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.

 

Allow Peace

In my building, there’s no beauty outside my windows, just a parking lot. I’m one of the few who don’t have at least a chair on the balcony. At home, I had chairs front and back, both decks. Nothing fancy; simple plastic chairs my son painted green out front and a basic metal and glass patio set out back, umbrella barely hanging on as it rusted around the base.

I’ve never been good at Martha Stewart, Feng Shui or Hygge. I’m more give me a step to sit on, a patch of sunlight and birdsong, a table covered in paints, brushes and water jugs. I definitely do not do the windowsill decorations that neighbours take so much joy in creating. A few I admire. Mostly, I stop and look out towards the farm to our north. I jokingly tell people I may move into the hallway as it has my favourite view.

Admitting that I miss the views I enjoyed at my house is sad. I’ve been realizing that with more strength of emotion lately; how much I miss. I miss my spring garden with its beautiful bulbs. Butterflies, bees and ants, many birds and every year a robin who would sit on the kitchen windowsill and say hi. I miss the backyard. It was a mess. Just a garden-covered rock hill whose plants I couldn’t keep nice. I took a better run at it in the years before neck and shoulder injuries stole the enjoyment, but it was beyond me. Maybe if I could have paid for help? Maybe.

Martha Stewart, Feng Shui and Hygge assume willingness to live in your space. I have so much trouble doing that, worked too long at believing where I lived wasn’t mine to enjoy. Miss my house. I could almost let a little Hygge happen there if I still had it, but here. Here is still far from me.

I met a lovely woman when I first moved here, and miss her since she moved away. She had the most beautiful things in her apartment, all laid out in Hygge style. Her rooms had the same directional space as mine, but felt so different. It mystified me. I loved being there for the softness of her couch, the simplicity of her table and other furniture, the colours, and lights, everywhere tiny lights danced on surfaces and hid among her other decorations. Her apartment was so peaceful.

She was brave. When she found herself alone, she decided to take a firm stand on out with the old and in with the new. She purged completely. What she had now was all her. Where she lived told that story. Every piece of furniture, while inexpensive, was something she had chosen for this place. Every decoration, all of her kitchen appliances, art, tiny lights hidden in tree branches, the colours and positions … none of it was accident. It was all her and designed to help her be at peace. I enjoyed going there just to sit and breathe.

I’ve been here two years. I don’t find mine comfortable yet, it has a few spots, but I’m still working at it. Past things live too large. I can’t get rid of them. They aren’t the things that can go. Not yet. Later maybe, but for now they are here, and I live in the nook and crannies of my art space … a table, a chair, bookcases and a window looking out onto cars in the lot. It has to do. Creativity only needs an opening to exist.
Creativity happens in the little things, finds life in surprises. When I get the chance, I walk the halls. I look to see what people put in the windows. I look out over the fields to my farm. I look to see if anything living comes to visit. I look for the peace I had with my friend. I try to find some Hygge even without her here.

And so I stopped, looked, took in the scene. The tiny window layout had that sense of calm and comfort. I took a picture because it framed my farm so nicely. Because on that day, walking the halls, that window, that scene made me smile and there are times I need to remember.

We are all still isolating. I don’t walk the hall often at the moment. I don’t visit neighbours, though I hear other voices at times and occasionally see people coming and going. Being inside without connection is a strange feeling. I miss connection. At work, I’m surrounded by shoppers. Standing on circles. Marking distance. Moving back to lines on the floor for price matching or asking for help. Stay back. Keep away. It isn’t really connection. Little conversation happens beyond how can I help and thank you for being here. Being here. It’s a big deal. Existing. Doing. Being. It’s tiring. At times I walk between me and work. Stare at the same things. Breathe. Look for peace. When I find it, I take a picture. I want to remember.

Remembering is one way of coping with being. Learning the things that let me smile, breathe, find peace. This is a long journey. I take the picture and hold to the memories when they come. Allow peace … and Breathe.

Isolation

It has been a strange month. Isolation is all around us. Whether at home or work, I feel it deeply. There is a weight to it. The smells are louder. I’m allergic/hypersensitive to the cleaners we use at work. Benadryl helps, but not completely. I was given a mask by a lovely lady in town. I’m wearing it, realizing it may do nothing against germs, but it creates a  buffer between me and the wipes, sprays and continual cleaning. 

I live in a place of in between. I’ve lived here before, but that was more abuse and fear of the tangible, approachable implications. You could see and hear it coming. This is different. Everything looks the same, well nearly. There are the lineups, blank spots on store shelves, less cars on the road, so much more quiet to the day when I sit here listening to the simple sounds outside. Dogs bark, they must be walked. Some cars pass by, there are almost no sirens. I noticed that last week or the one before. It startled me, hearing a siren go past and I suddenly realized it was an anomaly to my now usual day. Before I’d hear at least two or three each day heading somewhere. We must be safer locked inside. I hope we’re learning the lessons that slower provides.

The first week or two at work were chaos. Angry, pushy, at times long distance and self important shoppers demanding things I could not give. My body remembers and shifted gears. Within a day, I noticed it … the alarm of crisis in action … I was perfectly calm and steady.  Aware, heightened awareness, attentive and ready for whatever came. I moved with speed and accuracy between my self check area and the door. I shifted into teacher mode – Jacob mode – and was giving prompts with encouragement, focusing all our attention (mine and the customers) to the task of keeping the flow. Instruction mingled with story, I wove connections and got smiles. We were a team. Back and forth I went, encouraging, thanking them … three out, one in, get the flow, break congestion at the tills, switch gears, one out one in, thank you for helping. On and on. 

 Yesterday it was one month, exactly one month since my other job closed. Medical. We had to. In that time, my life consists of the constant back and forth between store and home, store and home. I work as much as I can, pick up shifts to make up for the emptiness January and February fed my bank accounts. I feel guilty appreciating the opportunity to work and make it up. I shift between high and low, distance and alone. It’s an odd little melodrama I play out all alone. Its peaks and valleys are fine some days, but others the fog rolls in and I barely cope. In the good moments, between low and high, I write and I paint. Let my body share the distress with a tangible medium. My only real contact besides the cleaning surfaces, and they give me nothing back. 

My goal, for now, try to write what wants to come. Then try to write what needs to come. And try to write the things I planned and struggle to get out.  Here. Instagram. Facebook and email groups. Lift my head, look and see, let it out. Share me. 

For today, a link. I’ll post them here too when I have a moment to remember how it work. Right now. Find food. Pack lunch. Head to work. 

ART of LIFE in this ISOLATION:

Painting emotions this month Inner ‘isolation’. https://www.instagram.com/p/B_IQX2NAHo4/?igshid=1h7nr4c6zpd92

Reflection

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pexels-photo-405238

As today is one of my down days (non work days), I slept.  When I woke I sent a brief note to an art group keeping each other company through emails … and wrote this:

Poem / Reflection

A cup of tea to toast the day and hope to wash my yesterday whose isolated state was bathed in lysol-laden gestures drawing hope upon the air and touching light on momentary contacts I hope we do not share.

All stop and start and wait and run exhausts my inner gears. Ah rest, you’re welcome,  though in bursts a little hard to bear. I have forgot, but toast and tea and quiet gives me time to think and stare at mental notes and images; reflect upon them here.

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Remember to Breathe

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2020 sandy-bassie Swirl

Two days off … I slept.  And when I wasn’t sleeping, or listening to TV talk about Covid-19 news, I made art. Words, Paint. Music. Something to fill my spirit with light. Not artificial light of my apartment or workplace, but nature’s light, creativity’s light.  I need to move and too often in this time, movement is given only to coping. I am so glad I have art and creativity to remind me. Breathe.

I belong to a number of groups including art, writing and music. These are my favourite ones because they let out my creativity … on the days I allow it space … I can feel life inside me. Worlds bigger than the routine I follow. Keeping these creative things in my life gives and costs me. How is hard to describe…

I had an email recently from a friend leading one of the arts groups. She spoke about reactions during this time of self-isolation; fight or flight being common, but freeze was new to her.  It made me think.

Freeze is well known to me and has been for years. Still, I don’t understand. I recognize it lives in the PTSD. I see the ways it shows up and know the pattern, but knowing that has little practical value. I have words I want to share – publish – submit. I make paintings and am learning to accept them as they are – free flowing – awkward, messy, at times (as a friend said today) impish. They want out to play. They want a home. I want to submit them to magazines, sell them to people, see others enjoy the smiles they can bring. Freeze. Creativity, like my attempts at ‘career’ rather than ‘job’ gets hits hard by ‘freeze’. It is a part of my isolation, not just during this time of Covid self-isolation, but all the times PTSD slams doors I venture to open.

Acknowledging the word, my stomach gets queasy and I sense a need to burst into tears. Why remains mystery, even to myself.  I try to explain, but it has no meaning, just swirls like colours in the water jar before they turn to grey. At least in saying that, I believe my art friend will see something of my experience.

Thank you to friends who check in, who laugh and share moments online, who post pictures and poems, who refuse to give in to the places we fear. I appreciate you all. I need what I said at the start … I am so glad I have art and creativity (and all of you) to remind me. Live. Laugh. Breathe.

And one day, the colours will dance rather than gray. They will not freeze. They will release into the world taking hope, light, joy.

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Cherish the Moments

March 30, covid day number ??  does it really matter what number?  It’s hectic and slow all at once. Time is a funny thing. Looking through my ‘saved to be read later’ posts from friends, Facebook and LinkedIn, I found one talking about setting up a business model based on what people are willing to pay for … and working retail, I’m curious.

One of the main things noted is TIME (put into larger font and bolded). We value time … that’s why we want faster, better, more … so at the end we can have TIME. I’ve been watching the movement and flow of people these past few weeks. The panic, scrambling to grab more than the next guy before it’s all gone. The dairy and frozen crew trying to figure out where to put excess items that came in after being cleared out, unpredictable now becomes unshelveable. And what do we do with the wall of toilet paper that appeared yesterday as computer ordering systems try to reorient themselves?  That at least can live in the aisles, blocking views for people trying to practice distancing and happening  on each other suddenly as they reach a turn. There was talk of bringing freezer trucks to hold overflow.

How is it we moved so quickly from normal to this? Did TIME know, see it coming? Was it always there, just WE didn’t know? Or is TIME something blind, feeling its way, knowing only what’s in approachable distancing at it goes?

Part of me likes this forced slow pace. A little girl in me looks back, remembers when nothing was something to do. When sitting on my porch or in the window … watching … was a quiet moment thing. When walking slowly and nodding at others on the opposite side of the street was a favourite pastime for my grandpa and me. When quietly folding laundry by the TV was an asked for job.

People still come out to my work, pick up the necessary and unnecessary groceries. Some thank me for doing my job. Some say I’m brave. Yesterday a man told me I’m a warrior. Do they know, we often are in the job I do? We see it all. Seemingly simple, working in retail, it’s a multi-layered role I’m proud to fill. Knowing that is something I will thank this time for giving me. I’ve said every day that this brings out the best and worst in us, lets us see what we really are, where our struggles lie and how we handle them.

I have an advantage, if you can call it that – crisis is a known place for me. Remnants of both the fears and strengths that moved me day by day under abuse are still there; the worst hopefully fading, the best being polished to be pulled out in time of need. And there hidden among them, a jewel – pride in knowing I stand strong in the midst of crisis, leading others even in the ‘simple’ job I do, letting my ability to stay calm and smile bring hope and light to a place that feels dark and frightening to so many. It makes me smile. I am proud of my job.

Today and tomorrow, like yesterday will bring things I didn’t see coming. It may bring things I don’t want to do, but yesterday and the yesterdays before taught me well. I’ll measure the time like a slow song, continue to do my job well, and smile to bring light to the moment. The little things we do become great things if we do them enough.

I’ll remember. Live slowly. Don’t rush. Cherish the moments.