Notes On A Good Week

I’m supposed to be working this weekend, finishing off the cookbook I’ve long promised everyone, but life interfered and I got tired of saying no to life. So I said yes for a bit.

Family arrived in town, my cousin I haven’t see in 25 years. He brought his daughter, who I’d never met before, and I’m so glad I blew off work. He’s turned into a great guy, a really loving and positive father, and a generous man. I smiled a lot. It was nice to reconnect.

And so continued what has been a week of epiphanies, small victories, change-making, and forgiveness.

While sailing on BC Ferries this week, I caught some beautiful light.

While sailing on BC Ferries this week, I caught some beautiful light.

Did you know I turned 40 last September? I did. I had very high expectations of this decade. I promised myself this would be the Decade of Steff. Me and my bucket list.

My 20s and 30s got hijacked and I lost my way. I never gave up, but I never saw things very clearly, either. I felt like the guy that gets lost in a jungle full of vines and brush, constantly walking and trying to clear things away, but never really making progress. Well, walk long enough and there’s always an exit.

I’m slowly exiting my back injury. I’m better more often than I’m not. When I do get hurt, even seriously, I rebound in 2–3 days or a week. There’s some kind of Zen lesson to take from serious, long-term injury. There’s a wisdom that comes from overcoming something that had been so debilitating for so long.

(But not all chronic injuries can be overcome, of course. I am lucky.)

When I moved to Victoria, my first chiropractor was trying to sell me on an expensive procedure because he claimed I had a loose hip ligament or something that couldn’t be fixed through exercise. I was already broke and I was devastated that I couldn’t “afford” to fix myself.

Flying on BC's Helijet.com, I got a good view of the slowpoke ferry below.

Flying on BC’s Helijet.com, I got a good view of the slowpoke ferry below.

Then I changed caregivers. Through very good research, I found a team of rehab folks who believed it was something I could overcome both through treatment and old-school work ethic. They didn’t see a fat girl, they saw a girl who once lost 85 pounds in a year, via near-Olympian effort in both sports and nutrition. They saw someone who needed encouragement, support, and challenge. Then they gave that to me.

In some ways, moving to Victoria was about me going somewhere to lick my wounds, keep to myself, and re-discover who I am. I have done all these things in that order. It’s been wonderful.

The Zen of Recovery, I’ve found, is in learning just how tough you are, how much you can overcome. It also puts a lot of life’s struggles into perspective. You learn that trite sayings like “whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” really aren’t trite when you’re the one who’s been getting forged like steel in fire.

Cloudy? Or Sunny? Depends on your perspective. I love the unexpected cloudy sunsets.

Cloudy? Or Sunny? Depends on your perspective. I love the unexpected cloudy sunsets.

As I’ve matured, I’ve really allowed myself to own my emotions. If I’m depressed, I’ll let myself wallow in that for a bit. I permit myself to be angry, joyous, neglectful, and all kinds of other things. I’m human. These emotions are a part that journey. It doesn’t mean I’m broken. It means I’m really, really present on the ride. I’m there, I’m doing it, I’m experiencing every bump and bruise along the way.

I’ve enjoyed these two years that I’ve made myself the priority and let the rest of life pass me by. It’s what I needed and I wouldn’t change a thing.

But this week has been something of a light turning on. I’ve had some really great project ideas you’ll find out about in coming months. I’ve stopped to enjoy life on the occasions I could. I’ve overcome a couple of struggles. I went away for a weekend, had fun with friends, splurged, and didn’t come home broke. It was a good, good week.

I think it’s important to just press pause sometimes and enjoy the smug glee of getting shit right and living well across all sectors of life. From money to fitness to diet to self-care, I’ve gotten everything right this week. It really doesn’t happen often to us adults living in the topsy-turvy real world, so it’s great to celebrate. Sometimes celebrating it makes it last a little longer, keeps me in the groove. That’s the good of gratitude, man.

Because grateful is what I am. And excited. I feel that my 40th year has been setting a pretty wicked tone for the decade to come.

Just over a decade ago I kicked off my 30s by nearly dying twice in a year. Not an auspicious start! This decade kicked off by finding a wonderful home, fixing my back, sorting out my finances, rediscovering my creative self, and setting ambitious goals for the 10 years ahead.

As a comparison, it’s like I’ve become my own doppelganger in an alternative universe. There’s so many miles between these two lives of mine that it might as well be measured in light years.

A walk at dusk on Wednesday brought peekaboo sun-flares.

A walk at dusk on Wednesday brought peekaboo sun-flares.

When I think of 10 years from now, shit, I can’t even fathom it. How many books will I have written? How many photographs will I have sold? How many countries will I have seen? How strong will I be? What kind of amazing people will I have met and brought into my fold? How many dreams will I have lived through and ticked off my list?

Great questions. I have no fucking idea, man, but I can’t wait to see how that script plays out. Luckily I’m a writer.

Yep. It’s been a good week.

Did you know I’m scheming of many ebooks, the first of which I’m nearly done, and two others I’m already at work on? For the price of a coffee, you can support me while reading good stuff. Sign up for my newsletter, where I’ll apprise you of developments without boring the shit out of you or being spammy.

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Mojo Rising: In Which I Want To Be A Blogger

307153_272353769461853_100000616957975_876750_1805170655_n (1)Hey, reader.

So I’ve not been blogging on purpose. Didn’t have it in me. For two years. Yeah, I know. You can fake it if you wanna, but I don’t phone it in.

What you don’t know is, the more annoyed or passionate I’ve been of late, say the last six months, the more I’ve been writing, and never doing anything with, new posts.

So it occurs to me that I’m, you know, one read/edit and a click away from having a shiny new blog post. Yeah! Something to ACTUALLY read, for you, the reader-person.

Doesn’t that just blow your fucking mind? A click away, man. A click!

•click•

But that’s the thing that’s been missing — the desire to write for public consumption. Or even write at all.

Lately, though, I’ve actually stopped what I was doing just to write something. Write a thing that doesn’t even pay me money! Lemme tell you, friendly reader: That blows my fucking mind.

You got your writers who’ll tell ya that writer’s block doesn’t exist. I’d agree with that. I can write six ways to Sunday all day long, but it doesn’t mean it’s got anything worth saying. And sometimes the saying of it is just a thing that keeps you hemmed into an already-troubled mindset. Ain’t nobody got time for that.

You wanna yammer on because there’s “no such thing” as writer’s block, or wallow in your you-ness, you knock yourself out. I know when I’m writing crap I wouldn’t even line a birdcage with. Let’s call 2012 and 2013 my “Bird Sanctuary Years,” okay? The Epic Saga of When the Crap-Writing Canary-Cage-Liner Sings.

But I got out and dialed up my creativity for photography and cooking, things a brain can pause for. Pause, a nice thing to use. Lovely. Pause. We should all pause a little but more, but petting zoos should have unicorn rides and shoulds don’t mean shit. Creativity is creativity and a writer doesn’t always need to write, I discovered. But now’s a different thing entirely.

So here’s the deal. I’m back. Not in a blogging-daily type incarnation, but then who knows? Maybe. I used to do the EB White write-500-words-a-day and it mostly wound up on here when it went well. Far be it for me to eliminate anything.

But wait! There’s more!

There’s something in this for me too. I’m writing ebooks. Not just one. I have a very crafty scheme in mind for taking this whole entire blog and giving you a radical reinvention of it in ebook form. This one will remain as it is, but I’ll have my fun. I need to get you all riled up about it. All in due time, reader. The grand tease thing. I’m shameless, friend. I’ll admit it. But I’ll make it worth your while too. Found my mojo, after all.

Thus it’s time for me to resume blogging for public consumption. I had my break. It was groovy. I have several things kicking around I can fire up and finish off. Longform stuff too.

I have mounting anger about the stupid-ass bullshit in the world and a raging hard-on to tell you why. I want to write. I’m twitchy. I’m ranty. I’m occasionally funny. I’m freeing up time in my life to take back writing and to own my voice.

Giving myself permission to just not write was what made me eventually write for the hell of it. It’s like rediscovering your golf-swing. You can’t just order it on Amazon. It’ll find ya when it finds ya.

So… I said Hey, reader.

In case you missed them, I have blogged lately… three times this year in larger posts I wrote and stuck on Medium. There was this about Philip Seymour Hoffman that got widely read and was an Editor’s Choice, and then there All The Fucks I Give, my thoughts on people who self-censor and the act thereof, which also was an Editor’s Choice, and finally this on how Twitter Doesn’t Suck, you make it suck.)

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All The Fucks I Give: The Hypocrisy of Self-Censoring

I have a new rant you can go and read over on Medium.

How are you fine folks?

Have you signed up for my newsletter? Might wanna do that too. (Click newsletter above or follow the link on my Medium rant.)

Party on, people.

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Unmerciful World: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Us, & The Scourge of Addiction

Stunning photo of the master in a moment of reflection. By Mark Abrams.

I was rocked to my core with news of one of my favourite actors’ death this morning. Gutted.

And I have been meaning to begin writing on Medium, where it’s easier to attract a new audience.

For the first time in a long time, I was really inspired to write. 2.5 hours later, I had written this one, at some whopping 2,500 words-plus.

Please visit Medium and read my post called Unmerciful World: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Us, & The Scourge of Addiction. Note: If you have a Medium account, you can click on the passages that touch you most and leave a comment there. Kinda neat.

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Depressions, Anxiety, and Their Link to Head Trauma

This is getting to be an annual thing for me. It’s #BellLetsTalk day today, so once again I’ll roll out the mat for my battle with depression.

I’ve learned a lot more about head injuries in the last couple of years and I just wanted to drop in and make sure I tell you a little about it too.

Turns out that nearly 65% of people who suffer traumatic brain injury (TBI) are likely to suffer anxiety and depression in the SEVEN YEARS following their injury.

Think about that.

It takes the better part of a decade to get past just one major symptom of brain injury, like depression and possibly debilitating anxiety. Never mind all that cognitive function and language and stuff. That’s a whole other deal.

This is from MSKTC’s website:

Depression is a common problem after TBI. About half of all people with TBI are affected by depression within the first year after injury. Even more (nearly two-thirds) are affected within seven years after injury. In the general population, the rate of depression is much lower, affecting fewer than one person in 10 over a one-year period. More than half of the people with TBI who are depressed also have significant anxiety.

I’m not the only person to hit suicidal feelings a year or two after a head injury. I know personally at least five people who’ve had seriously suicidal tendencies within two to five years of their TBI.

It’s hard for someone who’s not had a head injury to understand the recovery experience. For me, I took a big spill off my scooter when I was still going 40km an hour, landed on my head with such force (even helmeted) that both my in-the-ear hearing aids exploded and blood spilled from my ears. I had a bruised swollen face for six weeks or more. I don’t remember more than about five events in the first six months after my injury, and my job performance continued to decline dramatically for two years.

I knew I was supposed to be tired, depressed, and that sort of thing, but I couldn’t realize what it was I was doing differently, or how weirdly changed I was in some ways. I couldn’t process how much harder some tasks were for me because I couldn’t remember how I used to do them.

My actual ability to understand myself was impaired. My objectivity was shot. My processing skills were badly diminished. Who was I? I was somebody far different than the girl I had become post-accident, but I couldn’t remember exactly how.

Life felt foggy, disjointed, and everyone kept saying “Oh, that’s understandable.”

No! Not inside my head! It’s not okay for it to feel so goddamned WEIRD and WRONG. I was crystal clear before. I didn’t lose focus. I didn’t get confused. And then the accident happened and I didn’t know how NOT to be all the things I once wasn’t — confused, unfocused, emotional.

And that’s what a head injury is.

Our brains aren’t just under dermis, they’re under thick skulls, buried deep in our head. When they’re bruised and rattled around, it can take YEARS to heal. Oxygen isn’t getting there. Sunlight isn’t getting there. It’s gonna heal by the grace of luck or not at all.

Me,  it took about four years to start feeling like myself.

But some things are different and likely always will be. Anxiety finds me more often. I get super-intimidated in learning new things when once I was cautious but confident. I’m more affected by the darkness and short days in the winter. I have many symptoms and challenges similar to ADHD. I get overwhelmed easily. I’m more introverted than I used to be.

Yeah. Without a doubt, I’m a changed person.

I’m still smart. I still write not only well but quickly. I process math and remember things a little better than I did five years ago (the accident was nine years ago). I’m quick-witted, funny, determined, able to conjure a quick plan of attack when I need one.

Today, I find I’m socially challenged at times because I get overwhelmed when details change. So now I know I need to give myself a few minutes to process the information, and even better, now I know to read the face of people I’m with and go “Hey, it’s not you, I just need a bit longer to mentally process this and then we can proceed” and I explain why. I don’t always remember to do that, but I usually do, and that’s good enough today. That’s the process. I remember to explain it and I’m guessing in a couple years I’ll instead be able to bypass the overwhelmed part and get straight to the “Let me think for a second–” pausing that won’t require me swallowing pride and saying “I’m different, wait for me.”

So there’s hope areas I see progress in will continue to improve. It’s head trauma — a lot of studies show it can improving indefinitely. But there are no guarantees, either. Science doesn’t know enough.

One of the gifts of wisdom and age is that we begin to know our weaknesses but also the reasons behind them. Ideally, we learn to work with our failings and help others do so too. We learn acceptance.

These are all true of traumatic head injuries. It’s hard not to be changed. The degree to which it will occur can depend on how hard the impact is, or how often the impact has happened before, and whether previous impacts had healed first. Coping ability depends on the injury itself. A strange and vicious cycle when often recovery’s greatest asset in getting well is the brain, but it’s the brain here that needs to get well. Catch-22.

We don’t know a lot about head injuries. This is true. But we’re learning. Just nine years ago when I had mine, the literature was dramatically reduced.

And now we know you’re likely to deal with depression and anxiety. It’s a part of the process. Knowing this is connected should help a lot of TBI victims deal with it. It’s a small but critical victory to be able to say “Hey, this is happening because of that. It’s not okay, and I have a lot of work to do, but it really does have a reason for happening.”

When you’re the guy with the biological depression, any little lifeline that explains why it’s happening can be a huge mental tool in doing the hanging on and hoping that a true battle with depression requires.

If that’s you I’m talking about? Hang in there. Talk to a pro. It’s survivable. I’m proof.

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Well, Hello You

This morning, I caught this on a stroll nearby. Beacon Hill Park, Victoria.

I haven’t blogged in, well, a really long time. Especially here.

I won’t apologize. Life’s tough, kids. Get a helmet. Sometimes people just stop blogging.

Did I stop writing? No. I just chose to do so when it came attached to money. Amazing what things like rent will do to one’s decision-making process.

That’s okay. I’m cool with it, yo.

Life, my dear minions, has been a fine and glorious thing. Okay, no. But good! Flawless? Hah! Far from. Good? Indeed. Or certainly improving at a likable clip, with many fun discoveries along the way. Which I’ll take.

A fiery sunset on Victoria’s Dallas Road earlier this fall.

I live in a super-cool new apartment. The kind I always saw in movies and wanted. 1930s, art deco. High coved ceilings, two kinds of beautiful hardwood floors, plaster walls. All that crazy old-school stuff that makes my heart go pitter-patter.

My hood’s the fabulous downtown part of Victoria, BC. It flies a little under the radar, but I love this city and it feels like I’ve come home after a long, noisy, distraction-laden trip.

Writing only when one is paid for it means leaving a whole lot of moments left in the air to evaporate, but for the record provided by my incessant iPhonography and Instagramming. It feels so hipster of me, but as the saying goes, the best camera is the one you got on ya. (Exhibits of which are provided in the photos on this post.)

Another sunset I captured on Dallas Road a few weeks back.

Not blogging, journaling, or any of that — it’s been a real release for me. A funny thing to say considering most of us writers like to write as a way of expressing ourselves. Until the day we decide that not expressing ourselves is the best way to express ourselves.

I talk to other creatives, people who live and die by the way of having thoughts and putting them out there, out in the world, whatever their media is, and they seem to get me when I tell them I just had enough. I had to walk away from words long-form for a while. Just… get a whole lot less introspective and a lot more “Ooh, shiny” in-the-moment-ness.

I wasn’t in a good place, kids. Not for a long time. I fought the good fight but inside I was losing the war. I didn’t get depressed or anything. Just real fucking tired. Bone-dragging, soul-smooshing tired, and that’s enough.

Just before Halloween we were blanketed with fog, a perfect time to visit old Gothic-ish architecture, like St. Ann’s Academy, a National Heritage Site downtown.

It’s not like I decided not to write. I just didn’t want to do it. Not for myself, and most certainly not for you.

Instead, I wanted to stand by the ocean and think deep thoughts. I wanted to let a world of mindfulness sort of drift away. I wanted to snap photos, watch dogs run, stroll through little stores, cook in my quaint kitchen, and watch a whole lot of Netflix.

I wanted to live for myself. Not for my friends, families, readers, connections, or any damned other person. I just wanted to be a party of one with more self-determination and a whole lot less bullshit.

An autumn sunset on Dallas Road in Victoria, par moi.I read once how Danial Day Lewis ditched the movie world to go off and be a shoe cobbler. Not even a big “Fuck you, Hollywood,” just a “Huh… shoes. Okay.” Sit there, make shoes. No big picture. Just one shoe, one stitch, one sole at a time. Make this one thing the best thing it can be. It’s a noble calling, being a skilled craftsman of any description.

I’m no Day Lewis, but I kinda had my own “Huh… shoes” moment. ‘Cept it was a little place called Dallas Road. A big shiny ocean. Ripply waves. Barking dogs. Fluffy clouds. Millions of honed-by-nature stones and rocks and battered driftwood scattered about a long shore on a big ocean to remind me how we’re all just put where we are and live what we do, and it’s a lot less complicated than we like to make it.

Like today, I had my back fixed. My chiropractor tells me my hip flexors hate me. I show him my stretch. I’m overdoing it, he says. Less is more. Only until I barely feel it, then “let the breathing do the work.”

Dallas Road’s Holland Point, which ate up most of my 2012. Just too beautiful to stay away.

And isn’t that just like us? We, the silly humans? Doing something far harder than it really needs to be? I bet lions and bears don’t “overstretch.” A bear of very little brain, indeed.

I don’t really know what I dropped in to tell you. I’ll start with: A very merry Christmas to you. And Hanukkah and Kwanzaa, and whatever else you got.

Will I be blogging more in 2014? Meh. Do you really want promises? Can I respect myself in the morning for a bit instead?

I would like to. As much as I’ve needed, wanted, enjoyed walking away from recreational writing, I identify as a writer. I am a writer. It’s what I do, how I am, who I am, why I am the way I am. How many more ways can I say it? I write therefore I exist. Apologies to the dead guy I’m paraphrasing.

Fog in late August. It was incredibly warm, so unusual for fog, and a beautiful day for cycling in Esquimalt, just over the bridge from Downtown Victoria.

What I can tell you is… I’ve been wanting to come back here lately. But this blog has some kinda legacy. Oof, does it. One needs a little mojo to step up to the “Cunt.” It’s been a happy, fluffy time of rainbows and growth of late. Not a Cunty mojo for me, to say the least.

That’s not necessarily a great thing either, happiness without a side of Cunt. I don’t regret who I was when I wrote this blog. For much of it, I really enjoyed the ride. I sort of stopped being her far longer ago than when I merely stopped writing it.

But maybe, just maybe, I’m coming full circle. In a better, wiser, older kind of way.

In any case. A merry Christmas to you all. Here’s hoping we can get it on again, blog-style, in the new year.

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  • About Steff

    This is my interstellar craft of truth and wit. Buckle up. If you want celebrity gossip, this is not the blog for you. If you want comfortable postings that’ll fill you with happy fuzzy thoughts about the world at large, or self-help guru shit, this is not the blog for you.
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