The second time this happened, I realized how soaked my shirt was.  I was sweating like crazy through my sleep.  This was definitely an amazing cleansing restorative sleep.

But....where does this loss of independence come from?

I have one regret.

It has a name that I can't bare to say aloud.

The thought of the moment fills me with self loathing, disgust, and anger at everybody else involved.

I'm so far past the point of thinking of this regret as a lesson that I can't take ownership of it. I can't admit that I made such a huge, terrible mistake that hurt somebody else...and most of all has scarred me so much that I couldn't even like myself for years after it happened - and I work DAMN HARD at loving myself!

So...what happens next?

I know what event is now keeping me from all the rest of this.  How do I move past it? How do I take ownership of it? How do I forgive myself for hurting myself?

How many more baths before I love that scar too....?

The funny thing is...I've known it's been this moment all along. I've known that this is the "healing" I've needed to do in this last year, referred to absent-mindedly to friends but never really delved into.  I've known that my cures would never work for it...I thought it might never matter if I convinced myself that it didn't hurt me. I thought that being strong would be enough. I thought that not letting them see me cry would make me that stronger person. I thought that love was something I needed to be given rather than something I could give myself. I thought that vulnerability was a weakness, not a universal strength...

Sunday, 6 November 2011

The Crisis vs. The Show

One year. 52 weeks. Over 365 days.

My parents think I have anxiety over getting older.

A year ago, I began writing more on this blog than I had the two years previously.

For the last four months, I've been wondering if I am still going through a quarter life crisis:
Is it really a crisis?
Have I moved past it?
Will I only live to 104 if the quarter life is over?
Does every generation go through the same thing? If so, the early nineties twenty-somethings would be immortalised with Reality Bites.  The twenty-somethings of the late nineties found solace in Friends. The quarter-lifers of the 00's had a recession. And I have history...and hipsters...

At any time in life, we will be hit with uncertainty.  Maybe it happens to us when we "enter the real world." Perhaps we continue with certainty for a few years or even decades after entering that "real world" before the uncertainty of life catches up with us...

And, then, almost as suddenly, we discover that things are either more certain...or we're at least more certain of ourselves...and this "crisis" is not as pressing as living life.

That is the moment at which we' ve learned to enjoy the show...

Monday, 10 October 2011


My life is a joke...I eagerly laugh at not just my own mistakes, but what I consider my "bad luck."

But is it ever really "bad" luck?

As I enter my fourth year of residency here in Edmonton, it becomes more obvious that I may be here for much longer than the originally anticipated six months.  The wanderlust that hit me early on in life fails to escape my life.  This time last year, I realized that it had invaded my work life - either starting a new job or a new position/transfer approximately every six months.  Now that I've managed to surpass that threshold in my previous job, I eagerly look forward to remaining at my current position for much longer than that.  Luckily, I have the opportunity in this position to create the world I want.

And, so, with career figured out (for the time being), I look to the rest of my life.  This summer, it became apparent that close friendships of mine are intense for only about six months before fizzling into mere acquaintances that get picked up exactly when they need to be.  Not that I forget about these people, or that after six months knowing them no longer means as much as when we first met...but, somehow, we both move on with our lives.  It never hurts that after being friends with me for about two-three months, the other person normally meets a wonderful person who becomes the love of their life.  Not to put any pressure on those friends who met their current boy/girlfriend shortly after becoming my dear friend, but none of the relationships I have "mused" into existence have fallen apart as much as our friendships have... This phenomena deserves more unpacking and I wish to do that at a later date.  Perhaps even with a psychologist...

Last winter, I realized my gift as a "muse."  Three weeks into any romantic relationship, I remain excited about the future of everything; whereas the other person has been provided with an opportunity that improves their life greatly, and leaves me deserted and alone.  I am, as I joke, a "lucky love."  Of course, as I joked more about it, the time required for luck to appear became much shorter.  One example was even three days. And, one took over three months of torment, friendship, and figuring everything else out...

The joke is funny at first.  "What a great pick-up line!" I've been told.  The idea is novel.  It's been in movies, mentioned on sitcoms, and discussed at length with my good friends.  We all like to play the victim of bad least for a little while.  At what point, though, did it make me bitter and jaded?

This phenomena has been un-packed at length already in this blog. I wish to no longer dwell on it.  And, then, I put on an old record, remember my first opportunity to be some one else's muse...

Monday, 3 October 2011

On Loss

I had a dream that morning...about my grandfather.  I never dream about him.  It was odd.

He wasn't himself, though.  He was this great big block of something else. But we all knew it was him.  I felt him in that cinder block.  Suddenly, I felt a gust of wind pull me towards the rock.  I could feel my family nearby - on the periphery, supporting everything I was experiencing.  My father, the solid structure in everything was watching me closely as I slowly pieced together what the wind symbolized.  Suddenly, an arrow of grief shot through my heart as I thought about death.  My thoughts turned to my mother.  No....I can't be...

I woke up with a blanket of peace covering my body.  Today was IT - the day I had been thinking about and planning for the last two months.  Every musician was booked; volunteers would arrive on time; work would flow as it should immediately following the volunteer hours; my speeches were ready; I'd say perhaps not the perfect thing, but all of the right things. I was loved. I was in the right place. I was going to take the world by storm...

I had a text message.  I shared my positive feelings of love in my response.  It was reciprocated with sadness...

In those few words, I knew.

I called my parents. There was no answer. I texted my mom, seeing if she could chat. The text came in to let me know. My mom called to let me know the details.

After three years of fighting (the ugliest word to ever be used in our culture), my aunt had passed on.

Many people expected me not to carry on with the day's events.  And perhaps I shouldn't have.  I was definitely unable to do the job I wanted to.  My energy levels were extremely low, and my mind continued to race in a foggy cloud as people arrived needing direction.  I wanted to scream. I wanted to cry. I wanted to curl into a ball and be left alone.

Instead, I hid when I could, thanked everyone who was there to help us out, told my friends why I wasn't my smiling self, received hugs from the family of support I had created in my life, and began to fear that I wasn't yet strong enough to support the family I was blessed to have been born into...

Of the five family deaths I have been witness to, this is the third that is a result of a long drawn-out battle.  Only one of those five deaths happened in less than a day of a battle to survive.  I don't know that any of the options are any better or any worse than the other.  After a long battle, though, I know that my aunt did everything she knew how to in order to survive...and then she decided to enjoy what life she had left.

After a battle to survive, death is a relief.  The family has been caring for her, worrying about her health, cherishing each moment, and keeping one another constantly updated about her health.  Everybody has been dealing with the realizations of her health in their own way.  And that is all that can ever be expected, and respected.

My reaction has been to throw myself headlong into not finding a cure to that (ugliest word to ever be used in our culture), but a way of preventing this pain to happen to anybody...

Last October, I first watched Food Matters.  My reaction to it was amazing.  "Let food by thy medicine..." And my explanation of its message does not do it justice.  Instead, I have learned to have other people watch the film.  This week, you can do just that for free on their website: . David Wolf's presence alone inspired me to carry on with increasing my knowledge about how food can be our medicine, rather than the fuel for our disease.  Two days after watching that movie, I heard that my aunt's cancer had move into her brain.

I remember that moment exactly.  I was picking up my last...never mind, it's over. That world of understanding no longer exists for me.  And rage engulfs my body when I think of the millions of people - especially any more of my loved ones - still existing in that world of understanding.  Where man-made chemicals cure you; the natural world can be controlled; and if there's something wrong, it has to be righted. I wish I could say that life outside that world is better...but it's all still filled with suffering...

As I write this, I am going through the stage of realization that she is actually gone.  As I prepare to see my family (a time I love and have anxiety for at the same time), I keep coming to terms with the fact that my aunt will not be there.  Her smiling face will not greet me at her door.  Her perfume will not engulf me when she gives me the warmest hug I've ever had somebody give to me.  I won't hear her voice quietly commenting on somebody else's story, or sharing it's own (she had one of the quieter voices in her family, and everybody stopped to listen when she began to speak, so that we all heard her fine, calm words).  Although I've been expecting this day for far too long, it is finally here...and she is not...and that is a sad realization to come to.

Sunday, 2 October 2011


Heavy pillows of blood rest on top of my cheekbones, keeping my eyes closed as I lay where my body was flopped on the bed.  My body drained; my mind racing; sleep would be the best cure, but it won't happen...