Tag Archives: life

Hobbling Through Enlightenment

Note: Yeah, I have a new shiny travel blog, but I’ll still turn back here for slice-of-life postings I like to do that are not about the travels.

Crutches. Painkillers. Icebags. Elevation. These are the cornerstones of my weekend and the week ahead. Maybe the next two. God forbid it last longer than that.

Meniscus issues, it seems. I say “seems” because x-rays loom. My crazy-ass former-rugby-team-doc chiro tried a (painful) trick of pushing what seemed like a meniscus flap back into where it belonged. Two days later, I can bend my knee 90 degrees again. Not any further, and not without strain, but that’s a start. (Pro tip: If it’s a “rugby team cure,” expect to cry like a baby or punch the doc. Guy’s lucky I didn’t belt him.)

This gimp knee means that, for now, Netflix is my god.

elevated and iced

Today’s viewing includes the VICE doc “All This Mayhem” about the Pappas brothers and their skateboarding rise to glory and drugs/crime-fuelled crushing defeats. It’s about a blend of tragedy and redemption. Angst, attitude, and all the inevitable pitfalls that come from confusing being a student in life with being a victim of it.

We lived on the cusp of hoods and lifestyles when I grew up. A former vacationing area for the big city became an early suburb, filled with new families and financially-challenged folks who were living on the outskirts. It was an area made of equal parts the gentrifying invading forces along with the mainstay white trash.

I was offered my first drugs at 8 years old, but somehow I stayed on the fluffy-angelic line of the divide in the years to come. My brother toyed with the angst and everything else that came from the disenfranchisement of the suburbs. We were equal parts the product of our upbringing.

We were never in the leagues of those who really went astray. I remember a lot of those in my youth who were really, really angry. Some went on to crime and drugs, others went on to bleak places that were more internal than external. Some just died young.

I dealt with enough stupidity in my teens, just like a lot of other folks did. These “happy family” types piss me off sometimes even now because I’ve never really experienced that. It’s a weird world, tight-knit families.

I love my family but it was a broken family, still kinda is. Divorce, bad communications, everyone’s got their issues. The North American Way. But good, fine people, and I love them.

I didn’t really become angry until later, and I don’t really know what started it. I just got there and stayed there. I had all this stupidity happen where the easy reactions were bitterness and blame. Year after year of bitterness and blame.

These people who tell you they had some brilliant moment where it all made sense, I don’t really understand ‘em. For me, enlightenment is a gleaming of insight that takes me time and time again. The anger and confusion sort of wear away in the constant adversity like a river carving away at rock. Epiphanies make for better writing, POOF MAGIC, but I suspect most of us don’t have that change-of-state moment and instead we learn through time and repetition.

I learn more all the time, daily. Constant growth. Life is school, man. Like this knee thing right now. I’m reacting and responding better than I expected.

I mean, this is the sort of thing that throws a wrench in the travel-the-world plan. This was NOT an adversity I expected added to my list as the seven-month countdown begins. Yeah, I cried. Then I got over it. Later this week I need to find a course of action. That’s how it rolls.

That resilience, I’m not the only person who’s got it. There’s a lot of us who rock it, and I think for most of us it’s because we’ve been shit-kicked by fortune one way or another time and time again. Eventually we just realize it ain’t personal, it ain’t malicious, it’s just life.

BOOM, adversity. BOOM, overcome it. BOOM, onward. That’s life.

It’s funny, you know. A lot of the people I know who were once angry as a way of being, a lot of ‘em have gone on to become the mellow, easy-going people I like to know. They’ve been on the “dark side” and realized that perspective was a lot of the problem.

Yeah, my leg’s fucked up. Oops. That really sucks. Know what’d be worse? Being broke with a fucked up leg. Or having it happen when abroad. That’d be bad. Maybe it happening now means I change something, improve myself, and reduce the odds of such a thing happening later. Who knows. Maybe this is a catalyst for changes I need in fitness and health. I suspect it is, because I’m feeling motivated.

Adversity is the biggest teacher there is. Necessity of change is the mother of invention. Those are truisms for a reason.

I feel sorry sometimes for folks who have these smooth-sailing lives and then BOOM, some huge thing happens and they just crumble. It’s a hard road through it for them. Sometimes I see them becoming bitter and hardened as a result.

Everyone needs to open their eyes and see how hard others often have it. They need to look for examples of the extremes we can overcome when we focus and ditch the victim complexes.

Shit happens to us all. We’re allowed to cry a little and get a bit angry, but odds are we learn more about who we are as a result of those fluctuations. The trick is in the bounce-back.

So I have to bounce now. I gotta weather this little patch of suck-ass luck with my knee, find a few positives, make a plan to overcome it, and do everything I can to avoid feeling sorry for myself or acting like a victim.

If you think that’s easy for me, or for anyone else, you’re a moron. It’s not easy. But it’s doable, and it’s a choice. It’s a lot of self-talk, deep breathing, and weathering through periods of feeling like everything’s hopeless. Because that happens to us all. That’s the mindset. That’s the challenge.

It’s also where the victory comes too, though. So, yeah, this blows a little, but methinks I’ll get past this. I have something to prove to myself.

I also have the fortune of knowing it’s my own stupidity that caused my injury, from when I heard the little voice in my head saying “No, don’t sit like that, you know your knee hates it–” and chose to ignore it.

I caused this. Now I have to solve this. That’s the school of fucking up. It’s also “Success in Adulthood 101.” It’s called responsibility. Like my favourite saying goes, life’s tough — get a helmet.

(Or a crutch. Check.)

crutch

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Cutting Paper Snowflakes: Having a Moment on December 1st

I should be in bed. 12:43 am, work comes early. I’m writing by the glow of the Christmas tree on my right (with an assist from my monitor). To my left, a fog-rimmed half moon rises.

I’ve spent my evening cutting out paper snowflakes, eating carbonara, watching the (adults-only, and awesome) documentary I Am Santa Claus, and drinking wine, after a long day of work punctuated only by escaping to buy my best friend a Christmas gift, myself an alpaca knit toque, and some jam. Ahh, Christmas craft fairs, for the win.

I’m savouring the day, the weeks, the months. This might be the last time I decorate a home for Christmas for five years. FIVE YEARS. I love Christmas. I love my version of Christmas. It would be strange and odd to live under other people’s ideas of Christmas for a half-decade. To travel the world, though, I can make that sacrifice. And wherever I go, I can always make paper snowflakes. I’m a pro now.

But this exactly is why I favour the long-term approach for leaving. If saving money is the goal and I can save up to 30–50% per month by living elsewhere, shouldn’t I leave sooner than later?

Well, frankly,I’m under no illusions that my life is anything but great right now. I may have some operational shortcomings in which I fail to maximize on my life’s awesomeness, but the bones are there, man.

I’m not in a rush to LEAVE this. I’m just wanting something new. That saying you don’t know what you got till it’s gone? Wrong. I know what I’ve got. So, I’m aiming to at least get close to “overstaying my welcome” as opposed to “premature departure.” I don’t ever want to regret not living in this particular apartment just a little longer.

If it goes as planned, next Christmas I’ll be enjoying the holidays in Croatia, a predominantly Catholic country that does it well. I’ll be just a few weeks away from a late-January/February trip to Istanbul in an attempt to photograph snow  falling in the Old Town. (Which is currently my desktop wallpaper, by dilemmanya.)

snow_in_istanbul____by_dilemmanya-d4oecxk

I know where I am. I know where I’m going. I may want the world of travel today but I also know I will have frequent times of fatigue and weariness where I miss owning a bed, having a routine, and knowing EXACTLY what is around me. Which is what I have, and am savouring, now.

I’m a woman of two minds right now, but the one I’m “in” is the one that’s got my attention tonight.

And that means the kaleidoscope glow of a tree, snowflake-filled windows, and a bed that’s all mine, from which I’ll pad away in the morning, and restart my work week.

Tonight I know it’s 24 days to Christmas, and less than a year to the adventure of a lifetime.

Both are working for me. Night, minions.

I’m working on the first of the books to come about this life-changing journey/goal/dream I have. If you want to be alerted when it’s coming together for your reading enjoyment: Join my seldom-mailed Mailing list! 

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.

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.)

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.

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.)