Monday, April 30, 2012

The Lucky One

No, this isn't about the new Zac Efron movie. 

First, while I think Efron is a gorgeous sort of cyborg who has been sent here to destroy us with his flawless skin, amazing hair and striking blue eyes, I don't buy into the plot of the movie. The thing is, walking from Colorado to North Carolina isn't going to cure a soldier of what he sees at war. Nor will a picture of a chick with the words 'be safe' written on the back keep him from dying. The truth, PTSD isn't romantic at all. And it can't be cured. It's something the person deals with on a day-to-day basis. Some days it is easier. Other days unlivable. In the end, it really isn't fair to hold one person responsible for 'saving' another when it comes to this illness. Probably because, one day, the person might wake up back in the darkness and leave, simply to escape it and in their wake only questions are left behind. 

But then, what do I know? Women loved the movie and book. It probably wasn't written with me, or the likes of me, in mind. Like I said, this post isn't about the movie. Or book. Or even about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, soldiers or loving someone with this illness. No, this is about me and us and the world and how we are lucky. To simply exist here.  

We're lucky. Even when sad, miserable and broken, we are lucky. Through the bad times, when the world's trials and tribulations are piling on our back, when life is weighing us down, it's hard to see how lucky we are. Death, loneliness, darkness and distractions, I've touched on them all in the past little while and they are what make it difficult to take note of what surrounds us. It kind of makes me sad that people miss so much, because the world is an amazing place. Beauty abounds. And sometimes it takes my words from me.  

This last weekend I drove down to Montana to meet a friend. She was well worth the thirteen hour excursion. I started out on Thursday and returned home Sunday. So, I didn't have a lot of time in the Big Sky State. But, I have to say, what I experienced left me feeling lighter. In the country, away from the city I live, I feel free. Like my wings can stretch farther and I can go further. On the way back home, we were zipping through Spokane and I noticed the sky. The clouds, which hang over our heads every day, mesmerized me. With the sun, their formations, how vast and endless they seemed. I took notice.  

I don't know how many times I said it, but I repeated "The clouds are crazy" at least ten times. I'm sure my passenger wanted to throttle me. But, like I said, they were crazy and you could see for miles. And then I got to thinking, I'm lucky. Not only am I an able bodied girl with functioning eyes, ears and nose to take my surroundings in, but I also have the tools at my fingertips to make things happen. To enjoy what's around me.  To see, feel, smell and love. 

I'm lucky I'm awake to experience things. And not just physically awake. But mentally.

Back in January, I started a plog (picture log) to detail the beauty around me, the things I love. The hitch was that the pictures all had to be taken by me and I am to post one a day for a year. This little project has been a real eye opener for me. It is a constant reminder of the little things I move past every day. And, in fact, it has proved to me how much the little things truly do count. Sure, my bills are piling up, but look at the sky and smell the rain. Those are the things I'm to here to experience. Those are the things that make me feel lighter. The ones I love.

And they are the things I am going to fill my life with from here on out. Not the negativity or fear or anger or hate. Just simple love, for simple things that surround me every day. 

So, I am lucky. Even though I am a poor, single, struggling writer with two friends, an evil cat and an absent lover who is constantly on my mind. Because I am awake. I am surrounded by beauty. And you are too. We all are. And the truth is, it doesn't matter what we have done. There is time to wake up. To change. To spread our wings and take flight. 

And there is time to love. I truly believe that. 

Anyways, enough hippy talk. Here are a few more pictures from my travels:

 I wondered why the Bison kept watching me. 
 Hot Springs.
 More hot springs. Sort of Tim Burton looking, no?
 Other side of the last hot spring. 
 Waterfall in the distance. 
 The Yellow Stone of Yellowstone. 
 Up Close & Personal.
 Grazing in the grass. 
 Winter storm means lovely trees. 
 Beautiful View. 
 My Wagon Broke.
 Broken Down Tractor.
 Ghost Town - Bannack.
 Bannack State Park.
 Train Station - Not Functioning.
 Peek-A-Boo Sunset. 

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Everything We Used To Know

It's an odd sensation to wake up and realize you haven't actually listened to anything you've heard.

We go through life, so fast, so recklessly, nodding our heads and saying 'I heard you'. But have we actually listened? I know I haven't, not always. My emotions, my life, job, family, mortgages have gotten in the way of actually paying attention. It's weird to admit that. Because I used to think I was a wonderful listener. What a rude awakening.

A couple years back, I fell in love with a song by Patrick Park called Life is A Song. Even back then, when I was deaf, blind and dumb to the world, I recognized the beauty in the music. Except, I didn't actually listen to it until a couple months ago. Baffling, I know. I remember the moment well, too. I was at the gym, jogging away on the treadmill, cursing how long a minute felt, and it started to play. I actually had to stop to listen to it again. And one more time for good measure.

One line in particular pierced me straight through the heart:

It's time to let go of everything we used to know. 

This line, in all its simpleness, struck me stupid. Rendered me speechless.

I stood there on the treadmill and knew it was truth.

A simple reality of life is: we cannot control where we came from. We are born into homes, lives, and families that we have very little control over. We don't pick our parents. We don't choose how we are raised. And we cannot undo the things done to us, the good or the bad. In so many ways, we are at the mercy of others for the first fifteen years of our lives.

As children, we are so vulnerable, unable to control who and what we are subjected to. We are impressionable. And we struggle to figure out a world that is at times cruel, merciless and riddled with people who can hurt us. As children, we fall victim to other people's actions and words. Even more, we fall victim to their ways of thinking. Our lessons are handed down by people we think are wiser, who understand the way the world works and are only trying to help us.

But sometimes our teachers are wrong. Parents included.

For a lot of people, that's hard to confront. Parents, older siblings, grandparents, schoolteachers, priests and even judges, lawyers and police officers are all in this pool of people who we think know more than us. They are untouchable to disagreement and correction. They are people we're taught to respect, not talk back too, and trust. Except, they are fallible. They are human. They make mistakes. They allow their own hopes, needs, wants and fears to trickle down to those they come in contact with.

Not too long ago, I took a step back and looked at the whole picture. I realized, the people I loved the most were wrong. Not in everything, but in a lot of things. In their anger, their pain and the way they saw the world. They guarded themselves from others. Allowed themselves to be toxic with the world, with themselves, with me.

And when I took another step back, and looked beyond the restrictions of the house I grew up in and the people I loved, I saw it was the world too. It wasn't just my family, friends, and teachers.

I watched the world spin and it worried me.

For the first time, I saw how backwards our teachings were, how off-course humanity had become. We've evolved into such materialistic creatures, acquiring things that we cannot take with us when we leave this plane. Our focus has turned from needs to wants. In doing so, we've developed this frightening 'yours vs mine' mentality. And we've de-constructed our natural herding instincts by building walls around our homes, around our hearts. We don't trust anyone. The fear is thick, suffocating evening. It's one of the first things we learn as a child when our parents instruct us not to talk to strangers and  it develops from keeping us safe to keeping everyone at arms length for fear they will hurt us.

It baffled me to see it. To notice how we embrace the hate, anger, fear, and worry and baulk at the lessons of love, understanding, compassion and empathy. And it's everywhere. In our homes on a small scale and on our televisions, movies, newspapers for the grander scale. So many of these thoughts and ideas grew from seeds planted long before we were able to choose what we wanted to become or form opinions of our own.

This is why the Patrick Park song hit such a chord. Because maybe it is time to let go of everything we used to know.

The song goes on after that, though. He says, "It's time to cut ties that won't ever free our minds from the chains and shackles that they're in." And I realized, I want to be free. Not only of the anger, pain and fear, but from the things I learned when I was younger, things that are doing me no good. I want to be free from the lessons I learned that were wrong. 

Sometimes I believe we are given the tools to happiness and it simply takes time for us to know how to use them. Just like I think sometimes it takes awhile for us to actually 'hear' the things we are supposed to and only through letting go can we get to a point where we actually 'listen'. Perhaps we need to keep to our path and journey on before certain words, songs, emails, letters and books make sense. And when we are ready, they will be there, waiting.

This time the lesson won't be wrong because the lesson will be love.

And love is truth.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Darkness

The darkness rolled in like fog on the horizon. It blanketed everything in its wake. It clouded our senses, making it impossible to see. There were people crossing our paths, but we couldn't focus on them. We didn't know what was in front of us or who we were. We didn't recognize the masks in the mirror. We didn't want to see the people we had become.

We were bogged down by the emptiness. It filled our hearts. And we drowned in our miseries. Sorrow spread her soulful wings and fluttered through the cavities where our hearts once beat. Our dreams were endless, but we didn't entertain the hope that tickled our fingertips when we touched through time.

Our thoughts, they ran rampant. Wild horses dashing across the deserted plains of our minds. There was panic down there, under the darkness. There was longing too. For the little children we once were. For the people we wanted to be. For the people we saw in each other.

The pitch black suffocated us, filling our lungs with grief. Flooding us with this forlorn feeling of being unattached. Alone. We choked on our regrets, on the mistakes we made, the hurt we caused. Like the veins snaking under our thin skin, we saw all our wrongs mapped out inside us. They were branded on our souls. They were all we knew in the darkness. All we trusted to be true.

Crawling into bed, the darkness was our comforter, but it held no comfort. A duvet so thick it threatened to suffocate us, to suck the breath out of our mouths, a reaper swallowing our essence. It was so cold in the darkness. Unforgiving. And we were children again. Lost. Broken. Searching for someone to hold out their hand and pull us out of the tar slowly eating us alive. An endless snake, twisted up our legs, coiling around us, binding us to our flaws.

The darkness reminded us of all our imperfections. Of our lies. And broken promises. It never let us forget the bad things. It never allowed us to move on.

We fumbled around, our trembling fingertips searching for a door out of the airless room. But we found nothing. No sound. No soothing words whispered. No laughter. This was not where we wanted to be. This was not who we chose to be. And still, we languish there. Too weak to find our way out of the dark. Too stubborn to believe we deserved more than the loneliness and hollow lives we lived.

What we wanted was juvenile. To run and skip and play. We wanted to see the sunshine on the horizon and chase butterflies. Our bare feet longed to feel the dew on the morning grass and our noses itched to smell the wet earth after a rainstorm. We wanted to stand before a mirror and not cringe at what we saw. We wanted happiness, in its truest simplest form. We wanted to not be repulsed by self-reflection. To not have our stomachs turn when we saw ourselves in the dirty windows and glossy hoods of fancy cars.

We wanted to let go. Of the darkness. We wanted to be bathed in light.

Our dark hearts. The ones we showed each other. They were broken. They beat erratic and without purpose. Their wounds dated back to a time and a place when we didn't exist. Still, we dragged our burdens with us. Pulling them along the gravelly ground, too scared to release them. Too damaged to confront the pasts we could not change. Too scarred to heal. The damage was already done.

Then you stood before me. As I stood before you. And I held up a match. To show you the light. And you drew closer. Under my breath, I said, "Even in a world of darkness, a single, insignificant flame has enough light to draw us home."

With unfettered hope and love and trust and peace, I came towards you, as you came towards me.

And, just like that, the darkness ceased to be.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The Importance of Being Persistent

Once upon a time, I couldn't run a mile. Now I run three to six a day, depending on whether my knee is staging a sit-in.

There was a time when I couldn't do a manly push up. Now I can do five, rather pathetic ones, in a row.

Not too long ago, my plank didn't last much longer than a minute. This morning, I held my plank for three minutes.

Three minutes!

When I was in school, I took a class called C.A.P.P which stood for Career and Personal Planning. No joke. It wasn't even optional. This was a mandatory class for everyone and was sort of like the Canadian equivalent to Home Room. The whole idea of C.A.P.P was to teach students about long and short term goals. Now, I only remember one thing they tried to drill into my thick skull - the importance of goals, and goal setting. Bizarre, really, considering I don't remember anything else from high school.

Not only do goals give you something to strive for and work towards, but once you achieve them, you have something to celebrate over. And we all need to celebrate. I mean, there's usually cake at celebrations and we all know how I feel about cake.

Interestingly enough, now that I am nearing my twilight years (har-har), I realize I've been a master goal setter for years and didn't really know it.

It all started when I was seventeen. One rain soaked morning...

Actually, I don't know if was rain-soaked, but this is Vancouver and logically speaking it most likely was. Not to mention it gives a rather boring story a bit of flare...

Anyway, one rain soaked morning in February I decided to become vegan. Now, that wasn't the goal, not at all, because I did it cold turkey and really haven't looked back longingly at steaks and egg salad sandwiches. The goal was to be the best vegan I knew how to be - compassionate to the little creatures, lover of life big and small, Tyson-She-Nymph-Of-The-Land-Of-Flora-And-Fauna. (Can I get that one on a t-shirt?)

Little did I know, being vegan would be a short and long term goal. Not only do I strive to achieve this every day, but when I die I'll think back on this goal and know it was the longest one I've ever had. And probably the most rewarding. I'd go into details about why this goal has made me lighter, not just physically, but mentally and how it's led me to a path I never would have found otherwise, but this blog is about goal setting and not veganism.

All I need to say is, every day I try to show a bit of compassion to animals. Lately, I've tried to include the dastardly human animal in this. Yep, I revised my goal to incorporate mankind. Which is really bloody difficult since my misanthropy is as hot and wild as molten lava spewing forth from the mouth of a gigantic volcano. (How's that for imagery?)

But that's the point, isn't it? To set goals that are challenging, both mental and physical. To make ourselves work to feel accomplished. It's like that Destiny Child's song when they sing 'if you don't go grab it, I'm going to let you have it'. Okay, maybe it isn't exactly like that, but you get the point. Those who work will be rewarded. All it takes is for you to make up your mind and say, "I'm going to do it."

This is where I feel the need to stress the importance of creating goals that are attainable. You won't find me setting a goal to fit into a size six dress, because, first, it's simply not going to happen and, secondly, it's a waste of time and energy. I don't need to feel bad about the implausibility of meeting a goal I set for myself. I mean, come on! We have common sense for a reason, perhaps we should take it into consideration. What's the point in letting ourselves down? It's counter-productive. I'm not going to set a goal to get a husband by the end of the year, because, let's be honest, it's going to take a much longer time to dupe someone into proposing to this gal.

And I know people are laughing at that, but I see it every day. Every single day. People set goals that are so far out of their grasp that they are just setting themselves up for failure. A woman I know wants to lose seventy pounds. That's her goal. Seventy pounds. It doesn't even matter if she needs to lose seventy pounds because this is not a realistic goal.

Why, you might ask.

Because there is no motivation to get to it, except for general health and well-being, and if that mattered she probably wouldn't have packed on the seventy pounds in the first place.

To reach our goals, we need to see the celebration on the horizon. We need to know party hats and noise makers are in our future. We need the feeling of accomplishment. We need to know what it feels like to succeed so we can set another goal and know how good it feels to get there. There's nothing better than sitting back, putting your feet up and knowing you've done something you never thought you'd be able to do.

And this is where short term and long term goals come into play.

Right here, right now, I will say it, put your eggs in the short term basket. Without short term goals you'll never reach your long term ones.

You want to lose seventy pounds, well start with ten. Because ten is doable. Ten doesn't slap you in the face and taunt you every time you get on the scale. And, when you get those ten off, celebrate - not with a whole cheesecake  - and then start on the next ten.

When I started running, I couldn't go a single mile. No, really. A kilometre was torture. But, once I got to a mile, I set another goal for two. And then three. Then...I think you got the point. And it works for everything in life. When I started writing a book, I started with chapter one and then two. When I began planking, I started at a minute. Day by day, week by week, we work our way up to our ultimate goals by hurdling our little ones.

So, yes, right now, I'm working a nine to five job (five to two, technically), living in the city, writing as a hobby and dreaming big. But one day, with a little goal setting, I might be working my own hours in a modest house in the woods, writing for money and living my dream. Until then, I'll keep setting these little goals and celebrating when I accomplish them.

Like the fact that I planked for three minutes this morning.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

National Poetry Month

When I was in my angst-riddled teens I thought I could write poetry. It turned out, I couldn't. Everything I produced was, simply put, horrendous. But that doesn't mean I don't appreciate poetry. On the contrary, I think people who are capable of writing it are word whizzes. There is nothing like a nice, simple poem to sum up something beautiful - a thought, opinion, sunset or delectable piece of cake. Whatever be your fancy to write about.

April is National Poetry Month. So, I've decided to share with you one of my all time favourite poems.

Robert Frost is well known among the poetry circles. Some may even say he is one of the most well-known poets. Which means it might be a bit cliched for me to pick one of his poems as my favourites. Unfortunately, this is out of my control. One of his poems was ingrained on my heart long before I had the sense to pick something more obscure and wowing.

The poem is Acquainted with the Night and the reasons for me picking it are both simple and personal. Back to my angst-filled teen years again. I used to spend a lot of time walking the streets at night, thinking. In a world so filled with people, I often found myself feeling very alone, to the point where I often wondered if anyone noticed me, or cared to notice me. All those hormones, I suppose. But as I tried to find my place in this crazy, some-what unforgiving world, I struggled with what I felt. 

Feeling lonely isn't unique, certainly not to a teenager. I knew that then and I know it now. These are just human feelings, ones so many of us suffer through. And yet, how common they are doesn't detract away from how crushing they can be. Oh, misery, it can be such a piss off.  

Looking back, I imagine a lot of my friends felt the same way. But kids didn't talk about these things. And since the internet hadn't yet caught on (yes, I am that old) I couldn't even blog anonymously about my icky feelings of sorrow and displacement. To make myself feel better, I read. Books provided insight into people who were far more messed up than I could ever be. (Ahem - Moving right alone. No comments from the peanut gallery please.)  

It was around the age of fifteen that I discovered Robert Frost. Actually, it was a couple years earlier because I read the book The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton when I was in grade eight. She has his poem Nothing Gold Can Stay written out and Ponyboy and Johnny discuss it in the novel. Such sensitive Greasers those two were. Anyway, I loved this little poem. It prompted me to get up off my arse and go to the library to rent a book of Mr. Frost's poetry. What impressed me most about the majority of his poetry was his ability to sum everything up in a handful of sentences. 

Now, Acquainted with the Night reminded me of my late night walks. And it made those feelings of loneliness seem normal. It ended up giving me this knowing feeling that I wasn't alone. Every time I walked the empty streets late at night under a blanket of stars I thought of this poem and felt validated. Like I wasn't just being dramatic and, more than anything, I wasn't exactly alone, no matter how solitary I was. 

Funny how one person's poem about loneliness can make another person feel less alone.  

Anyways, here's the poem. 

Acquainted with the Night - By Robert Frost

I have been one acquainted with the night.
I have walked out in rain -- and back in rain.
I have outwalked the furthest city light.

I have looked down the saddest city lane.
I have passed by the watchman on his beat
And dropped my eyes, unwilling to explain.

I have stood still and stopped the sound of feet
When far away an interrupted cry
Came over houses from another street,

But not to call me back or say good-bye;
And further still at an unearthly height,
A luminary clock against the sky

Proclaimed the time was neither wrong nor right.
I have been one acquainted with the night. 

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

A Bit O' Recognition

A lot of people blog and vlog and plog and...well, participate in this social media extravaganza because they want to build a network, have connections and slowly climb to fame and fortune. I, on the other hand, take part in this crazy virtual realm because it allows me to take a break from the everyday grind and sit back and ponder life. I'm a big thinker. It's true, I mull with the best of them. And, sometimes, a little order is needed, order that can only be achieved by writing out the rampant thoughts galloping through my head.

Luckily, I was blessed with this gift (curse?) to be able to say what I'm thinking with these fantastic things called words. If used correctly, words can be strung together in sentences and, most shocking, these sentences can form paragraphs.

So, yes, I write these things for myself, but I'd be lying if I said I didn't do it for you as well. You see, I've been thinking about the path. No, not the path to Jesus Christ, but my life path. Our life paths. Lately, I've noticed a lot of people commenting on my blogs and taking the time to let me know that something I've said has resonated with them. This tells me two things:

1. People read my blog (surprise!)

2. I'm not alone on this twisting, turning, sometimes bumpy journey.

Some of you are along for the ride. That feeling of oneness doesn't have a price. You can't pick it up at the corner store. It's refreshing. Energizing. And, more than anything else, calming. Well, at least for me. I can see how others might be a bit more apprehensive to find I'm along for THEIR journey. Frightening thought.

Since it's just you and me here, talking thing out, I feel comfortable saying that sometimes the comments on my blog tickle me silly. A little recognition is nice. I don't think I'm stating anything ground breaking by saying that. I mean, it's like when we were seven years old and we drew a pretty picture in class. All we wanted was a simple pat on our head from our teacher, mother or father. Someone to say, "Job well done."

Well, this week, I got two job well dones. Ones that extended beyond comments on my blog or shares of my vlog. People actually took the time to put me in their own blogs! I know, the world has gone mad.

The first came from Toby Neal who mentioned me in her blog on fearless writing. Now, I have a hard time taking compliments, mostly because I always feel the need to push them away or joke about them. Probably has something to do with being an unsightly child so worthy of mocking it became a second nature. That said, I really do appreciate this shout out. I try to remain honest with what I write on my blog and what I vlog about. I state my opinions and hand them over in their rawest form. Granted, I probably should candy-coat them at times. Am I fearless? Not really. But I am honest.

The second shout out came from A. K. Fotinos-Hoyer who mentioned me in her blog and gave me the Liebster Award.

In order to accept this award, which I am doing, I must do three things:

1. Link back to the person who gave it to me. (Which I have done, see above.)
2. Post this award on my blog (I am doing this now)
3. And nominate five blogs with less than 200 followers and notify them that I have given them this award.

Easy as pie. Simple enough instructions that even I can follow.

Because recognition is a wonderful thing. I am participating in this.

Here are the five people I am nominating for the Liebster Award:

1. R.C. Lewis - Wonderful, wise, woman writer. Oh, and smart as a whip.
2. C.S. Einfeld  - MG Writer with style and flare. A must follow.
3. Stephen Winterflood - Humorous posts about all things weird. And art I salivate over.
4. Lexi Revellian - Writer doing it for herself. Wonderful blogger.
5. Solange Noir  - Doesn't blog as much as I'd like, but hoping this is motivation.

So, go forth and recognize someone. I hear it's all the rage.