Imperfections

February’s been a rough month. March too. I ping between okay and ‘oh so over it’. I’ve hit the wall. All I have left is to write about it.

On one hand, I have a small box called apartment. It’s crammed full of left over bits of past life and the one I’m trying to live now. Creativity wages war with it daily; art and writing supplies, music all fight for space.

I write regularly, paint occasionally. Mostly my keyboard and guitar cower against one wall, asking me to practice. I paid for a month of guitar lessons, tossed a penny into the well of expectation and hope it brings good things. Last week, encouraging words from my teacher assured me that regardless of my frustration with ‘only’ practicing one song and one scale, I have done a good job. Okay. I’ll bite. I’ve done well. Now believe it.

I want to improve my art. Create paintings I love and learn to part with them. To do that, I need a better grip on money and budgets both for home and sales. Even if it’s just for fun, I’d like enough to replenish supplies, I need to let myself learn the basics of give and take, hobby or business.

I want to release things I’ve written. Send them further out. Not just the one or two places I know who are open to it. I want to push past the barriers and broaden my reach.

What scares me about writing? People tell me I’m good, I have a raw way of writing. It draws people. They see it in pieces I’m doing for a memoir. Say, I have a strong, staccato style to my poetry. I read a list of possible literary magazines suggested to me. I probed their online offerings and re-read. Decided to write a cover letter and choose some poems to send.

But then, a tangible restraint on my arms. typing has weight. sleep falls upon me, passing out like with a migraine. and less obvious shut down, internal, my body folds in on itself, origami folding into invisibility. impossible. i need to move. i need to …. submit …. ringing past intentions, rules that bind. breathe swallowed up within lungs that strain hesitation.

Words. They lean towards poetry. They leap at opportunity, but cringe at expectation. Dear words, can you help? I want you to know full expression. I hope this year to let you fly.

Counting Time: 3, 5, 7

February 3, 2021

I’m tired.

People will tell you that is my standard answer. It’s often true, but not always. January felt heavy and I was tired too often. Falling asleep at 6:30 leads to waking at 2:00 and days where the hours slide sideways down the clock. I still think in analogue even though I read digital in both 12 and 24 hour formats. Work and home, home and work; even my battery clock is analogue designed with a false tick, tick, tock. Some nights it comforts me, others it annoys. The month slid by all comfort and annoyance.

Today I will go to work. This is my middle day. Tuesdays and Thursdays I have off, but Wednesday sits wobbling in between. Those who regularly see me in the morning will ask next time why I wasn’t there, whether I’d been off work, and I will say no. I worked afternoon to evening. Not a favourite shift, but not the worst. I’d rather open and then have the afternoon to walk and write or do art. I would if the energy didn’t drain so quickly, The last few weeks, I have done less than I want and my brain says none at all. I’m writing here so that can’t be true. I do write, just not the things I feel are creative or that fit my goals. I’d like to focus more when I have the time and accomplish things I’m struggling to achieve; poem, book or blog.

But I don’t practice enough. Not art, not music, not even words. Want is a strange thing. I want to play songs, but I don’t practice the notes enough to give them flow. I want to do art that sells, but I haven’t offered any to the few people who show interest. I want to be a writer, but I submit so seldom even though I look and look at places where I could send. Why? Is it fear, laziness, lack of skill or desire? Asking pumps adrenaline through my system, grabbing all of my attention, stealing it away from paint, sounds, and story. Images and words spin around me, I hang like a child in the Tilt-a-Whirl, remnants of childhood and challenges faced. Hold on, hold on, the ride will end. The ticket booth not far away.

Getting through January was exhilarating and exhausting. Irritating. I struggle on at work and want to see friends who are still living home bubbles. One day we will sit over tea and reminisce. At the moment, my contacts and connections are all digital or work related. My life, my experience.

I want to do some writing. Get Coursera finished. Write a poem. Finish my memoir. Nothing is moving. I tried here in WordPress and ended up making some notes into my phone.

Why do I have so many words and why do they feel so useless?

The world is a-kilter. Does it kill? I feel tipped over. But we aren’t allowed that relief, tipping over is a symptom of the current times. As are coughing, sneezing, sweating, being tired. Walk carefully. I see runners and we try to avoid each other. I’d avoid them anyway, but this year we mask everything, avoiding as much as we can, and feel guilty if we make eye contact with those we pass on the random trips around the corner for a change of view and fresher air than lives inside the boxes of rest and activity that are home and work.

Listening to Anne Lamott as I type is soothing. She’s talking about jealousy and ravaged bodies. It’s an old scene in YouTube talking about her life and efforts in writing. Not yet at bird by bird but living it. I think she’s reading from it in draft?  There is clapping and laughter. I like laughter. A friend telling me he likes my laugh. Tell me you like my laugh. It makes me smile even more.

February 7, 2021

The week, like my night, blurs. I sat on the couch with my phone waiting for 8pm when a ‘saved event’ was to start. The reminder arrived at 7:30, a good half hour before the event. I left it idling while I played with French in Duolingo. Found both at 1 am still idling but now tucked down inside of the couch. By 4 am all I have achieved is a few thoughts in my phone, some articles forwarded to myself to read again later (my newsfeed may hold them, but I don’t count on it), and this – realizing a work week has passed since I began this post. I found the Anne Lamott video half finished where I left it in YouTube and let another 5 to ten minutes of it play while I write here. Time seems too long and too short this year. I wrote a note at work Friday to prompt myself for a new post. Imperfections. It made me smile Odd. There are so many and lately we are so aware (and still unaware?).

My shift today is afternoon/evening. I’ll come back to my thoughts on imperfections later. For now. Another run at sleep. I’ve turned off the 5:15 alarm. If I can manage to grab an hour or two it may not help, but may ward off falling asleep on my feet before end of shift. Today will go like hundreds of others the past year or two. I’ll head to work hoping the day is kind, hoping I don’t fall asleep the moment I get home, hoping for life and laughter to be the things I remember well. I’ll tell people I’m tired, and be told I always am. I’ll spend more time than I wish too close to strangers, a little time talking to to those who ask if I’m ever not there, those glad I am there, and those who ask earnestly how I am; glad I’m still doing okay. Mostly I’ll give thanks for the online conversations I get to have with those who love me, who make me smile in ways that reach my core and laugh at outrageous or trivial things in our day.

Today, like every other day (if you believe those who say so), people will ask how I am and I will tell them I am tired. It will be true. I will push myself through it again. I may fall asleep too early tonight and repeat this pattern. But at 4 am my end of day reasons to smile still exist in the smiling faces of those who love me, the occasional memes or jokes they send me through the day, and their appreciation of my laughter.

I may yawn behind my mask, but I’ll laugh. I love laughter and the many ways those who love me realize it. And these are the things that count.

Is it Over yet?

The end of a year is time for reflection. Like tradition, we all do it, size up the year past and wonder what the next one brings.

It’s not quite official. There are a few hours to go, but I’ve been wondering the last few weeks what I’d think and feel as the year draws to a close. I’ve heard others say for months now they will be glad to see this year go, but if I’m honest I’m not sure how I feel about it. I wouldn’t choose to do it again, but I’m proud of getting through and oddly a little guilty.

We go blindly into each year with resolutions, making ourselves promises. I came into 2020 telling myself ‘this year, I’ll do all the hard stuff.’ I thought about that all year as Covid demanded more and more. I wanted to face some fears, improve my writing, follow through on goals for submitting to magazines or other opportunities. I wanted to write songs, to practice guitar more, do more painting; maybe even sell some. I met some of the goals, not others. I feel an odd regret in the out of synch places my life reversed that of friends stuck home during the lockdowns. Those who wrote whole books, learned online skills, or like many of my customers cleaned out whole areas of retail lugging home storage systems. Those are still on my wish list and may live there for a time. Like I said, go slow. The real challenge is learn to live with it.

Some things I wanted to do because they addressed self- esteem areas, places of grief where I live with a longer sense of missed opportunities. I wanted to be brave and maybe look at other jobs, see if I could find something that pushed me back to using skills for teaching or the social aspects of autism. I applied a few places and scared myself receiving one response at almost year end asking me to reapply to an alternate position. I did think about it seriously. Still think about it. Self-worth and self-esteem are areas still healing after years struggling to love myself in the places I didn’t step up to things – like the other half of teacher’s college I never went back to complete, an art career I was afraid to start. The book I may or may not write?

I don’t switch gears easily. I have it on good authority that I over think things. I research possibilities I’m afraid to try. I take on too many things at once and don’t see it coming. I stare at boxes still littering my living space and don’t want to let go of them because it took so much out of me paring down 35 years of life to the little that fit into 500 sq.ft. of space.

March and April threw me into coping mode. Extra hours at work (one of two people who stayed). End of the winter snow, plows and stress throwing sleep out the window. Work demands and Covid rules changed weekly. I learned to speak up, about cleaning products, personal needs, physical distance, how to handle the challenges and face my fears. Work asked and I assured them I was okay. Crisis is a known place to me, ask when it’s over. I anticipated a few months, this long dragged out season reminds me too often of life before leaving. Abuse and things I haven’t quite solved in real time yet.

I’m starting to believe, or maybe understand, those who told me I am tough. I’ve had to face things in myself I don’t like and haven’t let go. I don’t like feeling afraid and I don’t like not being in control of it. In December, I kept saying to myself ten months. It was hard to believe it has been that long or that I did so well. I am tired. I need to admit that or the next round will hurt worse than the last.

I didn’t anticipate losing one job, pushing through the year on just retail and repeating ‘nose above water’ feeling lucky to have something. I’m more than lucky, I’m resilient. I’ve been told that a time or two (maybe more) the last few years and this year has challenged me to show it. I begged all year for hours to try to make up the ones I lost, then struggled with the challenge of taking physically exhausting hours in place of office hours that allowed me space and opportunity to recoup. My balanced life of retail, physio and mental health volunteering fell apart. It wasn’t until summer that I had conversations to get back on track with the volunteer role, and not until then or early fall that I saw my former workplace while attending a personal physio appointment.

I started begging for full-time retail as the company took on its promised thousands of new workers. Some stayed, some went, some just didn’t show up. Those with other jobs suspended wanted something to do that felt like it helped. Students home from school took on their normal summer hours, though none of it was really normal. All of us faced the confusion of open/closed, safely distanced unreality. I was desperate for anything besides the concrete walls and floors of work and home, my personal determination to limit exposure (mine or others) gave way to a desperate need for green and blue. Walks around the block or on local trails, carefully avoiding others, carrying mask to don when needed yet dropping it to taste the fresh smells of air and earth. Sitting beside the river, watching the ripples of water and life in the plants and animals thriving. I needed this look at life. I watched others grasping at it too.  

Inside too much of the grasping felt like strands of greed twisted between layers of generosity. The angry, selfish people yelling about limits, empty shelves, other shoppers, the masks and rules the stores tried to impose in polite ways while staying in line with confusing expectations I and coworkers tried to follow. I felt out of sorts with myself at times, angry at mistreatment by some customers, not ever sure (besides my regulars) who was local and who wasn’t. Only the ones who identified as out of town while demanding that I give them rights beyond what was allowed.

There were the angry ones. Like a lady who lashed out at me for saying she couldn’t have a second case of water and then heaved one of them at me. A quick jump and it missed me, a shock, but not a major event. People yelling about masks or refusing to distance. Some who wanted to tell me it was all a hoax or blown out of proportion. A few got angry, and pulled off their masks, yelling at me about rules and restrictions outside my control. People telling me they drove from Toronto, Orangeville, Brampton, Owen Sound, Milton, Cambridge, London looking for things they wanted to buy. I couldn’t understand why. Some who struggled all year buying multiple orders as they shopped for themselves, older family and neighbours. Kind people, going out of their way and bearing up under shifting restrictions, who felt they needed to explain themselves again and again. I loved those people and tried to balance rules and kindness.  

We got through. We held up. We still are as we head into 2021.

Resilience I suppose is keeping going when you want to stop, picking up the phone when you need to talk, listening to others and seeing need, advocating for resources, laughing even when it hurts, smiling and speaking kindly as often as possible.

This year reminds me of the people who believe in me, those who encourage me. Some of them family or friends, some known through work or community, some offering support in meals, conversations, occasional walks. I am grateful for every one. I’ve been blessed to have many people willing to tell me the good things they see in me and encourage me to continue being my best self.

As we go into next year, I hope I remember the things I’ve learned in the one just past. I can do more than I believed. I am kind to others. I need to be kind to myself. I have pushed through difficult places and will again. I’ll enter into next year with humility and hope. Resilience will be there when I need it. Friends will have my back.

I won’t ask a lot of myself in resolutions. I’ve written down ‘go slow’ and ‘allow failure’. I’ve been afraid of both and faced both this past year. I’m tired but good for another round.

Heading into 2021 will be interesting. Welcome New Year. Let’s see what you have to offer.

Old Buildings

Old buildings. Old people. Memories that tell me stories of life and love. I’m collecting their moods in my heart. 

I love old buildings. At times I take walks along the downtown where history lives. Stone faces and wide trimmed windows. Old wood and brick somehow comfort me. Things slow down and I can breathe.

Walks take me out and away. Both provide and alleviate distractions. The stone in my shoe, a twinge in my hip. Fibromyalgia biting at me. Deal with it. Walk. I love to walk. Look around. Reflect on life.

Today, my walk starts indoors. Shopping. And a customer who likes to chat.

Oh you jumped the fence today, did yah?

I laugh. Yes. I jumped the fence, but I’m in later to work the afternoon shift.

A sweet man. Always friendly. He talks happily about visiting family, going to meet his newest great grandchild. Moments of joy. He will get tested (Covid) before he goes, just to be safe. He’s looking forward to turning 89 next June. Why that year, I’m not sure, but tell him he’s the same age as my mom. She’s aiming high too. He bought pastry shells to make butter tarts. Loves to cook. I knew that about him. He reminds me of growing up, having my parents and grandparents around me, soft smells of home.

Old buildings. Old people. Memories that tell me stories of life and love. I’m collecting their moods in my heart. Letting them fill me with strength and joy. I’m building my own stories. People I love, those who love me. Times and means of being together in this wild year, riding out the unknowns. Alone is better shared. Every puzzle can be solved. Even this one.

It’s hard to believe March is so far behind us. It’s been a choppy ride and promises a few more whitecaps before we’re done. Balance is important. Friends, neighbours, co-workers, customers all contribute and test my balance. Some kind, others … they rock things hard.

Old buildings, long walks, pacing myself. The smiles work their way up from inside. Little bursts of joy to measure the day. Giving myself space to react and remember there were older times and older ways and older folks who lived and loved and steadied themselves in rough times. They made it through. I can too.

One day, the old ways will be mine and others will look back at me and smile.

Fragile

Posts have gotten behind. Wanting yet not wanting to be said, things I think and say to myself. Here inside my room, they are safe. But outside in the world, hopes and fears become more real.

I still think about uncertainty. Around me and in the news. Up close and farther away. The shifts in attention, lens contracting, opening, closing, its focus shifting between my life and world.

Racism. Covid. Politics. Beliefs. Trust. Lack of trust. Distancing. Not distancing. Numbers. Decisions. Fear. Uncertainty. Anger.

Exasperation. I hear it in the people around me. Those overfilling carts, taking more than they need, some out of fear and some greed. Those who will post it for sale online at greater cost to those who couldn’t get it in the rush, those stuck in low pay or waiting for a monthly cheque. Selfishness and fear. I feel it in the tension of shoppers distancing, not distancing. Not sure what to do or where to look. Some little faces, tense behind their masks. And I think of my little ones, now grown. Our lives our hopes. Past, present, future.

A customer comes through buying a coat. He’s working here today and didn’t bring one. He scans the coat as he talks, then gestures towards the nail salon.

When did the real estate leave? I shrug. He tells me he used to live here.

I’m not sure. I only lived here a few years.

Oh, where did you live before?

He turns as I tell him. And gives a nod.

Oh, Acton. Did you live there when the KKK sign was on side of the highway?

OMG yes. I told people there was a sign there, but they didn’t believe me.

No. It’s true. It was there. My friend lived nearby. I saw it often when I visited.

I’m not sure how to feel. A short, quick conversation in the rush of day. It rattled me. Rattled some memories and my sense of truth. I shook my head as he left. Disbelief. I’m thrown a distance, a former place.

I think, or want to think, I live in a good place, a good country, but every day I see or learn things that question it. I try to stand tall, believe in hope, smile and treat everyone with respect. I lived through abuse and like to think it’s not common. There are kind people, generous people. But I’ve also heard horrible things said by shoppers going through my work area. Some just generally bad, others more ugly, targeting people; family, friends, strangers. Some wanting me to agree with their caustic beliefs and behaviours. I won’t. And I cringe at how little impact my determination towards good has on them. It shakes my faith in people. It shakes my faith in myself. I think of some little faces, unsure whether to smile at me, and I wonder if it’s a natural shyness or the colour of my skin.

Memories kicked loose skitter through my thoughts. There were skinheads at my son’s school. His justice raged against their presence. I was shocked when he told me, shared some of the words and attitudes he ran into there. We lived in a tiny town. Seven churches. Good people. I couldn’t understand the dichotomy, the smiles and kindnesses, yet ugliness interwoven. It shook my faith. It shook his faith too. I watched the grief and anger go through him every time injustice appeared. Watched his heart break.

Our hearts broke so often through the years. Gentle justice is not an easy place. Home was hard enough. The world is a weight that needs many more hearts and much love.

Perception. I feel naive. There are bad things everywhere. Racism, hatred, abuse hurts everyone. Even where we think we are sheltered, there is no shelter. These things shake the ground under our feet. Put us off balance, impact our actions. Seeing and doing nothing dulls us like the frog in a pot, the end comes but all we see is the illusion.

At times things seem calm, the news is busy with other things. I wish that was an indication of change. I’ve prayed for change longer than a decade or maybe two. On a personal level, for our family to move beyond the abuse we faced. On a community level, for equality to be given a fair chance. For attitudes to shift. For strength to fight for it. To stand firm. I wanted and feared the process.

Change feels so fragile. My efforts like wisps. They blow with every wind. Dust kicked up in their place. Please G-d send some love on us. Hope for a new day. At times it’s wanting. I know you’ve heard it too many times, but believe me, we are so fragile and hope is getting sparce. Fill us again.

Uncertainty

Certainty. Words. Ideas. I’m always curious. Tilt at will. I love etymoligy.com, the story of words, of their history. But sometimes what I seek is less clear, a bit uncertain. Chasing it, I get stuck.

Day trips ideas this summer. I feel resistant. In the midst of Covid and the amount of self isolating I do, coming home after the many unknowns of work, I’m just not sure I want to take on those places. Knowing has never felt so exhausting.

For me, that’s a strange place. I spent 30 years researching, knowing: deafness, autism, surgeries. A constant flow of decisions to be made for my son. I went at them with every ounce of energy I had. I learned a new language (ASL), made many unexpected connections (hospitals, therapists, agencies), drove to a different town for a preschool geared to both Deaf and hearing, then moved to another community when he entered kindergarten in one of the provincial schools for the Deaf.

Exhausting in the moment, these things all upped my energy and activated my curiosity and love of puzzles. I threw myself into believing he would catch hold of the things I was teaching and run with them. There were unknowns. Uncertainty was just part of the journey.

Lately, I watch others struggle with uncertainty. It feels heavy. An unseen weight pushing in so we cannot breathe. Blocking our way so we cannot move or get around it. Our sense of time has tipped, an unknown pattern whose end we can’t predict. Days and weeks drag. There is no normal, just the stretched out bits taking their run at us. Statistics bombard. No matter how we graph it, the ends have their way.

I guess I’m left with this, I’ve been through uncertainty before and I’ll do it again. Uncertainty is an ongoing journey. I may not have every resource yet, but when I needed them for my son, friends, family and my own curiosity found a way.

Certainty. Uncertainty.

I choose to believe, stubbornly if necessary, that what I need for this round will find a way.

Time

It’s always here. Waiting

A thought, 7 days ago according to whatever tracks my writing.

Today, I’m starting with a thought from a fellow artist. Slow down. This year has taught me a lot about slowing down. It’s strange to say. Slow sounds out of place given my job running between customers to wipe surfaces and keep us safe. Running. Is that a form of waiting? Quick movements, telling customers to wait. It’s an odd thought. I guess it’s both. I used to say that a lot about getting things done when I was younger, especially about Jacob things. Appointments, workers, school things. They were all hurry up and wait.

But this morning, going slow, it’s intentional. I lay in bed, made plans for coffee with a friend tomorrow morning and another on the weekend. I read notes in my journal and wondered again how to organize my memoir. Whether to start my next online course today, how to write a spoken word piece for this afternoon’s workshop (what was I thinking!) and followed my friend’s art advice. Slow down.

Draw what you see. I did.

Morning. At it’s best. Taken slow.

Time. Waiting.

Something I notice when I approach things slowly, there is a space that opens up in me. A sense of clarity. The words move aside and a picture forms, and sometimes just the space. Waiting.

Maybe I did learn something from all those years. Jacob’s appointments, working on skills, words, signs, connections. It was all hurry up and wait. Frustrating at the time, but looking back we did well. He needed the time. I need time now. I’m too used to hurrying. Need to let that go.

Draw. And draw things out. See the lines and spaces. Let the image form in its own way. Maybe life can copy art. Line by line.

A reminder to slow down. If time can wait, I can wait.

Look. See. Breathe.

Wait.

Determination

I have a few posts on the go, not yet sure which will post first. Creativity is a big part of my journey and thought process lately. Today’s art prompt, I didn’t know I needed one, but it was shared by a friend: Determination. Ugh.

Stubbornness. Does that count? I’m not so sure. As I write my memoir, I’m struggling with qualities I have that were strengths and weaknesses. Sometimes they look very similar. Being determined. That should be positive, right? Some sites commented it can be mistaken for anger. I did look it up … determination … quotes, images, characteristics, definitions. In general, it represents as:

“intentness, decision, decidedness. steadfastness, staunchness, perseverance, persistence, indefatigability, tenacity, tenaciousness, staying power, strong-mindedness, backbone, the bulldog spirit, pertinacity, pertinaciousness.”

All good things, but I thought about the comment it can be perceived as anger. It shows in the faces that came up. Even the one I chose. I did one drawing from my search of faces. A baby. Yeah, at that age, we are all about determination, and stubbornness. This little guy has it, for sure.

sandy-bassie baby 20200609_180300

Cute, and he still looks almost angry. Poor thing. I shared it to the art group. I’m learning to do that more this year – share things. Let sharing become smiles.

 

As I was finishing the drawing post, I noticed my inbox had something from a local publisher doing an anthology of healing stories. I’ve read some from others and debated last year whether to contribute. After some internal argument, I decided I would risk it. Today, I received the edited version of my story for me to review and comment. I’ve sent my reply and will try to not think about it too much more.

 

It’s scary reading things I write when I get feedback from others telling me they’re good, or in this case ‘powerful’. I love words and putting them together in ways I believe share my story of growth, healing, risk, learning trust, and other paths in the emotional journey I’m taking. But hearing others tell me the ways my words impact them, that is still hard. I’m learning to keep moving, keep writing, to tell myself not to linger too long over what was said, to look forward even while looking behind.

 

Determination. I guess this is that place. I’ve called it stubbornness, been told it’s patience, laughed and shook my head. In the end, whatever I call it, I hope it continues to lead me, encourage me, remind me to breathe. I want to write. Will write. But humbly, knowing others take hope from them. Find reasons for their own journey. I hope that means they also find reasons to  laugh. I’ve valued the laughter. It fills me and feeds my ongoing determination to find life in each day and hope for way ahead.

 

Determination. Yes, I’ll think on it further, and value it.

 

Faces/Smile

Surprised, not surprised at our world this week. We are a people in trouble. Sad and discouraged. Covid and ….. I don’t have a word for what I”m seeing. Attitudes and anger have not changed or improved since I was a child, or years before that and I wonder if they ever will. Judgement, Hatred, Wealth, Poverty, Power-over. The list could go on.

Had conversation yesterday with woman at the store. Venting by shopping. Avoiding her husband and home. Sadness over age and now wanting to end up less than she already feels, with less than she already has. No one wants to be less than. So many struggle with it. Nova Scotia talking about domestic violence. It’s bad. Those on ODSP feeling demeaned further by government giving out $2,000 basic needs to those who have more than them and told to get by and get a life. Here and US struggling again/still with how we as individuals, agencies and government treat others based on biased judgements. I’m tired. I left domestic abuse. I’m doing what the lady didn’t want, and advised to do what she needs to do to be safe and happy. Do what you can. Do what you need every day. I have friends from a number of backgrounds and cultures.

Who we are matters. It needs to be valued. I still struggle with who I am and how I value myself. It’s terrible to be constantly demeaned, undervalued, judged. It breaks the spirit. It breaks my heart. I hurt from my past and how it impacts my present. I hate seeing it in others, hate watching it, am broken again seeing the looks, the anger, the judgement. If you look at the people who are scared, hurt, confused, emotionally scarred and passing it on to generations after them, whether they want to or not, try to see without question. Just look. Let your heart take it in. Yes it will hurt. It’s supposed to hurt. Let your heart break open for those around you, and take time to see your place in these moments.

I watched a grandmother belittle a child, not more than 10 or 12 years old. Venom. I watched the child standing with her head up, hands out confidently to the screen, making her purchase, striving for dignity. I was so proud of her. I’ve been there, struggling for dignity in the face of scorn. Grandmother finished, she turned to me and said, “She’s a little bitch you know” then took her bag and stormed off to the bathroom, spitting indignities over her shoulder as she left.

The child still faced the screen, eyes down, steadily focused on her own actions, her own self. I didn’t know what to say that would comfort. I couldn’t speak to the abuse. Didn’t want to rock her further saying what I saw. Instead, I made eye contact, smiled my best and spoke with respect, “Thank you. I hope you have a great day.” Eyes speak. I see you little one. The spew cannot hide your glow. Hoped to convey my respect for her calm, her steadiness. My eyes and heart spoke. Her eyes replied, “Thank you.” I hope good things for her future. She is strong so far.

I hope that continues. It takes so much extra energy to just exist in the midst of ongoing character assault. She is doing well. But I know the cost of losing life and energy to just staying ‘here’, present in the day to day. Not having that energy, that life to put to normal things. Holding off the looking less than you are to those who get to use all their life and resources to gain the future without the waste of energy to simply exist.

When you look at others who live in that space – the less than – do you realize, truly realize they are gifted with amazing skills and life. They don’t have less. They aren’t less. Many who have had hope and character plundered by esteem/power grabbers go on to use their ‘less’ to the betterment of those around them. I know some. I see some on TV speaking with dignity to those of us they hope are listening. I watch people who have been given greater struggles than me, excel in things I’d never think to try. We all have courage in different places. I hear friends and others at times speaking their fear, beliefs instilled in them that demean them. At times believe it – that they are ‘less’ and that makes me very sad. I at times feel helpless for myself and others. But I try.

Every day, I am given opportunity, at home, work and community, to speak words that build up, restore, refresh people who tell me their hopes, dreams, struggles. I’m tired. But I’ll do what I can. I nod. I smile. No matter your look, your height, weight, colour, language …. the melody your bring to this life … and I get smiles back. Eyes. Face. They matter.

This is long and convoluted perhaps. But please. Just smile. Listen. Acknowledge for good the people you encounter. Every day. Every face. Our faces hold more power than we realize. We use our faces, the looks and sounds we turn towards others for good or ill. Please use them for good. And when we learn that, we can move on to words. Use them carefully too. Our future is in the faces around us. Make it a good one.

 

Allowing My Heart

“My second day off this week. This morning I’m tired. The day involved simple things, sleeping and eating, painting and writing. I would be rested if life was functioning properly; but it’s not. Enough sleep doesn’t add up to enough rest. That’s been true before given some mental health concerns, but it’s so very noticeable lately.”

I’ve been staring at these words for two weeks. I wrote them May 7th, but it could true of last week or this one. a couple of days off do not resolve ongoing exhaustion.

Last week was difficult. Smoke alarms in my apartment ended their life abruptly in a chaos of light and sound that hurled me backwards through memory. Trauma lives in the bones and muscles, shuts them down without giving notice.  This was that was morning; sound asleep at 5 am my body slammed with a cacophony of sound and light, each pulse feeling louder and more intense. There is no up or down, no bed, no floor, no walls, no door, only bones and skin trying to hold together not knowing how to escape.

Between the strobes and blares, hands reaching for glasses, balanced on the side of the bed. Heart pounding, every muscle taut and loose at the same time, pain and panic became one. Stomach retched up while nerves shut down. Direction is a thing of the past.  Inside the bars of piercing tones and strobes of light, a sound. Low to their high, persistent, resonant, this deep drum roll of memory: pounding floors, echoing walls. A burst of anger. Feet and stairs colliding with enough intensity to break them. Before the assault, the sound wave hits.

Crisis ready. Trauma scarred. I wobble on the brink, between two boxes. Disorientation informs decision, but crisis says push on. Work calls. Crisis must be faced. So, I gather myself. Shaken. Carrying the pain. Ears screaming things my insides want to say. A voice finding a way through time and trauma speaks from memory, “What would you do if your house is burning?” 2014, revisited. I hesitated at the question, unsure of (the right) my answer. I hesitated. Stayed. Paid a debt not mine. Didn’t understand the question or the reasoning behind it. Learning the answer is a slow process.

Crisis and Trauma lived in separate boxes; still do. I shift gears and hope to find strength enough for this day. This time. For the smoke alarms; a phone call or two, repair handed off, I head to work only to find later the baton was dropped and two more alarms sounded that day as I waited for the electrician to come. One unit changed, one left, and two more alarms a day later. Five times total the shock wave hits before both alarms are changed. Broken moments too like memories past, I still cringe thinking of it.

Alert is a habit hard learned. Sleep is not rest. Rest is something beyond trauma that comes tentatively, touching a moment. Like the tiny birds on my balcony who chirp their questions at me and the day. Outside becomes sanctuary. Outside always was. Outside I was safe. Inside, halls and stairs, too many corners and doors. Boxes within boxes; no place to hide. Holes in the walls. Feet on the stairs. I can handle the crisis, but trauma wears me down. Rest? No. Rest is the full breath that comes when you have a safe space to breathe.

It has taken one whole week to convince my body this space is safe. I bought chairs and a small folding table for the balcony. Plants for something alive. I’m teaching myself to be in this space, enjoy the sound of birds and traffic flying past,  dandelions in the grass below affirming a change of heart is possible, imperfections are allowed. If I’m out early enough, the morning breeze softens itself against my arms, reassuring. It is in this space, I sit to read others’ memoirs and write notes for mine. Nine months writing, gathering, seeking form and momentum.  Allowing myself to look back, open myself to memory. As yet, no book, but many words. Today, a drawing. Allowing my heart it’s language of colour and form. Simplify. Memory. Just the heart of it, alarms and all, at the centre a hope: HOME.

Rest. I’d have you if I could. Stared two days at two lines from memoir notes. Yearning to rest. Question longing for answer:

Home is on my mind today.

Tell me where home is, I want to be there.