Dark & Beautiful: The Brain & Creativity

brainsbrainsbrainsThe human brain is a marvelous and terrifying thing.

I once heard that science knows as little about the deep sea as it does the human brain. The last frontiers. Is that true? Really, the only thing that matters is that I can buy its truthiness. Science can’t even really explain why some PMS makes me want to club a baby seal, but other times I’m fine. Hello?

Yesterday, for instance, I managed to be productive and focused, but inside I was terribly, terribly depressed and angry.

Fortunately, logically, I knew it was just hormones and weather. I realized there wasn’t an actual reason I should be either depressed OR angry, and I knew where I was in my cycle. The way I was feeling wasn’t rooted in reality, and I understood that, come morning, odds were highly likely the mood would vanish.

And poof, just like that, it’s gone. Today I’m hopeful, creative, charged, and just bought the domain name for the creative and existential project to consume the next half decade of my life. If that’s not optimistic, even at the low, low price of $8.99 per year, I don’t know what is.

Perspective

I mean, how many people have the opportunity to point at Planet Earth and go “I want that,” then set into motion the mechanics of taking on the whole wide world for five years with no roots, anywhere, no limits? One in 100,000? One in a million? Lucky, indeed.

It’s knuckle-cracking elbow-greasing time when it comes to this little going-Full-Nomad project of mine. A friend has offered to help me set up my blog. I’ve decided not to host that content here on The Cunt. This place has been great for me, and I’ll likely still use it to unleash my wrath and rail at the gods from time to time, but I’m in a different place now. I’m a different person now. I need a new creative home.

Despite my older, mellower ways, it’s pretty safe to say I’ll never be Mary Poppins. Nor would I want to be. I like my wrath and fury, my joy and faith. I like the mix of pathos that swirls in my brain. My yin to my yang is right there. I may tilt and pivot, vacillating from seeming extremes, but I’m usually able to hold onto a small measure of awareness that, whatever the tempest, life is generally a smooth-sailing place for me. Or at least a place I manage to navigate without peril.

Storms are Genesis

Chimp_Brain_in_a_jarEarlier, I saw a quote from Kurt Vonnegut about how it’s impossible to be a serious writer if you don’t suffer depression. I’m sure if he were to expound, he might have said something like it’s the variations of emotional themes which make great writers what they are.

They’ve loved, they’ve lost, they’ve lived to tell another tale.

Throughout history, writers have been the teller of the tales. They’ve kept the legends alive, passed the records of humanity from one generation to another. It wasn’t until humans began to write that we really had a record of not only the social structure but the emotional worlds in ages long past.

Writers record the human condition. We try to grasp what happens around us, record how it affects us, and inspire the next step. Today, different mediums allow for writing/recording/inspiring to happen visually, in audio, and of course on the page/stage/screen.

But all of it starts in the brain, when someone sees something and has a thing or two to say about it. Poof! A synapse fires, a thought is born, a project springs forth.

That inspiration and the ability to create something of where there was nothing, it blows my fucking mind.

The human brain is a marvellous and terrifying place, indeed.

The Psyche and the Fulcrum

Surviving nearly a year of dark, fearful deep depression baffles me. Survival didn’t seem an option then. I’m grateful my forays to bleakness are seldom now, rare even, and I’ve the faculties to buckle up and hang on until it’s over, which is never more than a day or two.

I have no illusions. Once I’m gone “Full Nomad,” there’ll be days where I find myself fatigued and homesick, wishing I had a bed all mine. But it’s days like today after I’ve told myself “It’ll be better tomorrow,” and I wake up, and it really is better, that convince me I’ve got this. I’ll have brief downs and see myself through them.

Done and Done

That’s another funny thing about the brain. The more we realize and act upon our strength, the more our brains can sell us on our toughness when needing a pep-talk down the road.

It’s fantastic we’re as resilient as we are. One of the greatest gifts ever given is adversity. It never feels that way at the time, but no matter what the loss or the price is, a healthy person will become better, stronger, more resilient as a result. I know I’m grateful to have proven already I’m “tough enough.”

Like the saying says, we don’t know how strong we are until we have to be strong.

That part is inspiring and comforting. What’s terrifying is the brain’s ability to shut out all hope and languish in darkness. Science needs to unlock mental illness. I’m glad it’s getting more attention.

And Now, More Mysterious Than Ever Before!

Strength and resilience aside, the flipside to the possibility of that terrifying darkness is the jaw-dropping experience of creation. Some brains conceive rocketships to the stars, incredible food combinations, cures for disease, life-changing books, or soul-charging songs. Poof! Magic. Inspiration, creation. And so the creative cycle continues.

With every new experience, a new creative door might open. I can’t begin to imagine what seeing the world and blowing my perception wide-open will do for my brain. What will I create? What will I learn? What will I experience? How will it influence my thoughts for the rest of my life? My creativity? How much will it increase my resilience?

I’ve already lived through incredible extremes of the human brain. Or like to think I have. In less than eight months, I start the project that I hope will shake me to my foundations and awaken me from my white middle-class life, and change my world-view for the rest of my days.

Waiting will be a bitch. Luckily, Trusty Brain shows me positives in proceeding slow and studiously, while laying proper groundwork for a long, successful journey.

Way to go, brain.

Brains

Video Vigilante: Hell Hath No Fury Like the Internet

I’m a product of the internet age, but I also know what life was like before the internet too.

When you fucked up, you did so with the knowledge that only a few folks might really know about it. You’d go down the rabbit-hole of bad behaviour and would rise to live another day.

These days, not so much. There’s often a camera in proximity. The internet is rife with people experiencing their worst moment while some fucker with a camera has caught it all to share with the world.

Facepalm Girl

I understand there are all kinds of wrongness with being judged for our worst moment. Lord knows I’d be pink-faced if mine got posted. But I’d also deal with it, because like it or not, I was the one who had the power to stop that ball from rolling. I was the one who lacked manners, empathy, grace, or whatever it theoretically might have been that got me shamed on the intertubes. I’d suck it up, own up to my crap, apologize, and move the hell on.

There are all these web pros who talk about just how awful it is that your prior bad act should taint you forever, and how this is some new public-shaming horror we’re living with, but accountability was a big thing in most of history.

Back in the day, newspapers printed the arrest blotter weekly, letting it be known who was busted and for what, often with mugshots there too. The fear of getting caught on the blotter often inspired good behaviour.

Pretty basic, that: Don’t want to be exposed for law-breaking, being an asshole, or other crimes of poor judgment? Then behave like you’re a citizen in a lawful society. With good behaviour in public, your chances of being shamed on the internet decrease dramatically.

If I Can Restrain Myself, You Can Too

I might be a loudmouth on the internet, and I may even speak with bravado and edge in public, but I’m also restrained, polite, and gracious. I hold the doors open for folks, I thank shop staff for allowing me to browse, and all that kind of stuff.

Hell, even when I found out that I was in for a 17-hour flight delay on my 4-day weekend in Vegas to celebrate my brother’s wedding, I started off with “Oh, for FUCK’S sake.” Then I said “I know it’s not YOU inconveniencing me, but–”

I handled it with a couple swear words followed by tact. I think that’s acceptable. Of course we can’t keep every emotion in check. But the way some people behave is not okay, it’s not within the “acceptable” outburst parameters.

Newsflash: Decency Isn’t a Modern Creation

And here’s the thing: It’s not some NEWSFLASH that it’s uncool to harass people or treat them like shit. It’s not like you’ve been on the planet for 30 years and then someone changed the rules and said “being a dick ain’t cool, yo.”

Oh, man. I can’t be an asshole now? God, why don’t I get these memos?”

We’re taught from KINDERGARTEN that we have to be nice and polite. How are people missing this?

If you’re past the age of 20 and you haven’t figured out what basic human decency involves, maybe you deserve to be shamed on the web. Maybe that’s the only way it’ll get through your thick skull.

If you have outbursts like these and rage issues, then you have a problem and you need to deal with that shit. Because guess what? The rest of us are tired of dealing with it, and we have omnipresent video cameras now.

You Go, Girl: Indian Women Fight Back

highfiveTake this incident on an Indian flight where a creepy old man thought he was entitled to touch the legs/ass of a woman sitting next to him. She had enough. She stood up, turned the camera on him, and shamed him.

There is no way a man gets to age 60 not understanding that it’s not his right to touch women. There is no way this behaviour is an “oopsy-daisy.”

Or how about these two Indian sisters who went viral last December for raging against the men pawing them on a public bus?

I’ve been on the bus when a man has fondled my ass. I only wish I had the guts THEN to do this. I sure as hell would NOW. I’m over 40 and I’m over that shit.

In India, a culture of rape has been practiced by some and ignored by the law and most other folks for far too long. The internet is giving these women the chance to fight back for the first time ever, with what is a very powerful weapon in their culture: Shame.

Shame is a big deal in India, much more so than here in North America, and I have no doubt this man will suffer consequences with his family and friends as a result of this outburst. Do I pity him in the blowback he’s about to experience? Not really.

Suck it Up, Buttercup

YOU are accountable for your actions. When YOU act like an ass and then you experience consequences for it, the world isn’t to blame. You are. If you had just taken 10 seconds to think about your behaviour before acting on your basest instincts, then the world wouldn’t have had to take you to task for it.

If you thought for a split second, “Would I want this treatment returned to me?” maybe you would’ve pressed the “no asshole” button and backed off. Are we really saying that modern life is SO HARD that people can’t stop for a split second to consider the consequence? Come on! Get real!

I’d rather live in a world where everyone gets to make mistakes and grow from it the old-fashioned way, but when it comes to men like this and their feeling of entitlement with harassing women, or people who shout and rage at others just doing their jobs, or who are knowingly acting incredibly petty and mean, then maybe this is the only way we, the decent folk on the planet, can say “DUDE, it’s NOT OKAY to do that.”

Because, dude, it’s not okay.

with-it-you-shall-deal-yoda

Pondering the Pineapple Express

The “Pineapple Express” isn’t just a stoner movie that’ll have you hitting the Cheetos, it’s a weather phenomenon that instills dread in the hearts of West Coasters.

It’s days of unseasonal warm weather coupled with dreary heavy clouds, battering rains, and sometimes winds. It’s not like monsoons in the tropics, it’s just medium-to-heavy rain that seems endless, for days. With the humidity between 90–100%, it feels like you’re walking around in a wet paperbag for three to six days straight.

There’s some localized weather phenomena that affects where I am, Victoria, BC, where “the shadow of Mount Rainier” is said to save us from about 50% of the rain that falls in Vancouver. We might be just across the strait, less than 100km from Vancouver, BC, but they’re a rainforest, and downtown Victoria ain’t. Half the rain, baby.

Between the rain, back in 2013 on Victoria's Clover Point.

Between the rain, back in 2013 on Victoria’s Clover Point.

But you wouldn’t know it on days like these. Not because of all the rain, but because all the clouds sock us in and that moisture’s still THERE, it’s just holding out to put out for Vancouver. I guess Victoria doesn’t drive a flash enough car to woo the likes of this rain.

Still, like a school boy on a hot date, those clouds are fit to explode, and I feel the pressure as it slowly rolls overtop this island, starting its dump further up the coast as it lays into Vancouver.

It pounds behind my eyes and the back of my head. I can even feel the little shifts. Clouds clear in a patch above me momentarily, and so will my head. Rain resumes, so does the foggy brain. It’s baffling.

They call these “low-pressure fronts.” It’s evident even in the people. We trudge and grumble. There’s a “rainy-day hunch,” too. We don’t even know we’re doing it — it just happens when walking down the street in heavy rain. It’s a forward slouch with a hunching of the shoulders, and it effectively ensures more like a 60–40 rain-split, where your back gets most of the wetting action.

Cept those days where you’re walking into a headwind and then you’re just screwed, bro. Done. Those are the days you get rain-soaked straight up to mid-thigh. God help you if you’re not wearing water-resistant clothing, or better yet, Goretex. I’m not the only former Vancouverite who’s had 2–3 layers of clothes all get soaked under a “rainproof” jacket on the very bad, no good, wrong rain day.

One of THOSE days. I dared to shoot photos in the wind and rain. Luckily *my* gear worked. But 95km winds will give you THIS face.

One of THOSE days. I dared to shoot photos in the wind and rain. Luckily *my* gear worked. But 95km winds will give you THIS face.

We grumble and whine and moan, but this rain becomes a part of us. Day after day it grows prohibitive and inconvenient, not to mention mind-numbing and depressing, but the odd heavy rain becomes something we almost cannot live without.

I loved to the Yukon in 1994 and spent the year living in Whitehorse. When you think “Yukon,” you think endless snow, so naturally it must get quite a bit of moisture, right? But you’d be wrong. It’s incredibly dry. It snows in October, then pretty much just stays dry and sunny and cold until April, when it rains a couple times and the snow finally melts.

I’d moved there in October, after Vancouver’d had a three-month dry spell. By the time I saw and smelled rain again, it was the following April and I hadn’t seen rain in 10 months. I cried, I was so happy to see it.

So today as the rain pounds and batters the streets, and I sit with all my windows open while enjoying the unseasonal warmth, I’m loathing the dreariness despite enjoying its idle, and dreaming of when I will live in a place with more sun than rain in winter, and wondering if I might miss these Pineapple Expresses one day.

After all, there’s a catharsis that comes with rain. Like if it rains any harder it’ll even wash away my sins. It’s soul-soothing and permissive. My inner-Catholic is a big fan of rain and all its symbolic cleanliness.

I feel I’ll be betraying all my lineage by escaping this climate. From the Barra Islands Camerons in the Outer Hebrides to my Viking MacNeills, Irish Monks, and my Breton line, they’re all foul-weathered people. They overcame the challenges of the land, sea, and skies, and thrived in it.

I have the luxury of failing them all and wimping out. City-folk. Pah!

As a result, I’ll be letting the rain dictate my weekend. Food, cleaning, writing, sloth, Netflix, drinking, reclusion. All fine and glorious things. All behind the rain-streaked windows, wearing comfy jammies and sporting bedhead.

No shame, man. No shame.

Letting Go So I Can Move On

Today is the day I allow my Victoria blog domain to die. Now it’s just another lowly wordpress.com site.

Writing-wise, it was like a bad pair of jeans. Sure, it gave me something to write about, but it would always feel wrong.

Despite that, Victoria has been where I’ve reconnected with writing after losing my inspiration for nearly five years. I’ve tried on many genres of writing while here — for money and otherwise.

With both paid and unpaid writing, I now feel that life is too precious to spend it earning money doing things I don’t love, and even less worth it when money ain’t involved. I haven’t figured out the secret to only getting paid to do what I love yet, but I’m getting closer. I can feel it.

Girl checks out the sunset on Victoria's Dallas Road. By me. Some rights reserved.

Girl checks out the sunset on Victoria’s Dallas Road. By me. Some rights reserved.

I was never gonna be the Victoria-it-place girl. I’m glad the one blog post on about lepers got a lot of recognition and was reprinted in the Huffington Post, but the rest of the blog, I found it hard to give a shit about it.

Learning that it’s the genre and type of writing that was bumming me out is a big thing. It’s the opposite of inspiration, that. Other people can write about food joints and place trends, but it ain’t me.

I’m now learning the writing I want to do can’t be done in one spot. It’s like an REM song — I can’t get there from here.

I can’t explain it to you, but you’ll know it when you see it.

I shot this on day five of living in Victoria. March, 2012. Sunset at Victoria's Ogden Point Breakwater. I will miss this place and its special feeling after I'm gone.

I shot this on day five of living in Victoria. March, 2012. Sunset at Victoria’s Ogden Point Breakwater. I will miss this place and its special feeling after I’m gone.

In future adventures in writing, I see more observational, contemplative work. That’s my jazz. I also want to try fiction again, which I’ve only written for classes before, but that I may have a knack for. After all, inside my brain is a dark and bizarre world at times. I’ve begun cobbling out the plot for an unreliable memoir of a serial killer, for instance.

I’m sure there are those who’ll scoff at the notion that I can know what my “missing piece” is and where I’ll find it, but there aren’t a lot of times in our lives when we have an unmistakable pull telling us where to go, what to do. For those of us lucky enough to decipher that code, there’s this weird undercurrent of certainty that battles the fear of change.

I may be terrified of my five-year world-travel plan, in some ways, but I’ve never had more certainty that a risk I was taking is the right one. Believe me, I’ve thought of all the freaky what-ifs, but the core of certainty remains.

Certainty” is an iffy word for it, but I can’t find a better one.

It’s like that scene in Donnie Darko where Donnie sees that strange orb of pre-destiny extending from other folks’ torsos, in that split moment before they commit to a direction or action, affirming for Darko Dr. Roberta Sparrow’s theories on time travel.

The global nomad thing just feels that way for me and my writing. What I seek, it’s out there. It feels almost like I’ve accidentally mislaid a piece of my soul and need to go retrieve it.

I remember when I was younger I used to think relentless wanderers were people running away or seeking something. I know it’s more complicated now. Today, I feel like some of those wanderers are plugged into a bigger picture, they’re not running from anything — they’re embracing everything.  “Wherever you go, there you are.”

Abroad, writing will become a kind of clearinghouse for me. I will absorb, process, and relate everything I’m experiencing in the moment. Like French cinema, I may not get it when I’m in the theatre, but I’m sure I’ll enjoy the imagery and I’ll appreciate it more in the days to come.

I look forward to trying all kinds of writing exercises, seeing what fits and what doesn’t. Same with cultures, landscapes, and cuisines.

So today I allow one more thing to fall away from me, a passing of my time here in Victoria. In ways that will remain known only by me, that blog was part of how I came to realize my nebulous dream of being a global nomad was absolutely doable. It was how I learned my limits, that living on, and writing about, life on one island was not gonna be enough for me.

Milestones are cool. For me, this is a good one. There’ll always be the WordPress.com version of the blog anyhow.

And so the slow goodbye to Van Isle begins for me today.

I Fought Depression & Won. I Was Lucky.

It’s #BellLetsTalk day and while I hate giving free advertising to a company, it’s a day that does inspire a lot of conversation, and for that reason I feel obligated to say my part.

My feeling “obligated” to share my mental illness battles stems from being someone who’s been through both biological and situational depressions and who knows first-hand how hard it is to climb out of that, but that it’s possible (for some).

These days, I still get angry at people who suggest depression is a matter of discipline and keeping your appointments. “Oh, do X, Y, Z, and talk about crap with a professional, and you’ll be tickety-boo.” Right. As if.

Sunset in a cemetery.

Sunset in a cemetery. By Me.

Sometimes There’s A Reason

I know now, from this early-greying side of 40, that many of my mental issues probably stem from the fact that I had four concussions in the decade prior to a traumatic brain injury. I don’t know that I’ll ever walk away from anxiety and mood-swings completely. Maybe that’s a part of me now. It’s been 11 years since my head injury, but I’ve had leg bruises take 6 months to heal, so who knows about the brain, right?

I do know that I’ve overcome the worst of it. It’s like finding your legs at sea –a new normal can be found where one realizes their ups/downs and the triggers thereof.

Sayings like “knowing is half the battle” become truisms for a reason. Knowledge changes everything, particularly in the mental health battle.

It was life-changing the day I learned that some 80% of TBI sufferers go on to experience serious depressions in the decade following their traumatic brain injury. It really was life-changing, on a #BellLetsTalk day, no less. Two years ago.

In Good Will Hunting, here’s a scene where Matt Damon keeps getting told by Robin Williams that “it’s not your fault,” and Damon doesn’t get it until he “gets it,” and then he breaks down in tears.

This wasn’t quite like that, but finding out there was probably a physical cause for how I got so very fucked up, it was so empowering and disarming. It wasn’t my fault. I was “injured.” Until then, I didn’t realize how much I had always blamed myself for my depression.

But it really isn’t my fault. It isn’t anyone’s fault. It’s not our fault that science can’t explain these things better, or that we’re only really now studying the brain and making advances.

What if There’s Always Been a Cause?

I’ve seen news recently too where medical experts are beginning to wonder if there can be a bacterial cause or infectious disease behind the growing spectre of depression. There is evidence that this is potentially true. What if it’s a “bug” you caught as a kid that’s made you depressed all your life? What if it really can be “cured”? This is an amazing idea.

It’s also a dangerous one to latch onto. Depression is such an insidious beast that easy antidotes are a cruel tease. False hope can literally be a killer.

For me, I know now to expect lethargy, anxiety, depression, overeating, overdrinking, and every other negative under the sun when I’m enduring the short days of a Canadian winter. I’m one of the 20% for whom “SAD” could be a very serious affliction. So much so that my heart sings at the idea of being a nomad next winter and taking off to the south of Spain in January. Oh, yes. Positively giddy concept, that.

The Road Back

Reprieve will always excite me, even if it’s just me running away to a Spanish winter.

I’ve been through hell and back on the inside of my brain. It’s just a thing. That’s depression for you. For those of us who’ve come through to the other side, life is a surreal and powerful experience. Sometimes overcoming depression can be as simple as a decision, but those are the lucky and the few who enjoy that choice.

I often have moments when I look around the world and know it’s largely the same when I’m happy as when I’m depressed, and I’m all too aware of just how dramatically differently your brain can process things, and sometimes by fluke of chemistry or just seasonal weather. It’s astonishing once you see both sides.

For most, the road back from depression is an inexplicably personal journey, one that cannot be replicated, faked, or mass produced. For most, there is no easy answer, no one-size-fits-all trick. For most, it is a grueling, tiresome, troubling, exhausting journey where two steps forward come with one step back, but eventually, if lucky, they succeed.

Happiness, it turns out, is a process of elimination in which one of many factors is simply luck.

And if folks don’t succeed on their “road back,” they sometimes end up like Robin Williams, at the wrong end of a rope.

That’s depression for you.

Use Your Words

Whatever it is we don’t understand about the brain and its chemistry, the one thing we do know is that, for some baffling reason, just using your words, opening your mouth, and saying something to someone, anyone, can sometimes be the thing that saves your life.

It saved mine in August, 2006 when I called a psychiatrist and said I was scared for what I might do to myself that day. Because I was terrified of the “what if” that afternoon.

Since then, I’ve never again felt that kind of hopelessness. Never again. Never, really.

And I think that’s a potential outcome for many people who today might feel there is no future or hope. Maybe they just need to open up and admit they’ve never been lower than now, to tell someone, anyone, and start that journey. Maybe that’s all it will require.

Hey, it’s a start” has never had as much potential as it does when you put a name to the unthinkable beast that’s been keeping you down.

Trust me. Knowing really is half the battle. Put a name to your beast. Then get your fight on. You can do this. I did.

In Vino Veritas: Of Writing, Reading, and Travelling

Television. I’m loving it. It’s a limited-time offer, so act now! I’ve paused during an American Masters biography about Alice Walker. Man, she kicks more ass than I thought. I love a smart, confrontational woman.

These lazy nights with movies and TV, they’re an indulgence I know I’ll be foregoing within the year. When I’m travelling, I won’t be watching much TV or film. I’m really seeking a “writer’s life” abroad. I’ll be hopefully working about 30% fewer hours in my editing dayjob, down about 50% overall since a decade ago, and that may help with reading.

There are two things I want to do more — be still, and read. Being still is self-explanatory. Put down the phone, be in the moment. Stare at whatever’s ahead of me.

Reading’s another beast altogether. My dayjob really gets in the way of wanting to read. I edit and read all day long. Between reading the day’s news on the web (which I do a lot of) and work, I don’t have books left in me.

The whole point of going abroad is that I want to try to live well for $2000 a month, not the $3000 or so it can be here. While I want to save more, I also want to work less. Work for for other people less, that is. Read more, write more for myself on projects of interest to me. As I said, the latter isn’t “work.”

The Unreading Writer

snoopy-writing1I have a lot of ideas. A murder mystery. Short fiction. Non-fiction series ideas on food and terroir. But mostly I want to journal and write about life and the people and experiences that come with. In another lifetime, they’d have called me a diarist. In this, I’m a “blogger,” for good or ill.

When I was a Duthie’s bookseller (RIP), I used to read probably three books a week and four newspapers a day. Nothing quite like the joy of a job that lets you read while you work, right?

I don’t read now. That’s not oversimplifying it. The things with pages? They don’t happen here. Every now and then that scene flashes across my brain, where Matt Damon rants at Robin Williams that he doesn’t “understand” the people who surround themselves with all these books, and they’re “the wrong fucking books.”

I have the right fucking books but they’re going unread in lieu of digital media. I used to be the kind of writer/reader who always said profound and snazzily-worded things at engagements and now I’ve become the type who needs to drink a couple glasses of water just to be sure I don’t mumble like some anti-social reject.

Ahh, the old days of being literate as a matter of course. Good times!

On the Clock

So I’ll be abroad, where I’m sure there will be many who bedazzle me with their command of English as a second language, but then there will be many who make my soul weep as the ancient language of my peoples gets bludgeoned into oblivion. I’ve taught ESL. I already know this feeling.

As an antidote to the bludgeoned lingo, I will forego filmed entertainment much more, and turn to words, words, words.

It’s pretty enthralling to think of writing abroad. I think some people travel so they’ll have something to write about later, but I’ll push “pause” and fulfill my promise of writing daily.

I have no illusions of how lucky I am to be able to do this. And by “be able to do this,” I mean simply choosing to do so. I’m not the only person who works from home, isn’t in love, and doesn’t have kids. Others could do this, they just don’t. Or it hasn’t occurred to them.

But I can. I am. I recognize that the only thing holding me back is people I see maybe a handful of times a year and some material belongings. There’s an entire planet full of amazing opportunities, cultures that are changing by the minute, landscapes that are here today maybe gone tomorrow, and my clock is ticking. My mother had 16 years left in her life when she was my age. 16 years. That’s it, man.

Aging Like a Bad-Ass

I’m a first date and a driver’s license away from her death. That’s not a lot of time. Of course, my granny died at 88, so those are the genes I’m hoping I scored. Piss, vinegar, a great smile, and persistence, my granny Mae in a nutshell.

I’d like to be one of those old ladies owning her white hair, great glasses, a caftan, and smoking a bong, laughing with similar-minded old writers and artists in some secluded community, like I’ve seen in documentaries. I love those old artist types. “Fuck you, I’ll say what I want! I’m an artist at 80. My friends are all dead and I’ve earned the right to speak for us all.”

I’m not as good of a writer I can be. I believe writing is an ever-improving craft and it’s not just about the words. It’s about all the stuff that bubbles under my skin and whether I have the guts to go in there and pop the bubbles. The stuff that scares us and provokes us and enrages us, that’s what we need to tap into. Not just _____ character in ______ setting. It’s that inner-battle that makes anything worth reading about. Give me pathos and passion.

The School of Travel

I suppose that’s what my travel plans are. Pulling back all the safety nets, distilling life down to a few tech gadgets and a single suitcase, going full-on “no fixed address,” it’s all a way to really see what lurks within. I can’t wait to see what comes out of my head when I’m in 24/7 newness, with cultures confronting my own preconceptions of the way things be. I want to see what overcoming fears, adapting to new situations, meeting people I couldn’t have imagined, and busting through personal barriers results in as a writer.

I can’t know. You can’t know. That shit’s like alchemy. You put it in the pot, melt it down, and wait. You get lucky or you don’t. I personally don’t see how this could make me a worse writer, though. That shit doesn’t compute at all. It’s not a factor. Not possible.

That’s not cockiness, that’s just reality. There isn’t a person on this planet I don’t think could benefit from travelling through other cultures and trashing their prejudices. It makes us all better — writers included.

My Not-So-Secret Life as a Recluse

It’s funny, because in some ways, it’s like I moved to Victoria in 2012 and pressed the “pause” button on life. I haven’t sought out new friends, I’ve barely lived beyond a five-square-kilometre area here.

But I mean, seriously, if you asked me five years ago how I would feel about living a life where I didn’t have to see anyone, didn’t have to go anywhere, and didn’t have to work in an office, while having the freedom to walk to a beach, downtown, or to a world-class park, all while avoiding buses and not owning a car, I would’ve laughed at you and said it was a no-brainer, sign me up.

This life I’ve led of virtually no one, no events, no obligations, no belonging — it’s been a kind of dream come true too. I may never, ever have this opportunity again. I’m sure other people would go “But how much did you miss out on? What have you NOT seen?”

I’ve seen hundreds of sunsets or sunrises. I’ve eaten great food. I’ve heard silence often, and for long stretches. I refound my love for writing. I rediscovered photography. I’ve learned more in cooking. I doubled my income. In a year where I wrote under 50 things, one was read by 200,000 people. It’s been a great ride here. It’s been the ride I needed to have.

I can’t begin to tell you how much I’ve grown here, how much wisdom I’ve gained, how much I’ve lowered my expectations on what I need back from life — in a way that makes happiness easier to have and enjoy.

No, I’m not “happy.” Not yet. I work too much, I’m tired, I long to travel, but I’ve found a creative solution to that, haven’t I? I want to “work” as much as I do, but I don’t consider writing like this to be work. This is more like waking up and being myself. That’s personal time spent in a way I love to spend it.

There’s a whole planet out there that I’ve only seen two-dimensionally. I feel like my life’s about to go from black-and-white to Technicolor.

As a writer, man… phew. That’s got me wound right up. It’s not often in life that we have the privilege of knowing when fast-paced personal growth is ahead of us, let alone what the catalyst for all of it is. Even more seldom is when our whole life becomes something that’s more play than work, for years.

I’m going to travel the world, bitches. For years. I’m going to flip the switch, become one of the most social people you’ve ever seen, and be a true woman of words on the road. I just cannot wait to see the other side of who I can be. What a fun ride is ahead.

And now, back to my scheduled program.