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

Musing


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 fate...at 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 thought...it 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: www.foodmatters.tv . 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

insomnia

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...

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Sleeping Beauty (Uncensored)

As another year closes in on me, I find myself nowhere closer to solving the Crisis, but in a much better position to continue life as if it always will be the Crisis.  As such, I am working on an entry to commemorate this section of my journey thus far.  It is a collection, of sorts, of lessons learned this year.


 

Hopefully that post will actually be created!  I find myself entirely scattered right now, and unable to believe that my birthday is but three days away.  At this moment, though, I am inspired to write through a theme that stems from a fundamental lesson I learned about myself this year, specifically as I relate to matters of the heart, the power of our believes to create our reality and my view of life as fate-driven.


 

There are many ways of looking for the meaning of the world. Some look to religion, some look to science, or philosophy. Myself, I look at a myriad of different schools, chose what I like from each (discard the rest) and have created my own meaning for my world. (We all have but one perspective, and each is unique to ourselves.) A major school within my meaning for my world is Astrology. There was a time in my early adult life where I read my horoscope first thing in the morning, took what I found to be true from its fairly generic guidance and enjoyed the rest of my day. After a few weeks of this, I discovered that more and more of my horoscopes were increasing in their accuracy…


 

This year, I have truly come to understand the concept of our ability to create our own reality. Basically, what this means - at the level I implying right now - is that my life began to resemble more and more of the horoscopes because I began to believe that the horoscopes were accurate. I woke up every morning, searching for what the day would bring, read a short blip that could have been applied to anybody's life but that I applied to my own because of the time of year when I was born, and then went through the rest of my day, aware of any situations that would correspond to that blip. Any time I came across a coincidence, my faith in the horoscope grew. I then became more aware of coincidences. I also put myself into more situations that the blips would discuss. My reality is but an interpretation of the life happening in front of me.


 

About two years ago, my mom recommended that I read The Power of Your Subconscious Mind. This year, I have truly come to comprehend its thesis. Of course, you can find similar arguments in other books that began this year in my journey. Louise Hay's You Can Heal Your Life and The Secret are two top ones. Essentially, if you believe strongly enough in something, it is real for you. Hypochondriacs are sick because they focus on a disease that is not there. The argument has several steps between that statement and this, but essentially, your subconscious mind is in control of everything. You are able to communicate to your subconscious mind about a condition within your body (or even your life) and that condition then exists. I do suggest that - if you are lost along this logic – you read The Power of Your Subconscious Mind and then, with a more open mind The Secret. For me, approaching this concept from a drugstore philosophy (The Secret) was not as effective as the powerful arguments laid out in The Power of Your Subconscious Mind.


 

Now that I comprehend this idea, what was happening to me years ago when I read horoscopes does not seem as coincidental. I create my own reality. With that understanding of the world, it is then not a surprise for me to realize that the astrology I read about myself at that time continues to manifest itself in the life of a twenty-something single girl.


 

"While Virgo guy may cling to what vestiges of virginity he might possess, Virgo girl can't seem to give it away. Most men have no inkling that she is actually the Zodiac's most eager beaver. She thus embodies the flip side of virginity: its inherent frustration. She must wait, playing her childish games, until such time as a tall, dark stranger reaches out and grabs, plummeting her into delightful depths of exploring aching, untapped desires. Unaware that true love or lust is best when it finds her, Virgo meanwhile looks for it in all the wrong places. Another seeming contradiction of Virgo, vis-a-vis its Virgin symbol, is the sign's association with midlife, ages 35-42, when a woman is, at once nearing her prime and the end of her fertile years."


 

A Frustrated Virgin at the time of first reading this, I had a much stronger and angrier association with it. Would I be stuck in this sexual purgatory of virginity until 35? The mockery of individuals similar to Steve Carell's character in The Forty-Year-Old Virgin made my anguish that much stronger. In fifteen to twenty years, that would be me! Am I some loser that is unable to interpret social cues and find the utmost joy in life – a relationship, love, and most importantly sex? To this day, I cannot stand any degree of mockery towards socially awkward people or virgins. It is a frustrating position, especially in our sex-obsessed society.


 

My interpretation of the above corresponds well with:


 

"Talk about loaded: Virgo is not only a whole lotta woman physically, she also places tremendous expectations on what another female might simply consider a crush. To most men, she is thus doubly intimidating - especially to the carefree "boys" she seeks to bed, to whom the prospect of a relationship with her is akin to staring into a gaping abyss. First, some of those guys she goes for doubt their ability to sexually satisfy such a zaftig creature. Secondly, because relations seem to be so sacred to her, "entering" a Virgo is like barging into a temple where most men feel unworthy to tread. Of course, being so different, she'd never suspect herself of making others feel insignificant - she'd just read it as rejection and internalize her pain, adding to those churning, burning, yearning feelings deep inside. It mightn't be until years later that Virgo finally appreciates the value of this natural weeding-out process: with lesser men - boys, really - kept at bay, it will be only the most self-assured "grown-up" male who won't be intimidated by this unspeakable force, instead, desiring her for it. Despite Virgo's designation as the Zodiac's empty vessel, she is nonetheless fairly incapable of being objectified by men - she is clearly so much more than a mere trinket. Still, it is particularly difficult for most men to resolve Virgo's double-barrelled aura of saintly sister and sexy mama."


 

Slowly, over the years, I became less frustrated about the entire situation. Using the above passage, I convinced myself that this patience would be worth it. Perhaps, like Sleeping Beauty, I would remain asleep for years until my prince finally arrived to wake me up to the beauty of being in love. Until then, I told myself, being single was not so bad. One night, alone in my room in England, I was able to convince myself that, although only 22, I had had a loving and fulfilled life. If this was all that there was to it, I would be ok as a spinster for the rest of my life.


 

Then, as every love story goes, I met somebody. I fell quite quickly infatuated with him, and he enjoyed my mind, my attention, and my eagerness to accommodate him. Perhaps he fell into infatuation with me as well. Sadly, his infatuation included other women as well and this was not what I could handle at the time. In an attempt to prove my point that this could not work, I ended up injuring myself more than him. Although I pretended that everything was okay, wiped the dirt from skirt, and held my head high as I left that small room, proclaiming once again that the life of a spinster would not be as disastrous as I would have previously thought.


 

Eventually, I healed enough from my injuries to start dating again. This "time away" from further schooling was in fact supposed to be about learning life lessons, not scholarly ones. Dating skills were part of the life lessons. As such, I treated each date as a new lesson learned and gained a wealth of information within the first few months. This portion of my rest for a hundred years (or at least the decade until my sign's turn to shine) would be the playing time. I could go on dates, meet interesting people, and actively observe how people go through these rituals. I was a social scientist, wasn't I?


 

I soon grew bored and starting looking towards school…


 

Then, as every love story goes, I met somebody. He was passionate, and self-made, thought outside of the box, and with one mere question opened up the floodgate to my dreams so that I could begin this last AMAZING year of my journey. For that, I am eternally grateful. He told me to do none of the things I began to do, but merely inspired me to wake up to the life I had wanted to live for the last ten years of my life. In a sense, he could be called my prince. Except that he was not as chivalrous a gentleman that I needed him to be.


 

And so I moved on…eventually. I cut my ties to the emotions he had stirred within me and reaped an immense freedom in sharing that with others. In a sense, he cured me of many of the ailments my initial slumber had only worsened. On the other hand, he brought to the surface the fact that I do possess a "natural weeding-out process." And so, I sit, a Sleeping Beauty hidden in the brambles, awaiting the true knight who will come and rescue me from this life so mundane and love-less.


 

Last weekend, I expressed my utter joy in the prospect of turning older. I believe that I am one of the few, if not the only woman in her twenties that is excited about her thirties. Of course, this doesn't mean that I won't enjoy my youth, pretend to already be older, or even act my real age half of the time. While many of my peers look at 30 as a time for their lives to have already been settled down, careers started and families soon to be had, I don't have many goals that must be completed before I turn the big 3-0. Especially none so dependent on other people, or lucky chances to occur. I look at my 20's as a time to continue to figure out life, gain some experience and meet some great people.


 

"What a great way to age!" most people must think. But that's not really it. I have successfully convinced myself that nothing will actually happen until I have hit "mid-life" (according to my horoscope, but not according to my plans to outlive 100). Until then, I am merely sleeping…and getting better looking every year!


 


 

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Hello, my name is Crazy Girl

"Hello. My name is Crazy Girl.  I'd like you to meet my friend, here.  She's really nice.  No...in fact, she's $%#@in' amazing!  You'd be a moron to pass up the opportunity to get to know her.  I know she's not really that appealing in this moment.  That's 'cause she's letting me make all the decisions right now...and, really, who would ever trust somebody called Crazy Girl?

"You see, she's not usually like this.  It's just, that, well, she kinda sorta likes you. A lot. And, although she knows this is the wrong behaviour to do, she's scared of these emotions boiling under the surface. Last time she had them, bad things happened. People said a lot of things they didn't mean just a few weeks later. Words were thrown around too early; words meant a lot to her back then. Now she's kinda scared of those words. And the emotions that come before those words.

"It's alright. She'll recover.  Trust me, I've seen her go through MUCH worse.  You think you're getting it bad? You should have seen the first guy!  I'd be surprised if he ever even talked to another blonde after I was done with him.  I know he didn't say the same words 'cause I ripped out his tongue.  It just wasn't yet time for that special breed of $@#hole.

"Don't worry.  I've become milder with age, too.  I don't think you're all as stupid as you first let on to be.  And some of you actually seem to get hurt when I get the daggers out!?! Who knew you had emotions? I'll try to be gentle with you.  You're a nice one.  An improvement on the last one... I'm obviously doing my job of protecting this little darling from too many douche bags before one of you morons actually wises up enough to convince her it's okay to be herself.  She's ...well, you'll soon learn how special she is and then I'll disappear for a few weeks.  I wish I didn't have to protect her like this. But if you break her heart like the last one, my job just gets easier!


"Oh, one last thing before we let this all come to pass... You're over the last Crazy Girl you dated, right?  'Cause I can hold off a bit on her baggage, but I don't want to have deal with yours, too.  That's what your Stupid Boy is there for.  Let him come out to play for a little bit... I'd like to get acquainted. If this is gonna be a long-term thing, I better get use to seeing him around.  I've learned that she calls on me shortly around the same time that your little friend appears, too. Hey, and unlike her, I'm usually not the one who's late for the party!  Call on him whenever you smell me coming... No offence, but he's probably cuter anyways..."

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Lesson: Patience

I explained the virtues of Friends to an age appropriate friend this afternoon.  Although conceivably difficult to imagine, I don't recall having explained these virtues before.  Let me take a moment now to rehash my explanation...

Those of us currently in our 20s have more than likely seen Friends enough through syndication to feel we know their stories inside and out. (Like my friend today insisted.) When you watch it from Season One to Season Ten, however, there are many lessons to learn from the characters as they matured through such an important part of everyone's life: their twenties.

Ah, the twenties!  The seeedbed of the Quarter Life Crisis.  (I find it odd that after three odd years of keeping this blog, I've never wiki'd the term.  It's quite interesting and applicable: read more here.)  After discovering those first few layers of the onion through adolescence, it is now time for the individual to meet the "Real World."  In doing so, more layers of that onion are revealed, .... and crisis ensues.

Friends begins with the six main characters all having established lives, faced with their own struggle to overcome.  There is the recently divorced palaeontologist, the romantically-challenged sexually-liberated sous chef, the new age aura-cleansing massage therapist (who doesn't really struggle until further in the series), the data processing wizzard who wishes he had a calling (but doesn't find it until nearly the last season), the actor (struggling is inevitably implied) and the girl who arrives, soaked from the rain, in a wedding dress.  This girl - Rachel Green - is the most screwed up, but becomes the most sophisticated, put-together character by the end of it all.  She is often the example I use in my head to know that things will get better.  Life will start to go in my favour.  This crisis, too, shall pass.

The series begins with the characters all approximately my age and completely lost.  It concludes, ten years later, with their lives more figured out, many tears shed along the way, but many many more laughs.  This, I believe is not only why I love this show, but why it did so well.  Although I am often laughed at for referring to my "Quarter Life Crisis," it does too exist.  It is easy to dismiss it as "your twenties" but the labelling of a crisis is always much more dramatic (and I do love the Drama of it all).

When I hit my low points, I put season one into the DVD player, and begin watching.  Occasionally I'll skip several episodes and go directly to The One with The Magic Beans (not the real title).  Rachel has only just begun to figure out how to serve coffee (but failing miserably at it, still) when her friends from her last life appear.  The "catching up" visit is cut short when they ask her: "so, when are you gonna give this up and come on home?"  Almost immediately, she realizes how much she gave up to pursue her true calling and it terrifies her.  She comes home to Monica and Phoebe having a margarita-infused slumber party, grabs the recently blended alcoholic beverage still in the blender, and begins to vent about her bad luck.  Within mere minutes, all three are depressed, feel completely lost in their life journey, and have no idea where they will end up.  THIS is a Quarter Life Crisis moment.

The beauty of television shows is that everything gets wrapped up within a 22-minute time-slot.  Of course, their hopes are not restored.  Phoebe's suggestion that Rachel is like Jack, who traded his cow (the life he loved) for some magic beans) fails to reassure all three young women with the despair that Rachel's crisis has created.  But, the seed (pardon the pun) had been planted.  They bond, as women do on tv, by watching (from their infamous balcony) a sexy politician take home a date. Stories of failed relationships, the possibility of dating their male friends, and regular chit-chat improve all of their moods and they are able to move pass this crisis test.  The next day, on the phone with the credit card company, Rachel has found her confidence once again and tells the company, watching her new friends play Twister and enjoy life, that everything is just fine, she's found her Magic Beans...

And that is not far from reality.  We cannot solve our problems by dwelling on them.  Venting about them is fine.  We allow others to know our grief, but then we must move on, trusting that everything will work out in the end.

What is far from reality is the time in which everything gets resolved.  For weeks, I have been waiting for my current dilemma to resolve itself.  I have meditated.  I have brainstormed solutions. I have sought advice from my friends.  But nothing has truly seemed to go in my favour until this week.  Things are starting to come together.  The universe shines in my favour once again.  And I am almost ready to tell the credit card company that "everything is okay.  I've found my Magic Beans."  Not yet, though.  There are still many things left to worry about.  Many other things to put into place.  Much work is left to do.  And trust me that the episode in which this all gets resolved has lasted much longer than 22 minutes!

Isn't that beautiful, though?

I remember when I used to watch television shows on a television network rather than on DVDs.  The show began, I was entertained for a half hour (with breaks), and then it was over for another week.  With DVDs, every evening I can sit down and watch a full year's worth of those short entertainments. Having to wait to find out what happens is no longer a problem.  But, I have missed out on a lot of those characters development.  To condense a week into 22 minutes is quite difficult.

Life shouldn't be condensed that way.  Those afternoons we spend sitting in the sunshine would have been editted out of any sitcom.  That run of customers we chatted with about the run we were doing in a few months time would have been shortened into a four sentence quip about curious minds while sharing my day in the coffee shop with my friends.  Those are precious moments, often eliminated from fiction for the purpose of flow.  And, I should be okay with that...

And one day, I will be.  One day, I'll be patient, look back and know that I got out of that last crisis, I'm sure I can get out of this crisis, too....

Monday, 9 May 2011

A Little Bit of...Writer's Encouragement from the Past

I'm currently packing up all my things (once again) and moving across town.  The most beneficial part of packing, I find is going through all of the "stuff" I have accumulated over the years and rationalizing whether or not I really need to keep it.  As a historian - or so I've made this point before - I have difficulty parting with the media of my past.  Yes, you may call me a hoarder for that!  But, I don't think there's much wrong with being nostalgic for certain things from our past.  A prime example of this is my writing assignments from elementary and junior high.  As I sorted through a three-ring binder filled with schoolwork circa 1990-2001, I realized that I truly had talent as a young writer.  Where it went, I am currently on the search for...

I have a shady memory. Discussing a recent weekend, a friend asked if I had truly been drunk enough to blackout.  "No, I never blackout," I told her.  "But I have a bad memory as it is...and sometimes I chose not to remember a lot of what has happened, whether or sober or not." I feel this applies to my childhood quite profoundly.  Thus the necessity for continuing to keep so much more of the artwork from that time of my life.  The rest of the memories - the people, the places, the situations, embarassing moments - can be forgotten, reminisced over with the friends those people have become in my life, again, revisitted, and re-friended based on who they are now rather than who they were back then.

I do have a fairly functional memory for songs, though, and this is one that always makes me tap my foot.  In grade nine, I wrote a report drugs and Hollywood.  Like many blossoming teenagers in small towns with nothing else to do, I was obsessed with learning as much as I could about show biz.  As I became more involved with doing too many other things with my life, this obsession faded.  This song marks the hallmark of my obsession with Hollywood.  It was re-worded from Lou Bega's hit at the time: Mambo No. 5 (A Little Bit of...).  Whenever I hear the song today, I am taken back to the Health classroom (our junior high theatre), half of the girls in my grade nine year (as we had to be separated for Health/Gym class at that age) and the accolades I received for standing in front of them all, just singing as best as I terribly could.  I was like Weird Al Yankovic, but way way cooler ;-) ... and he was pretty cool back then!

Several months ago - perhaps even years - I tried to find the version of the song that I had written.  It was only tonight, looking through an old old box that I finally found it!  So, I thought I would share it...

I really hope you remember how this song goes.  If not, open this link in a separate window and read the lyrics to the rhythm...

Mambo No. 5 (A Little Bit of...)


One, two, three, four, five
Every one in show biz, says "Let's get high!"
Get the time, on probation, it's all right
Tool man says he got some if you want it
But really don't wanna
Big bust like he did in seventy eight
He must stay clean 'cause cops are keen
Just like Dreyfuss, Downey, Demi and Rio
And as I continue, you know they're getting stronger
So what do they do, I really beg you, my Lord
To them smokin' is part of a role
Any deal does, it's all good, let them dunk it
If they want it with a crumpet...

A little bit of cocaine in their life
A litte bit of heroine by their side
A litte bit of alcohol is all they need
A litte bit of drugs is what I see
A litte bit of smokin' in the sun
A litte bit of parties all night long
A litte bit of death, here I am
A litte bit of drugs makes you their man

Rain Pryor was a druggie and now helps teens
Demi in the eighties wasn't keen
Recently the same is Charlie Sheen
Ben Afleck's dad and Rachel Leigh Cook
Get the message across without being shook
Clap your hands once and clap your hands twice
'Cause it looks like some peeps are doin' it right

A little bit of River lost his life
A little bit of Belushi on the other side
A litte bit of Bowie got all he'd need
A litte bit of Feldman in the nineties
A litte bit of Freddie's dad is gone
A litte bit of Presley and his songs
A litte bit of Barrymore and her dad
A litte bit of help keeps it a fad.

Some do all to keep away from drugs - P.U.!
They can't run and they can't hide
Most celebs just wanna touch the sky!

A little bit of Elvis in my life
A little bit of Corey by my side
A litte bit of Phoenix is all I need
A litte bit of Charlie is what I see
A litte bit of Rob Lowe in the sun
A litte bit of Farley all night long
A litte bit of David Bowie, here I am
A litte bit of drugs give lessons to them all.

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Juggling

"Five jobs?"
"Yep."
"Five?!?"
"Yeah, still hasn't changed."
"How do you do it?"
"Oh, well, you know, I like to keep several balls in the air, switching from one thing to the next as often as I can. It helps inspire me ..."

BULL$#%&!

This is my life right now.  A few months ago, I actually took the time to count how many different forms of employment I was keeping and realized that it was legitimately five.  Three of them are working independently for myself, which I call the "soul jobs"; one of them is no longer in the picture; and the fifth is a laid back serving gig that brings me into contact with a lot of interesting individuals who are helping me grow and become a stronger artist.  Sadly, that growth becomes addictive, the lure of the actual paycheques keeps me focused on only the money-making jobs, and my real ticket out of this life of juggling gets lost beneath a desk overflowing with papers from the "In" basket.

I came home tonight with the thought of starting to pack - a moving-into-a-cheaper-place chore my lack of a genuine income produces - but ended up baking for a fundraiser tomorrow: just another "growth" task I've decided to take on! As I finished washing the dishes from that task, I realized what I'm doing to myself...I'm procrastinating my way into failing as a writer!?!

So, instead of turning on some music to numb my soul while I begin the arduous, yet enjoyable task of sorting through my things and preparing to start a new life again, I opened up the laptop, typed away at the keys and put in a half hour's work at job five of five.  One day, I know, that will be job number one...but until then, I just gotta keep writing.  Even if it means putting down the other four balls for a moment to catch my breathe.

Friday, 15 April 2011

Purpose: Joy

I sit at my computer, watching an inspirational vlog from one of my mentors, with my cat sitting in my lap.  I absent-mindedly stroke his back as I soak in the information from my computer.  As the vlog comes to a close, I realize that he's quietly purring like mad, and probably has been the whole time.  I wasn't even thinking about the exchange we were doing: him comforting me by warming my lap and keeping me company while I worked; me comforting him through stroking his soft fur.  The experience was a simple exchange of love between animal and human - two beings who have found themselves together, found themselves in love with one another, and easily enjoying each other's comfort.  Few relationships in my life have existed like this until now, so it is important for me to reflect on the simplicity of it all.



Jito (heat-o, short for "Naranjito," meaning "little orange one" in spanish)
finds a new place to sleep, on an empty shelf in my closet.
Why do cats have soft fur?  Biologically speaking - as a non-biologist - there is no good reason for a cat to have soft fur.  Logically speaking, it is because they groom themselves whenever they have a chance, and their saliva makes their fur softer.  But why?  What purpose does it serve?

Having studied the history of sexuality and sexology, I have come across several sexologist experiments trying to explain this very thing in relation to orgasms, pleasure and sexual acts.  About a hundred to fifty years ago, modern sexologists were preoccupied with explaining female orgasms.  On a reproductive matter, it doesn't matter; although, for centuries, the people who we would now call sexologists - and society as a whole - believed female orgasm was necessary for conception.  After the Victorian period, and the making innocent of female sexuality (which began prior to the Victorians), female pleasure became less important, but babies were still born!  How could this be?!? dead scholars would have thought.  Once people began to recognize, once again, that women could enjoy sex as much as men, the real pursuit of trying to understand this began.  At least, as far as the modern history is concerned. (I'm not trying to deny that people were probably puzzled by many of the same things that puzzle us now, I'm just not sure of the extent of preoccupation that less modern individuals concerned themselves with these things as I have not look as indepthly into the area of history of sexuality, which is a shame in itself.)

Do we really need to have a reason for joy, though?  Or pleasure?  Do we have to understand the benefits of happiness more than the fact that it is a great emotion?  I know that I pursue happiness, pleasure, joy, and all those other positive emotions on a daily basis.  I pursue them to the extent that my greatest grievance is pessimistic people. (If you are pessimistic, at least be sarcastic, so that I can continue to enjoy your presence, please.)  Does this make me a better person than those who do not?  Maybe.  I don't really care, any more.  You can call me selfish if that makes you feel better about my apathy towards being measured successful based on popularity, wealth, or even health.  I know that those three are also important things to have in your life, but all of them mean nothing if I'm not first of all happy with who I am, where I am, and what I'm doing.  Who needs wealth if you're miserable all of the time?


Jito's favourite box to hide in for a few months was my laptop case. 
I'll never really understand why...



 
So, why do I live with a cat?  He doesn't catch the mice in my building, as I live on the eighteenth floor. (And, as our last adventure outside proved, I'm pretty sure he can't catch something unless it comes from a can, anyways.) He won't protect me from house invaders, although he does attack the feet of the dates I bring home that turn out to not be worth my time nor energy. His version of helping me prepare meals involves hiding in the cupboards whose doors I acidentally leave open.  And he likes to think of cleaning as a game of "catch the broom" rather than a chore that must be done weekly (or monthly as it has become - I know: disgusting!).  His mere presence in my life is to bring joy to it, and this stumps many people.  My veganism tends to stump the same people, though.


Jito's attempt at "gardening" when I left him alone all day. 
Needless to say, we don't try to grow cat nip anymore....

As a vegan for animal rights issues, I struggled at first with the notion of "owning" a pet.  To appease myself, I never refer to myself as his owner, because I am not.  He was never purchased, nor bred, for my amusement. I care for him and provide for his food, healthcare and housing.  He pays me back with cuddles, when he wants to cuddle, games of "chase me" or "chase the laser" when I feel I should be working, and the constant reminder of why I could never eat another animal again.  He is my constant reminder of why I devote my life to activism to animals and not humans.  He has no voice that other people hear.  He communicates to me in ways that even other animal lovers think are strange, but which I understand.  We have a special bond, and nobody could ever come between that.  You can call me the "crazy cat lady" if you want; I can handle it.  If I had to spend the rest of my life only with him, I won't deny that I would be lonely, but I would still be happy.  He brings me joy.  And that's all I need.  That, and undying love.

I remember the first day I met home and held me in his arms.  He cried at first because this was a new experience.  Within five minutes, though, he had snuggled into my belly and made himself at home.  We fight and argue about the most insignificant of things (like biting my ankles, cleaning out the kitty litter, biting my books, or feeding him the good food), but we always go back to that first day, and the first cuddle, and I know exactly why he's here.  Some people search for the perfect breed, the cutest kitten, or the animal they'll most save.  I didn't search for Jito, but we were always meant to be together.  Like a parent with their child, my love is undying and my obsession with him baffling to those who have never been in the same situation.  Unlike a parent with the child, our life spans differ, and I know this fact every single day.  And the saddest thing to ever think about is the day he'll die before me...

Jito, as a kitten, tiring of the photo session and just wanting to cuddle...
That's a lot of pessimism, though, so I'll hide it under the bed.  For now, I plan to just enjoy our time together - the good, the bad, and the ugly cuts he makes on my arm.  Yes, I live with a cat; and I think radical thoughts about the relationship I have with another species.  That's who I am.  It means I have a huge capacity for love, a great openness to ideas outside of the box, and a wonderful understanding of the simple pleasures of joy.  If only every one could live with the purpose of finding that joy, we might all be a little bit happier.

Also, I think cats have soft fur merely so that humans will enjoy petting them more.  They are companion animals, aren't they?
Watching the world go by from the top of his penthouse, overlooking my living room window. 
From here he watches the "ants" of students on their way to school, work, or just out for a casual stroll. 
He likes watching the world go by in front of him...

Thursday, 7 April 2011

Pass It On

I'm here.  I'm a hippy.  Get Used To IT!

I had a friend ask me the other night if I could possibly do something not because it was different.  He was mocking me, of course, for the helter skelter explanation I gave for chopping off my hair because my other sisters were growing theirs out.  This was not the first time I had been asked this question before, and I know it won't be the last.  Many people think I do things JUST to be different, but that's not the case. Always...

Last night I defended my dietary and lifestyle choice of veganism to my parents.  Again.  After seven years, my family is finally coming to accept this single act of rebellion from my teenage years as my life, not a phase.  As I provided rough statistics, dietary study findings and other "health" reasons to justify my diet (I'm pretty sure that this is not a common conversation between mid-twenty-somethings and their parents, but it seems to be an ongoing topic for myself), we got on to the topic of debates.  Somehow, it was brought up that information from both sides (pro- and anti- vegan, more often related to a compassionate lifestyle than not OR pro- and anti- mainstream, which currently suffers from a multitude of health problems that even mainstream advocates are relating back to nutrition) should be used in the discussion and decision of a healthy diet.  My strongest comment on the discussion was that "when you're trying to shift a paradigm, sometimes you have to stand on your side of the fulcrum and use every scrap of an anomaly against the mainstream in order to shine light on the fact that it's not the only thing out there. Then, slowly, people will move closer to your side of the scale, so you don't have to shout as much."

Luckily, for my friends and family, I am different.  I won't go with the crowd just because it's there.  I'll watch the crowd, be fascinated by it, analyze it to bits and pieces (which used to cause massive anxiety problems), but have never really felt a part of it.  Now that I've realized this, I'm using this "Gift" to create a world where I'm not different, but I'm a leader.

I have a huge heart.  I care too much for others, and struggle to balance out my care for myself.  I've used this before as a "weakness" in a job interview.  I throw myself passionately into so much else, and have struggled to comprehend why other people can't.  It is my "Gift."  I feel like it's the reason that I'm here. 

My sister told me once, in high school, that I was going to change the world.  It took some time, but eventually I began to believe her, and I know that my great strength in compassion for those without voices, passion for causes without mainstream backing, and my ability to analyze rather than participate in the paradigm is how I'm going to do it.

As such.... It's beautifully sunny out here today, my bike needs a good tune-up.  Searching for the available times at my local bike shop, I stumbled upon this lovely video while planning out my afternoon.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I have:

If I Ride

Thursday, 31 March 2011

Just One More Distraction...

This blog is supposed to be about finding one's self among the plethora of options available to our generation.  Of all the things that I am passionate about, which one am I meant to be doing?  Not necessarily which one will pay me to survive...but that does always help.

Somehow, though, my blog has become about love and romance.  I feel bad.  Romantic woes have become a distraction from my search for a living, like so many other things in my life.  I feel pressure to find my purpose.  To find my way. To work towards improving my financial situation through something that I am passionate about. ... until it hit me this morning.

Last fall, my last "begining," I fell into a relationship.  It allowed me to realize my path - the next chapter of my life - and I felt empowered to make drastic changes for my happiness, and my health.  Did he "complete" me?  No.  He inspired me.  He empowered me.  Knowing there was some one there who supported me however much I was about to screw up my life allowed me to let go of my fears, forget the "what if"s and start pouring my work ethic into something that I actually loved.

And then he broke my heart. ... Or I let my heart get broken, however you want to see it.

This week, I had lunch with an older, wiser friend.  I brought up the topic of relationships and my anger with this concept that women are brainwashed into needing to be "rescued" by love.  She shown a great light on this concept for me.  It's not that women aren't strong enough to save themselves, but they're so busy solving the day-to-day problems, taking care of life's smaller details and rescuing the children (or people in this state) that they can't rescue themselves.  This is why women desire somebody not to "rescue" them, but to protect them from the larger threats out there, such as bankruptcy, homelessness, or loneliness.  This is why we really don't want to go through life alone.

So, here I am.... following what I love without that one protective person beneath me, encouraging and supporting me to follow my dreams.  Instead, I have many people offering their words of encouragement, belief in the fact that I can do it, and room to let me make my mistakes, fumble around for a few months, few years, or however long this is going to take... By then, I'll probably be so toughened by the world, that I won't need the protection...but it might be nice to cuddle...

Saturday, 26 March 2011

Give Love A Chance...

I began listening to Bright Eyes again this week, and found myself listening to random youtube videos of his. This was among the mix I was using for background music while working on writing today. It made me cry in the first minute...it's just that good!



What I really love about the video is the first conversation between the two passengers. There are complete strangers until they realize that they are both about to die... Why can't we truly live like we are about to die? Try it - for even just a day - at least in the aspect of loving that stranger next to you, whether its on the bus, the street, or waiting in line for something you can't stand waiting much longer for! Give love a chance!

Friday, 18 March 2011

Little Red Riding Hood

The latter half of my university career continues to have a major impact on my life.  I believe the upper level years of university should be formative for anyone with a degree.  The upper level courses take you from a level of understanding to a level of thinking for yourself.  Looking back on it, I feel as if I didn't quite understand how to do this at that point, but the seeds were planted then.  Now, I can look back at many of the seeds planted by professors, my reading, and even my choices in courses taken to understand life on a deeper level.

One of the courses I randomly took was Children's Literature.  Some friends from my program thoroughly enjoyed children's literature and would often refer to books from their childhood as "high-art" books.  As I had never read most of them growing up, I felt left out, and like I would gain something from reading them even as an adult.  And so, I took a Children's Lit class hoping to gain a better childhood... It didn't change what happened to me as a child, but it did help me understand my world at the time.  For my first example, let's take Little Red Riding Hood, a classic fairy-tale derived from the oral Story of a Grandmother:

There was once a woman who had some bread, and she said to her daughter: "You are going to carry a hot loaf and a bottle of milk to your grandmother."
The little girl departed.  At the crossroads she met the bzou, who said to her: "Where are you going?
I'm taking a hot loaf and a bottle of milk to my grandmother."
"What road are you taking," said the bzou, "the Needles Road or the Pins Road?"...

Thus began my own journey to Grandmother's House...

The most popular (and feminist) analysis of this oral tale revolves around these two paths.  It is assumed that this path represents a woman's maturity.  During the popularity of this tale, it was customary for young women to spend a year working for a seamstress.  Although cloaked as a year of apprenticeship, the intention was more for refining one's self, or "maturing." Just another name for a Quarter Life Crisis?  Of course, if it were a real apprenticeship, the woman would find herself sewing clothes for the rest of her life, which always sounds like a dream come true! If the woman was business oriented, of course, this would have been.  And, during this time, "business oriented" meant that you would spend the rest of your life as a spinster. This time of "maturing" is represented by the path of the Pins, objects the young women would spend their time collecting as apprentices.  The other path, that of Needles, is suggestive of Prostitution.  In many European areas, during the height of this tale's popularity, prostitutes would wear a needle on their blouse to indicate their profession.

Despite the last hundred and fifty years, I have found that these two paths for women have not changed that much.  We may be able to run companies, fly planes, stay at home with our children, or choose whatever career we want, but we still have to fit in one of two sexual categories: spinster or prostitute.

So, what's wrong with being a spinster?

Hmmm...now, let me think: 
  • The occasional case of the Lonelies: a dipildating disorder often accompanied with depression, the drinking of red wine, alone, in your apartment, while searching through the most recent on-line dating service to catch your attention.
  • The constant feeling of inadequacy because you don't begin every story with "we," "my boyfriend says," or "while waiting for ____ to get home..."
  • Quietly grinding your teeth in agony when people laugh at the movie, "40-Year-Old Virgin" as you fear you may awkwardly become one.
  • Having new friends look at you in awe when you reveal your curse of singledom since "You're so outgoing! How did that happen?"
  • Feeling ridiculous about beginning every story with "my cat," although he's the only male who has the capacity to love you (...because you feed him and he has to).
  • Cheating at the "Have You Ever" game so that people don't realize you really are that innocent...and still being the most sober person at the end of the night...
  • And above all that, despite the short flings you've had with random men over the years, a friend mistakes you for a lesbian and you begin to believe that's why your relationships have never lasted longer than a month... You then begin to regale her with tales of your most recent heterosexual "conquests."
Oh, now, wait...that last one is not really the life of a "spinster." Having short meaningless relationships with men does not mean a woman will end up alone for the rest of her life.  No, not at all.  In fact, it means she fits on the other path.  She's a slut!

What's wrong with being a slut?
  • Winning the "Have You Ever" drinking game...even by ignoring the few items brought up because "what you don't remember, didn't really happen." 
  • The nickname of "BJ" for all the work you do in the men's washroom...and never being able to wear pigtails again.
  • Having the condom fall out in the hostel's communal washroom and trying to remember the man's first name, let alone hoping to find his phone number.
  • Your best friend from high school looks you up on Facebook after spotting you on the latest edition of "Girls Gone Wild." 
  • Being drugged by a friend of a friend because you wore a mini-skirt to the party when everybody else was wearing jeans.  Believing that you deserved it: "It's not rape if you giggle..."
  • Knowing that the scariest thing to come from a one-night-stand is not a pregnancy, but allowing your coworkers to believe that's why you need to leave before the clinic closes for the night...
Is this really where the Sexual Revolution got us?  Option A: miserable and alone. Option B: abused and diseased? Yes, in the World of Pessimism.  I've only provided one side of the story.  Can't these two options have their silver linings?  Maybe...

Being A Slut Is Not That Bad...

Have you ever watched Sex and The City (SATC)? If not...well, do me a favour and watch an episode of it.  Here you will find the BEST example of a sexually confident woman, Samantha Jones.  And, despite Ariel Levy's rant against Girls Gone Wild, this ideal of a sexual confident woman existed BEFORE the show gained its notoriety for allowing women to expose their bare chests in order to win a free T-shirt.  In fact, I have a memory from grade school (of all places) where we discussed the loss of one's "V-card" based on how an older girl walked.  Later, I would realize that losing one's virginity does not change one's posture.  Being confident with one's body, on the other hand, does.  Are the two intrinsically linked?

Being A Spinster Ain't That Bad Either...

No.  Confidence is superfluous to sexual activity...or maybe that's the other way around.  Just think about those women you know who are so very focused on their careers.  Climbing to the top of the company has had NOTHING to do with their level of sexual activity.  That's right - smart women don't have to sleep their way to the top.  And that young woman "saving herself" for marriage has some of the most amazing confidence I've seen in somebody that young!  People mock them, people judge them, but spinsters by choice are the most wonderful peopl I know...if only because they never seem to get all wrapped up in this whole concept of the two different paths laid out in front of us.

So?

A few weeks ago, on a similarly sunny afternoon, I found myself reading old women's magazines in a library I used to frequent during the beginning of this Crisis.  I'm not even sure what it was I was looking for, but what I found was one of the most helpful articles I have ever found in a women's magazine.  And I've read a lot of magazines since university - specifically searching for the kind of inspiration and confidence that this article was able to provide me.

The writer went through her own journey through the troublesome "single" twenties...and thirties.  Her embarassment came from always having to tell new dates how long her last serious relationship had been, rather than the non-existence of one.  She went through stacks of books on "how to catch 'the one,'" be the "perfect girlfriend," or even just how to "pick up men."  All of them said the same thing: change yourself - be perfect - and he'll find you.  "Bullpucky!" she said.  Many of her friends in relationships were complete and utter messes, yet they'd found somebody to spend the rest of their disastrous lives with.  How? She realized they had just been lucky.  It had been magic that finally worked for her friends...not some miracel book, cream, or a set of rules that they had followed...

So, she waited.  She focussed on her career, and her life, and may not have made herself "perfect," but was happy enough with who she was, as most women in their forties finally become.  And then "magic" happened.  She started dating a divorcee who eventually asked the inevitable question, "how long since your last long-term relationship?"  Her response of the last fifteen years of dating disasters did not scare this "magical" man awy... "Hmmm, their bad luck, I guess, and my good luck..."

And Other Fairy Tales We Create For Ourselves....

So, it's not the girls of the 21st century who need the fairy tale stories anymore, but the single women.  Here we are in a society where the average age of one's first marriage is 27 and we begin to worry about getting there by 19.  We need all the stories of "magic" to get us through those next eight to twenty years if we have any hope of remaining sane throughout it all...

We're not alone, though.  I realize that this whole discussion of heterosexual dating choices has been entirely based on the woman's perspective, but men struggle with it, too.  And that's the real aftermath of the sexual revolution.  We've gotten the vote, we've gotten the position of CEO, and then we threw out the wolf with the big bad heart ("all the more to love you with, my dear") just to avoid ever having to walk down those two paths again.

Maybe that's why I have such a problem with "progress"...

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

The Tenth Donation

There is a lesson in each day...
and somedays many...

"Excuse me!"
The woman in the red shirt keeps walking.
"Excuse me," I try a second time.
My eyes dart around the room, hoping to catch somebody's attention. Nobody is looking in my direction. Noses are in clipboards, conversations are being held, but nobody looks over. I feel a knot forming in my throat.
I catch the flutter of a nurse's shirt out of the corner of my eye. I turn my head quickly. "Excuse me," I try once more and the ice pack on my arm falls into my lap. I grimace at the shock.
Finally, I have help and I begin to explain what I need when her supervisor ends her conversation and rushes to my other side. She makes a quick joke with the nurse, and I begin to cry. I can't hold it back any more. I don't know why the tears are there, but the supervisor assumes it's from the joke. She tells me they do this all the time, she doesn't mean anything by it. I try to tell her its not the joke, but I can't. How can I explain to somebody that I'm crying because I just realized my biggest fear?

I donate blood weekly. If you've ever donated blood, you're probably thinking, "How on earth can you do that? Isn't there a 56-day waiting period between donations." You're right, there is. If you donate whole blood. I donate plasma, which your amazing body has the capacity to replenish every six days.

I was explaining this to a coworker this morning, and her reaction made me smile on the inside. "I stopped donating blood for a few years after a nurse in Vancouver told me that I couldn't get iron from anything other than animal flesh," I explained to her...

I finally decided to try it again this fall, after my last grandparent and my best friend's first grandparent died within two weeks of one another. She felt this overwhelming urge to give back to the community of health-care providers who had been there for her family during the last few weeks of her grandfather's life. We were leaving work one day when the Canadian Blood Services blood drive team stopped us and asked if we wanted to make appointments. We made a date two weeks into the future, and it helped both of us recover from our grief.

The evening that we donated, as I went through my first screening in six years, I was almost scared of the outcome after everything that has happened in my life since then. However, the only phrase used in the screening room that will forever stick out in my mind was "Your blood can be used on babies!"

... As a child, I never had a certain strain of a cold, or flu, or some sort of illness. As such, my blood is code "6201" - without the antibodies to that illness - and can be used on babies, who, in my opinion, need it most. They haven't seen the world, taken their first step, or even learned to talk (or complain!). They might know how to smile; they might cry a lot now, but they'll soon learn how to laugh, and how to play. They're still innocent - they haven't made a single mistake. They need my blood! They need the opportunity to enjoy the beauty of this world.

And, so, I explained to my coworker, "I try to donate once a week. When I get really busy, I make it every two weeks. It's better if I do it every week, though - keep it consistent."

"My respect for you just jumped," she said. "It used to be about here," she held her hand around nose level, "but now it's way up here," her second hand extended above her head.  With that, I smiled, and thanked her. I don't donate to receive praise from other people. It's always nice to leave people in awe, though. I like to think of those moments as my opportunity to inspire them. My life is lived in such a way as to change the world through example, moreso than preaching about how we all need to be better people. I'm not perfect, and I'm upfront with people about that. My self-deprecating humour is what makes me approachable, I think. Alas, this coworker is inspiring to me, so its nice to know that she feels the same way.

I realized, on my way to the clinic, that this week would be my tenth donation. I had forgotten about it over the last week. It came up, once again, as the first nurse took my iron sample. As the centrifuge worked its magic on my iron-rich red blood, she got up from the table and walked away. At first, I began to feel ignored, but soon realized that she was searching through a box of pins, looking for one to give to me. I took it with pride from her as we talked about how quickly these things add up. Small talk about the weather ensued. Today was turning into a fantastically optimistic day, and it was only noon!

The rest of my screening went smoothly, if somewhat delayed. I settled in nicely to my vegan magazines, and made myself cozy in my favourite bed. As per usual, I tried to lower the arm rest to a comfortable position for myself when my first nurse stopped me and lowered it herself. The second nurse came by and made sure I was the right person - I corrected her pronunciation of my name, telling her that I get "Judy" enough that it's okay - and then began to set up the machine. This was my eighth time donating plasma, and so I no longer felt the urge to watch the set-up as I did on my first visit. I continued to settle into my vegan magazine, thinking about which recipe I might want to try out next...

Then my luck changed. Trying to get comfortable with my arm rest, I shifted my weight further back in the bed. "Oh no," the nurse stopped me. "Now I have to sterilize you again!"

With my cuff on, I had become aware of the fact that the arm rest was still too high. When I moved, the cuff touched the centre of my elbow that she had to rub for a minute before inserting the needle.

"Do you mind, if we lowered this arm rest?" I asked as she tightened the cuff around my bicep and searched for another sterility pad.

"I was actually going to raise it," she said. "If it's too low, your shoulder will be too low. Your elbow needs to be supported by the arm rest."

After eight donations with a lower arm rest, I was pretty sure this was not true. She straightened the arm rest so that it was at a slightly better angle for my arm, but still too high. "I can still work on your arm at this height, too," she continued, trying to be chipper about it all.

I avoid confrontations whenever possible.
Lesson Number One - Stand Up For Yourself

The tension between the two of us was such that I didn't want to talk to her any more than necessary. Sadly, she took my silence as an opportunity to eleviate the tension with questions.

"Are you looking for recipes there?"

"Yeah, kinda," I was trying to figure out which Ayurveda type I was, actually.

"So, what do you do?" she continued to interrupt my reading.

"I have about five jobs." I tried to keep my answers short, so that she would get the hint that I didn't want to talk. "But I'm focusing on getting more into writing."

"Oh." She didn't get the hints. "What do you write about?"

"A bunch of things, really. I have some blogs." This was not the right mood for selling my work. And, of all the staff I have talked to at the clinic, she struck me as one who would probably say something insulting about writing or veganism or even a quarter life crisis rather than being genuinely inquisitive, like everybody else.

Now it came time for the needle, and I could politely look away. There are varying opinions on whether it is better to watch the needle going in or not. ( I can't even watch the first nurse prick my finger for the iron sample.) The best needles are the one I never feel, and I thus always compliment the nurses that do this with ease. It makes donating so much easier!

She hesitated. She was concentrating too much on finding the vein. She hit a nerve almost immediately. A surge of pain shot through my arm. After a few of these, though, I've learned that its best to remain calm.

"It's touching a nerve," I told her as calmly as I could through clenched teeth. A blew out the breathe I had been keeping in.

"Oh, okay." She began to panic. "Just hold still." She adjusted the needle a little bit, then stared at the tube that was supposed to be filling with blood. "How's that?"

It still hurt, but I've been through worse pain this week...

I'm training for a 10km run in June right now, and came into some knee pain after Sunday's run - my longest run, yet. Knowing that I had this donation today, I avoided taking any painkillers for the searing pain I felt most of the day on my feet yesterday. Today, the pain had subsided, but I was still limping.

I could deal with a distraction for the next fifteen minutes. "I can handle it."

"Oh, well, I haven't hit the vein yet..."

Luckily, she went over to her supervisor right away. That needle came out, faster than the pain. The supervisor asked if I still wanted to donate. As soon as I agreed to it, she set up my right arm, my writing arm :-( 

I write with my computer; rarely by pen. 
Lesson Number Two - Donate With My Writing Arm

Within mere minutes, I couldn't feel the needle in my right arm, I had an ice pack numbing the pain in my left arm, and a tube of my blood taped to my chest.  The tube was taped in such a way that it was out of the way of the magazine I was still reading, but it reminded me of convicts strapped into electric chairs.  Had I not been trying to restrain myself from telling the nurse that "I told her" that the arm rest needed to be lower - like the one my right arm was now resting on - I would have made some joke about being crucified for reading vegan magazines in Alberta...

I could anticipate the problems of reading while this was happening.  Since I was reading magazines - articles about recipes - I knew that there would be many pages to flip during the next fifteen minutes.  Luckily, the supervisor flipped the current one I was on before setting the timer to five minutes.  At that time, she said, she would take away the ice pack.

This morning, I had a conversation with a fellow writer about my past blog entries.  Like my blogs, we covered everything from veganism to customer service to relationship issues. 

In regards to veg*nism, she painted this picture of society that I really liked.  (I apologise for the summarizing of the conversation.)  There are people in this world who will always live in a box of "this is how the world is and always will be." And then there are those of us who are unable to live in a box of any kind.  Sadly, the best plan of action for those of us on the outside of the box is to just remain quiet, be respectful of the people in the box, and (this is my addition) slowly keep the box moving into the future we want to see around us. 

In regards to customer service, she said that those people who lack respect for those of us in the industry of service have never been there themselves.

This thought ran through my head as I thought about the nurse's reaction to me needing a lower arm rest.  The thing about being a good customer when you're in the customer service industry is that you're also aware of how hard you try to be a good customer.  Having been in the industry of serving others for the last decade, I had sympathy for the nurse.  I didn't know her story.  She probably had a bad back.  Maybe she was having a hard day.  But, I was the one being served.  I was donating my time to save lives while she was giving her career to the same cause.  We were both in the same boat, but she was being paid to be there.  I selfishly feel like that should count for something...

And this brought me to my general reaction to the complaints of serving bad customers.  Yes, it is easy to just say they have never worked in the industry, and therefore don't understand.  But how do they treat their friends?  Their family?  Their doctor?  If they think it's acceptable to be that rude to a stranger?  It's less about having the empathy from having worked in the industry and more about just being a good person. (Can you tell that I dealt with a difficult customer today?  Does my ranting give it away too quickly?)

I am stubborn.
Lesson Number Three - 
Do you want to be "Right" or do you want to be Happy?

I was contemplating all of these things as I sat there, strapped into the bed.  It was bad enough, I thought, to be struggling with my knee, but now I can't even read to pass the time!

And that's when the panic began. That was the thought that started off a tangent in my mind filled with empathy, pain and fear like I've never contemplated.

At first, I tried to reason with myself: This is only temporary.  Many people in hospital beds have to deal with this for days, weeks, sometimes even the rest of their lives.  You are blessed to only be put through this immobility for a short period of ti-

But, what if this wasn't temporary?  What if my busted up knee was the beginning of the end?  Here I was, twenty-five and Finally able to do some of the things that I had never even conceived of doing before - like running!  What if I had to stop now?  What if my progress stopped and I started to slide backwards?  Maybe the reason I feel so driven to donate blood is because one day I'll need!  And the hypochondriac inside of me went berserk!

My Biggest Fear is the Loss of an Independence I Created Myself.
Lesson Number Four -???

I quit crying, eventually. And I never once let them know why I was really crying.  I let them assume that it was the pain.  And it was a pain I was crying about, but not the physical pain.  As I would later explain to a coworker, my health is weakest in my mind.  This helps, though.  And, like the physical health, every month I get a little bit healthier; a little bit stronger.

Ten minutes later, my pint of plasma had been separated out from my blood and I was finished making my donation.  One more nurse came over to help me.  As she cut the tubing that had laid on my chest, she gave me the usual run-down following a donation:

"So, no physical exercise for the next six to eight hours." Looking down at the tissue in my hand and the makeup smeared under my eyes, she went on, in a lighter tone. "No housework for a week.  Definitely no dishes.  And somebody special cooks supper for you tonight."

I smiled at her attempt to make me feel better.  It had worked - I knew my crying was for nothing - and I laughed at myself while resisting the urge to allow any more tears to fall.  If only, I thought, she had read my last blog entry..."

Saturday, 5 March 2011

How To Be Alone, Part Two: How To Be Lonely

I arrived ten minutes before the show began.  The theatre was only half full, with many seats still left in the section furthest from the stage.  I found an empty row, and sat, alone, staring up the aisle of the front section.  With this seat, I had a perfect view of the stage.  Every person who walked up that aisle, though, could see that I was there, by myself, at a concert.

While preparing for the evening, I was concerned about how I would feel in this situation.  It had been seven years since I had last went to a concert by myself.  The situation was much the same.  My favourite band of the time, Barenaked Ladies, was playing in the first city I lived in full-time: Vancouver.  At the time, I had many acquiantances and a few friends, but nobody else was interested in BNL like I was.  Of all the people I invited to come along with me, I was the only one willing to pay $65, as a student, to sit half a mile away from the artists who had kept me sane for the last four years.  Nobody I knew understood how I, the cheapest student they knew, could splurge on such a luxury.  But for me, BNL was worth it.

That was the one and only concert I went to in GM Place.  I arrived early, found my seat and ended up making small talk with the young woman sitting beside me.  Her affection for the band was clearly not the same as mine.  "This is my first concert," I explained. 

"BNL was my first concert, too," she shared, "when I was ten.  They`re more of my parents` favourite band."
It was like an arrow being shot through my ego. This was an exciting night for me.  I should be feeling special, not pathetic.  My older self would have brushed her comment aside and continued to enjoy the night, but my self doubt continued to grow.  There I was, just some country bumpkin, sitting in the largest arena of one of my country's largest cities, and I would never be like them.  I would always be different.  That is the story of my life...

This week, it was a half-choice to be there alone.  I had mentioned the concert to a friend of mine who has similar taste in music.  Our first dinner together, she brought out her entire cd collection, featuring four of the artist's cds.  The most recent dinner we shared together, I had brought up the concert and her interest were peaked.  It was still a month until the concert, but she thought her and her boyfriend could come along. 

"Oh, how my life has changed.  I'm no longer going to events alone, instead I'm going as a third wheel," is what I could have thought.  But I didn't.  I'm happy to be alone, now.  I'm happy to be a third wheel as well.  I enjoy my friends, and their boyfriends, too.  And it no longer makes me feel utterly alone in this world to be a third wheel.

The last time I had come to this theatre, I was with one of my best friends, and we had seen some amazing artists. We had arrived early and grabbed a seat closer to the stage. We could see the sweat on the musicians' foreheads. While enjoying the show, I had spent half the night texting my romantic other half. That was a different night...


I watched as the couples entered the theatre together.  Not only romantic couples, but friendship couples, too.  There were groups of friends.  And groups of couples.  Children, and the older crowd, as well.  The theatre was beginning to fill. 
I had only just bought my tickets that day.  My life right now is left half up to chance, half planned out, or "structured," as another writer put it.  It's working out well for me, and I try not to complain when plans don't turn out.  As I sat, writing frantically before the concert so that I had some work to show for the day, I suddenly remembered that my friend and her boyfriend had wanted to go to the concert with me.  I sent her a quick text, wondering if she remembered the night as well.

An hour later, when I received her text reply, I knew that it was really fate.  I needed to go to this concert alone.  I needed to be able to fully absorb the experience, not worry about other people enjoying it to the same extent as myself.  And, following Julia Cameron's Artist Way, it was my "Artist's Date" for the week.  My friend had to work that night, and so they wouldn't be coming.  I was off to see the show alone.

A blanket of peace covered me as the lights dimmed and the opening act stepped onto stage.  They were pretty amazing, and she was from Edmonton as well.  It must be a real treat to play for a hometown audience after touring over one's country.  We actually understood her remarks about where she grew up and the exact picture she painted of the river valley was fresh in the minds of the people who had seen it earlier that day.

The peace continued to cover me for the next two and half hours.  It spanned intermission, which I spent writing notes to myself in the book I always carry with me, and settled into my bones as the main attraction walked onto stage.  I allowed my mind to wander as I listened, and found myself focusing on the happiness of the moment.

My contentment lasted for the next twenty-two hours.  How amazing was life!  How very precious was every moment we had to appreciate the little things happening in our life?  I was in a good mood, and my good mood was contagious.  It was also exhausting...

I walked into my dark apartment, after a good shift at work, a few drinks during happy hour with my coworker, and some sobering up at the cafe.  "I still have work to do, tonight!" I told them as I downed four shots of espresso, some water and steamed milk.  But I knew I wouldn`t be able to accomplish everything I wanted to get down before falling into a coma for the night.

The espresso helped.  The people in the cafe helped.  I was sober as I looked up the street for the next bus to carry me home.  Although the day was warmer than the one before, I couldn`t walk for the next twenty minutes.  The weariness from my week began to settle in.  And in that weariness, that little shard I keep trying to hide from began to work its way out.  That little shard that made coming home to a dark, empty apartment cluttered with only my things the worst imaginable moment in my life.

This week, I gave advice to a friend on how to be alone.  Not just alone, but okay with being alone.  Content at being alone.  Ironically, this was mere hours before attending the concert by myself - something I was afraid to do on my own.  I did it, though, and even enjoyed my solitude.  I basked in the joy of enjoying something by myself, without any social crutch.  So, how could I, within twenty-four hours have hit this slump of loneliness again?

I fill my life with activities.  I give myself physical tasks to accomplish and structure to fit all of the errands around.  I push myself to accomplish the things I have always wanted to do but was too afraid to do before.  I rattle on and on to colleagues, people I serve at work, and the many friends I have collected.  I encourage only positive talk and flip around the negative comments people around me say.  But, at the end of the day, when all is said and done, is it really enough?  Am I truly happy?  Would I still find joy in solitude if fifty years from now, I came home to a dark apartment, worked for one hour more, then collapsed alone in bed?

Our emotions run the entire spectrum: from utter joy to utter misery.  Isn`t it amazing that within twenty-four hours I could come full circle through that spectrum, and both sides be inspired by the same situation?  And that, dear friends, is how you come to realize that you`re not just alone...you`re lonely...

"I`ve learned that the greater part of our happiness or misery depends on our dispositions and not on our circumstances." - Martha Washington

What`s wrong with being lonely?