Tag Archives: life

In Which I Stop and Think About The Week

For days now I’ve been trying to put my new book to bed. It’s now the conversion for Amazon formats posing the problem and I’ll have to deal with more kerfuffling on it until nightfall — except work and real life have to be in the way first.

I find, sometimes, that the most worthwhile ventures are the most difficult ones to finish off. Little conundrums keep coming up, as if to poke you and prod you and ask “How badly do you really want it? Huh? Bad?”

A friend recently filed for divorce and her papers came back from court with an “error” that prevented processing — 6 months after she filed. My thoughts then were that life was giving her the opportunity to say “Yes, this divorce is REALLY what I need,” whereas six months ago she was probably pleased to file but somewhere deep down inside was hesitating.

Fraught with delays, I find myself with the same kind of second thoughts. I’m more confident in my book now, more agitated about it finding an audience, and more ready than ever to take the next step and begin another one anew.

That certainty and determination can escape us for a while, but when teased with interference from external forces, we get truly motivated and confident about it being what we want.

So that much I know, and for that reason I’m trying to take deep breaths and accept that this is all part of what just needs to go down before I can rise up and face something new.

Weirdly, in the end these delays may offer me another advantage. After all, when’s the last big-bad-news week you’ve seen on this scale? It only happens once or twice a year that a week seems to tumble all over itself with bad news. Robin Williams is dead, Ferguson is inflaming, and people seem collectively distracted, hurting, and angry.

It’s a sad, sorrowful week and the focus deserves to be on these matters, not on little me and my book. I’d feel like an asshole marketing myself in the midst of all that’s going on in the world right now, so if this buys me a few days before the big new release, then so be it. I know I’d rather pay my respects to the dead and distraught this week.

***

I’ve been avoiding the topic of Robin Williams because I really don’t want to consciously “go there” much, but I guess that’s the point of the mental health discussions that have ensued.

I think sometimes about being an introvert, and as much as I love honouring that side of myself, I know it often is as unhealthy as it is healthy. That’s the price of it. Every passing year I tell myself I’ll find a truer balance between being alone and being social, but I still default to my party-of-one mode that feels most comfortably.

Then I hear about someone like Robin Williams and I wonder how much healthier his soul would’ve been had he just been able to take more time alone — because how much time alone can a world-famous family man have?

Today we’re learning he had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease and it all makes a little more sense to me, why he’s gone now. I imagine there are fewer things in the world that make you do battle with yourself more aggressively than Bipolar Disorder and Parkinson’s, and now he was to be dealing with both. I can imagine the desolation and worry that would come from such an ominous double-dose of mental affliction. I can understand why there might be a night or a morning when it would be all too easy to say “I give up.”

The day after his death, I was scrolling through Facebook and someone posted an image that said “Share this if you would stay up all night to talk someone out of suicide.”

And I didn’t share it. Not because I wouldn’t stay up all night for a friend who needed it, but because I understand suicide in a way that is not readily understood by most people. Having been in the position where I thought nothing could ever improve and that I could never care about life again, I get that feeling.

The difference is, I was only 32 and it’s far, far too young an age to just give up. Eight years later, I’ve significantly increased my income, increased my satisfaction with life, moved to a new city, and have a book about to be sold on Amazon. I’ve really turned things around, and would I have known then what would be here today, it would’ve made it easier to believe the page could turn.

But for someone 63, had lived an incredible life, wasn’t just depressed but bipolar and felt constantly out of control, who then got a diagnosis of Parkinson’s… Gosh, all I could say would be “I understand and hope you stick around to fight things for a while… but… I understand.”

Suicide is sometimes not “killing yourself” but instead opting into euthanasia. If you support euthanasia for ALS or something, then you should also understand suicide as a reaction to long-term despondency and depression. They’re both about ending a life consumed with pain.

And they’re both terribly tragic, but they’re both harder on the person left behind. It’s not about “giving up the fight,” it’s about choosing when to end a fight that’s not going to have a winner.

In the end, I’m thankful we had Robin Williams’ genius in the world. He was a voice of a generation, and I feel like this Time article was exactly bang-on.

But when the most unique voice of his age, the best physical comedian alive, and one of the biggest hearts in the world feels like it’s all over… well, it’s his show, his curtains.

I hope his legacy looms large. I hope we have learned more about ourselves. I hope we all share a bit more, laugh a little harder, and love a little longer. Those were lessons he exemplified.

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Of Luck, Books, Loss, and Learning


Well, it’s been an interesting week. I’ve had family visit, some weird things go down, emotional highs and lows, and it’s just before 7 on a Friday night after a mentally-grueling day. Tomorrow, I finish my final edit on my first ebook and send it out into the world. My baby gets its walking papers.

Speaking of lows, Wednesday was the 15th anniversary of my mother’s death, and that oddly wasn’t a low this week. In fact, it’s the first time since she died that I didn’t think about her in a “Mom died today” kind of way on her death anniversary. Newer and stranger still is that this doesn’t make me feel guilty. After all, I’ll never forget my mom and I’ll never not be sad that she’s dead, but it’s like I said many years ago, that with each passing year that pain just becomes a little less dominant but a little more permanent, like a scar or faded tattoo, it’s a new part of me.

It’s just a thing. Death, grief, you don’t ever stop missing people you love. That’s the nature of it.my sunset

But I guess there comes a time when we realize we are as much shaped by our losses as we are our successes, and that becomes okay. Well, if you’re like me and you’re happy with the person you’re becoming in the face of all the things you’ve been over the years, then yeah, it becomes okay to be forged through fire and come out of it as steel, whether it’s by people dying or other adversity. It’s really okay.

The older I am, the happier I am about being a strong(er) person.

Stronger, But More Grateful Too

So, it’s a crazy week, right? I’m publishing my first book and now lapsing into reflection about the many years that have passed, the hardships I’ve known, and how tonight I’m thinking about a bike ride to get some pizza, some wine, some sun. It doesn’t sound like a lot, but two years ago I would’ve killed to be able to casually plan to drop $30 on a Friday night pizza/wine combination. Money was still very tight for me 24 months ago. I was having a lot of “budget days” then. And cycling into the sunshine for it, that’s another thing I feel grateful for. Life after back injury is no small gratitude.

Many times over the last 15 years I would’ve given so much to have my “lows” this “death anniversary” week merely be insomnia and a rough day at work. I chuckle at the thought of that being the “low” this week. It’s a good thing, to move on.

I’m sure some reader, somewhere is all “Pfft, you should’ve moved on years ago,” and to them I would merely say fuck you. One doesn’t choose to move on. One can try. One can even force the issue, but the reality is, you don’t move on until you move on. I’ve tried, I’ve forced it, I’ve rammed it into myself. It didn’t take. One of those things.

Last year, I had a friend tell me her daughter’s death day, year 14, was the last time it had wracked her with grief, and year 15 was when she had finally processed it and made peace with it too.

You don’t choose catharsis, catharsis chooses you.

Of Lucky Numbers and Me

My mom sold real estate in Chinatown, probably the only fishbelly-white redheaded woman ever to do so before year 2000. She ate a lot of wontons, loved stirfry, was the token white lady on the company tour to China, and loved immersing in their culture.

She was always thrilled when she’d find or get a new listing that had three or more 8’s in the address, including postal code, because she knew it’d be popular with the very traditional Chinese customers, who were often the high-rollers. It’s an “auspicious” number, foretelling great wealth and good fortune. Abundance in life. Lemme tell ya, I’ve had auspicious abundance since last year, when I moved into my apartment that has three 8’s in its mailing address.

Well, I registered my book today. The ISBN number not only has three 8’s, it also has four 9’s. Nine, it turns out, is the auspicious Chinese number for “long-lasting” and loyalty.

I don’t see these numbers as applying to just this one ISBN, but rather to my future as a writer.

Shush! It’s my fucking superstition, I get to interpret it any way I like. I’ll be auspiciously abundant and with great longevity.

The numbers have spoken.

And now I have some numbers to translate into pizza and wine. Hello, Visa card! (It has 8s and 9s too. Huh.)

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Well, Hello You

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

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

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

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

That’s okay. I’m cool with it, yo.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Just Like a Cloudy Sunrise

Many a day this winter I have woken to find a cloudy morning outside the glass.

I’ll get up anyhow, resolved to walk the shore, and moments later I’m in pants, toque, and a jacket, out the door.

Living by the ocean is a gift most of us in this area cherish, but we have to live life too. Cloudy mornings seem like an invitation to linger under warm covers, dozing a little longer.

Those are the mornings my walk will be nearly deserted.

I’m learning a lot about life, in a metaphorical sense, from such walks. Those low, cloudy, oppressive mornings often have the most dramatic and violent sunrises, a surprising contrast to the darkness that abounds.

I jokingly call them “Mornings by Mordor,” like it’s some kind of exterior decor practiced by a theatrical god.

For others, being anywhere else in the city, they’re likely not seeing any sunrise. Maybe tinges of red and gold on the horizon, but the sunrise is happening so low on the horizon, it’s for those blessed few of us able to make our way to the water’s edge for the show.

This shot included here (by me) was yesterday’s sunrise from Victoria’s Dallas Road. There are cliffs behind me, and even on the clifftops you could easily miss noticing what a stunning sunrise was going on down below. The clouds are low marine cloud, and the diffused light is as a result of a very thin bank of fog sitting on the coastal areas.

With the fog and the low ceiling, there’s all of 15 minutes of exposed sunrise, then poof, the sun’s lost behind clouds for what turned out to be another 4 or 5 hours.

There’s something to learn from this.

Your belief that your horizon is nothing but darkness is probably more perception than it is reality. For those who know where to look, there’s always something to look forward to, and the choice to do this or not is something that’s up to you.

I may not be happy about adversity when it strikes my life, but at least I’ve learned how to look for lessons in those moments, and I’ve tried to take the positives where I can imagine them.

As far as Mornings by Mordor go, a small part of me dreads the perfect blue-sky sunrises of the summer. How dull.

When I go home after another dark-world-sunrise, a part of me feels smug and superior. I had faith. I got a show. Everyone else is at home, grumbling in their slippers about how it looks like another dreary day out there.

Regardless of what our personal futures contain, there’s always a sun, there’s always a horizon, and there’s always a rising and a setting. Life goes on. Our dramas are pretty inconsequential in the big picture of it all.

When’s the last time you watched the sun rise for the sake of watching a sunrise?

It’s the best time of year to catch one. You’re up, ready to go. Unlike June, when it’s at 4 or 5am. Just… stop. 20, 30 minutes. Be there. Enjoy it. Clear your mind. Smile. You’re a cog on the wheel of it all.

Go find yourself an unexpected cloudy sunrise. It does the heart a world of good.

(And sometimes it’ll just be cloudy. But that can be beautiful too. Perspective, grasshopper.)

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Our Lives After Their Death

There’s a full moon tomorrow. I’m in a weird headspace.

In social media, I’m seeing snippets here and there from those I’m connected with, remembering the passing of our good friend Derek Miller last year. My thoughts on Derek, as his death took the world by storm by way of an incredible blog post, were posted here.

Someone once graffiti’d a lot of sites in my new neighbourhood, and this one made me think of Derek last week — a lighthouse, a beacon, at the end of a long path, and at the foot of it, “The things you really want, you can’t buy.”

Derek’s death became a lot of things for a lot of people, and I’m having trouble even now identifying what it meant to me, but I know his blog post, and his passing, were part of why I spent the next few months realizing how unhappy I was with my life. The thing was, I knew someone like Derek would simply comment, “Well, then change it.” So, I tried to figure out what I needed to change, why I was so deeply unsatisfied with everything.

He may have “just” been a husband, father, and all-around geek, but I got the sense that there was really nothing else Derek wanted from life. He had everything he wanted. He was where he wanted to be. All he wanted was more life, more of the same with the people he had around him.

All The Things I Wasn’t

I found myself thinking a lot about, well, I’m not where I want to be. I don’t have what I want. I don’t have the people in my life I want (ie: love). Let’s not even talk about the bigger picture.

I’d been kind of skating through life and sort of ignoring anything below the surface. I’d stopped being a good writer (in my view) and stopped living the deeper, observant, involved life I’d once had. I’d been depressed before, but this wasn’t depression — this was plain old unhappiness.

Derek’s death somehow was a slap in my face, like a loud shout of Wake up! Get it right! Time’s ticking!

And, it took a while, but I think I’m where I am now because I’d realized through him of just how far afield I was from the things I considered basic requirements in life — time to write, close to the ocean, quiet, and so many other little things that speak to who I grew up being, who I was in my 20s, when I was most “myself.”

I’m new here, in Victoria, so I’m ironically even more “alone” than I had been in Vancouver. I’ve not been looking for a new tribe yet, but I will begin later this month. Because that’s another lesson I’ve learned through him. Some people just make our souls feel better, and we need them in our lives. We are better people when we have better people around us, and there are few we can’t learn something of life from, but others offer a master class in it.

Two Lost Souls Swimming in a Fishbowl

When I sat in that theatre for his remembrance, listening to all those amazing people paying homage to Derek, hearing their stories, I couldn’t stop thinking about the degrees of life. This couple, Derek and Air, they were in the same crowd I’d run with nearly 20 years before. But by inches and degrees, we must have missed each other here, there, and at different times. Somehow, some way, we never connected until the end of Derek’s life.

What if I’d paid more attention? What if I’d slowed down? What if?

I’m not done learning lessons from Derek’s life. Or anyone’s life. I’m just not done learning.

Next week, Mother’s day rolls up again, and the Hallmark Machine is playing that message loud and clear. So, these days, I’m thinking a lot about the people I’ve lost in life, the legacies they’ve left me, and whether I’d feel I’d done enough if I were to leave this realm tomorrow.

Coming Back to Life

Getting here, moving, that was a start toward the life I’d like, and the legacy I seek to leave. But I’ve barely even begun on my way. I was off-track so many years that just getting back on-track is a hell of a journey in itself.

I’d like to think there’s plenty of time for me to get it right, but that’s foolishness. Sooner is better than later.

So, as the full moon messes with my frequencies, and the hazy oppressive clouds dampen the world beyond windows, I’m lost in thought about who I am today versus who I’d like to be, when I really should be writing a project quote and starting my day job’s work.

Sigh. I don’t know how to finish this post. I’ve tried six different endings and I keep deleting them. Maybe there is no ending. Not for me, not for this, not yet. Maybe there is just a beginning.

Well, then. That’s how it is.

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Making Sense of the Madness

Hello, minions!

For some reason, there are more of you reading me than there have been in three or so years, and I’m feeling the pressure to post at least a couple times a week as a result, despite the fact that I’m swimming the seas of crazy in these moving days.

God forbid you not get your Vitamin Steff, even if it’s a cheap placebo, like this.

There are 21 days before my life gets the brakes slammed on and I go from the rat race to the slow pace of life on the other side of the Georgia Strait. (For non-locals, that’s the body of water separating Vancouver city from Vancouver Island. Who names an island and a city that’s NOT on the island the SAME? Oh, right. The fucking British.)

My voyage home from the island last weekend, the Strait’s incredible ACTIVE PASS, & the interplay of fog & sun.

Today, and for a few days now, I’m sick. I’m a mouth-breather who’s used half the Amazon to blow my nose since Saturday. I’m this close to buying shares in NyQuil, man, and dreaming of Prozac.

I have the remainder of my home to pack, my dad’s in the hospital, I have people I need to say goodbye to, a blog to nourish, and a job to work. If I’m not batshit crazy in 22 days, I might get over my sorta-atheism and be a believer. (But, you know, not likely.)

Oh, My. What a Load of Semantics!

I was thinking on the weekend that I realize now that there’s a difference between being UNHAPPY and being DEPRESSED.

After a long time of thinking I’d been battling depression, I’ve finally realized I was just unhappy and disliked where my life had wound up. I’m looking forward to seeing what finding my sense of self and rediscovering things I love — like strolling beaches, reading under trees in parks — and generally getting my life in balance does to change that.

In the meantime, my mind’s racing a million miles a minute with worries about my dad, who continues to be sick in the hospital, about whether all my furniture will fit in my new apartment, whether I’ll hate that I have less natural light in my new home, and all sorts of little things that are out of my power right now.

It’s times like these that being a thinker isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

But then I take a breath, I remind myself what it felt like last Thursday to walk down the street to an amazing little stretch of shoreline, what the slower pace did for my mind despite the pressure I had to find a place, and I feel like it’s all going to be all right… in, like, seven weeks or something.

Still, I’m excited. Deep down, I know I need this.

T(w)o Blogs or Not T(w)o Blogs

Have I told you I’ll be starting a new blog?

Right.

I’ll be starting a new blog! Yeah!

Yes, this one will continue. I may even return to writing occasionally about sex and relationships again. Oddly, I’m getting emails from people, and they’re sort of disturbing in their neediness — like no one else is talking frankly about sex. And, hell, I’m not even doing it anymore.

I got tired of being perceived as a sex-blogger, but then my Twitter handle never lets me live that down, and I guess I could’ve changed it but on some level I suppose I want that identity. I’m not sure. It’s something I’ll be looking at and probably writing about once I’m on the other side, and that’ll be happening here.

For instance, today Canadian courts are deciding if HIV status should be legally required to be disclosed before sexual relations, and unlike a lot of people who are sex-positive writers, I say FUCK YEAH. And that’s something I should write about. Maybe if I weren’t sick and could string ideas together, I would. Maybe later.

But my new blog will be where I record my moving adventures, and where I write about the transitioning from an unwanted big city life to a smaller pace in a little city, and what it does for me. It’ll be where my photos of my explorations are shared, my observations, my visits to local businesses, and more will be found.

It does have a name but I need to buy the URLs later this week. It won’t be live until March sometime, I guess.

I Feel Like Listening to Sam Cooke

It’s safe to say that my life in Victoria will be about reconfiguring my world from ground up. A lot of change will come. I’ll be keeping an open mind on things to try — everything from yoga and Tai Chi to adventuring.

I almost left Vancouver 12 years ago. The jury’s out on whether staying was a smart choice, but I lean toward “no” on that one.

I get why people love this city, and I’ll always love it too. It’s my home. But I never asked for the world to move here. I never wanted to be one in a million– or one in 2.3 million. It’s not about ethnicities or cultures, it’s about crowds and capacities.

There was a day last fall when I was working on a documentary TV show (I’m a TV captioner) and it was in the Scottish Highlands and an artist was commenting, “I love the city but after 2 days, I’m done and I want to come back to my quiet and my country.” My heart went through the floor because I could imagine it, and I imagined loving it.

I enjoyed the dead of winter when I knew no one during my one year in the Yukon. I also enjoyed the summer when I had a litany of awesome friends and endless good times. A line from Robert Service hit home for me up there, “…the silence that bludgeons you dumb.”

I like that kind of silence, always will. And, despite considering the rest of Canada for my move, I just couldn’t leave this area — not yet.

The Final Countdown

Today, as planes drone overhead, queuing for the airport landings, and horns blare out on the street as some ignorant ass tries to make an illegal left off the highway, and rain threatens to fall, it’s a silence my soul longs for… and one I know is three weeks away.

I don’t know who I’ll be, how I’ll seem, or what my life will really entail six months from now, but I like the visions I get of what it might be.

And sometimes I think that’s all we can hope for in life — that we like the direction we think we’re headed in, and we like who we are when the morning breaks.

It’s safe to say I’m excited, under all my fatigue.

For now, it’s time to refill the coffee cup, edit this, then put one foot in front of another, remember to breathe, and remind myself I’ll live through this. Change is a-comin’.

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