Faces From the Beyond

It’s taken me three days to take a package out of my mailbox from my brother.

He spent a whole weekend transferring videos he had found in the deep, dark boxes of his life. They were footage of my mother from the three years before her death.

We weren’t a video family. She died in ’99, so it was before smartphones, before everyone had a camera. We had pictures, was about it.

Then my brother called one night, a tone different in his voice, and told me he’d found these videos and had been watching them for a whole weekend, then decided to invest in conversion equipment.

Voila, DVDs.

So, now they’re here. Today. On the day she would’ve been 71.

So how do you go from having nothing but vague memories of a face, a person, who was one of the most pivotal people in your life, to suddenly knowing there’s a stack of DVDs waiting to be seen?

Well, I guess now they’ll sit there on my desk for a while. I’ll become used to them existing in the world. And some day, one day, I’ll have the courage to go there.

But this is not that day.

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Smells Like Sexism, Playtex

It’s been pointed out to me that the wipes discussed below are aimed at both sexes, which I already knew, but since I’m used to advertising telling me my vagina is foul, I’ll leave it up to boys to defend themselves.

***

What fresh, steamy hell is this?

I’ll give you a clue: It ain’t lavender-scented, bitches!

That stanky pile of shit you’re getting a whiff of is the latest advertising campaign by Playtex.

Like other beauty and hygiene companies, their cash-cow is in the form of hyping up our insecurities.

Wanna get laid? Make babies? Fulfill your dreams of love and destiny?

Better clean your snatch, baby. No man will have you if you smell normal. You’d better be smelling like roses and unicorns down there, girls, or you’ll die alone and wretched.

In short, Playtex wants you buying their wipes so you don’t offend the masses by smelling like a human being. You know, that smell that biologically is meant to attract men and signal our arousal? BAD. DON’T DO ITEVER.

A clean beaver always finds more wood”? No, a wet one does.

Their campaign has sent their misogynistic advertising company to the library on a quest for every dated, tired euphemism for “vagina,” because god knows the censors would never let any female bodyparts be uttered on daytime TV, and they’ve cranked out a series of offensive slogans, thinking women would find it cute, adorable, and true.

Because, hey, everyone knows women will respond positively if you use nice colours and pretty pictures. Lord knows we’d do anything to avoid taxing our pretty little heads with big thinky words or complicated concepts like empowerment, independence, or confidence.

Funny enough, there’s no proof these things do anything positive other than masking bodily odours with chemical ones. It doesn’t STOP the source, it just hides it for a while.

In fact, the odds of your getting yeast infections SKYROCKETS if you use these products.*

Then what happens? More shame over being human. More use of the product that actually causes the problem. Desperate use of yeast-infection products to solve the infection you’ve caused by using something unnatural to fight something natural. Either way, more money for the industry.

Whether it’s anal bleaching, vaginal wipes, or other cosmetic/chemical fixes for twats and penises, it’s all a sign of just how stupid we’re becoming.

Bleaching your ass  because it looks like ass? Pretty dumb, people. Getting surgery to make your snatch look like a porn star’s? Infinitely stupid.

And using wipes doused in chemicals and maxed out with scents so you can avoid smelling the way you’re supposed to smell? Yep. Stupid.

If you’re not pissed off by this advertising campaign, then you’re a part of the problem. Period.

*As opposed to wiping with, say, apple cider vinegar, under $5 a bottle, whose smell evaporates in 30 seconds and which actually fights, and kills, yeast, and is good for you. Want portable wipes without giving into this misogynistic bullshit? Papertowel dampened with apple cider vinegar, carried in a Ziploc bag, will fight any infection-induced odours & help CURE you rather than perpetuate the problem.

______________________

Don’t forget to check out my new Victoria Lifestyle Blog, about my new city and home of choice: http://VanIsleStyle.com.

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Posted in Consumerism, Opinion (Editorial & Commentary), Sexism, Steff Rants | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Let’s Talk Mental Health: Life after Depression, My Story

Today is #BellLetsTalk day in Canada. It’s an initiative by Bell Media to get Canadians talking about mental health. Use of the hashtag on Twitter results in 5 cents per tweet getting donated to mental health awareness by Bell, but the tweet needn’t be about mental health to count. Tweeting about a donut? Tag that.

This big-biz-sponsored day on mental health has prompted me to want to talk again about my own experiences with depression, because I know for a fact it has helped people in the past, something that fills me with great pride.

I consider myself major-depression-free for 5 years now. (Woohoo!)

Sure, I got pretty depressed at the end of my time in Vancouver, but that’s different. That’s what you call “situational depression,” in which you get depressed as a natural result of a situation in your life — whether it’s a death, a job loss, bankruptcy, or any other major stress that can result in anxiety and other disorders. You can medicate yourself to manage these situations, too, or you can just hang on tight, knowing that it’s related to something that’s going on and that it’ll pass. When I thought about the stress of moving, I was depressed.

When I thought of the life I expected after moving, I felt momentary glee and hope. That’s how I knew it was a situational depression and that it would subside.

So, I hung on for the ride, then I moved to Victoria. It passed.

And that’s life.

It’s a lie to try and convince anyone that once depression goes away it’s all sunshine and roses. It’s not. Some are prone to depression and moods. I wouldn’t go so far as to say I’m “prone” to it, but I know that I have been susceptible in difficult times. The safe thing is to assume that I might always have a hard time in some situations. I’m a passionate person. Maybe that’s part of the package.

I think occasional susceptability to deep moods is a pretty normal deal. The important thing is being able to recognize it.

When I suffered my major, major depression that was chemically induced by a bad birth control prescription that closed in on me fast and changed everything. It began early 2006 and lasted into the autumn. I had to ask for help. I had to place an emergency call to a shrink in August, and then I went and got meds, and things began to improve 3 weeks later, but it was a long struggle back to normalcy.

I took those meds until spring 2008, but had to rapidly get off them because I had changed my diet and exercise routine so dramatically (and would lose 80 pounds that year) that I was able to get my body chemistry back to normal. At that point, the “anti-depressants” began making me aggressive, and we knew what was going on: I was getting balanced through natural means and no longer needed the chemicals to regulate matters.

Since then, I need a combination of time alone, vitamins, quality exercise, and regular sleep to keep my moods regulated. And if I “go off balance,” it’s usually only a couple days before I’m back to where I need to be.

Depression, once you’ve had a REAL depression — not just sadness or stress or a down period, but clinical dark-as-fuck, will-I-survive-this depression — I think it’s always there. Like a mole on your leg or your social security number, that experience just becomes a part of you.

I don’t mean in a way that you’re always AWARE of it, or that you always feel it. I just mean that when a real wave of sadness or sorrow hits, you remember that time when you couldn’t escape that feeling.

It’s always a relevant thing. Any time those moods return, I think it’s when a formerly depressed individual has to ask themselves if the emotional response they’re having is suited to the situation they’re experiencing, or if their response is illogical and possibly a sign that something chemical is off in the body.

Last week, I had just that kind of a week. I was moody, depressed, not wanting to do anything, and after a few days I realized there wasn’t a causal reason that deserved the reaction I was having. Then I realized I’d not been taking my vitamins for over a week.

Boom. Took vitamins, slept better, and then next day I was back to a normal level of grumpy I-Hate-February self. And that’s okay, because I’ve always hated February, and then I’m like a little kid in March when sun comes and flowers bloom. That’s my “normal,” and it’s okay, as long as I know that’s what’s going on.

Eventually, being a survivor of depression is just like being a survivor of back-pain or the owner of a shifty knee. You’re aware it’s a weakness you’ve had, and when things go awry, it’s okay to ask if it’s a Big Picture situation, or just a fluctuating phase like everyone experiences.

And it’s still okay.

I survive grumpiness. I also experience a lot of joy. I smile a lot, even when I’m alone. I get angry, too, but then I tell people why, or I write about it.

Mental illness comes in many, many different levels of severity. Not all are debilitating. Not all are perceptible by others. But all of them have struck someone you know, someone who may not have had the courage to tell you or anyone else about it, and that’s the only thing shameful about mental illness I can think of. Please encourage people in your life to talk to you, to feel safe in admitting what they’re going through, because lives can depend on it.

When you’re in it, depression feels like forever.

When you survive it, it’s hard to believe you ever felt as bad you once did.

It can be survived. It’s the fight of a lifetime, and there are tools of all kinds you can wield against it. Talk to someone who knows.

If you’re depressed and you want to read an amazing account of what it felt like for Pulitzer-prize-winning author William Styron, read his Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness. If you love someone who’s depressed and can’t understand how/why they’ve changed so much or why nothing you say seems to help, please read Styron’s book, and you’ll understand it for the first time. Here’s an excerpt in Vanity Fair.

_____

Don’t forget… you can read about my new, improved life I’m leading in Victoria on my new blog, VanIsleStyle.com, my take on a lifestyle blog.

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Posted in Depression, Hygiene & Health, Psychology & Moods | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

My New Blog

Okay, I’m officially distracted, but the good news is: I’m writing a lot!

It’s my shiny new blog about living here in Victoria, my new lifestyle, and my photography.

Please take a look if you’re looking for MORE OF ME! Whee!

It’s called “Van Isle Style.”

http://vanislestyle.com/

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One Month Down, Eleven to Go: The State of the Steff

Why, hi there, you.

I’m just checking in. It’s a nice morning. My coffee cup is full. I thought, “Why don’t I go say hello to my minions?”

Yoo-hoo, minions! Hallo-o-o-o-o, minions.

Your friendly neighbourhood blogger is doing just fine, thankyouverymuch.

My year of Being Better is underway. I promised myself I wouldn’t make New Year’s Resolutions, and I didn’t. Instead, I would become a better version of myself by the year’s end. In, well, hopefully every way.

A better writer, a better exerciser, a better eater, a better sleeper, a better relaxer, a better coper, a better friend, a better daughter. You know. A better me.

We get so hell-bent on timers in this digitally-powered world we live in. We have reminders to set reminders. From iCal date-planning to the extreme, to actually CHOOSING to get Facebook and Twitter notifications, as if life wasn’t full enough of micro-management.

You know, if y’all like that shit so damned much, you can keep it. I set reminders for when missing something would cost me money. Otherwise, I roll with it. And I’ve never, ever had any smartphone notifications turned on besides texting. Because life is meant to be lived, not full of alarms.

On this quest of betterment, I’m not micro-managing myself. I’m not setting a timeline and measuring my progress constantly. Instead, I find myself now and then remembering where I was a year ago today (packing and panicking ahead of my move to Victoria), maybe 4 years ago today (just beginning to make progress after my first back injury), even 8 years ago today (recovering from a head injury).

What was life like at those times? What were my goals? How would I stack up now?

Uh… everything is better now. I’m better now. I have far to go, sure, but don’t we all?

I’m in a lucky place because I know exactly how far I’ve come on the inside. I need to be in a place now where that shows on the outside.

I need to eat better and exercise better because it’s not an option. Either I feel good and enjoy life again, or I continue hiding out in the Cave of Mordor (what I call my apartment).

I’m much further along both those paths than I expected to be just one month into the year. How very exciting, minions. Do you see my excitement? I see my excitement. Yes, I do.

Soon to be my shiny new bike.

2012 ended with an incredible gift: The complete, final realization that my bike is continuing to be the main reason my back issues exist.

There’s a point in chronic injury where pain or discomfort (whether a livable level or something debilitating) is so omnipresent that you just lose your ability to discern what improves it or hurts it. It’s when you’re so unable to tell what the spikes are from that you just don’t know what to change to move beyond that.

I rode an upright hybrid bike recently, and better yet, one fitted to my measurements taken by a great bike shop. This was like a Dutch-style bike with a step-thru frame, suspended front forks & seat, nice big tires with semi-slick tread, and elevated close-to-body almost-wrap-around handlebars, and it was almost a religious experience. All this pressure inside my back kind of fell away, the strain on my shoulder and neck reduced.*

To imagine cycling, that thing I love, being comfortable? Even painfree? Or… dare I even think it, beneficial?

This weekend, it looks like I can buy this bike. Let’s see.

Today, I’m showing my old bike, Mighty Murphy. (Named, of course, for Dervla Murphy, the old Irish travel writer who cycled Africa’s Ukimwi Road in her 60s.) Hoping it sells. It feels like I’m breaking up with my past. Like I’m stomping my foot and pulling a Gloria Gaynor moment. You’re not welcome ’round here no more!

And it’s kind of like that. The painful breakup of a relationship. That bike is two worlds for me. It’s the thing that makes me one of the rare people who can say I know what it’s like to lose 80 pounds through nothing but hard damned work and powered by ME, but it’s also the thing that makes me one of those rare people who can say they know what it’s like to live with chronic pain for more than four years.

Love/hate” doesn’t even begin to describe it.

Had I not gotten sick at Christmas and laid low with a massive marathon of three seasons of The Wire plus an endless tirade of overrated TV on the PVR, my back wouldn’t have gotten the rest it needed so I could get on my bike in the new year and actually discern what was really going on inside me.

Then I had pain again, and I saw how I couldn’t stand straight when walking, and finally everything made sense.

Some might think the solution would be getting off the bike. But that’d be like telling me to live life without writing or photography or cooking. It’ll never, ever happen. I need that to be myself.

So. The new-ish me, the bettering me, the under-progress me is pretty pleased to be starting a new phase as “the urban cyclist” this weekend.

A shiny bike, a clean slate, and roads I’ve never seen before in a town that’s been my home for less than a year.

Being better, becoming better shouldn’t be an ordeal. You shouldn’t be punishing yourself for failing to meet expectations or demanding greater than what you’ve done. All progress is progress. Our lives are long. We can always keep becoming better. Growth has no end-point. Stop thinking you need to be the person you dream of being tomorrow, and be present in the moment while you’re getting yourself there. Maybe you’ll never be this person, this version of you again. Remember the moment.

Relax, grasshopper. Enjoy the ride. Like I am. Or soon will be.

______________________

* Buying a bike isn’t a “Ooh, shiny. Look, it’s green!” thing. You need to get FITTED for it. The right bike for ME could be entirely wrong for YOU. I not only have been fitted by a fantastic bike shop, but I was referred there by my Ironman-competing masseur and I got my bike style approved by my physiotherapist. The last time I bought I bike, I bought what I thought was pretty. It’s cost me thousands of dollars in lost income, pain, and more. Do your research. Don’t listen to anyone except professionals. Period.

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Posted in Autobiographical, Being me, Dimestore Philosophy, Journalling, keeping it real, Life 101 | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Enlightenment! Get Yer Enlightenment Here!

My friend Monica Hamburg posted a hilarious daily-deal from Ethical Deals on her Facebook page today. Oh, how I laughed.

Dude’s selling basically spiritual enlightenment for $129, a savings of 84%, you lucky motherfuckers. Act now or forever live in the dark. Free shipping.

You know why he’s selling “awakening” for 84% off? Because you can’t BUY ENLIGHTENMENT, chumps.

Shot by me. You’ll find enlightenment faster here than in a classroom.

It’s not a “Oh, shit! Wrong aisle! I was looking in aisle 7B, next to the Mexican food” scenario. Enlightenment doesn’t come with a t-shirt and a money-back guarantee. It’s not something you take a course for then suddenly you got ALL YOUR SHIT FIGURED OUT.

Are you kidding me?

You think THE MYSTERY OF LIFE comes in a 2-DVD pack with a bonus Afterlife pamphlet? You think it’s just that easy to understand? You think that’s why people have been asking “What’s the meaning of life?” since the time of Socrates and Plato? Because asshole on a Daily Deal site IS HOLDING ALL THE SECRETS, and you gotta pay $129 for that shit?

I heard someone say the average IQ is 85, so it suddenly makes sense why I want to slap people so much, but let’s see if I can overcome that and write this anyhow.

You don’t need no fucking enlightenment course. Anything you need to know about life has been written already. Hell, you can stick to 50 years of creative content in the 20th century and answer anything you need to know about life. For the price of a library card, you can attain Nirvana.

Ken Kesey, one of America’s greatestest writers EVER, once said something to the effect of, if you can’t find God in your backyard in Kansas, you won’t find him at Egypt’s pyramids either.  (“God” there is whatever you want it to be — enlightenment, awakening, meaning of life, whatever, man.)

Okay. Don’t gotta go to Egypt. And don’t live in Kansas, but I’ve got Wizard of Oz on the PVR, so I’m set, bitches.

The secret to life isn’t out there, it’s in you. Just like Jack Palance’s gravelly old cowboy mutters in Billy Crystal’s City Slickers, that the secret to life is, “One thing. Just one thing. You stick to that, and everything else don’t mean shit.”

That “one thing” is different for everyone. For you, maybe it’s butter chicken.

I won’t pretend I’ve mastered my one thing, but I’m closer to it now than I’ve ever been. And, like everyone should know, it’s not about attaining it, it’s about the chase.

Like Will Smith says in The Pursuit of Happyness, the constitution doesn’t promise finding happiness, only the pursuit of it.

For me, I find that’s the secret of life. Never stopping the search for more, never becoming stagnant, always trying to be better. Like a snowball rolling down a hillside. As long as it doesn’t stop, it just keeps growing.

I get that some people feel unhinged and lost, and that feeling overwhelms them. I get that others feel there’s no point to life, that they’re a cog on some wheel of stupidity and nothing matters, and they’re desperately hoping to find anything that will change that perception.

I kinda think accepting and embracing those bitter truths are a part of enlightenment too. Feeling small is good. It makes problems less traumatic. Feeling like the world will go on without you should free you from your panic, not increase it. Knowing it all comes down to you finding meaning in your own life is an empowering thing. If you’re not living for a reason, then that’s your choice, and either you accept that choice or you change it ASAP.

Enlightenment can happen in a parking lot, on a beach, in the dark of night while you’re in bed, staring at the ceiling in bed. It probably ain’t happening in a classroom or in front of a computer monitor, though.

Enlightenment” is also about relinquishing some control and understanding that the good and bad come in waves, and living in the moment makes it less encompassing.

And that sounds easy but it’s not. There are a lot of factors in life that we can control — being in a place we like living, having the time to do things that make our heart feel full, choosing to live in the moment rather than What-If Land — and there are many that we cannot. No matter who dies on us, what tragedies befall us, there is always, always, always a life beyond that experience, and we have to dial up the courage of ancient explorers in order to travel to those new, scary lands of change. That ain’t easy to do, either.

But that’s what it’s about. That’s life. Constant change. Not all of the happy-happy, fun-fun variety, but all of the relevant, educational variety.

If you ain’t on the move and having new experience, you’re not living. You’re avoiding death.

There’s your enlightenment. On sale for 100% off, with free shipping and handling, all thanks to a blog and a library card, man.

Namaste, motherfuckers.

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  • About Steff

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