Tag Archives: dreams

Imagining Where In The World I Am: En Route to Morocco?

Every few days, I think of a new possible combination of places to go in my first year abroad. Overnight, I had a nine-hour sleep but awoke with a headache as the forces of weather good and evil battle it out and days of sun establish themselves off the coast here.

This headache and the dread with which I approach work also makes it possible for me to daydream about the life I might be leading one year from now.

I’m pretty firm on where I’ll be in my first three months. It’s Croatia. After that, that’s when matters change. Will I do Northern Spain and Portugal, then France, then Prague, as I first thought? I don’t know.

This week I’m imagining a different route. Pack up around now in January, 2016, spend a couple days in Venice, then make my way down through Spain, staying here and there, exploring Andalusia a bit before spending a bit in Tarifa, especially with a car rental. (If you’ve ever read the wonderful tale about following your dreams, The Alchemist, it largely takes place around there.)

I found a 330-year-old building I want to stay in for a bit in Tarifa. Amazing architecture, and to live inside a building that predates the first German settlers arriving in North America, where someone might have sat reading the first edition of the just-published in 1684 Principia by Sir Isaac Newton… I mean, this is mind-boggling stuff to someone still impressed her apartment is from 1931.

Then a ferry to Morocco, specifically Tangier, where I’ve found a B&B decorated to 1800s Moroccan glory. It’s jaw-droppingly beautiful and would be a real splurge, but Morocco is my dream trip. Like, dream trip.

I have a little town on the coast of Morocco I’d like to stay in, possibly for up to a month, just writing, relaxing, photographing the water, eating Berber food, and planning my future.

This would take me to about April or May, avoiding the hottest part of North Africa’s year. Then, off to who knows where? Perhaps Prague, Georgia, and other less-scorchy places for the summer months.

The best part of not committing to a plan is being able to dream of the endless opportunities I might have to explore and wander. All of them are good. All of them are enticing.

Dreaming is a lovely thing.

For now, time to work.

Photo by Odolphie, looking toward Spain from Tangier's ports.

Photo by Odolphie, looking toward Spain from Tangier’s ports.

Nightvisions: Of Dreams and Wakings

Dreams. I don’t remember them often. I wake to a hazy shade of blank in the morning, most days.

Not this morning. Somehow aware I was sleeping and dreaming, I couldn’t shake my disturbing visions — splicings of abuse and trauma all swirling in my head.

The Characters

Coffee shop, old-style American ’70s joint with tattered vinyl booths, a stainless steel coatrack by a jukebox, long counter filled with blue collar workers, lotsa beards. Felt like a truck stop. Waitress straight out of Alice — dark roots, blonde, overtight calves from too many long days, older looking than her years. Blue diner uniform, white apron, frequent smoke breaks.

Scene two: Junkie, rat-trap apartment with cracked plaster, taped fractured windows, bugs skittering across worn floorboards. Old furniture once-loved in better places than this — ’80s brown floral couch, round sidetables covered with threadbare cloths, wobbly coffee table, old console TV with rabbit ears. Thin woman with scarred arms from years of lesions and self-harm. Natty mousy hair, dry and dull, messy and barely tied back. Sunken complexion, decaying teeth, sad hollow eyes. Needle and pipes at couch’s end table.

There was also an old rancher in the country. Broken swingset, overgrown lawn. Guy with a penchant for jean shirts, in his 40s. Isolated. Likes working on his truck.

Dreams being dreams, mine was a swirl of childhood moments with these three. Incestuous, abuse-filled snippets, albeit somewhat stereotypical.

They flooded at me, images of things some of us should never imagine but others have tragically lived.

Remembering

And that was horrifying but it was more who and what these people grew into that ate at me. How you can never undo that loss of innocence. How we get imprinted at such visceral levels as to what we feel about the world, thanks to our encounters in our youth. How cynicism and hopelessness find us through experience.

This is a "joke" picture people post to Facebook, etc, but imagine growing up with this guy as Dad. It's a little disturbing for me. Should we unsee this?

We joke about embarrassing photos of others, calling them “things you can’t unsee,” but what if an entire childhood is formed that way? With the things that can’t be unseen?

I had a nice comfortable upbringing, aside from an asshole child molesting teacher at my Catholic high school (with whom I had no contact). The rest is par for the course — adversities and challanges aplenty, just not the soul-destroying kinds.

Even still, moments with certain beggars on the street, brushes with homelessness, imprinted me deeply at a young age. And it was in passing, at best. Yet.

But this morning’s dream haunted me on waking. I realized I’m often guilty of judging people for who they are now, with little consideration of what the may have moved past in becoming who they are. What abuses, adversity, horrors may have helped shape them.

I have a neighbour, a burn-out former junkie who seems to be a pathological liar, and I’m suddenly wondering what it was that got her to where she is now. What kind of childhood did she have? Where did the wrong turns come? What could she have expected otherwise?

A cynic would say soul-crushing is a compounding experience. Every hurt adds to the last. Every layer of dejection lands atop another, slowing wrapping us up from the world, walling us off. Like the outcome is unavoidably dire, and one can’t unravel that damage.

For some, I’m sure that’s true. Adversity has the same way of affecting us. When everything keeps being hard, it’s sometimes easier to fall into survival mode than to remember that thriving can be a choice, a series of actions.

But when it comes to people like those I dreamed about, the damage is often long done. If they don’t overcome that hardship as a child, they often pay the price through lacking education, all but determining the lives they’ll live largely marginalized, paycheque-to-paycheque, unprepared for a complicated adult world.

From Whence We Came

I don’t know what it is that makes some able to fight past all that, but I’m so glad that resilience can be found in the world. I’m glad not all souls get crushed and stay that way.

I grew up in a white low/middle-class neighbourhood, a mix of kids. My days seemed fun like anyone else’s. We kept our doors unlocked, had some neighbour parties, all knew each other like you’re supposed to, way out there in white suburbia.

Now, though, I know two families had incest happening, another had violent abuse beyond the screaming fights we all heard.

Another had drug-addicted kids by the age of 15. One family had parents who were addicts. I found needle works in their sofa when I was 14 and had no idea it was for heroin then.

Sure didn’t feel like it when we were all out there on the street doing neighbourhood snowball fights. Knowing now what I didn’t know then, it sort of taints the memories on some days and makes them more awesome moments on others. For a brief time, we were all kids and having fun. For a little while, some snowballs whizzing through the air put us all on equal ground. Life could be good, even just for 30 minutes.

It’s safe to say I feel like I’m living the end of the movie Stand By Me this morning, as I remember the life we all had but tempered with the knowledge of an adult who one day learned the deep dark secrets each of us had back then.

I lived so close to darkness in some of those homes. It never touched me personally. I don’t think it ever dampened my light. I wish I could have helped them.

But deep down inside, I’m glad I was able to be ignorant of those worlds until much later. I’m sure it helped me have a wider worldview.

I’m sure the years of looking-but-not-seeing have affected greatly the way I see the world today. Knowing how “normal” people seemed, yet how they were anything but, seems to have shaped my very skeptical view of what others being what they project at us.

I guess, in a way, being raised so close to some of the things I dreamed about last night yet so insulated from all the happenings, has defined a lot of my empathy and perceptiveness in life and in writing.

It’s funny. We’re shaped as much by what we didn’t know, it seems, as what we did. What a weird world we live in.

***

And that’s where my headspace is this Monday morning. I wish I could better wrap it up and put a bow on it, but I can’t for the life of me figure out how this one ends. Much like my dream.

Shamelessly borrowed from Ebaumsworld.com.

What I’ve Learned Slowly in Life & Writing

They don’t tell you that knowing who you are isn’t enough.

They don’t teach you that having a sense of identity doesn’t equal understanding how that identity fits into society.

They don’t say that loving what you’re gifted in doesn’t mean you’ll ever be able to make a living at it, or even that you’ll ever be guaranteed access to doing it.

No. They don’t.

That’s the way the reality dice roll.

Shamelessly borrowed from Ebaumsworld.com.


I remember a day in early May, 1994, sitting on a rocky shore in Oregon, as waves crested and broke below me, a notepad wobbling on my knees, wanting more than anything for the ability to break through the writing-blahs I’d been wallowing in, and wishing I knew how to do what I wanted for a living. I remember staring into the waves and thinking the only thing I ever really cared about was being able to just explore writing in my own way, and to do it for myself first, always.

I had no idea then, but that was the start of a very long,  strange ride for me — within 4 months I’d be living in the Yukon, within 5 years my mother would die, within 10 years I almost died, and then came the struggle through the Weird after, much of which I’ve written about at length.

I had no idea what would loom, where I’d go, and just how goddamned far from my dreams my road would lead.

Ironically, the further from my dreams I’ve been led, the better my writing has become… and somehow, I’ve come full circle, closer to the ‘writing life’ I’ve always wanted to live. It’s like an existential whirligig, one that takes some 20 years to come ’round to its start again.

Experience is the best teacher, and this is true also of writing.

You’ll always be a shit writer until life dunks you in the tank a few times. All the Sufi mystics would tell ya we’re only as broad as what we’ve lived through, right?

I guess the gift of Aging is that we start to realize we’re shaped by our pains as well as our joys, loves as well as hates, and we’ve learned through repeated exposure that we are built for survival, not perishing.

Look at what we can endure. Look at the Chilean miners rescued this week, and those who overcame the most ridiculous of engineering feats to manage that rescue.

And, yet… Life isn’t an engineering challenge.

It isn’t something one can solve with a drafting program, some applied physics, and a ruler.

Life’s a cosmic dodgeball game — played in a big-but-small room, where more balls than you can imagine are bouncing and ricocheting wildly, with no discernible pattern, and no reason for who or what they take out in their bouncy-travels.

Knowing who you are and what you can do doesn’t ever guarantee your efforts will be made of win, it doesn’t mean life won’t hit you in that game of dodgeball, sidelining you instead of sending you sailing successfully into the next game series.

I don’t think it’s a “Work hard enough and you can get it” scenario for everything in life. Methink that’s idealistic and what Random House et al want you to believe so you keep buying self-help-guru books when The World somehow shuts the big door on you.

In life, I think luck is as much a factor as work. Some folks are the pigeon, some folks are the statue — shit or be shat upon.

For what it’s worth, I don’t feel life’s posed enough of an obstacle to keep me out of the game. Some of us don’t come into who we’re supposed to be until later in life, and I’ve always suspected my 40s would be when I mastered the whole “world domination” thing.

The mentality of “you gotta be someone by 30” is the biggest piece-of-shit fallacy in the world.

It doesn’t happen that way. The school of life doesn’t run in semesters and grades, not everyone gets a pass at 18. Life lessons come and they go, but never fear — they’ll be back. The lessons will always be back.

The great dame of acting, the fabulous Ellen Burstyn, wrote an autobiography called Lessons in Becoming Myself, published in 2006, when she was 74. She was asked if she had “become” herself, and she answered no, that even as 80 loomed, she was still constantly learning about herself, forever becoming someone new, better, and more evolved than the woman she was, even a year, month, or week ago.

I remember watching her delivering this slow, well-thought answer, and smiling. I smiled too. I could do with getting old if it meant I’d always keep improving, and wasn’t relegated to becoming a lesser version of that which I once was.

And that’s another thing they don’t tell you.

They don’t let you know that you may think you know yourself, but ya don’t know jack, Jack.

You don’t know yourself until you’ve faced demons and betrayal, loss and hopelessness. You don’t know yourself until you’ve hit bottom and gotten back up.

The trouble is: “Bottom” is relative. Every time you hit what you think is bottom, don’t worry — you’re not bottomed-out. You can always go lower.

Believe that. Know it. Respect it.

Just don’t fear it. It’s a teacher, and you’re built for survival, remember?

When you’re young, they also fail to share that life ain’t about perceived successes — it’s not about who you become at the office, or the cachet you carry with you at meet-n-greet events, or the hot babe on your arm. They don’t teach you that life ain’t about money, glam, swag, beauty, or praise.

Life’s really about being able to like what’s in your head when the lights go out at night. Like Grandma Death in Donnie Darko says, “Every living creature dies alone.”

I think, ultimately, just getting to that side of life (death) and being able to die alone, but die truly knowing who you are, what you’ve had in life, must be the greatest departing gift one can have.

They don’t talk about that.  Or just how hard it is to get that place of knowing.

You can’t teach people in advance about the pain that comes from a life lived, or how much any one person can endure. No one can know endurance till they’ve had it, any of it. And some just can’t go there, be that; they’re not built Ford-tough.

But I am.

Somehow, I wish I knew that 20 years ago. I wish I knew long ago that protecting myself was just foolishness, and I’d get hurt often and deeply regardless of safety measures. I wish I was taught to just go, do it, fail, and do it again.

But I wasn’t.

Yet I’ve begun to learn it.

Like I say: Some of us don’t come into who we’re supposed to be until much later. Perhaps it means we’ll be better at who we’re supposed to be because we’ve had more practice with the bump-in-the-night of it all.

I have a feeling I’ll be finding out myself, soon.

Older, wiser… this shit ain’t so bad.

Crisis of Confidence & Craft

My day daunts me. I must find nuggets of awesomeness that define me as a person and writer, deep within these stacks of posts. I’ve no idea where to begin. Other than the beginning, that is.

In the next 27 hours, I have to somehow distill all that I have to say, the whole of my dream, into one email.

These past weeks have been an endless parade of “terrifying” firsts.

My heartbeat needs a muzzle.

I’ll tell you more about this another day. Let’s just say I’m learning about feeling the fear and doing it anyway. I’m sure a day will soon roll by where I finally feel like the scales of suspense are tipping in my favour, but this is not that day.

[deep breath]

[sigh]

I swear, though, the biggest lesson I’ll probably ever learn in this life, is that of reconciling how others see me with how I see myself, and striking a balance in there. I’m manic when it comes to my self-image. I’m either all self-love or all insecurity, and seldom in between. Logically, I know the insecurity is stupid, so I can talk it down, and I also know the self-love’s maybe a little over the top or biased.

I wish that was an easier lesson to learn. I wish it was easier to process in writing, too.

I can’t flick off the self-judgey side when I’m reading my old work. I can’t see past some of the stilting dishonesty I’m passing off as restraint. I wish I could undo my hesitations and get fully past the apprehension.

That’s where great writing lies. Ripping off the scabs.

I’ve come close on very rare occasions. Once in a blue moon I can extract all the marrow and get to the centre of anything I’m writing, but it’s so rare that it’s almost a religious experience. I remember those moments with the same intensity as I do a fantastic night of sex. I can’t explain that feeling, but, oh, is it rare.

I blame blogging for that, in some regards.

The nature of writing for such a short-yet-long shelflife is an odd thing. To truly edit well and nail a piece that’s, oh, 2,000 words, a few weeks should pass by. Ideas should be expounded upon or hacked as necessary, emotions redefined, words sharpened, ideas stretched or molded.

Writing’s like wine in that its aging process exposes its weaknesses and challenges its structure. When it’s young, everything gets a pass — it’s quick, in-the-moment, and it’s “great for what it is.”

But…

It’s writing.

It’s not just a second that flashes by. Well, it is… until it isn’t. One day you remember you have archives, you toggle through them. You stop on an insolently average posting and a sigh rises up as your belly turns and you’re forced to acknowledge you phoned it in.

You phoned it in because of some perceived deadline or stress, because some audience you might never know, never make money off of, and never impact.

A little restraint, a little time, a little longer pulling at those threads, and you mighta tamed lightning. But, no. So often have I seen something with promise spat out in mediocrity all because of rushing.

In the fast-moving world of overscheduled lives, pressing demands, and the promise of temporary, we bloggers cut corners and offer up lesser work than we’re capable of.

Or I know I do.

My average posting is written, edited, and up within the hour. Even when it’s pushing 2,000 words.

Excellence? Quality? Pfft, not even. I’m better than the work I churn out here, but there’s a limit to what I think you & this deserve. Deep down inside, a part of me thinks wonders why should I put my “A” game out just for some thieving hack to steal and publish elsewhere on the web.

But that doesn’t mean I need to bring my “C” game.

I’ve reached a turning point in the last two to three weeks, but it’s been a long time coming.

I want the blog to be more content-focused. I don’t want to post because I think you need another meal. I don’t want to care about your needs at all.

I was once told that Robertson Davies, the legendary dead Canadian author, said a writer ought not write until the thought of not writing became unbearable. I’ve never been able to source the quote, but I don’t really care that I can’t, because I love it.

Every piece-of-shit writing I’ve ever done was forced. Any crap I’ve produced has been because I’ve felt obligated and not honest.

Unfortunately, deadlines loom in the world of writers, so waiting for whimsy and her muse to traipse through that door is unfeasible.

But, in blogging? Really? Come on.

There’s no real reason any blogger should have to post more than 3 times a week. These people pushing for 5 to 7 postings a week, if not more, need to stand back and read the crap they’re writing. Seriously.

They need to look at it on a long-view and see just how poorly it’ll hold up in the passage of time.

Because I did. I do. I know now. I’m sad I phoned it in so much in 2007 and 2008.

I did what I had to do, but to whom did I feel so obligated? To you? What have you ever done for me? Really? Most of you sit there silently, paging down, reading.

And that’s okay. I’m happy you do. I’m glad you find worth in this. I want you to! You’d rather I write well than often, wouldn’t you?

But I’m not really obligated to you, am I?

Aren’t I obligated to the craft that has made my life what it is, that makes me who I am, and gives me these eyes I see my world through? Doesn’t it deserve better than the cheap and fanciful flings I have with it? Doesn’t it demand that I really rip into the truth and heart of anything I write on?

Norman Mailer tells how Jean Malaquais once explained the reasoning behind his life of writing: “The only time I know the truth is when it reveals itself at the end of my pen.”

Writing’s kind of this dream I have of life — it’s this place I go where things start to make sense, where the world has meaning.

“In the end, writing is like a prison, an island from which you will never be released but which is a kind of paradise: the solitude, the thoughts, the incredible joy of putting into words the essence of what you, for the moment, understand and with your whole heart want to believe.”

James Salter

Do most blogs feel that way for you? Do they feel like a paradise prison the writer at once loathes and loves their confinement within? Is it a place where journeys are taken and experiences shared? Is where you go to feel like an illicit voyeur with an eye on their innermost thoughts?

I wish mine were. I want it to be.

So I will write less. I don’t sit on posts, so I doubt you’ll see me writing and giving it three weeks’ barrel-aging before I share, but I will be more judicious about when I hit “publish.” I’ll be more considered in choosing themes to address.

I would like to see blogging evolve and become more literary. I think publishing, words, media, everything is changing so quickly that the only safeguard we have left is the desire for excellence.

For now, simply being better and judicious is a fine start.

Believe, Baby

I’m blogging so much because I don’t want to write my book. You realize this, don’t you?

That’s okay, it’s just temporary. I’m adjusting. Going straight to work on the book is too ballsy psychologically — it’s accepting I’ve really been laid off, and it’s acknowledging that I have choices I need to make about my future.

It’s also terrifying financially, because writing a book TODAY likely doesn’t pay for two to three years, if ever. But we don’t talk about “if ever” because I’m choosing to believe the hype.

Have you ever read my writing about believing the hype? Possibly the single most powerful line I’ve ever learned off a talkshow, that’s what that is.

Patti LaBelle was on an episode of Oprah that was all about Fabulous Women in their 50s or something, and the question du moment was, “If you could tell your 35-year-old self any one thing, what would it be?”

So, Patti grins and goes, “Believe the hype, baby. Believe the hype.”

I’m TRYING to force myself to have this point of view where I believe I’m All That, Yo, but it’s difficult. Let’s face it, some insecurities take a lifetime to get over. I’m working on things. But getting tossed from a job, even if it’s by a boss who’s so upset her eyes have been red all day, doesn’t do a lot to prop up the self-esteem, no matter how channeled you are into running with the unemployment opportunity.

This week’s about transitioning — it’s about resting and chilling, getting in touch with silence and not talking to people. It’s about thinking about things I want, and little things I need to accomplish. Mostly, it’s just finding focus, cleaning house, and recharging batteries. And lots of baking. Oh, lord. Step back from the flour, lady.

Not sure I’ve explained the particulars of my situation to y’all.

I’m in the awkwardly strange situation of being in an open unemployment.

I’m laid off indefinitely; they have three months to get enough work to give me my job back, but someone else has seniority. On July 1st, I either will be back at work or cut a fat severance cheque. If, however, I was to take a new job before that 3 months, I’d lose severance. If I decline to return to the job when I’m offered work again, I lose severance.

The uncertainty of this time off makes me wonder how committed I can be to it. It makes me think about choices I have to make. My bosses know theirs is the last job I ever want. Everyone knows I want to write a book.

I’m not good with uncertainty.

You tell me a thing’s a certain way, I’m head-down and moving on, man. Tell me what is, and I’ll show you how to accept it and get over it. But keep me in suspense, have me living in the unknown of this-way-or-that? A part of my brain’s always chowing down on the potentials to try to process the invariable “what ifs” that come with.

But when it’s What Is? Pfft, I’m down with that. I just need to know, then I make a plan and run. Otherwise, my focuses scatter and I’m a twitchy scattered fool too.

For now? All I can do is reduce the chaos around me as I try to figure out the direction I’m supposed to go in.

I’m pretty sure that direction is writing.

It doesn’t make it any less scary to be “pretty sure” of it. I’m fucking terrified.

Writing’s easily the hardest art to pursue emotionally, and that’s biased, sure, but every other art has buffers between you and it. Art can abstract and be only an aspect of a view into the artist’s mind. Photography reveals nothing of the picture-snapper. Music can be picked apart in 20 different ways and can be liked and disliked at the same time. “Great vocals, but the melodies sort of suck.”

But, writing?

There’s nothing HERE but my words. That’s IT. Hi, reader! See? Nothing. Me, you, my words. That’s what we got, that’s all that’s there.

Emotionally, signing up to write a book at the same time I’ve become unemployed and can’t afford a life at all, it’s just kinda like agreeing to take a long dark walk into the deepest parts of my mind that, y’know, I’m more than happy to avoid. All alone — very, very alone. And when I want a break from it? I’m too broke to take social breaks — just getting out of my Cube Ghetto costs $4.50 return.

I’m not scared of monsters, I’m scared of long dark walks in unrelenting caves. Like writing. And I’m scared of not having excuses. I gotta put my money where my mouth is. I hate that.

Work — the 9-to-5 rat-race kinda dealio — is an excuse. “Oh, I never do X anymore because of work.” It’s such a time obligation and mental distraction that it’s easy to buy or sell the “got no time, I’m a workin’ stiff” excuse.

Take work out of the equation, then what can you blame when you avoid it? Nothing.

You know what I got?

I got no excuses. You, me, the fat lady in the street, we all know it. I got no excuses. I got time, I supposedly got the will, I got skillz. I just ain’t got no excuses.

For now, I have the “but my house is a mess!” excuse but that’ll be dead and gone by Monday, I imagine. Don’t worry, I’m stretching that out.

Then? Yeah. Onward.

Belief in yourself is easier when it’s not the only thing between you and the street. I’m not well-monied. I’m one of those people who’s two cheques from the street at any given time. This city isn’t kind to the lower-income sorts, and fear’s something I’m pretty in touch with right now.

But I still got belief. Do I believe the hype? Nah. Not yet. But I believe discussion’s merited, and that’s a start.

[Oh, and I’ll point out the PAYPAL DONATION button top right. And if you think I’ve got gall for doing so, just remember who’s doing the writing. There’s nothing wrong with me believing my work possibly might be worth something to you. I’m also pretty aware not many people have money to give these days. There’s nothing wrong with me point out a link, is all.]