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.)
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.
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?
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’.
It’s cold and flu season, and I’m your canary in the coalmine. Got railroaded by the bug last week and I’ve been sick a full week.
I spent my weekend being The Human Spigot and exploring my all-too-close love-affair with polar fleece and cozy slippers, sipping honeyed tea and regretting food choices that turned me into The Loudest Coughing Neighbour Of All Time.
But all this time under the weather around All Hallow’s Eve has given me a chance to watch horror movies I’ve always been too cowardly to see. I was never a “horror” fan. But I never gave it a chance, either. They were scary, so, no, I wouldn’t watch ’em. Ever. A + B = Not A Fucking Chance.
Having crossed a number off my list now, the experience has left me sort of pensive after my horror-movie-spree of Halloween week. I still have more horrors on the trusty PVR, and I’m not worried about watching them.
I began wondering if maybe my fear of watching horrors was part of the problem with my general fears about life. If there’s any one thing I most regret from my childhood, culturally, it’s that inability to confront All Things Scary in horrors. I’m not sure where my apprehensions came from. Maybe it’s just demonstrative of my unlikely tendency to face fear in general.
It’s the cultural chicken-or-the-egg conundrum. Did my fears come first, or was it my fear of feeling fear?
I know that even today I’m a big old scaredy-cat. There’s so much I’m scared to face, so many excuses I find for honouring that fear and not facing those things which I should have the balls to face.
On some deeper level, this “I’m gonna watch horrors” movement I’m in reflects that I’m finally trying to do some of those things that scare me. I’m trying to take the scare out of the figuring, and make choices that don’t come from a place of avoidance due to fears. But, it’s hard.
A friend of mine does theatrical classes with kids and had a big scary day planned for his class today, but the asshats who run the school (and I know they’re asshats firsthand, having worked for the jerk owner myself) said it was “inappropriate” and now he’s doing a “harvest” class because the ghouls and goblins are nixed by administration. Probably partly on religious grounds, since I know who’s doing the deciding there. Whatever, lady.
When I heard about this, it made me angry. The thought of kids being raised coddled and protected, without the experience of being scared shitless, well, that’s not working out so well for me in my middling age, and I think it’s a recipe for failing the next generation.
Every kid needs to experience horror, fear, and the idea that Evil Lurks Somewhere.
Fact is, life is a big scary place. Evil is lurking. Bad things happen. But the further fact is, we usually outlast the fear. We get over it. Things scare the bejesus out of us, then we laugh it off, take a deep steadying breath, and carry on with life. That’s the human condition… most of the time.
Except we’re trying to handhold everyone out of fear — whether it’s Big Pharmacology trying to medicate the shit out of our anxiety or bubble-proofing kids, we try to “protect” ourselves. Don’t tell the politicians and the newsmedia, though — their whole industries exist on sneaking fear into our daily lives.
Today’s playgrounds — rubberized so kids don’t “get hurt” — are an example of just how ridiculous we are about life and its trials. God forbid Little Johnny should scrape his knee.
Personally, I know my stubbornness probably made it unlikely anyone would have succeeded when I was young and saying “No, I won’t do that, it scares me.” I wish I’d had craftier people around me that could have manipulated me past that fear. I wish my brother had taunted me less and supported me in confronting those deep, dark, scary places where having a big, strong brother with me holding my hand rather than trying to up the fear-ante might’ve taken the edge off things. I wish I’d had a lot of things, but that’s the way the growing-up-in-the-real-world cookie crumbles.
I think it comes down to us being one of two types of people — either we focus on the exhilaration of relief we feel when fear subsides, or we get hung up on the terror that comes with fear’s rise. I’ve always been the latter, unable to get past the scare and celebrate how awesome it feels to realize we’re safe.
And maybe watching horror movies doesn’t mean a fucking thing in the long run of life. Maybe it’s a stupid waste of my time.
Or maybe it’s a sign that I’m changing some fundamental philosophies inside and opening my eyes to the reality that most of those things I’ve feared in life have been without point, and overinflated by yours truly’s excessive imagination.
Because, in the end, none of those movies scared me. A couple made me angry. “THIS? THIS is a horror classic? Carrie SUCKS. I didn’t even gasp once!”
In the end, the most common reaction I had, though, was that there was never anything I needed to fear, and I could’ve gotten it over with literally two decades ago.
Now I need that line of thinking to my day-to-day, because waking up on the fear side is no way to live.
PS: The Exorcist is still a fucking awesome movie. Saw it a decade ago and still love it.
What a week. I’m just finishing up some coffee, then I’m dragging my tired ass into work.
My seat in the arena might've been the nosebleeds, but it was fun to be above everything. Loved it. Great view.
A lot of changes coming for me. I’ll share one day. Not today. But life is settling down. It feels like the end of a long road. Not quite there yet, but getting there.
I got to see the Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals in hockey. The Canucks smoked the San Jose Sharks. It was one of the most enthralling sports experiences I’ve ever been present for.
17 years to the day that Greg Adams scored a double-overtime sudden-death game-winning goal, sending Vancouver’s Canucks to the Stanley Cup finals against the New York Rangers, our Kevin Bieksa scored his double-overtime sudden-death game-winning goal. Now Vancouver’s waiting on word of our next meal, in the Stanley Cup Finals: Boston or Tampa.
17 years. Wow.
I just made a mental list of the world of experiences I’ve gone through in those years. It’s an interesting week to take stock of where I am and where I’ve been. Where I’d like to go.
It’s an exciting time, both for me and for my city.
The Queen Is Retired, Long Live the Queen
And Oprah’s over. A lifetime of learning from her show — mock me if you will. I think there’s a few Oprahs, given the variety of topics she’s handled over the years, but I think Oprah’s social efforts make her one of the greatest people of modern times.
Whether it’s the thousands of scholarships she’s given out, the work she’s done to protect kids from sexual abuse, her advancement of gay rights, celebration of the arts, her involvement with education on all levels… well, there’s not many people in this world who’ve truly put their money where their mouth is, but Oprah has.
Oprah has meant a lot to me over the years. There have been times when I’ve been home in the afternoon, lost or sad or pensive, and just happened to turn on Oprah and there she was, talking about something that I could use to have more insight into my own predicaments.
So many times have I watched her show and had something to write about, whether it was Oprah-centric or some six-degrees topic that’s inspired by some aspect of a conversation she’s had.
I’ll miss her wealth of fodder for writing. I really will.
And I will miss the constant of that show being in my life.
Judge me if you like, but I’m an Oprah fan and I don’t apologize for it. This week, I’m sad to see her leave.
Rant-Be-Gone: Social Media
I wrote a rant about Twitter last week, under the guise of it being social media tips. I stand by a lot of it, but some was over-the-top. I’ve taken it down. I’ll rework it sometime.
I’m getting a little burned out on social media. I began what I do so I could have a voice. I like the portal. There gets to be a time when one feels like others think they’re entitled to a piece of you. Replying feels like work. Engaging feels like just another strain on a day.
It reflects the extent to which I feel like life demands my attention right now. It’s been a long and tiresome road, not just for myself but for others this year. Social media’s sort of that outlet place where we get to “say” things… but the larger our audience, the more inclination there is for us to be held to task by someone who perceives X situation in Y light.
The balance gets difficult. Maybe I don’t want that debate with you. Maybe I get to choose what absorbs my time. People forget there’s two sides to social media. What we say, and what we don’t.
Unfortunately, you’re mostly judged via what you said in the last 5 minutes.
Man, there are days when giving everything up to take that remote home on the coast, that I’d love to live in within five years, seems like it can’t come soon enough.
There are days when having an outlet doesn’t seem to be enough of a reward to deal with what that social media produces in response.
Fortunately, there are better days, too, when it all makes sense.
Right now, I’m not getting a lot out of being on social media. Instead, I feel like a rat on the wheel of life. It’s work, working out, hockey, work, working out, hockey. Even social media feels like work.
These days, saying less online means having fewer replies, which means it’s less work, which means I’ll recharge sooner.
This is how the thinking goes.
When Being A Couch Potato is an Improvement
I’ve sat on my sofa two days in a row. Last Monday was the first time I’d sat on my sofa in two months, thanks to that horrible back injury I had back in March.
This means things are improving.
It’ll be a while yet before I get the pacing of life under control, but I think I’m on the verge of having a less scattered lifescape before me. May has been far better than April. April was better than March. I believe June will be far better than May.
When it comes to writing, et al, I have things to say, but I don’t have the time, or energy, for saying them.
I may be tired, bone-tired, but I like life’s trajectory. Working hard is better when it’s getting you somewhere.
The sun is shining. It’s disconcerting. A tease. More rain lands on Sunday, if not before.
Vancouver’s in the throes of one of its wettest, coldest, greyest springs in recent history. I’ve not worn shorts once this year. I haven’t even entertained the thought of planting basil yet.
Today, most of the tech community will convene at Northern Voice 2011, at UBC, and I’m now realising how disappointed I am to not be going, given the recent turn of events and the loss of Derek K. Miller. Perspective took a turn of late.
I’ve always caught on in the end, but I’m often a late addition to reason.
Then, eventually, whomp, it hits me: The lesson.
Even if I had tickets, my financial situation would require that I work through the conference. That’s the way the dollar-cookie crumbles. It’s “meant to be” and in a way is providing mental spark-power on ideas I’m churning through.
It’s the end of the world as we know it & I feel “meh”
It feels as though life as a whole has been a struggle his year. Maybe the Doomsdayists and their “May 21,2011” end-of-times prognostications have a little oomph behind them. All the “end-of-times” prep I’m doing is holding off on my Costco visit until May 22. Why die with full cupboards?
For now, a man is mowing the lawn, sunlight is streaming in, and distant tires patter up busy roadways.
That’s the world. Beyond that, something else awaits. That’s for me, a train, and a bike to discover.
I have a pretty short list of what I want in life right now. One is to have the joy of regular paycheque-after-paycheque comfort, and to feel good in body and mind whilst pursuing steady, fulfilling work. The other is, a little sunshine. Everything else in life, that’s bonus.
In a way, my friend’s death has been giving me clarity about what’s important. I knew, once.
Keep it simple, stupid
There’s nothing like somersaulting off a scooter at 45 km/hr or so, landing on your head, and surviving with only silly things like a head injury for waking you up to what’s important in life.
So, for a while there, I had it figured out.
Live for today. Enjoy the moment. Celebrate friends. Be a part of it. Whatever “it” is to you, be a part of it. Celebrate what you have, try to get more, but don’t pin your happiness on that which isn’t in your hands, because then you’ll never have happiness. See how that works?
I had it figured out.
But life is like a vacuum.
Far enough away, you’re fine, unaffected. Get too close, unsettled, you may get sucked up into that vacuum. Caught inside too long, you can suffocate.
I’ve never been good at vacuum-proximity. My life balance, well, it’s like a bad day on a boat sometimes.
Cause/Effect: The Long Game?
Today, I’d like to do Northern Voice. If I did, it’d hurt my bank account, stress me out on the time-management-money-making fronts, and would probably be hard on my back. I’d overdo things, wouldn’t prioritize myself, and the fallout would probably continue for another couple weeks.
Not doing Northern Voice, I earn money, get exercise I need daily, can do all the right things for my back, will get the sunshine my soul desperately requires, will be freed up for my friend’s memorial Sunday, get to earn me a soul-day Monday, and will have balance I need throughout my week so I can spend important time with my family next weekend, before my dad and stepmom do a gruelling six-week cross-country roadtrip — the last of which didn’t end particularly well when my father wound up in critical care 2,000 kilometres from home.
It reminds me of a favourite flick about writing, The Wonder Boys, based on Michael Chabon’s novel. It’s not a perfect movie but it’s far better than the box-office, and title, suggests. In it, Michael Douglas plays a writing/English professor, and he teaches that “writers make choices.”
Choices, they’re harder than we think. It means acknowledging we can’t have it both ways. The heart wants what it wants and sometimes it wants both.
Years ago, I stopped writing fiction for my inability to create tenable conflict that had a beginning/middle/end. A friend surmised I’d had enough conflict in my life, that generating more in my recreational time was probably not what my soul had in mind.
Do whatcha gotta so you can do whatcha wanna
Days like these, where I’m torn between what my heart wants (to spend time with awesome people talking about fascinating things) and what my soul needs (head down, steady progress in work and rehab, daily balance so I can have the summer I want), I try hard to make the right choice.
Then I remember that my friend was diagnosed with terminal colorectal cancer at the exact age I am now, and would be dead before his 42nd birthday, and I get confused: What’s the right choice again?
Fortunately, my body seems to think it knows, so I can ignore my brain and heart, and listen to my bones, which seem to long for a seaside bike ride and a quiet day of not carrying a backpack and bustling from uncomfortable seat to uncomfortable seat, followed by ungainly bus rides.
And that’s all we can do. Guess. Listen to something, anything, and interpret. Among Derek’s last words were a cautioning that we can make plans but they often will never come to pass, and all we can do is be in the moment.
I thought I’d be at Northern Voice this year. Instead, I have the gift of getting well enough that I can return to something I love, sunny day cycling.
That’s a moment I can be in, that I must be in, because it’s the only moment I have available to me, the best this day has to offer.