Marching.

“Each time a woman stands up for herself, without knowing it possibly, without claiming it, she stands up for all women.” – Maya Angelou

Today was the day of the women’s march in DC, as well as the numerous other marches stretching across the globe. There was one in St. Paul at our Capitol – less than a mile from where I live. I didn’t go.

I wish that I could have brought myself to. It isn’t that I don’t agree with it – I do, and I also respect all of my black and brown sisters sitting out because they don’t feel that they have a place in the pervading white feminism of the march. I didn’t sit out for that reason, though. I don’t like crowds and they tend to offset my anxiety, but that also wasn’t the full reason that I didn’t go.

I’ve been enjoying seeing the photos of the various marches around the world. The crowds cheer me and give me hope. Many of the signs are funny, smart, and inter-sectional.

This election cycle has been hard. After a friend tried to rape me in my apartment this past summer, I was triggered and sunk into a depression. My anxiety increased and I went into hiding. As I started to feel better again, the horrific tape came out of Donald Trump bragging about sexually assaulting women. I wrote about my reactions to that here. The past several months have been traumatic and I’m still figuring out how to cope and find my footing.

A friend of mine posted on Facebook today, thanking friends who are out at marches, and reminding us that not everyone is in a good, safe place in their minds to be able to be out marching. That is me. That is why I am not out there today. I worried about being triggered, with my anxiety from the crowd already on high. I feel vulnerable, and I knew that this would push me over the edge. As I scrolled through social media reading protest signs, I became triggered by a few. I started shaking and crying, unable to breathe. I had to put my phone away and take time to focus on breathing and calming my mind. I knew I would spin into a full-on panic attack if I didn’t take care of myself. I am glad I am not at the march, as much as I wish that I could be.

Instead, I’ve been taking time to think of ways that I can resist Trump but not be triggered and not put myself in an anxious situation. Reflecting on these things took me back to my teenage years. I think that I had to be an advocate and activist for myself as a woman earlier than many of my friends and peers. As a teenager, I would argue with many of my friends who now proclaim themselves feminist and have now caught themselves up with the things that I began fighting for earlier than most. I scared off a lot of people and lost friends.

You see, when you find your body raped and ravaged and shamed when you’re just 16, you are your sole activist and advocate. Chances are your friends and peers don’t understand the situation you are in, despite your pleading and cries for help. As I’ve grown older, my friends have been liberated from their comfort and ignorance (I hope in ways less violent and traumatic than my own liberating) and have begun to understand the complexities of rape culture and survivorship. But here’s the thing: I spent so many years alone in this fight, tired and weary from fighting with the very people who I thought might believe me most, that I feel very left out from the newfound unity among my friends and peers.

I am glad that so many people are awakened and showing up for victims/survivors of sexual assault and rape. I don’t mean to sound bitter – I am just tired. I hope that one day we have this same awakening for domestic violence, for trans issues, and for the stories of injustice and hardship that my black and brown sisters have to share. I have work to do to continue staying in tune with these things, as well.

But what I mean to say is this: it’s not okay if you feel left out. It’s not okay if you stayed home out of fear of being triggered, or having your body disrespected due to your skin tone or your biology. I am sorry if you felt these things; you are not alone.

To my friends who are new to the fight, as you resist these next four years, don’t forget about your friends and peers who have had to resist all their lives, or at least for a time much longer than you. You have a lot of privilege if this is the first time you have had to resist. You are marching alongside individuals who have had to be their own advocate and activist for much longer than you. For whom resistance wasn’t an option – it was a necessity to their very existence. The world can be scary for people like us. So please don’t let your good intentions get in the way of your clarity.

I am tired, but I thank my sisters who showed up today. I am grateful for those who have been showing up their whole lives. I am glad that the past several months have woken up so many people – I wish it didn’t have to take this long…and let’s not forget that it was white fear of losing white privilege that gave us Trump & his administration to begin with. Let’s keep marching….with our queer, black, brown, trans, survivor, Muslim, immigrant, incarcerated, disabled, indigenous, and refugee sisters at the forefront.

Forgetting.

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Today as I made breakfast in the kitchen at work, my old neighbor popped into my head. I’m not sure how or why, but all of a sudden I found myself in deep thought about John Michael.

A few months ago, I had written a note to myself in a journal to think more about all the memories of that time in my life. When John Michael and Chad moved in, and I became best friends with their daughter. We were best friends, and our parents best friends as well, and had many years of friendship and extremely enjoyable memories. I stumbled across a box of photos of this time in my life a few months ago, prompting me to make that note to myself.

So here I stood at work, thinking about John Michael – simple, lovely thoughts. I can’t tell you anything in particular – he hummed through my mind…his smile, his laugh, his energy. I got back to my desk with a bowl full of yogurt and looked at my phone to see a notification from Facebook – it was John Michael’s birthday today. I wanted to smile, but didn’t. How peculiar, I thought. He and his partner both passed away some number of years ago.

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I’ve been sick this weekend and taking a lot of bubble baths to relax (actually, I take a lot of bubble baths in general). I like to add milk and baking soda and bath salts and good smelling things to soak in. The other night, as I floated at the surface, I thought of a friend of mine who died some years ago – two and half, if we have to put an estimate on it. She had been stressed by a number of things in life, which I had been made privy to, and decided to take a bubble bath to help relax. But, stress tended to set off epileptic seizures for her. She had one, and drowned. I thought about that as I floated on top of my milky water the other night – not in a morbid way, but just in a way that one thinks of a friend. In that moment, her death was very relatable, and also not.

I thought about the last time that I had seen this friend. It was just a week or so before she died. It was Fourth of July. We met up after watching the city fireworks and spent the evening at a friend’s apartment. Outside, we put off smaller fireworks and sparklers and ran around screaming in the summer night, laughing and giggling with delight. There are no unhappy memories from the last time I saw her. Only joy and relief and a sense of free-ness.

Recently as I tended the peace lily that I grow in her honor and memory and love, I noticed a small bloom forming. The first bloom since I bought the plant on the eve of her funeral. I smiled.

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I’m not sure that I find myself thinking about these people and these things enough. Do I get too caught up in what is happening right here and now to let these people enter the short-term circuit of my memory? I spent the evening after my bubble bath with my friend who died on my mind. Tonight, I imagine I will be thinking about John Michael and the decade+ of memories surrounding him. How easy it is to forget the things that we do not breathe heavy into.

Priorities, and the things that we see along the way.

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Earlier in November, I had the blessing to spend a week with my (almost) entire extended family. My cousin was getting married in Orlando, so my far-flung family all traveled to Florida for the wedding, and to spend a week together in a rented house.

While I have plenty of family that live mere miles from me, I also have family who live across oceans. And I have family that is in the military, often deployed or in training, scattered around the States and the world.

This time together was special.

When I got home and back to work, a co-worker asked me over lunch what my favourite thing that I saw in Florida was. I was slightly taken aback. I explained that it wasn’t a sight-seeing trip so much as time to be together as family. And then I couldn’t stop thinking about the things I saw that might be my favourite.

My first thought went to my littlest cousin. We shared a bathroom that joined our two rooms. On our final night together, as we both prepared to go to bed, he performed an entire improv slapstick routine for me as I sat in bed, fresh from my shower. I was falling over in bed from laughing so hard. That’s my little cousin – always game for a laugh and for being the fool.

Then I thought about playing in the pool with one of my older cousins. He and I were trying to play a game of volleyball…pathetically, poorly. We laughed a lot and chastised ourselves endlessly.

Or perhaps it was when my younger girl cousin and I sat outside of Starbucks at Universal Studios sharing tater tots and talking about how crabby everyone was. It seemed that we were all only talking to one other person in our group of 12, and she was my person (a long day at an amusement park with 12 people will do that to you).

There was sitting next to my uncle at the wedding as we swapped food with one another from our plates.

Or my cousin and I dancing to Spice Girls on the dance floor. Or maybe it was my mum being so enchanted by the Small World ride at Disneyworld. Perhaps it was when my cousin who I hadn’t seen in 13 years burst into a huge smile when he saw me, wrapping me in a hug with a “hello sweetheart” whispered in my ear.

Maybe it was slow and easy mornings eating cereal next to my littlest cousin as he drew and played games on his phone. Perhaps it was sitting around the hot tub, steam rising, and just chatting – all of us, family. Or it could have been the way that the trip was bookended by giant bear hugs from my littlest cousin as he scooped me up without hesitation, letting little 5’1″ me wrap my arms and legs around all 6’3″ of him.

All of these memories whirred through me as I pondered my co-worker’s question. What was the best thing that I saw in Florida? I’m not sure. But the best thing that I felt was love and joy. I live for these moments. Relationship means more to me than sightseeing or big experiences. I went to Florida not so that I could report back, telling stories, seeming worldly (is Florida worldly? No.), boosting my ego…I went to Florida to be wrapped with love and joy. I’m sure that I saw a lot. But feelings matter more than what we can see. I know that when I die, it will not be the things that I saw that will wrap me with warmth as I pass. It will be the relationships, the laughter, the feelings of joy and love. These are the priorities in my life. What are yours?

A small tragedy

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My cat Peter died today. On Friday, my mum informed me that he hadn’t been off the couch all day. I cuddled him for a little bit and then put him down by the water bowl, only to have him fall over. His hind legs weren’t working. We thought maybe he had a stroke. I held him for the last time on Sunday, hoping that it wouldn’t be the last. But it was. I got a text from my dad today to tell me that Pete passed around 11:30 today at the vet. I wrote a small eulogy for him on Instagram:

For my 9th birthday, I asked my parents for a parakeet. They went to the pet store and came home with a skinny, hunchbacked, tailess cat named Peter. Pete wasn’t the frisky kitty that most people would get their kids. He was ridden with anxiety and fear, crabby, and never ever ever played. He flinched at every noise or movement. Over the years & after many vet appointments, we learned that Peter had been badly abused in his former home, resulting in broken bones & fractures that never healed properly. Peter was always stiff & uncomfortable, but it was the long-term behavioural scars that hit the hardest. For the past 14 years, we gave him sanctuary the best we could. Today Pete was put down, after suffering a stroke last Thursday or Friday. I’ll miss the little dude. He was weird & neurotic & never very happy, but he was ours to care for. Thanks for letting us be your family, Peter

It is for the best that Pete-Pete is gone. He had a long life. By every standard it was considered good, and I hope that he was happy and found peace during these 14 years. But, I am sad. I cried in my cubicle and in the bathroom at work today. I bawled my eyes out in the shower, and then dragged myself out to wrap myself in a towel and cry on the bathroom floor. I am sad, I think, because Peter was my last little bit of childhood hanging on. I got him when I was 9 years old. He was with me through turbulent times during middle school and college. He’s been there for more than half my life. And when I say that he was “there”, I mean he was there yowling in the background, flinching every time I entered a room or reached for a pet, struggling to get away every time I picked him up for a snuggle. But it doesn’t matter – he was there. And now he’s not.

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I’ve talked about my pug dog Moses a few times on my blog and on Instagram. Moses died more than 3 years ago now. I got him for my 10th birthday many years ago now, and he died when he was 9 years old from an auto-immune disease. I remember when my mother called me from the vet to say that it was the end for Moses – he had to be put down. I broke into hives and fell on the floor. I screamed and screamed. Moses was my best friend. We brought him home for one last night with us. It was so selfish. My little pup wanted to die. He couldn’t eat, he couldn’t walk. His favourite things in life weren’t possible anymore. But we were selfish and wanted one last night with him. At the vet, my boyfriend held my hand and I sobbed and sobbed as Mo-dog took his last breath. I left the room and my sister ran down the hall to grab me. I can still feel her hugging me as we mourned our dead, exhausted puppy who was no more.

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After my dog died, my boyfriend J and I talked about things that would make me feel better. I decided that I wanted goldfish. Me & J would take dates to the conservatory to watch the koi swim. I wanted my own fish to watch swim. He brought me to Petsmart and I picked out two beautiful goldfish that I named Baby & Seymour (and a moss ball named Tony, to purify their tank). In December, J went to rehab without telling me, 5 days before Christmas. On New Year’s Eve, too sad to celebrate, I cleaned Baby & Seymour’s tank, thinking about how different things were when J took me to pick out these fish. I woke up on New Year’s Day, 2014, to find that both my goldfish had died overnight. I cried all day. My beautiful gift from J, my little fish, the antidote to my sadness over losing my pup. Dead & gone.

I’ve lost a lot of pets over the years. I was fortunate to grow up in a household where cats and fish were commonplace. Moses was my first and only dog, brought to me after years of begging. I had a short stint with a guinea pig named Maxwell Edison, and an even shorter stint with a hedgehog. And I write this with two handsome kitties calming me by my side. There’s a George Carlin bit where he says, “It’s inevitable when you buy the pet. You’re supposed to know it in the pet shop; it’s going to end badly. You’re purchasing a small tragedy.”

Yes. It’s going to end. But you’re also purchasing a best friend, a constant companion. You’re purchasing (adopting!) something that you will care for and it, in its own way, will care for you. So thank you, Peter….Moses….Baby & Seymour…and all the many others, for caring for me when I needed it most. I hope I cared for you when you needed it, too.

Things I do when I’m sad

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I’ve been sad lately. I’m not 100% sure why, but I’ve been stuck under a rain cloud and in a bad mood. More than likely, it’s hormonal, as it usually is. But I was recently reminded by the boy I dated this summer who ended up playing me that, once again, I’m not enough. It put me further in the gutter to be reminded of that. My feelings of self-esteem/self-love/self-worth have been garbage, and I spent the last week drifting between the bed and the couch, unable to muster enthusiasm for, well, anything.

On Friday I decided that with the weekend upon me, I didn’t want to feel sad anymore. So I started texting friends to put plans together, and then decided to make a list of the things I do when I’m feeling sad. What do you do when you’re feeling sad?

  • Listen to American Beauty
  • Watch When Harry Met Sally
  • Go to my favourite bar and read a book
  • Go hiking
  • Turn all the lights off and take a bubble bath
  • Write in my personal journal
  • See the people who bring out the best in me
  • Organize – cleaning, doing laundry, creating lists, updating my budget, etc.
  • Watch Gilmore Girls
  • Tap (EFT)
  • Water my plants
  • Be kind to myself
  • Make plans for adventure
  • Paint with water colours
  • Look through family photo albums
  • Take self-portraits
  • Go to church

The things that I do when I’m sad tend to be easy. Usually when I’m sad – very sad – I can’t muster the strength to do things like yoga or kickboxing (I haven’t worked out in almost 2 weeks). When I’m sad I don’t like spending money or going to places where I will feel only more alone, such as art museums, farmers’ markets, concerts, etc. When I’m sad I try to surround myself with the things that bring me comfort, but I also like to create and find things that will allow me to focus on moving forward.

And so, with that, I leave you with one of my favourite reminders about creating and moving forward….

“After a while you learn the subtle difference between holding a hand and chaining a soul, and you learn that love doesn’t mean leaning and company doesn’t always mean security. And you begin to learn that kisses aren’t contracts and presents aren’t promises, and you begin to accept your defeats with your head up and your eyes ahead with the grace of woman, not the grief of a child, and you learn to build all your roads on today because tomorrow’s ground is too uncertain for plans and futures have a way of falling down in mid-flight. After a while you learn that even sunshine burns if you get too much, so you plant your own garden and decorate your own soul instead of waiting for someone to bring you flowers. And you learn that you really can endure, you really are strong, you really do have worth.” – Veronica A. Shofftsall

Checking In

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October has gone by fast and I feel like I haven’t had a lot of time to gather my thoughts. October is always a rough time of year for me, for a myriad of reasons. Halloween tends to be a “dark day” for me, and I always dread this time of year. In an attempt to not be in a funk, I’m checking in and sharing some of the thoughts that I have had time to gather.

 

Prayer

I used to pray every night before bed. Every night. I consciously quit doing so when I was 20 and my boyfriend was using drugs. It wasn’t because I lost faith, or had nothing to pray about, or felt like God had failed me. It was because I was in constant communication with God. I talked to God throughout the day. God knows what’s on your heart, always. Sometimes praying helps. For me, praying wasn’t helping, but talking to God did help. I was recently thinking about that adjustment I went through – when I began to just simply talk to God rather than pray daily. I still talk versus pray. I pray en masse in church and weekly during staff meeting (I work in a church-setting). The only time I pray by myself now is when I see an emergency vehicle. I don’t think that anyone in the world knows that about me: I say a small, quick, silent prayer every time I see an emergency vehicle. But otherwise, I prefer talking to God.

 

Travel

I keep talking with friends about where I want to go for my honeymoon. I’m not engaged, or anything close to it. I’m just one of those stupid girls who is romantically planning her honeymoon with a man she’s never met before. (It’s Greece, and Prague during Christmastime, in case you were wondering.) I don’t know why I’m dreaming about that though when I could be dreaming about where I actually can go, right now. I still have 6 vacation days to use before the end of 2016, so I pitched it to Instagram asking where I should go. My friend Jess suggested Edinburgh, where she lives. I spent the night looking up flights to Scotland…and then realised that I should just plan a UK trip for 2017. I have family east of London, and my lovely friend Tori who I haven’t seen in 3 years lives up in Manchester. I might as well explore a bit of Scotland while I’m at it. (I’ve yet to be convinced that I should visit Ireland…I’ve been watching the third season of The Fall & am reminded that Ireland looks rather grim, or at least the Northern bit of it.)

 

Creating the life I dream of

I am really happy in my life. Somewhat stupid happy, at times. I’ve worked hard to create a life for myself that I wanted, and now I get to reap what I sow. However, I can’t help but wonder if I’m not letting myself dream enough into what else I want. I’ve been dreaming up (and talking with people) about a business idea. But that’s the only dazzling new thing I’ve been working towards creating for myself. I wonder if I’m letting my contentment get in the way of making life even better for myself.

 

Putting myself “out there” and being brave

I’ve never really been afraid of rejection. I’ve always accepted it when it’s come and, for the most part, I don’t let it affect how I see myself. I’m trying to be more brave about myself in relationship or dating, though. I’m trying to not be afraid of letting someone know that I miss them or appreciate them or like them…or whatever. I’m so reserved that I oftentimes keep those things to myself. Not out of fear of being rejected, but just because it’s natural for me to keep things to myself. I’m trying to be more brave about putting my thoughts and feelings out there. And I hope that others will do me the same courtesy. We live in a world of “ghosting” and so much we say and do publicly is inauthentic and edited; I worry that we let that all seep into our personal lives. I worry that we don’t let ourselves be brave enough to say what we feel, even if it is ugly and unedited.

 

Family

I love my family. The ones that are near and the ones that are far. The ones that have ugly political opinions. The ones that are quiet and reserved. The ones that I haven’t seen in years. The ones who I don’t see eye to eye with. The ones that I have dinner with frequently. The ones who I have never met (Grandpa Ray, Grandpa Paul…happy 116th birthday!). The ones who I didn’t have enough time to get to know (Grandma Dee, Grandma Lorene…on the anniversary of your death). The ones who love and appreciate me for who I am. The ones who struggle to understand me. The ones that are very very small (Iris, one of my favourite people in the world) and very very old (Astrid, the fierce family matriarch). I love them all. I love my family.

 

Harry Nilsson

He’s been one of my favourites for years. I’ll Be Home, or, here’s one that I can’t get out of my head lately.

the people who bring out the best in you.

The other week, my sweet friend Mark messaged me on Facebook to say that he loves how I smile in pictures. “You do it well. … It seems genuine and it looks good on you and it’s pleasant,” he commented. My heart warmed.

I can always tell who took a photo of me because of the way I smile in them. My favourite photos of myself are the ones taken by my favourite people, and I love knowing that other people can see that, too.

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Awhile ago I posted this (above) photo on Facebook, taken by my ex J on the shores of Lake Superior last year. It was one of my favourite photos of me taken in a while. My lovely friend Tori mentioned how the photographer did a great job of capturing my inner and outer beauty, letting it shine through. “There’s a magic to photos that shows who is taking them, or who you’re with in the photos,” I commented back to her. “I always see the photos that this friend takes and hope that that’s how people really see me…that that’s how I really look to the world.”

J always brought out the best in me. He made me fierce and loving and full-of-heart. He made me soft and sweet. In the photos that he took of me, there was always an extra softness in my lips and my eyes. Warm and alive, you could feel my comfort and love pouring out from my face. It’s not just J who did this to me. My friend Tyler, who checked in on me last week, brings about a softness in my portraits, too. He’s a photographer and has snapped my pic countless times. You can see how full my heart is. You can see my adoration for life with that person seeping out of my eyes.

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As much as we work to control how we are perceived to the world around us, there’s something to how I look when I look at my friends that I just don’t know how to capture otherwise. There’s nothing I can do with my hair or makeup or my clothing that can capture the look of love and appreciation and joy and comfort that is captured when I’m with the people who bring out the best in me.

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I surround myself with the people who bring out the best in me. The people who I am instantly relaxed around. The people who turn me soft and gentle. The people who I look at with love and care pouring from my heart and my eyes. The people who turn me sweet and fierce. The people who make my laughter joyous and free. The people who make me curious and excited about life, and at the same time comforted with security and assurance.

I hope that the world can see me this way. I hope the world can see me alive, joyful, free, fierce, and sweet. I am so lucky to have people who bring this out in me and let me shine it out into the world.