Saturday, July 19, 2014

My Life is My Own Magic

Sometimes life can feel like such a test.

A test of strength, nerves, willpower, understanding...

Lately, I've had no shortage of this test. I freely admit that things have been hard this year. Not to say that life should always be easy, because that could never be so, but some days/months/years stretch out longer and harder than others. I carry on because I have to, finding joy in nature, biking, writing, late nights sharing stories with friends...but at times, no matter how much strength I try and gain from my surroundings, things can be just plain hard.

It seems that every corner of the internet is clogged with advice; lists and lists of advice. Words of wisdom, quotations and encouragements. I do appreciate the positive nature of this, but honestly, it's all too overwhelming. There comes a point when the over saturation is just too much. Words lose meaning when there are too many versions of the same theme. Words on screen become mere letters strung together, pointing out our shortcomings directly from the page.  

I've had quite enough of what I refer to as the 'Facebook effect,' that blurred line between what's really going on and what people present to the public. For example, in reading my own profile, some might think that my life is a grand, happy affair, but that's only based on what I choose to share. Behind the walls of my room I'm still the overly shy dreamer who longs for connection, love and strong unshakable friendships cultivated over the years. Friendships filled with respect to cherish for all time.

These past months I've tried my best to nurture the sensitive side of myself, but I worry at times that I become outwardly overbearing. My desires for connection and good times spiral out towards the 'too much' realm. My dichotomy is a confusing one, I'm both standoffish and highly intense at the same time. I know I'm a hard one to figure out. My desires are too strong, too immediate, wanting connections to happen right away, instead of patiently waiting.

To my friends who have been there for me these days, I thank you, so very much. You've all been my solid supports, and most of you have absolutely no idea of the strength you've afforded me. One of my greatest faults however is that I turn to you, my outside supports, too much, so when I'm on my own, I lose my grip a little and flounder (even though I'm a fiercely solitary girl - damn that dichotomy again!)

Now before this post takes a turn down the road it seems to be leading, let me be clear: I am one of the strongest people I've ever known. I am just as large a support to my friends as they are to me, and my bonds are unbreakable. I can, will and prefer to put myself aside to help out those that are dear to me, and bringing joy to others has become my biggest source of happiness. But...there is a problem with this. The problem is that when I am not with my loving friends, I have trouble finding joy to grasp onto. If the biggest source of my happiness comes from outside of myself, how can I harness the positive when I'm on my own? And trust me, I'm on my own quite a lot.

This brings me to this past week. As my summer holidays drew to a close, I was acutely aware of my self-strength 'disability' and knew I had to make a change. So I set out at the beginning of each day with an intention. Something small and simple that I could concentrate on through the day, from confidence, to no gossiping, to calmness. 

But yesterday, as I rode my bike to work in a bit of an emotional muddle (again), I knew I needed something stronger to guide me through. The words that started swimming through my mind were "my life is my own magic." From there, I held on tight to the feeling that I have to be the only source of my own magic, and let me tell you, I had the most wonderful day. Being at work became a pleasure, because damn I'm lucky to work with the amazing people I do (they all held up their coffee cups in a group cheers to me for a job well done directing my first series). My usual feelings of sad nostalgia for all things past turned into super-charged sparks of gratitude that I had lived those moments fully. I sunk into the present moment with a fierce calm that lit me up all over and I found myself connecting right, left and centre with everyone I came in contact with. I watched the sun go down and then gathered my best to go out dancing to the cheesiest 90's music we could find and bounce out any last drop of negativity. Then I went home late at night, biking through all the back allies I'd never seen before, and made a giant stack of pancakes, and let me tell you, they tasted amazing.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Pushing Through

I've been absent for a while.

My intentions were to spend hours and hours writing in my personal spaces, to empty out my mind and heart of everything that needed emptying, and then to fill myself back up again.

I set out to find a new path of understanding into myself these past few months, and I wish I could say that I was successful. Summertime came, I went back to school, I let regular life take over and I forgot to care for myself in the way I know I needed to.

I emptied my mind and heart half way, and let them be filled with a bit of a jumbled confusion that wasn't satiating at all. I emptied myself and drank down broken pieces of dreams, filling up on a cocktail of fragmented feelings and perceptions, mixed up like a pile of various jigsaw puzzles needing to be sorted out before being put back together.

I'm left with an understanding that I've got a lot more work to do here now, but I'll do my best to take on this job of sorting myself out. Alas it seems I'll have to empty out once more. Completely this time, properly. Write everything furiously out of me, empty that vessel of confusion until not a drop is left and then re-build.

This time, I'll craft the blocks out of reading again (healthy, nourishing, meaty things), playing my cello and my guitar in the spaces where I have nothing else to hold on to. I'll run. Not away from things, but into things, towards new experiences that'll bring me magic. I'll save up to buy my metalsmithing supplies and begin forging rings. And I'll write. I'll write out the bad on my own, and I'll write out the growth here, where I'm publicly accountable, where fear can be transformed into pursuasion and proper positivity with a beautiful intention.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Solo Travel

Photo by Nicole Babin

I read something recently that stated that women who have a propensity for social issues, may find solo travel to be absolutely liberating. At once I agreed, and continued to think about why. I've only traveled on my own a few times, technically speaking only once, but I've ended up on my own before too, when I didn't start out that way.

I've written extensively about my trip through Costa Rica, so I won't say much more about that particular trip in this post beyond the liberating thing. When traveling alone, I can be anyone. Not a lie of myself, but a fragment of myself. Or perhaps many fragments of myself, put together in a different way. I can do anything I want without the pressure of my partner's happiness, I can say whatever I want to the strangers I meet without the fear of judgement. For if they judge, what does it matter? I'm not there to prove anything, I can so easily shed the binds that shackle me. I can be anyone I want to be, my best self. I can trust myself, listen to my heart without obstruction because there is no one else to trust, and no one else to sway my feeling. If I want to recline on a wooden lounger, hungover for hours, staring at a volcano with paper and pens spread out around me, I can (and I did) I can morph solely into someone else I don't yet know, and be completely in love with that fantasy.

When I was twenty-three, I took my first backpacking trip to Europe with my friend Julie, and the experience I had will be tattooed on my memory forever. She and I did not know each other well, we worked together and shared a desire to get away. The first half of the journey was wonderful in it's own right; Rome, Florence and Venice. Sleeping in a rented tent swimming in a foot of water after a storm, my first experience with hole-in-the-floor toilets, long train rides and hostels. A slight tension was beginning to build though, as my confidence grew. I was becoming braver, and more aware that I was locking up my introverted, panicky self in a vault somewhere, only wanting to be free.

One night, in a campground in Mestre, we met an incredible group of fellow travellers, a night I hope I'll never forget. One of those nights where the passing hours saw the dropping of various revellers until I was one of the very last standing, gaining only more momentum, craving more experience, and wishing the night would never end. Running wild through the site, heads spinning from piss-tank beer and too many cigarettes, I, and two Daves from Halifax, stumbled down to a quiet dock overhanging a dark canal. We dropped down onto the hard wood, planks digging into our spines, surrounded by the song of crickets in the many ratty shrubs across the water. Life was so free and the humour was flowing. We told stories of our lives back at home as if they were not our lives at all, but only faded memories of movies we'd seen long ago. The stars sparkled above us, and I had a nagging realization that I meant nothing to Aleks, the guy I had briefly been dating back home. But it was ok, because the night proved to me that there was so much more. One of the Daves eventually dropped off, leaving only two of us to explore more before the sun began to rise. Dave and I walked hand in hand through the sleeping campground, whispering drunken jokes and found a huge, vacant tent. Neither of us had seen a tent like this one: four or five separate rooms divided by billowing white gossamer.  We pretended it was our white-picket home and lay on the damp, dirty mattresses of overused cots until the sound of crickets turned into the sound of birds. We said our final goodbyes and I snuck back into my cabin, careful not to wake Julie. I no longer cared about the bedbugs. I was both too drunk and too concerned with real life now.

That night changed me, and made me see that the trip I had been experiencing up until that point was not what my young soul needed. Julie and I lasted a few more days together, through Switzerland, until we decided to part ways. We clearly had different agendas and that was ok. After another incredible night surrounded by new worldly travellers in basement bars (due to the noise controls in Interlaken) I woke up in my bunk, surrounded by the sick coughing of twelve other girls, and told Julie I would not be going to Paris with her today. I was going to go back to Venice again, this time with new friend Nick, because I wasn't ready to say goodbye to him yet, and because I wanted to see Venice through newer eyes. She understood, and left to catch her train. We did not see each other again on that trip. I felt badly for that but I knew that this was what I needed to do. I was learning to follow my heart, to let my feet land where they wanted without my mind getting in the way. That was the moment that journey truly began. The moment I daringly broke free from the itinerary and left in search of what I was missing, the void inside me that was aching to knock out fear.

Nick and I spent a whirlwind week with no plans, no foresight, no anything beyond the present moment. We rented golf carts and accidentally ended up on the shoulder of the highway, laughing so hard about being pulled over and thrown into Swiss prison. We'd stop at the side of any road where there was access to any body of water and dive in as long as it was accessible enough. My hair had never been messier, my face perpetually smeared with melting mascara, body covered with mosquito bites from sleeping at night in tiny rooms with screenless windows, but I just did not give a fuck. Nothing mattered out there. It was so free, but I became remarkably addicted to that freedom so saying goodbye was genuinely one of the hardest things I've had to do. You know the scene, spending every last moment in the dying sun, in the growing shadows, pretending that the goodbye would never come. Stepping onto the train, then turning back to see him snap a picture of me waving goodbye, on a disposable camera, as the train pulled out, heading for Paris.

I had ended up so very far away from London, where I was meant to catch my flight home in a couple days, and that overnight, couchette train ride from Venice to Paris was awful. I was truly alone. All the lights it seemed had gone out on me. I was without my passport, (they held them for the overnight border-crossing) and I tried to sleep, so sad, listening to the glug-glug-glug of my water bottle swishing beside my head with the motion of the train, and the illicit affair between student and teacher in the next bed. We broke down in the middle of the night, and I got my period. I cried again. Warm tears of worth because they were tears filled with meaning. Real tears drawn from fear, loneliness, farewells and the scary adventure of relying only on myself; so much more than the tears I was used to back home. I arrived in Paris and had to beg the ticket sellers in my best French to please cut me a deal on the chunnel. I dredged up more tears and he took pity on me. I had had enough and I was out of money. When I thought I was reaching my breaking point, I could see that I was actually building strength and character, but it was painful, my skeleton too big for my skin...

I made it home. I made it through, and when I look back I can see that I suffered from no threat beyond a fearful heart. I didn't know how to trust myself yet. I was still a stupid little girl, whom I now love and cherish so much, so grateful that that silly girl was me. I wish I could reach back in time and hold her tight, tell her it will all be ok, because I was ok. It would only have ever been ok, but I just wasn't ready to trust yet.

When I'm walking down the street these days, cool bars of an iron fence bumping against my fingertips rhythmically, I think about myself twelve years ago and I am so thankful that it was my life. I fall prey to nostalgia every day, a condition I now know I have no control over really, but I'm learning now, as I was learning then. When I'm older, I'll look back at the me I am now with a sweet smile and a wish to embrace.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Let's Face It, It's a Bit of a Love Fest Really

Art by Jerry Thistle

Last night, one of my very best friends invited me to be his 'plus1' to the reception party for the Canadian Screen Awards, and it was magical.

It was not magical because of the venue, the crowd, the glitz or the see-and-be-seen part of it (because as you can imagine from my previous post, this type of evening is not at the top of my list) I don't care about celebrities. I don't care about fancy business men with expensive suits and shabby-chic haircuts. I don't care about schmoozing (if it were even possible for me to do so). The magic lay only in being there, with my friend, in full support of his nomination. To be there because he wanted me there. To be at his side to feast on the 'free buffet of wine' with him. And to feel like I was the most important girl in the world for one evening.

To have a friend in your life who is so damn set on your very happiness & comfort is a beautiful thing. On our giggling, drunken trip home on the streetcar, I sputtered out what's been going on with me recently. We both made light of it, as it was late at night and the wine had been free flowing. But this morning, he sent me a text saying "as Mark Darcy once said, I like you very much, just as you are". Simple little words can mean so very much, and arrive at just the right time. Another realization of just how incredibly lucky I am to have friends like I have.

The day wore on to bear a second small text carrying good news from another dear friend of mine; a medical scare rendered negative. The relief and laughter that spread through me was substantial, and I did wish I could be there for him in person at that moment, to share that feeling, to celebrate that certainty instead of being at work. Those moments of unshakable friendship meaning more than anything else.

Then tonight, I gathered with friends for a super-fat-feast of pancakes and breakfast bacon for shrove Tuesday. Between sips of hot apple whiskey, PJ explained how last weekend, when we were all at the bar for Sleahy's birthday, she looked at all of our faces around the table and thought to herself how lucky she was. How much she loved us, her friends, and I agreed.

I've had that same feeling before, when I separate myself for a moment, in my mind, from my direct surroundings, taking in the warm smiling faces of those closest to me, and I feel at peace. How lucky I am that this love is all part of me, and that I am a welcome part of it.

I know that no matter how tough things seem at times, I have this circle of loving friends who are there for me no matter what. I don't always have a great capacity to say so verbally, and at other times I completely over-gush, but to those of you here in my life, present and past, know that I cherish you, I really, really do.

To You My Friends...
A post from May 2013

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

I'm Gonna Get a Little Real...

This blog is a strange thing of mine. I've always been a quiet person, hesitant to share much of myself openly with others in fear of judgement. I don't have Twitter or Instagram. I don't feel comfortable sharing personal details on Facebook. In fact, my finger has been hovering closely over the 'deactivate account' button for a while now.

But then there's this blog...
I crack open bits of my mind here. This incredibly public forum feels strangely anonymous for me. Very few people read my writing here, and I take great comfort in that, so I don't fully understand why I share at all, it's catharsis mostly. That, and I tend to speak in metaphors only I can decipher. This time may be no exception, but I have something in me that's teetering on a very sharp edge, a need to share this one pinnacle thing I have shared with almost no one yet because I don't know how. It's gonna get real, but it'll likely be somewhat vague, I can't help that.

In June, following a very long conversation, I began to see a glimmer of a different side of myself. A side of my brain that perhaps wasn't quite typical but I was not yet ready to acknowledge it. I decided at that time to close the drapes on that glimmer, choosing to let it rest darkly for a while. My emotions were starting to sting a little, like a tiny bug in my head that wouldn't stop buzzing, but I drowned it out with music, drink, writing and travel. My trip to Costa Rica was pushed along a little by this discovery of what was likely going on. I closed the book and moved forward, as I always had, but the breeze kept billowing those drapes open and the glimmer began to glow brighter until I couldn't darken it anymore.

Through the cracks I began to see fragments of my life as a whole. A brief span of childhood punctuated with doctors offices and tests I still remember clearly. The nurse in the waiting room smiling at my little brother beside me driving his cars over the backs of the chairs as I waited patiently with my loving parents beside him. I remember sitting with my family at a round white table between bookshelves and a window. I think that doctor had a beard, and spoke kindly to me. I remember drawing pictures with colourful crayons as a psychologist looked over my shoulder in a small room, taking notes as I explained to her what I had drawn, and then she told me my burgundy corduroys 'sang' as they swooshed when I walked. And I remember the EEGs. But no diagnosis was ever made. My parents thankfully pulled me out of the unnecessary clinics and gave me a wonderful, normal childhood filled with only the love and dreams a childhood should be made of.

But I always knew I was different. I put it down to awkwardness, shyness, any label I could give myself. I had a hard time holding onto many friends, it was almost impossible to make connections so I lost myself in reading, writing and drama classes where I could be someone else for a while. On the surface, I matured into a normal, fun-loving young woman, but every day was a silent struggle. I learned how to wear many masks, I could melt into any being and act the way I knew I should, but every day left me exhausted, and the masks were never quite right. I wasn't meant to be an actress full time. It meant that I came across as inauthentic, insincere and without empathy. My lack of social aptitude unwittingly drove people away, wracked relationships with heartache and emotional strain. I made unwanted enemies of people I loved dearly, but I couldn't stop it because I didn't have the capacity to tap into what I really meant to say, what I meant to do. I was lost over and over in confusion, begging my brain to get back on my side and help me show that I was the good person I knew I truly was. I spent time in therapy, being told that there was 'nothing wrong' with me, and that I should 'get over it'. But get over what exactly? Words like depression, social anxiety and attachment disorder were thrown around, but no one could prove anything and I was grasping at straws, pretending to be normal.

To this day I am plagued by these shortcomings, but a few weeks ago the crack in the curtains was pulled wide open and the light flooded me. The window was a movie screen playing the story of my mind with large subtitles telling me exactly what was happening and I felt relief because for the first time, I could understand. Everything began to make sense, to snap into place like a giant puzzle made of magnets and my mind started to glue itself together in perfect patterns, the fog lifted and the buzzing bug hushed into a softly spoken voice of reason.

The last few weeks I admit I've been a bit withdrawn, floating up and down on the current of the uncomfortable, new knowledge I've been given, that I suffer from a neurobiological condition on the autism spectrum, and I always have. I felt relief at first because the rush of answers allowed me to see what my normal was, and my lifelong strange ways were made clear. But now, I'm in a second phase of understanding and it's a very difficult place for me to be in right now, I'm feeling a little lost. I know that I'm still the me I've always been, but I'm also not, I've become my own shadow. I'm in the process of piecing together these two parts of my whole and each day feels a little more murky then the last, the mud a little deeper, a little thicker to walk through, because it's all so new. I haven't yet found the courage to speak much about this because I don't know how. The words catch in my throat and blend in a fear of disbelief, that friends will see me differently now from the girl they thought they'd always known. It's too early to find the balance between who I was and who I am and to understand that I'm stronger now for knowing. I hope others will find that strength for me too.

I will be ok, that much I know. The only way out is through, I do believe that, and though I'm faltering right now, I can see the beautiful summit in the hazy sky. There is no cure, but it will not strike me down, and in fact, once I learn how to cope, I will be made resilient. When I close my eyes in the morning sun, I visualize the light dancing through the leaves of summer trees and my heart aches a little, but it feels more open too, to the new life I'm beginning, free from my own ignorance. It will take some time, but I can build my new self back up again on my old foundation.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

That Time When I Thought "This Is It"

About a year ago, Shayne told me a story. Or rather, he told me someone else's story. A story of a man's near death experience in a plane crash and how the experience made this man realize the importance of life. Real life. Real living. The things that really matter. I'll share this man's story at the end of this post, but first a few thoughts of my own.

We spoke about how sad it is that most of us will never realize life's beauty, and how it can take a devastating, horrific or scary event to make us finally open our eyes. It's sad that we have a hard time following our heart, or even seeing our heart for that matter, until we meet our end (or at least, think we are meeting it).

After Shayne read this man's account, he decided to quit his job and to pursue photography which was his passion. He hasn't looked back. He often spoke of this story to me, trying in vain to get me to understand. Those days when I'd find myself upset and defeated over the simplest things. Not seeing what I should be grateful for as I was blinded by conformity. By normalcy.

But can hearing of someone else's account possibly be enough to snap us out of our own despair? It should be. It needs to be. But it's not that easy. It's so sad that it's not that easy. That we find ourselves desperate, hating our jobs, living to work, hoping we'll find happiness at the end of the tunnel when life is not a tunnel and the end is not Utopia, the end is the end and nothing more.

Why we should think we need to work miserably every day, wishing for the weekend, wishing our vibrant, healthy days away should be beyond us. But sadly, it isn't. Fear. Fear of falling off the track that everyone seems to be running on; together hand in hand. Fear of tripping and falling out of line where no one will be there to hold our hand anymore, where the others point and laugh before running off into a dollar signed horizon, to be "happy." We want that, don't we? To join the rat race into this distant future of peace? This land of eternal happiness where we can all live together in perfect, wealthy harmony with beautiful wives and perfect children?

But there is no such land. There is no such perfect future at the end of it all. There is only today, and today is beautiful. Deep down, we all know this. We all know that we will never be younger than we are right now. That the best time to begin what we love was ten years ago, but that the next best time is today right? Of course we know that. But the truth of it is so unattainable without a serious shake down, a serious slap in the face by death himself, to make us truly stop running. To finally be able to calmly step out of the race, and choose instead to lay down in the cool grass, under the shade of a giant tree, close our eyes and appreciate the simple act of breathing as if it's the best gift we've ever been given. And to accept that we may only have one more day to live, or we may have fifty years, but that either way, this is where we are meant to be, right now. And this should be all that matters.

So why wait until we are old, rich and feeble to step out of that race we think we belong in. Why waste anymore time...

I once lived through an experience when I honestly thought "this is it" and my brain went into silent overdrive, trying to plot out all the calculated steps I'd have to take to best survive this. I was not in a plane falling from the sky, so my situation was not so dire (and did not give me a life long shakedown) but it somehow still resonates.

It was that time about eight years ago when five of us were out in the Pacific ocean at night, in a Zodiac, in a rager of a storm.  We all went silent as our guide battled the swells up and down, up and down, nose to the waves to prevent a tip-over. Revving the motor and killing it each time we were hauled up and over the stormy, night-black swells. Cold rain pelting us from all directions, glowing in the boat's light. I remember so clearly watching the moonlit, rocky shore in the distance thinking "this is it" I knew it, without a doubt in my mind that we were capsizing. That much was clear. All I could do was spend the rest of my time on board plotting out what had to be done. How I'd remove my full body rain slicker so I could swim better, how exactly I'd do that in those last quick moments. How I'd reach for the others and make sure they'd do the same. How I knew that if I swam to the shore, I would not be able to climb out of the water because the cliffsides were too steep, knowing that I'd have to hang onto the drifting, overturned boat as long as I could, until the shoreline became more habitable. But I was wearing a lifejacket, so I knew I could just float for a while. My lifeline. I remember every time I saw a bit of shore that looked somewhat climbable, I thought how maybe now was the time to jump ship. But I didn't, and the night seemed to go on and on until finally we were docked into safety.

Now to end this long (and possibly arduous) post, I leave you with the story that inspired this whole thing. A story that I hope can change something in you, maybe even a little bit.

The Story...

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Year & Holidays

Photo by Shayne Gray

A long and memorable year ... hopeful, nurturing an emotional heart, writing thousands of words, wisdom from my heart to my mind. Snowy winter walks along trestle bridges in Janetville, a biker with tattoos on his forehead. Travels to Halifax, Vancouver, Costa Rica, Montreal, New Brunswick. Putting more importance on friends, strengthening my relationships with them. Summer cottages and camping, sunsets warming skies and moonlight for miles over lakes. Late night swings in hammocks. So much more music, operas, Ours, Julie Doiron, Lucius, Chelesa Wolfe. Dancing to LBO and Rambunctious in 40's splendour. New glasses. Learning how to make jewellery out of silver with flame. Photoshoots in new studios, and capturing the wedding of good friends. Sushi dinner with mini billiards and springtime morning walks through Earlscourt (the trees always burst back from the winter) Lunacy Cabaret and rooftop garden parties. Lunch hour walks with lots of music, mending those emotions again with forget-me-nots, tulips and warm sunshine.

That long and memorable year ending with the best set of holidays I could have asked for. Getting the season started with Cooper's Christmas themed 80's party. Mulled wine. Momofuku brisket dinner followed by a late night birthday surprise with champagne, cake and amazing friends. Annual epic Christmas party complete with 4am round of mord-le-sac. Baking bread wreaths and cookies with Will and piling up onto his couch to watch movies in front of a most treacherous gas fireplace! Snowy nighttime walks through Roncey surrounded by the most beautiful Christmas lights (disco houses!). 3pm pyjama wine at Daniel's. Kalendar dinner with the girls and seeing Jill off to Indonesia. Bridget Jones of course, and eating more cookies than I can handle. Building a gingerbread village. Catching up with Mike after half a decade (an old friend who knows a side of me that no one else does) Coffee with Tess at All that Jazz beside a tiny electric heater. Magazine from 1932 xo. Thursday night drinks at home with best friends, taking ridiculous photos that I can never, ever share!  Watching Disney Christmas movies, Christmas Vacation, Christmas Story, Christmas Carol. Photoshoot with Nicole just before the ice storm hit. Home for the holidays to my childhood neighbourhood, trees completely destroyed by the storm. The ravine where I used to play in shambles, but getting to spend much more time with my grandparents due to the storm. Afternoon drinks with friends watching ridiculous TV and playing What! Taking pictures with sparklers and ringing in the new year with my best loved ones in a whirlwind of complete ridiculousness. Cheers!