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!