Tag Archives: experience

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

My Topsy-Turvy Love Affair with Cycling

Just a moment ago, I was stretching my stiff ass on my balance ball, watching the Women’s Omnium’s final race in the Olympics. (If you’re not familiar, it’s a serious of cycling track races that get tallied up for an overall score for the winner, kinda like track’s Heptathalon.)

Canada’s Tara Whitten finished fourth overall and was devastated, crying on a teammate’s shoulder after losing a  medal.

The winner overall was a young Brit, Laura Trott. The announcer spoke of how the Trott family had been overweight, and their mom decided they all needed to get healthy. She took a young Laura Trott down to the cycling club, got her put on a bike, and now here the kid is, a Gold Medal winner at the age of 20 in the Olympics at home.

On one of Victoria's amazing pedestrian/cyclist trails for a sunset.

Shifting Gears

I’d been half-inspired to write about cycling this week, but my mind’s in a million other places, thanks to personal anniversaries and such, so writing’s not been “working” for me.

Then I saw this girl win this medal, and it was something that all she started out doing was wanting to get fit ‘cos her mom saw the light. That’s all.

And I got to thinking that cycling’s never just “that’s all.”

Cycling changed my life — for good and bad. Mostly good, but here’s both sides of that story.

The Bad

The back problems I have been rehabbing off and on for 4 years, thanks to the repeat blowout on March 15th, 2011,  escalated and worsened because of a bad bike fit. Had that injury never happened, I probably would’ve remained on that road to glory I was on when I’d taken off more than 70 pounds in one year, from October 1, 2007 to October 3, 2008, the day my back initially blew.

Before that, I’d been cycling 150km or more a week, and I was just loving it. My mood was better, my ability to handle stress was better, I was happier to get out into the world every day. Cycling was my moment of Zen, it was my ADD cure. I was more productive day-to-day, more focused, and I really, really loved who it made me.

But the next three years became a cautionary tale about how important bike fit is, because we (meaning *I*) never figured out until last August that my bike could be the culprit keeping my injury sustained. That, and the 60 hours a month I was riding the bus.

Every time I had new back twinges, I’d be asking physios / chiros / doctors if my bike could be the culprit, and finally Dr. Bryson Chow made a couple suggestions, and we realized, yeah, the bike was a big part of the problem.

But that was then.

Now, I know what was the issue. Now I’ve moved and have a new chiropractor who’s worked with Olympic cyclists, and he doesn’t see me as some fat girl with a bad back, he sees me as a hopeful athlete who’s had some bad luck and bad advice over time.

Just five minutes from that great sunset bridge shot is this cycling underpass, on the Lochside Trail, just one of a couple painted-underside downtown bridges for cyclists & pedestrians only.

Time for a New Normal

I moved to Victoria March 1st. It was mid-April when I was given the okay to get back on my bike, the first time since last September. I was told to start slow, and never cycle back-to-back days, so I could always assess it after 24 hours and a sleep.

I’ve been seeing my chiropractor at least every 3 weeks during this time. He gives me advice, tells me what part of my body’s reacting badly, and we try to figure out where I’m going wrong and what to do next.

In mid-April, I began by cycling 5 kilometres a time for a couple weeks. Now I’m cycling 30, and I can cycle 4-5 days a week, not 2-3.

It’s proof that conditioning improves quickly when on the road or trails for cycling, versus working out in the gym. Especially, when, like me, you’re hauling way, way more weight up those hills than some skinny bitch or straw-like dude.

(Hicc) Namaste, Yo.

Despite those early hiccups, I’m reaching that Zen place again, where seeing a hill doesn’t send waves of terror through me. Instead of being sure I’ll have to stop at the top to wheeze and die, I’m more often sure I have it in me to reach the top of that hill. Last night, a long steep driveway I’d recently had to walk the bike up was one I easily scaled and kept on goin’ after.

And further along the same path, up around Rithet's Bog or Blekinsop Lake, on the Lochside Trail.

Every time I’m getting on a bike and I don’t think I have the energy to do what I need to do, I somehow always find it.

But those first three months? They weren’t pretty. I had repeated setbacks as I found more and more things wrong with how I was riding, what I was doing. I had to make some fit adjustments, I’ve had postural mistakes. It just hasn’t been pretty, but for every step back, there were two steps forward.

Just three months on, I’m quite further along than I really expected to be. I’d looked at maps of places I longed to visit, and though I’d never make it that far this year. I had moments where I could only be described with words like “distraught” and “crestfallen.”

Now, I’d choose words to describe how I’ve felt of late like “persistent” and “victorious.” Now, I’ve been past many of those places I set as early goals. Now, new goals are needed.

It takes a long time of plodding through and feeling quite useless, I find, before you realize that it feels good now, or better-than-bad most of the time.

It’s really a great journey, that of getting back into cycling, and going a little further and further, and gradually seeing your conditioning change because the scenery you get to see is changing too, as that distance creeps up week after week.

It’s Not Exercise, It’s a Lifestyle

Now, I don’t bus. I walk, or I cycle. My saddlebags are my life on my bike. Every week I’m finding new food stores to cycle to, places to see. Know what’s better than a 20km bike ride? A 20km bike ride that includes a trip to an artisan salumerie, a signature wine shop, and an encyclopedic cheese shop. That’s a cycling gift that keeps on giving — and it’s my kind of cycling life, in between the days when I’m finding myself on some tree-canopied trail on the other side of town, that is.

Soon, I’ll write about some advice for beginners on bikes, from all the things I’ve learned the hard way, some gear suggestions, and ways to make cycling touring a lot more fun.

School Me, Babe: Relationship Education

Had I actually been a guest on Sex with Emily last Saturday night as planned, question number one from them was, “Why is your blog so popular?” Why, indeed?

If I had to say why I wish my blog was as popular as it’s proving to be, I’d say it’s because I’d like to think I’m real. But that’s a pat little answer, isn’t it?

The thing about sex writing is, it’s so easy, in theory, to write about dripping, hard cocks, about the fury and the fumbling of two people coming together in sexual union – the passion, the intensity, the fun, the excitement. The pulsing of hearts, the throbbing of members, the vaginal swelling… we’ve all experienced these things, we’ve all been on both the receiving and giving ends of pleasure, and so it’s easy to relate to when we read about others’ experiences. And if it’s not something we actually can relate to, then it’s something we live vicariously through.

Not a lot of sex writers try to tackle the emotional content under it all, though, and the ones who do tend to inspire more loyalty from their readers. I tend to focus more on the emotional aspect of it – not just the emotions we show, but those we hide. Perhaps this is why y’all dig me. Or maybe it’s my irreverence, or my honesty about my own insecurities and desires and fears and dreams. Who knows. But these are the reasons I would like to believe my blog is popular.

And it’s something I thought about when I saw this “breaking” news on the BBC site. Apparently kids find sex education classes too biological. Gee. Really?

They’re right. It is far too biological. Everything about sex originates in one place: the brain. The brain powers our emotional response, spurs our physical response, and then our juices flow, action proceeds to happen (or not), and the rest is messy history.

Funny enough, in England, the biology of sex is a mandatory class, but “personal social and health education” is optional at the institutions doing the teaching. This latter course brings education about relationship and emotional health into play.

I must have missed the memo where relationships and emotional health were optional in my own life.

In a time when divorce is the norm, moreso than happy marriages, perhaps it’s time to reevaluate the ways in which we approach relationships. Maybe it’s time to acknowledge that the psychology/self-help departments of bookstores are the most popular non-fiction sections for a very good reason: We’re all so fucking clueless about how to deal not only with our own problems but any of the problems that might arise in our relationships.

I have a history of running from relationships when things get tough, which is why I’m stunned I’m even hanging around my present relationship at all, considering all the life-induced chaos within it. My first running-from-adversity relationship happened with a young guy named “JH,” my first real boyfriend. He fell, and he fell hard. He wrote me songs, played his guitar for me, and felt like the king of the town whenever I was around. I dumped him as soon as I saw that a divorce was imminent with my parents. I never told him why I was fucked up because I was too ashamed to admit my parents’ failure, and more ashamed to admit that I was weak emotionally.

I pulled the “but we can still be friends” bullshit and instead learned what it felt like to break someone’s heart. The guy fell apart and wrote a “you tore my heart to shreds” song for me, handed it to a friend to deliver to me, and within the week, stole a car, got arrested, and then never, ever spoke to me again.

Maybe if I’d had a better emotional upbringing I wouldn’t have fucked JH up as much as I apparently had. Who knows. I do know that I didn’t have a clue how to open up, how to trust, or how to react when the fit hit the shan. Instead, I’ve spent the better part of two decades slowly learning these lessons through bump-in-the-night, daytime talk shows, and brief flirtations with both self-help books and actual therapy.

And I’m not an exception, I’m the norm. Isn’t it time we change that?

As for “sex education,” it’s really a misnomer. I know that nothing I’ve ever had to deal with was taught to me by anyone with any authority. I learned through necessity.

I’ve had the fear of a condom breaking with a boyfriend before the age of 20, having to stroll self-consciously into a Free Clinic in order to get a morning-after pill, something I’ve had to take three times in my life. I once was so freaked out I was pregnant that I remember doing a pregnancy test ASAP after purchasing it – in the bathroom of a Subway sandwich shop. I never learned about the possible negatives of birth control pills until the last few years, because I was already so fucked up in so many ways that it just never dawned on me that my depression must have been exasperated by pill usage.

In short, everything I’ve ever learned about sex has come as a result of a need-to-know, and-now education, not before-the-fact. It has been a hard road getting to the place I’m at now, considering I was raised by sexually ignorant parents who weren’t comfortable talking about sex, and schooled by a high school that didn’t teach sex ed. Of my friends, I was one of the first to get laid, even though I was 17, and none of us ever talked about sex. When I lost my cherry, my only education was that provided by television and movies. I had no idea why the hell there was a wet spot, and it scared the crap out of me.

I didn’t understand all the emotions that came with sex, and I didn’t understand that a kiss was just a kiss, not an undying declaration of love. I wasn’t hurt by love; I was destroyed by it, and all because I was ignorant of the power relationships could have over us.

Teaching us the biology of sex does little to prepare us for the emotional overload that comes from relationships. Teaching us about human relationships and the dynamics of emotional response would far better prepare us for life and love, and it’s damned well time schools began to embrace that reality.

In the final paragraph of the article I’ve cited, some talking head spouts this sentiment:

“We trust teachers to use their professional judgement to decide which organisations can support teaching and learning in the classroom and which resources best support schools’ sex and relationship programmes.”

Jesus. Let’s not trust the teachers, okay? Let’s convene some people in-the-know to talk about what needs to be learned by kids today, and then create a program that includes all those essential facets, so as to stem relationship problems, improve self-esteem, and build emotional resilience. Violence in schools is greater than ever, bullying is at an all-time high, and divorces are skyrocketing.

Isn’t it time we learn about emotional health as part of our curriculum? ‘Cos we’re clearly fucked without it.