Posts by Sandy Bassie

Artist, poet, dreamer. Sandy is a stubborn advocate for those she loves. Fierce, yet tender. She holds to this: it is never too late to learn or change. The things we believe about ourselves drive our lives and choices; choose to believe the good and those will be places we soar.

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.

Connection

Photo (c) 2020 Margreet Kuypers, used by permission

I wrote the following and gave it a day to breathe. Rough starts don’t determine the end. Learning to speak truth, I’m discovering the good people who care about me.

The day began with words, as it often does, struggling with fears and the prospect of days off facing them. I continued to make notes throughout as I often do. It’s good for reflecting.

Make myself get out of bed, eat something, write out a gratitude list for a workshop. Tell myself I will do these things. I am depressed. I need to acknowledge it. I want to practice drawing, paint something for fun, write in my journal. Edit a section of memoir, poem or song. Play my guitar, even just one song. Call a counselor or friend.

Depression slows time, drags it out, pushes sleep like a pillow at my face. I can’t stay here. I push back with activity. That works some days. Others not at all. I don’t like this place. I carry it to work at times and the weight is crushing.

Work covers bills. It has been a safe place for two years. Fighting depression, I depend on interaction. Most days, it helps. Lately it’s more complicated and this week made me lonely. I need to keep an eye on how I feel.

At the beginning of our lock down, when lines and limits were first established, shock took charge. I know this place. Crisis and abuse for years, my body on high alert watching for danger, keep others safe, push away anything else but focus, stay focused.

This crisis is less now. It’s becoming familiar. I don’t have shock to help me cover emotions with necessity. Coping becomes harder. Work is safe, but brings an element of isolation. Self Check Out is work done mostly alone. It can be busy, but also lonely. It has run the gamut the past six weeks. At the moment, I don’t have panic to create an edge. I do worry about contact, still tell people stand back. It’s easy to forget. Weather warming, I spend days serving couples and families, people talking about homes and gardens, all the details of life shared. A quieter crisis. It sounds stupid. I miss those things even though I know I am better away from the abuse. I hate alone, but it’s life at the moment, so I live stuck between my two boxes. Work and home.

Sharing my mood on Facebook, a friend offered a walk (appropriately social distanced). An hour meandering old streets, by water, old houses, tall trees. We stopped at points to take photos, reflective, social, just for fun. Water and shadows, movement and moods. We caught up on life and longing. Processing our current state of suspension, our observations on ways we, and others, cope or don’t as we navigate needs and wants.

End of day, I finished writing this, most of my hoped for activities done and space for contemplation of what’s to come. I’m grateful for friends reaching out, for time, walks and opportunities to hug a tree. Yes. There is still life left to be lived. Alone is part reality, part state of mind. And a little connection goes a long way.

Life is good.

 

Faith

Asked, “what is faith?” I .. hesitate. /A tiny voice / alive in me, raises itself / just enough to whisper, /”faith is life.” // Curious, I lean in to see, and /earn a smile. /This tiny bud beams at me. There /beneath its childlike form, crayon in hand, /a drawing, incomplete /but shining.

So I’m playing with the idea of pauses, line breaks, my relation to the words written and reflecting on them.

I wrote these before the shutdown …. before …. well, before.

Faith has been on my mind frequently the past few years. Divorce, breaking a life, learning to open, look inside. Not wanting to see. Some places are dark, a little bruised, torn, struggling to heal. Some places still unexplored. It’s hard to venture into the unknown. Trust. Especially hard to trust myself.

I made a mistake, entered into a relationship that wasn’t one. I am the one who stayed and stayed, who had to move away, shift, push my mind, my heart and my body off the known edge. I am the one.

Those are hard words to say. Words I once knew as insult or assault, now given some time and space, a little faith allowed some elbow room. These same words ‘the one’ become freedom.

I can let go of the accusations  Told there’s always ‘the one’. Oh yes, always the one who …. fill in any sin, error, wrong that could be dredged up.  An odd turn of phrase yet clear judgement and penalty. Faith. It was often the source or reason for anger turned against me, for judgement, for penalty. Faith. Having it too often required me to forgive,and  forgive again. To be the one who lived faith, who walked it out regardless any truth in the actions being forgiven.

Still. Faith hopes. It’s hard to kill hope. Faith comes with every new day, a light in our darkness. I think it’s stubborn, like me. Faith insists on living, even in the darkness, even in disaster, even in hatred and disgust, demeaning moments that try to beat me down. I may pause, let tears come. But like the image, though tiny in form, faith stubbornly sees colour and light; draws hope where there is none.

Faith. Is willing to be the one.

Faith.

Perception / Flashes

Pictures draw me. A while back I saw one, done by a friend on Instagram. It caught my eye. Perception is strange. Sometimes we see what we think we see without looking closely. This was that day and that look. I pursued it. Curiosity leading the way. A block of images, a pink pig. A hat. I see a heart on his back.

My mind flashes images. At times, I forget things. At times, I worry about it, but I admit, I have more things to forget now than when I was young. More to forget than before my ex, than before he hurt me. More to forget than PTSD cares to remember. More to avoid, let slide or quickly drop.

Avoid, slide and drop are curious components of my PTSD. A tangible experience when it happens. Movements as things vanish; seemingly down or to the left. I’m sure there’s meaning there – hidden behind the flash of movement, behind the sudden jolt of recognition, a realization of something gone, rush of emotion, fear of loss, of cautious longing. More curiosity than care to know.

And so, on this day, I stare at the pink pig, smelling his flower, an odd almost heart shaped red burst upon his back. And wonder, what is that, and how is it he stands so still, intent upon a single flower?

 

[Photo by permission of Meredith Rose]