The Tetris Lesson in real time

When I was in high school, I had the best shirt ever.

Black, short-sleeved, with an angry fairy on the front. Eat My Dust. It fit me perfectly (both physically and otherwise). Short spiked hair, blazing a trail as an active martial artist and truly not giving a fuck who thought what of me. I was fearless and fierce, and I loved that shirt.

I loved that shirt. I have no idea what happened to it, but I wish I still had it. I’d make a pillow out of it.

Because. Ridiculously.

I’m being bullied again.

I have to face a pack of bullies. Every. Single. Day.

And I’m sitting here, with tears held in my throat, ignoring the bullies. Like I always have. These tears won’t leave until I get home (edit: They left on my drive home. Crying in traffic sucks.) I won’t give them the satisfaction of seeing the effect they are having on me. I find it slightly ironic that it’s been a full 20 years since this all happened. Like, are you all fucking kidding me? Don’t you have something better to do than NOT invite me to things? Or pretending that you can’t hear me when I’m speaking to you? Or sitting with your back to me so that I’m physically excluded from a group conversation?

Truthfully, all I really want to do is go home, have a glass of wine, watch a sad movie, and cry myself to sleep. I really want that right now. I want someone to rub my back as I cry, and I just want to cry until my makeup is gone and I’m empty so I can be brave and make myself face it again tomorrow. Even as I’m sitting here. Safe on my couch. I just want to cry.

However. As Mick said, you can’t always get what you want. And I have a curling game tonight so. There will be no crying. There’s no crying in curling. I’m sure I read that rule somewhere.

On days like today, days where my banged-up little heart just wants to be loved and accepted, I try to remind myself that I’m fabulous. That I might not fit everywhere, but I have the ability to move (because I am not a tree!!) and I can move as far and as often as I like. True, this can be seen as “wherever you go, there you are”, but it also serves a higher purpose.

Mainly, I like being happy, and being actively bullied makes me very sad. If I have the ability to remove the things or people that are making me sad, I’m going to do so. I get to choose. And, even though it makes me very sad, I’m still going to try to Because, let’s be real.

tetris

I’m trying my very hardest to rise over this. I’m trying to remember that I’m not everyone’s cup of tea, but I’d rather be someone’s shot of tequila. I’m trying to focus on the fact that I am a kind person by nature, and my kindness won’t go anywhere, and that I’ll always strive to be kind to everyone. That I’m unusual and varied and sweet and have moments of darkness and longing for acceptance and love, but I’m not ever going to fit in everywhere (but where I do fit in, boy do I fit!). And today (no matter how much I’d like to not be on the receiving end of bullying and that I’d definitely love a glass of wine and a huge cry and cuddles) I’m very sad… but tomorrow is a better day. 

Fuck bullies. 

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Love letters 

Many years ago, I sat on the edge of a cement wall next to the Sydney Opera House and wrote a postcard to myself.

To step back – I left Canada with a very banged up, very scared little heart. My boyfriend of 1.5 years had been cheating on me for over a year. I had never traveled alone before. I had never carried a backpack as far as I was going to. I was afraid of a lot – heights, water, sharks, big bugs, being let down after over 15 years of planning – but I did what my parents taught me to do and packed my bags and did it anyway.

It ended up being one of the most important things I’ve ever done. It still doesn’t feel like it’s been (spoiler, holy fuck time flies) 10 years since I moved back to Canada. I remember the utter terror and excitement of landing in Auckland, and I remember feeling elated when I extended the trip by moving to Perth. I got over my fear of heights by being tied to a bridge and leaping off, I got over my fear of bugs by swagging in the desert, I conquered my fear of sharks and water at the same time by learning to dive. Suffice to say that my coming back to Canada made me feel like a completely different person – one that I became genuinely afraid to lose.

I didn’t want to be the scared girl in the corner any longer. I wanted to remember the feeling of being able to conquer anything I set my mind to, the true joy of being a brave person. So, on the last day of my journey, I wrote a letter to myself, reminding me of what I had accomplished and how powerful I really was.

To honour that, and to say goodbye to the shit year that was 2016, and to joyously welcome 2017….

Dear N.

You beautiful, wonderful, astounding creature.

You made it. You’re officially on the other side of the worst year of your life. There were moments where you laid down, little girl, and you almost didn’t (or couldn’t) get back up. There were moments where you thought it was over – when the failures and the broken heart and the turmoil almost broke you forever. When you raised your voice and started screaming to wound the people closest to you. When you cried until your eyes swelled shut and you didn’t have tears anymore but you kept crying anyway.

Baby, you made it.

And not only did you make it, you made it healthier than you have been in YEARS. You have learned more about yourself this year than any year before – how to deal with your emotions, how to meditate best for you, what you need to keep yourself healthy – and you have healed so many of the hurts. After finally turning to see yourself, you saw what needed fixing. And you fixed it. You’re still a bit of a chubby panda, but you finally even fell in love with those curves and accepted every single inch. 

Hell. You didn’t even see the freckles under your eyes until this year. How lovely is that? You can hold crazy yoga poses and walk forever and lift weights and rock climb- maybe you aren’t the beauty specific, but you’re a smoke show, traffic stopping babe nevertheless. You even stopped believing in love for awhile- how crazy is it that the best, sexiest, and most fulfilling relationship you’ve ever had is with your beautiful self? Even crazier- why did it take you so long? 

There is a lot of mystery surrounding your life right now. Things are in a holding pattern right now, and you are usually way more prepared (ahem, you anal planner you, ahem) than this. But you know what? You fell down HARD this summer. You failed the worst you literally ever have. But you know what, babe? You’ve been into the darkness. You can’t be afraid anymore, because you’ve seen the other side. So embrace this mystery, the unknown. Your path is leading you precisely where you need to go. Keep loving fiercely and keep volunteering and keep laughing and drinking green smoothies. Keep crying at movies and keep praying and meditating and working your ass off. 

You have everything you need. 

Keep moving forward, you stunning goddess. 

With so much love and joy and respect,

N

I need your help.

Mahatma Gandi apparently said, “You must be the change you want to see in the world”. Cheesy, I know. Also misquoted (hilarious, especially coming from someone who thinks misquoting and taking things out of context is funny – I’m looking at you, anyone with a “To thine own self be true” tattoo). However cheesy and misquoted it is, it’s one of my guiding principles. I try to be good to my fellow humans because I think that kindness is important and something that the world needs. I volunteer my time and energy out to the world because who knows what will change the world. Today, though, I have an idea. A hope, a wish, a crazy Christmas thought.

The first time I volunteered, I was about 8 or 9. Maybe 10.

My mom and I went to Santas Anonymous to fill hampers. I spent the morning in a warehouse with a tinny radio, carefully following a checklist so each basket had the right gifts for the right age group. I also had to check if each basket had the right food – Kraft Dinner, instant mashed potatoes, that kind of thing. The people were nice, it made my heart happy, and it was one morning in late November.

The next year, I was on the ground crew. Rather than pack the hampers, we delivered them. Now, as some people might know, my little hometown is full of drugs – specifically, meth. So that was harder – my little heart broke at some of the places we visited. We got to be Santa for these people – some of whom I recognized from school. I remember feeling super grateful for my parents at that moment – grateful that we had a house and food every night, grateful for my baby brother and for our Christmas mornings, grateful for my two kick-ass amazing parents who remain amazing and kickass.

My parents taught me how lucky I was, and that we had so much that we owed our communities to give back. I always have. Since that period at Santas Anonymous, I have had quite the volunteer log. Much to my failing memory, here’s the list so far:

  • Walked dogs and cuddled cats at the Hinton SPCA
  • Did media relations for the Canadian Breast Cancer CIBC Run for the Cure
  • Became the Run Director for the same run
  • Organized a charity breakfast for 800
  • Taught taekwon do (yes, part of my black belt training, but definitely something I would have done otherwise)
  • Taught illiterate addicts to read and write (hey, did you know that 42% of Canadian adults have low-literacy levels?!)
  • Joined an arts board in support of mental health
  • Joined the Freewill Shakespeare Board (after 6 years volunteering before that)
  • Became a karma yogi at Noorish
  • Joined an awesome crew for Edmonton Folk Music Fest
  • Flew to Africa to teach communications and advocacy strategy at a childs rights organization

And my memory fails me – as Yul Brenner once said “Etc, etc, etc!” There is more. I have more events that I can count – times where I leaned in and carried water or food and pushed and created and joined. Because I believe that I can help make the world a better place (not alone, mind you. Maybe I can start a ripple that becomes a tsunami of change).

To that – at one point in my career, I began working with the homeless. Not directly with (I’m not a social worker), but as the communications pro telling the story. I was told in my interview that people working for this not-for-profit (and generally in this sector overall) had an 18-month shelf life. I made a year and 4 months – 2 months shy of 18. My heart, while has capacity to grow and change and adapt, was far too soft to handle this work. After my second Homeless Connect, for example, I ended up in my shower for an hour sobbing. I had talked to a girl – she was 14, LBGTQ, and her parents had thrown her out. She couldn’t find a home, because who wants to rent to a kid, so was selling herself to supply her drug habit. My heart broke a thousand times over in the 14 months I was working there – I still have friends working in this sector, and I am in awe of them. Their amazing selves and amazing work do so much good for our world.

Recently, sadly, I became aware of the death of one of our cities’ homeless – a sad tale of freezing to death behind a dumpster. Even more sadly – he’s one of 1,752 homeless in Edmonton. The numbers are down (thanks to our amazing agencies and hardworking front-line workers!!) but we still have over 1,700 people without a roof over their heads. And, suddenly, in all its Canadian-ness – winter has arrived in Edmonton, with temperatures forecasted to be -20 ish all week (and the wind making it feel like -30), and winter will be here for awhile. I’ve been thinking about this since Saturday, and now – I’m asking you to help me.

Every single front-line agency in the city needs help. They need mittens and jackets and warm socks and long johns and blankets because winter is HERE and death due to exposure is a real thing. I’m starting to collect these items – I’m planning on starting a collection at my workplace as well – but I will be collecting these things personally as well to be delivered in a week or two.

Help me with this. Send me new socks and mittens and whatever gently used or new items you can manage. I’m happy to meet you, or give you my address – hell, I’m even happy to wash your gently used items before I deliver this stuff! – but I can’t not be involved any longer. Neither can you – 1,750 people need us.

Keep your eyes on your own work!

During my last year of university, I was an RA and dating a dude who wasn’t good for me. We had a fight two days after my grandmother died, and I retreated to my music and my laptop to write a paper rather than continue to duke it out. I don’t like to fight, never have, so grieving and writing about The Monk was the best choice for me. He called me later that night, so drunk that he could barely say my name, and mumbled that he needed me. Tired of fighting, tired of crying, (and, let’s be honest, wanting some cuddles) I walked over to his place in my boots and fuzzy shorts (ah, university) and found him in the bathtub with an empty bottle of gin, a note, a knife, and arms full of slashes.

Even though I’d been trained in suicide counselling, I had no idea what to do. I got my BF out of the tub and cleaned his wounds, checking for depth (thank God, none of them were anything but flesh wounds). I sat next to my guy as he slept that night and listened to him breathe, too afraid to sleep. I called the RA on duty, who called our boss, who showed up at 8 a.m. to escort both my boyfriend and I to the campus counselling office.

To put it mildly, I was fucking furious. And heartbroken. And afraid.

I am a late bloomer, in the emotional sense of the word. I suppose, reflecting back, I have been learning this lesson for the last ten years, but I’m really learning it all now.

A few years ago, I realized that I, through a mess of my own damn making, am in emotional shambles. In times where joy isn’t an option, I default to anger – I always have – because being angry hurts less than being sad or lonely or afraid. I find it infinitely easier  to be pissed rather than allowing myself to feel the pain. And, if being angry isn’t an option, I will bury the feelings that I don’t want to feel. This is a battle that I am open about, a battle I am constantly fighting, and one that I want to end. It doesn’t serve me, it makes for hellish yoga sessions (because I’m constantly at war with myself), and I think it makes me more awkward than ever.

And then, a book found me. I read an excerpt from a book called Emotional Agility, and it resonated in a big way. So, thanks to Amazon, a bunch of weeks later, my new book in hand, I dig in. The things I’ve noticed so far:

  • I love/hate books that are so right that you can’t argue it.
  • It references A Course in Miracles, because of course it bloody well does. That literally makes every single self help book that I’ve picked up over the last 3 years
  • It’s already a game changer for me.

So, now, is the part I’ve been batting around.

I have an active presence on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram. And, as much as I like keeping up with my friends and family, social media is one of those mediums where you are constantly up close and personal in people’s best lives. I especially have a hard time because I want to be married and be a mother so so badly. And I am of the age that most of my friends are either one or both of these things. So I have to struggle with envy as I’m overwhelmed with my friend’s joyous celebrations. And I don’t like that. I am happy for you, dammit, let me be just bliss. I have started this work – I started during the GYGC Challenge, and now it’s time to use all the tools available to heal this hurt.

Social media can be used to look into the lives of anyone – former lovers, employers, former classmates who made your life hell, strangers that you will never meet. In full disclosure, I have blocked the people I’m afraid to see – and the harder my life is, the easier it is to slip behind a screen and disappear into a world where I feel more confident. I’ve always felt like it was easier to make friends behind a screen – my best friend through my teenage years was the result of a random ICQ search, and our friendship lasted a long time. And yes, we ended up meeting IRL almost 10 years after we connected. At the same time, I disappear into a world where I am boring, and alone, and a geek – a world full of “best selves” at a time where I’m trying to unearth my best self. Social media makes me lonelier than ever, and also makes me wonder if the Beatles didn’t have a clue when they asked where do all the lonely people come from.

Here is what I know.

My biggest source of anxiety is that I’m never going to be good enough. That I’ll never be normal enough for a big true love, that I am going to be alone forever and die with 8 cats. And this book is really helping me dig into that, to feel it as I ought to, to help me deal with the pain and sadness in a healthy way. The author also suggests writing every day, and being mindful with social media, to really remember whose journey it is that you are on. “We’ve been taught this idea since grade school – keep your eyes on your own work!” Pretty much as soon as I read that chapter, I looked at my online presence – really looked. I’ve maintained a constant stream of jokes for over 3 years – a timeline that started when my heart was broken. My feed is something that I’ve crafted to make people around me – and, by extension, myself -feel better. I love doing it – but is it something that makes me better?

So today I’m challenging myself. Throwing the gauntlet. Drawing the line in the sand. Steeling my nerves. Screwing my courage to the sticking place. Running out of bad metaphors.

I’m taking a week away from social media – something I’ve literally never done while on Canadian soil. As of 12 p.m., November 1, I will be away from it for a week (maybe 2, depending on how it goes) – and really, really away from it. The only caveat – because I maintain social media presence for both of my jobs, I will be signing in because it’s part of my employment. Email is also not covered in this challenge – because it’s the sole communication tool for my second job, and my Board commitments, etc. So. No personal social media. No online dating. Email. Only employment-based social media.

So, if you and I maintain our friendship on Facebook Messenger. If we send each other funny pictures. Keep messaging, keep sending. I promise I’ll get back to you. If it’s an emergency – maybe try texting (or calling) me. Until then… I’m planning on being buried in books.

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The true story of Bruce

This weekend, I had to be rescued from a bat.

And I’m planning on getting into it. But first…

I don’t keep my struggle with anxiety a secret. I don’t generally discuss the severity unless I know you well, but I don’t hide the fact that I am an anxious, anxious little panda. And this summer was one of the hardest times I’ve ever had with it. Between the constant “WTF AM I DOING” and the “I AM SO ALONE”, it was fight or flight every day, all day, for over a month. I did some really stupid things (hello Irish whiskey!) and some really productive things (hello novel!) and some really ill-advised-but-necessary things (hello texting ex-boyfriend!), but I was constantly flooded with adrenaline and depression and anxiety. I think I’ve dropped 15 pounds from stress, and what I refer to as the “starvation diet”. In a moment of “I’m cleaning my bookshelf”, I also unearthed a hard truth about myself – one that’s shaking me down to my bones. So, still lots of hard work. There is something about turning to face yourself that is terribly uncomfortable.

That said – there is light now. I’m still in the well, but I’ve climbed out of enough that my hands are clinging to the top. My face is in the sun. I went from no jobs to two, and managed to create a freelance position for myself (I have a logo. How exciting/awesome/terrifying!), I have fresh veggies in my fridge, I’m at Noorish ALL OF THE TIME which is amazing, there is a flirtation or two. Life is looking pretty rosy.

I recently took an afternoon/evening to drive into the prairies to visit two of my most favourite people. They have been in my life for well over a decade, a husband/wife team, and easily are some of the most powerful influences in my life. When things got bad three years ago, I reached out to K, the wife. She remains the only one who I have told the entire JM story to – she is so safe, a port in the storm that I’d created in my life. I don’t like to reach out, to share my darkness and fear, but I know that I can – to either one of them, or both – and I know that they will still be there, which is a rare, rare trait. Our visits are full of laughter, and geekdom, and generally a beer or two.

So, after a story about how a bat got into their furnace, and a few beer (for the husband and I), we retired. It was relatively early (go midnight!) and we were mostly sober (we’re adults now!), so when I woke up at 2 ish to a scratching noise, I figured it was the dog at the door.

“Go away, Tet.”

Nope. Still more scratching. I decided to flick my phone flashlight on, because my imagination runs wild – and then I shine my phone directly at the little bat who is crawling around on the floor, hugging closely to the desk. I do mean little – maybe the size of my hand, if his wings are spread out. But a bat, never the less.

little-brown-bat-www-caveofthemounds-com_

Isn’t he so fucking cute.

I keep my phone trained on him, and debate my options. First, I could release the shriek that is caught in my throat, wake the baby, dog and my friends, and everyone gets to be as freaked out as I am. Second, relocate to the couch, block the door, and pull the husband aside in the morning. Third, go wake my friend and make him trap the bat. Fourth, move my bag off of the floor and go back to sleep.

Then the little dudes tries to take off, hits the door, squeaks, and shuffles behind the bed.

I grab my sweater and take off to go wake the husband. Because NO WAY AM I SLEEPING WITH THE BAT. It’s a testament to our friendship that 1) he got out of bed when I whispered, and 2) he didn’t laugh at me.

So he comes downstairs with me, gets a bucket and a lid, and we listen in silence for the shuffle of the bat. We locate it, and I start to giggle. I giggle when I’m nervous, which, lemme tell you, is NOT A FUN TRAIT. Serious conversation at work? I giggle. Breakups? I laugh. So I’m in my nightgown and sweater and I’m laughing and apologizing, and he’s moving things on the floor, and traps the stupid bat, and then I’m trying to muffle my giggles as we walk up the stairs to let the stupid thing outside, and then he releases it on the lawn. Well, release is a loose term – flinging the bucket and the lid onto the lawn and then sprinting on his tiptoes to the door, where we quietly slam it shut.

“Are you okay?”

“Yep.” Which I wasn’t – I was about ready to burst into tears at that point. I also didn’t sleep the rest of the night, because every sound I hear was a bat sneaking up on me. I also shook my bag out as I got dressed in the morning. You know. Just in case.

Now, I find this hilarious. As soon as I walked upstairs the next morning, there was discussions about dreams with their daughter (with her dad making bat motions behind her), and it instantly became a joke. As I’m writing this, I’m giggling (from mirth, not from anxiety) about how hilarious the whole situation is/was. Seriously. Just think about that for a minute (maybe not if you’re afraid of bats, which I’m not, usually. Those little bastards are a whole different ball game on the floor vs. in flight). However, I was working at my second job last night, thinking about that little bat and his little squeaks. Given that I’m trying my best to really look at my life right now, I decided to Google the symbolism of bats.

“Bat’s wisdom includes shamanic death and rebirth, initiation, viewing past lives, pollination of new ideas, transition, understanding grief, the use of vibrational sound, camouflage, invisibility, ability to observe unseen, secrets…Here they confront their fears and are reborn without their old identities. Bats help us to release fear and patterns which no longer fits within our pattern of growth.

Bat flying into your life signifies that transformation of the ego self is about to occur, the end of a way of life and the start of another. This transition can be very frightening for many, even just to think about. But you will not grow spiritually until you let go these old parts of you that are NOT NEEDED. Facing the darkness before you will help you find the light in rebirth. The bat gives you the wisdom required to make the appropriate changes for the birthing of your new identity.”

Huh. Would you look at that. Imma just leave that right there.

The theme of transition is strong in this blog. I write about being healthy, and single, and how I am working on myself. And I’m seriously always doing those things – I’m constantly a work in progress. I do find it interesting that, in a period of “What the actual fuck am I doing with my life, and what do I want to be doing”, that I encounter a bat. Especially “this transition can be frightening for many” – that resonates down to my bones.

While I’m still plugging away with all this change… It’s nice to see the universe is still on my side.

I’m fabulously rich…

I recently started commuting in my car.

It’s very different.

I’ve spent 8 years in the city, and have successfully avoided rush hour until now. It’s so strange – I’m so used to leaving the house about an hour early, bag heavy (lunch, keys, coffee, iPod – you know, the essentials) and braving the elements in order to catch my bus. Turns out, though, that commuting via ETS would take me about 2.5 hours to my new-new job, but driving takes 15 minutes. So, morning little Bruce-car. I love my underground parking, and I love my little beast. And my bag is about a million times lighter, because I don’t need to carry it on my person for an hour. OH. And I get to wear high heels!!

Let’s do this commuting insanity.

I’m dealing with the radio too – listening for traffic reports, singing along as I deal with the craziness of city drivers. I have finally warmed my heart to the Garner Andrews Show – it took a few years, but I enjoy Garner’s insight, generosity, and overall dry humour. Today, he performed a wonderful magic trick – he took me back to being a teenager again.

Let me start by saying that I like the Tragically Hip. I’m not a huge fan – I like a lot of their songs, and I enjoy them. Hearing about Gord’s diagnosis broke my little Canadian heart, but I also didn’t buy tickets to the final shows. I’d rather let someone else who loved them go. If my brother wasn’t getting married on Saturday, I’d very likely be going to a bar to drink beer and watch the final concert. But. Priorities.

However. My most vivid memories of my first love are tied to The Tragically Hip. I fell in love for the first time with the Hip (and Zeppelin, and Meatloaf, and AC/DC, to name a few) providing the soundtrack. We met when I was 16, and I busted through the drama room door, minutes from being late, and smashed him with the door. Our first conversation, lemme tell you. Stuff of dreams.

“Why the fuck would you come through a door like that?” he growled as he picked himself up from the floor.

“Who the fuck stands behind a door like that?” I snapped, ever the aggressive Aries.

And then we glowered at one another for a week. Glorious. Can you feel the love or what? Sure enough, shortly after I took him out with the door, our teacher decided that we needed to be in a group together. Hooray.

He was a year older than I. His eyes were emerald green – changing, as I later found, with his green sweater or when he was angry or when he kissed me– and he drove a beat up Ford pick up. He threw his head back when he laughed, and his hands were beautiful – long fingers, soft, gentle palms. He hated having his picture taken, liked skipping class, smoked, and I was in trouble. Of course, now that I’m older and know what real trouble is – my pick-up driving, cigarette-smoking, beer-drinking truant of a high school sweetheart seems like a dream.

We started dating in October, and I remember vividly on our first date – New Orleans is Sinking came on our shitty hometown radio station. (PSA – the radio station still exists, and I imagine that they haven’t expanded their Hip offerings since I was 16)

“It’s the Tragically Hip!” I exclaimed.

“I think I could love you!” he exclaimed back.

Two or three months later, right before Christmas, we drove to “our” spot, and he told me, nervously, full of hope and terror, that he loved me. I, just as full of terror and hope, told him that I loved him, too. Wheat Kings was playing in the background.

Some days, my long memory feels like a curse. I remember a lot of bad things – the heartbreak, the sadness,  the anger – it feels easy to remember how much it hurts. Especially at night, as I lay awake wondering if karma has finally caught up with me. For setting my life on fire to love a man who, I truly fear, never loved me. For never being able to verbalize my fear and vulnerability to the good men over the years, as they made their intentions clear. For the hearts I have broken, so I wouldn’t have to break my own. It can be easy to think, especially when the night falls, that karma has finally caught up to me. I try, in those moments, to remember all of the good little things. I even have a journal near my bed, full of the little things, to try and keep the darkness at bay. And sometimes, like this morning, the little things sneak up on me.

Today, Garner was talking about community celebrations for the final Hip concert – it’s being broadcasted on the CBC – and then he played Bobcaygeon. My very favourite song by the Tragically Hip. The very last Hip song I shared with my high school love.

As I was driving today, all I could remember was the morning we danced together. It was freezing cold, with fresh snow on the ground – maybe December or January? We were waiting for the coffee, or maybe just had the coffee. The floorboard squeaked as we danced in our bare feet. Laying my head on his shoulder, close to his neck, and feeling his cheek rest on the side of my head. One of his hands entwined with mine, kissing my fingertips before placing both of our hands over his heart as we swayed to the music, his other hand resting on my lower back. Hearing his hum as the song went on. The house was quiet, it was just us. No words. There was just love, just sweetness, just my love and I, just the Hip.

Even though I am still struggling with my darkness, clinging to the wall of my well, listening to the water slap against the stone, I strive for the good things. Little things, like memories about kisses on my fingers tips. Exploring new friendships, and collapsing as you laugh together. The way his eyes were sparkling emeralds the first time he said he loved me (it’s occurred to me, as I write this, that I apparently like to lose my heart to green eyed men). Hearing a song for the first time, or for the millionth time, and being taken back in time. Really quiet moments surrounded by the people you love most. Days that start with first round job interviews and end with signed job offers. The million little things that I forget when my anxiety catches up to me, and I fall into my well.

Today, I am thankful for Bobcaygeon, and for my high school sweetheart, wherever he may be.

Who ya gonna call (or, fuck the darkness)

So. This week I went to see the new Ghostbusters. As a lifelong watcher of the Ghostbusters (my brother is the world’s biggest Ghostbusters fan. No, really.) and a fan of funny, smart ladies, I was SO EXCITED to see what they had done with it.

Have you seen it yet? Go. I’ll wait.

I love that there were cameos of all of the original players. I love that Sigourney came back, because QUEEN. And I love (love love love love) Kate McKinnon. Seriously. And that end sequence? I know that the proton packs weren’t designed that way…. but it was spectacular and the music was epic. Loved it!

I always get super excited with film – I used to ask a battery of questions, but was told that it was super annoying, so I stopped. But this one?! I had to ask the gent that I had seen the movie with…. Do you believe in ghosts? It was a short convo – and he never asked me back, but I’m going to answer that question I posed, right now.

Yes, I believe in ghosts. I didn’t believe until I was 24, because I was aware that there were scarier things in the world. I liked fact, and as a history buff, during my trip to New Zealand and Australia, I made sure to make time to visit Port Arthur.

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Port Arthur, for a short introduction, is a small town in Tasmania. It’s a former convict settlement (1833 to 1877), and now is one of Australia’s most impactful heritage sights. It is a naturally secure site (a peninsula with a 30 metre wide isthmus, and apparently surrounded by shark infested water), so it was sold as an inescapable prison. It was for only the hardest criminals being sent to Australia, and had some of the strictest security measures in the British penal system. In addition, Port Arthur practiced the “Separate Prison” method – a movement from corporal punishment, to psychological. With over 200 rules for the prisoners inside the Separate Prison, it became the example for prisons around the world.

The Separate Prison, by the by, is also the reason that they needed to build an insane asylum right next door.

It wasn’t just the Separate Prison, as I learned. There was a tiny settlement (complete with an unconsecrated church, the reverend’s house, one charming home containing a human dissection room in the basement, another different prison (a level down from  the psychological torture – don’t mess up here, or you’ll end up there) and several other small dwellings. The Isle of the Dead is also a draw – the burial ground of the people living there, the site of the cushiest job at the prison, and apparent tourist attraction for the Devil himself. Port Arthur has a bloody, ruthless, and terrifying history – unfortunately, until as recently as 1996. I’d highly recommend looking into it, if that’s your bag.

I was so excited for a ghost tour onsite. Armed with our tiny backpacker flashlights,  my friend and I took the darkened forest path along the ocean from our hostel site to the historic site. We had recently taken a similar tour in Fremantle – while it was startling, it wasn’t scary. We expected more of the same, as we teased one another in the dark. Maybe a freaky walk back, but nothing we couldn’t handle. The darkness fell quickly – by the time we reached the site, the stars were coming out.

To put it mildly. Port Arthur was absolutely NOTHING like Fremantle. At all. We begged a ride from our tour guide after the tour, because neither one of us could imagine walking back on the path. We couldn’t, even together, holding hands after our decade of friendship, face the darkness and long walk home.

While I won’t go into all of the specifics (if you wanna know, you’ll need to ask), I will recount my first experience with a ghost. We went to the roofless church (it wasn’t ever finished, or dedicated to a specific faith), and then we walked into the reverend’s home. Our tour guide refused to open the door because of an experience she had there before (at this point, I was taking her reluctance as melodrama) and one of our group opened the front door. The group filed into a sitting room, on the front right side of the house. The only light came from a light illuminating the path outside, and three lanterns in the room. Our guide stood in the middle of the room, telling us the story of the man who used to live there. I stood in a corner, with my back mere inches from the wall (I jump and scream when grabbed from behind – this way, nothing could sneak up on me), listening intently to the story of the unusually tall man who used to try to bring God to the criminals of Port Arthur.

In addition to being a jumper/screamer, I’m rather short. And, sometimes, I can sense someone standing behind me before I am really aware they are there. It gets electric, especially if they are taller than I am. It’s nothing ominous – just a shorty sense. As she was standing there, I started to get tingles up my back. Like someone was standing there, breathing on my neck. Quick shoulder check – nothing. At the time, I specifically remember thinking that I was being too imaginative. Or maybe… he was behind me? Nah. Definitely imagination, I decided during the story. Ghosts aren’t real.

Within an hour, I knew that I had an experience with ghosts. The first one was the only peaceful one, but I knew it wasn’t my imagination.

However, once we were back at the hostel (thank you again, tour guide whose name I no longer remember!!) safe in our pajamas and sleeping bags and were able to speak, we decided that our imaginations had run away with us. Even though I had unexplained bruises (thank you, Separate Prison) and she had freaked out in the dissection room, we decided that our imaginations had ruled us, not our intelligence.

We had another day on the site (I KNOW. This is how much of a history nerd I am!!!) and we decided to check out the sites that we were able to (human dissection room is closed during the day, folks) to see if we had the same experiences during the day time. Given that we each had difference experiences in different places (I got the tingles, and my ribs squeezed, and she didn’t) – we thought that, if it were truly ghosts, they would affect us the same way in the sunlight.

IMG_1095This is the front room of the reverend’s house. That was my corner from the night before. I carried both a film and digital camera. I knew my cameras. Intimately. They were as necessary to my trip as my big red backpack was. And both cameras showed that orb after the fact.

Neither one of them ought to have. And I got the tingles as someone, long dead, stood behind me in the room – even in the daylight.

So, what’s the point behind my ghost story?

I am still in the darkness. I have flashes of light, moments and hours of bliss, as unexplained as that orb. As I told my brother earlier this week, all I want to do is lie down and give up. I have been strong for years. I keep getting knocked down, and I have to keep getting up. I don’t have another setting – I honestly can’t imagine giving up. Call it Irish stubborn, call it Aries determination, call it martial artist training – I don’t have a “give up” setting. I only know strength – for myself, for my loved ones – I only know how to be strong and to keep standing up.

My desire to just give up, and lay down, and stop trying, is indescribable. I know I can’t, but I really want staying in bed all day to be a viable option. I think the hardest part, especially for the people who know me the best, is the silence. I am not good with vulnerable at the best of the time. And right now… I just need to open my mouth or let someone touch me, and I’m a mess. My tears clog my throat with my honesty, and I am crying way too easily. I know enough to know that I’m scaring the shit out of the people closest to me.

However. I know I have to stand up. Kneeling in submission is not an option. And, just like I felt that ghost all those years ago, I feel the love and support of the people in my life. It’s like a million invisible hands in between my shoulder blades. Urging me forward, into the open, into the light. Reminding me that my imagination is wild, and that the darkness isn’t forever. That, even though right now I’m in the darkness, clinging to the side of the well, things will change soon. It can’t be as bad in the daylight.

So, baby brother. The man I scared the shit out of this week. I’m standing. I’m here for the fight, and the long haul.

Fuck the darkness.

I wonder how Rosaline felt?

I’ve always hated Romeo and Juliet.

There. I said it.

It’s the play that introduced me to Shakespeare – I honestly don’t recall not knowing it. It’s the first play I studied, the only play that I can remember rhyming couplets for, and I hate it. I thought the idea is ridiculous – I think that Romeo is a player, that Juliet is an airhead, and that they both need to learn to communicate (now, I have to wonder what my tenth grade teacher would have graded for a paper with that opinion….)

I mean, don’t get me wrong. I fell in love with Baz Luhrmann’s version of Romeo and Juliet when it came out. I don’t think I’ll ever look at a fish tank the same way. Need a reminder?

But I only ever liked watching it until the balcony scene. And I’d take County Paris (aka Paul Rudd) any day over Romeo. Especially when that Romeo was played by Leonardo DiCaprio. But it always seemed ridiculous to me, even as a girl. Even when I was a girl in love for the first time… I couldn’t imagine anything like this. Who falls in love at first sight? And what kind of idiots get married after only speaking for twenty minutes? Rosaline got off easy, I thought, escaping an idiot like that.

I was either born jaded or pragmatic.

I can say this, about the Bard’s play. When I was 18, I had one of my most memorable kisses to some of his lines.

I went to South Korea with a TaeKwon Do group when I was 18. If I had to do this by memory (and I do at the moment), I’d say that there was 25 of us. No one really knew me – I had never competed, and when I went for my first black belt I was a stranger. There had been glimpses as I received my instructor’s certification, but in this group that I found myself in, I was a stranger (minus my Master, her son, and another woman from my hometown group). I gravitated to the only person I knew outside of our group – a man from High Prairie. I honestly don’t remember how we met, or his name. But there was a small group from High Prairie with him, and I happened to hit it off with a fellow by the name of Jordan.

With this being so many years ago, I don’t remember much about Jordan, either. I remember his crooked grin. His height. I think there may have been a tattoo? He definitely had spiked hair, and I was definitely senior to him belt-wise… but that’s all I really remember. Anyways. We hit it off. Lots in common. We talked a lot in Seoul. One of the first nights we were there, we left the group as we were walking back from our nightly excursion. I think that we had decided that Seoul was a safe city (if you’ve heard me talk about this trip, I’m still shocked that we all made it back alive and unstabbed), and we snuck into a park near our hotel. We found a fountain under the strange trees, and for whatever reason, Romeo and Juliet came up. He asked if I knew the party scene, I said yes. He asked if I knew the lines that lead up to the first kiss (can you see where this is going? I was so young) – of course. I recited “Saints do not move, though grant for prayers’ sake.”

And of course he knew the next bloody line and of course I got kissed in a strange park in Korea. I wouldn’t know Jordan if I saw him on the street now, and I don’t know where he is in the world, but I remember that kiss.

Anyways.

Right now there is a lot of darkness. I tripped and fell headfirst into the well and I’m surrounded by darkness. I don’t sleep a lot. I lay away and think about all of the circumstances, about my next steps, and freaking Romeo and Juliet. I’ve been alone for a long, long time. And part of my brain thinks that the darkness wouldn’t be so bad if I wasn’t alone in it. Because, while I have amazing friends and family and an epic support system… when the night comes, I’m still facing the blackness alone. I know that it takes time and it happens when you aren’t looking… but man. I’ve looked, and I haven’t looked. I’ve worked on myself, I did the thing, I bettered myself… and it’s been 3 years, with minor bumps on the way.

3 years alone is a long, long time. 3 years without being able to whisper secrets and inside jokes is… harder than I can possibly put into words. I’ve been crying a lot this week. In rose bushes and in rocks beside hot tubs. In a front garden, hidden by trees and rocks. Even into my cat’s fur. The darkness frightens me, and being alone in it… doubles it. I drank a lot of Irish whiskey to help me sleep last week – after telling a friend I was done drinking the pain, I haven’t done it once this week. My dreams are unsettling, and I’m sleeping less than 5 hours a night.

I always though that Roseline, Romeo’s unpictured infatuation, got off really, really lucky. Nights like tonight I wonder – maybe she was trying to be proper. Who wouldn’t want the romantic knight of Verona, from one of the best families in town? Maybe she was bashful, and followed the rule book, and returned Romeo’s infatuation in her own quiet way. And then had to learn to survive without her love. That’s the key, right, to survive the play without being stabbed or committing suicide or poisoned or being baked into a pie (no, really, that happens in Titus Androcius). Maybe Roseline got Paris, in the end, but maybe her heart was just broken. Where can you go when your heart has been broken, and there doesn’t seem to be a salve? How many times can it break, before you finally just need to brick it shut and hope for the best?

I have a very wise friend, someone I’ve known since kindergarten. As I’ve been descending into the darkness, I’ve been confiding my terror and sadness to her. “It’s a tunnel,” she tells me, over and over again. “All of this is a tunnel, blocking you from the light. You’re halfway through the tunnel and the light is far away, but tunnels end. This is the purpose of tunnels. They. Have. To. End.”

I can’t wait for my tunnel to end. I’m ready to leave the darkness. Ready to be one of the lovers, rather than wonder about Roseline.

Serenity.

Nope. Not that serenity.

I’m talking Serenity.

Home to Captain Malcolm Reynolds. To Jayne Cobb, and Inara Sara, and Kaywinnet Lee “Kaylee” Frye. To Sheppard Derrial Book and Zoe and Wash Washburne, and Simon and River Tam. My first real step into geekdom.

There is a scene in the pilot that is replaying in my head lately. Without giving it away, near the end, Sheppard Book is on his knees in front of Inara.

Book: I’ve been out of the abbey two days. I’ve beaten a lawman senseless. Fallen in with criminals… And I’m not even sure if I think he was wrong.
Inara: [softly] Shepherd…
Book: I believe I just… I think I’m on the wrong ship.
Inara: Maybe. Or maybe you’re exactly where you ought to be.

Right now, I am so lost. About everything. Even this space. A place I created to simply write and celebrate my geeky existence. And now I feel like it needs a theme or that I’m giving it one that’s based in my anxiety. I think I’ve written 15 drafts in the time since my last post, and I can’t bring myself to hit publish.

I am so conflicted about my life right now. There are moments when I look at what’s happening, and I don’t recognize myself. I’m anxious, and fearful, and waking up with dread in my heart. I feel like a stranger in my bones. Like Book (all of the Firefly characters, really), I feel like I “been out of the world for a spell… like to walk it a while.” I feel like I’ve created this life – a good life, a life built on my own back with so many amazing things! – and now I am searching for an escape from my life.

Like the wise Sheppard said… I believe. I just think I’m on the wrong ship.

One thing that keeps me (mostly) sane is my belief, shockingly.

I’m not a church goer. At all. I don’t have a secular belief system. My relationship with God is complex and simple, gentle and terrible. I’m not Mal – I do believe in God. I also don’t believe that my God has abandoned me – I feel that presence all the time.

Like tonight. It wasn’t a great day at work, and I went to the kiva (I love Noorish. Have I said that lately? I fucking LOVE NOORISH.) for my karma shift. As I was walking up to the building, I noticed a familiar shape next door to Noorish. Sitting outside the Cuban cigar shop, smoking a cigar and bullshitting with another firefighter, was JM. He was facing away from me, and I knew it was him before I even got close – I know that shape so well I could draw it by heart (you know. If I could draw.). I caught the eye of the other man (who was, at one point, a dear friend of mine) and he couldn’t place me – I was so relieved. I ducked behind the building, walked into the kiva, knelt to the floor in front of the alter, and started to weep. Cherry on top of the freaking day. I seriously think that breaking up requires the division of neighbourhoods. “Oops, sorry, Garneau is actually MY place. You are required to stay a kilometre away from Noorish at all times. It’s my safe place.”

But, as I lay there, head on the floor, weeping in the candlelight… I knew I wasn’t alone. I could feel it, almost like someone had laid their hand between my shoulder blades and started rubbing my back. I WAS alone – I was opening the kiva tonight – and I just knew it was God. It didn’t take me long to stop crying after that.

Yes. I realize this sounds insane. It’s happened to me a few times there – whether it’s just plain energy, or the tears that follow a heart opener, or singing as I’m cleaning and feeling a presence. Full stop. I know who it is. I know that I’m safe. That it will be okay. No matter what shit comes, I know that I’m not alone.

Even tonight, where I feel like I’ve fallen into a well. I can hear the voices, and the laughter of the people outside of the well – I’m clinging to the rock, just at the edge of the darkness, shaking with effort trying to crawl back into the light and out of the well. The darkness is licking my feet – and it would be so easy to let go and fall back into the blackness that used to rule my world. But tonight, as I laid there and cried about my loneliness, and about my shitty day at work, I knew I wasn’t alone. Maybe I am clinging to the wall of the well, but I’m certainly not alone.

Which is something else I share with Book, I guess. Maybe I am on the wrong ship. Maybe my path isn’t what I thought it was. Maybe I’ve chosen the wrong career. But I am not alone as I battle. Which, let’s be honest, is pretty comforting. Almost as comforting as the wine.

Two choices, I suppose. Choice the first. Succumb to the lost feelings of the black. Let go of the wall, tumble into the well, trust that I can climb back out once my arms have rested. Choice the second. Trust that I’m exactly where I ought to be. Trust in my ability to  be strong enough to lift myself out of the well. And trust that, even with my misgivings, I am on the right path.

Shiny.

I’m going to go to Stettler tomorrow and be bad guys. (Well, not really bad guys. My best friend is pregnant and doesn’t really drink even if she’s not pregnant. And the rest of us are too old to get into *much* trouble). But I can’t end a blog post about Firefly and leave that line out.

 

A Year Later

It’s been a full years since the completion of the Get Your Glow yoga challenge. 365 days, and 2 weeks.

Honestly – it feels like it’s been both longer and shorter than that. My life changed irrevocably, that goes without saying. It hasn’t always been easy – somedays, it’s been a pain in my nerdy ass to maintain some of the lessons that I learned over that 8 week period. So, it feels like a good time to check in.

A year later

Food –I still maintain a mostly-vegan diet. I eat a lot of fruit and vegetables, and have maintained using other forms of protein (chickpeas, looking at you here). I’m not super strict about the lifestyle, but I do try to maintain it. Reason being – my body feels way better without a lot of meat in it. My guts works better without having to digest meat, my skin feels better, my whole body feels good. That said, still can’t give up the cheese. My sugar addiction is back in full force, which I loathe. I find myself craving it after almost every single meal, minus breakfast (my theory about that – I have fruit in every breakfast, whether I’m having a green smoothie or fruit and yoghurt, so I get a natural sugar fix there), but most days I can ignore the cravings. Coffee – also back in my life daily. Can I blame my 530AM wakeups to be out the door for 630? Oh, and my overall attitude towards getting a good night’s sleep. Which, lemme tell you, is slightly piss poor.

Maintain a yoga practice – mostly, sometimes. Given that I’m still a karma yoga, I am guaranteed one practice a week. I’ve been good over the last month, and generally practice twice a week at Noorish, and once at home to stretch out my back. That said, I no longer practice 5 days a week. Why? Busy, plain and simple. Which, in my mind, is a crappy excuse for how amazing a multi-practice week made me feel. I’ve talked to my “manager” and friend at the yoga studio about it – I’m so glad that I’m not the only one who has a free pass, who doesn’t come all the time. Still. I want to get better at this whole multiple classes in a week thing again. I miss my practice so much.

Meditation – I meditate for at least 20 minutes daily. Every single day, I get mindful and still and focus on my breath or a mantra and I love this. Love love love this.

Permission – in my ensuite bathroom, I have a sticky on my mirror that reads “Give yourself permission”. Every morning after my shower, as I do my hair and my makeup, I read this note to myself. I am still learning to give myself permission. I have written about my mean girl, and how hard I need to fight not to bash myself – and I have found that I need a daily reminder to be gentle. I need to remind myself that it’s okay to take time for myself – to have a night off, to demand that I have time to meal plan and grocery shop, to go to yoga rather for a beer with a friend. I have even learned to be gentle if I slip – if I have homemade pizza rather than salad, if I’m having a bad day and would like something sweet – I’m not mean to myself any longer. Which, by the way, feels absolutely and utterly astounding. I always thought I loved myself – this challenge showed me the way to really, really loving myself. One big by-product of this permission (and something I wrote about last) is the ability to be authentic and vulnerable, even though it scares me. The challenge gave me permission to be me – something that I needed more than anything.

I am so hyper aware that my journey so far in my life has shaped me into this perfectly lovely yet wounded creature. Now more than ever, I identify with this:

Kintsukuroi

There have been a lot of changes since my GYGC – both good and bad. New Job became Hell Job, Dream Job fell into my lap, Karma Yoga takes up my Thursdays, JM came back into my life and left again, I purchased a home and moved my life there, joined a Board, left a Board, started getting into better shape, joined the Shakespeare Board, spent a summer volunteering, gave up on dating, created some amazing friendships, lost some friendships, started dating again (with amazing and exciting results). All up, my life is pretty darn astounding. I have a great job that challenges me, I have amazing friends and family, I have a home I’m proud of. A lot of this, and I truly believe this – is because I found a new shiny path. A path forged in the yoga studio, and in my kitchen.

Einstein (man I love that guy!) may have said it best:

“Everything is energy and that’s all there is to it. Match the frequency of the reality you want and you cannot help but get that reality. It can be no other way. This is not philosophy. This is physics.”