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Regressing To Plunge Forward

I drive a 2002 Honda Accord, and every time I get in, I always think about how life is so similar yet so different than it was in 2002. In 2002, I was living with my parents. I was driving a 1991 Honda Accord. I had broken up with my first love, and I was getting ready for university, and leaving everything I knew behind. I had the greatest of friends. My vices were boys, alcohol, cigarettes, and cannabis. I was a bit all over the place then, and didn’t really understand my own brain and why it challenged me so much throughout my life.

It’s now 2018, I just broke up with my first husband, I’m getting ready to go into the unknown, as I have left everything I knew behind in Costa Rica. I live with my Mom again. I have better friends in my life than I ever have. My vice is no longer boys or alcohol, but cigarettes (temporarily) and cannabis still are. I am starting to understand my brain, but there’s years of cobwebs to get through.

Sometimes I feel I regressed, but then I remember that we all need to press “restart”, take a few steps back, in order to plunge forward.

Sweep In Front Of Your Own Door

The news can be a real bummer. It’s easy to say the world is going to shit. It’s easy to get fired up about the news, people’s opinions, and want to debate stuff (especially on platforms like Facebook) with total strangers.

We only have one life, and only we can control what we invite into our lives.

The best thing I ever did for myself was control my news intake. This happened after a very long break from Facebook and a very strong cleanup of things I followed, people, etc.

I found that my mood and my day could be affected so greatly by the news, people’s opinions, and “keyboard warriors” that I really had to consider my priorities. Would I let myself get upset by someone’s racism? Would I devote my energies to trying to change the opinions (and policies) against gun violence in the U.S (where I have no control)? Would I spend time yelling through the keyboard at sexist assholes that are getting entertained by bashing feminists? Or would I just exist right in the world in front of me, trying to be a positive agent for change, in places in spaces where I COULD have impact?

You don’t have to turn to ignorance when the news gets to be a bit tough to deal with. Nor do you have to turn to your keyboard to prove your point, debate facts, and spend more time talking to strangers than the people in your life. We don’t get anywhere by being ignorant, or trying to change the opinions and thoughts of ignorant people.

Instead, as Goethe said, “Let everyone sweep in front of [their] own door, and the whole world will be clean.” Stop focusing on Trump, and his constant vomiting of shit. You can’t control what he does (especially if you’re Canadian!). Don’t let him characterize the rest of the world for you.

Choose causes on the international front that interest you, and have a chance to make change, and put your efforts there. Turn your attention to what’s right in front of you, the people, the places, and the events that are happening that you CAN control, just by bringing a positive presence.

Keyboard warriorhood against issues that you can’t change does nothing, but getting up, and sweeping in front of your own door will help the whole world become clean.

Cultivate The Life You’ll Be Proud of On Your Death Bed

When you are on your death bed, what are the things in your life that you’re going to be most proud, happy, and satisfied with?

Will it be your house, cars, designer furniture?

Or will it be your adventures, experiences, and connections?

What if you were given the news that you only had 24 hours to live?

Would you be satisfied with what you cultivated within your life?

Would there be things you wished you had done with your life but never got around to?

Are there places you wish you had visited?

Conversations you wished you had?

Talents you wished you had fostered?

People you told you loved?

Conflicts that you wished you’d let go of?

People always seem to wait til “later” to get what they want from life. Or there’s an excuse for NOT doing what you want in life. Think about the fragility of life, and the privilege of having this blank slate ahead of us.

When it’s your time (hopefully old, and after a good long life), will you be happy with the mastery of your own ship of life?

Cultivate your OWN life NOW. Plant your seeds. Let them harvest. Leave this world with a smile when it’s your time, because you know you did the very best with your gift of life.

My Fucked Up Family True Crime Story

DISCLAIMER: This is an awful story, but it is going to be submitted to the My Favorite Murder podcast soon. It’s a dark and macabre story from within my own family that gives me goosebumps. For people who don’t like true crime or morbidity, move on. For those who thrive off true crime stories, read on.
 
It was the 1970s, and she (“she” being a cousin by adoption/weirdness within my family) had gotten herself into quite the amount of trouble. Despite being a loved, and lovely young woman, she had fallen into a sketchy crowd, gotten into drugs, and had an extremely abusive boyfriend that made her life miserable.
 
They were driving down a country road in a truck, at top speeds, like teenagers do. Having a good time, hanging out the back of the truck, hooting and hollering. All of the sudden she was gone.
 
Her body was flung out of the truck and onto the dirt road at top speeds.
 
She had died from suicide. Her relationship, and the mental torment that she had gone through had whittled her down. She saw no hope, and saw her opportunity — a life lost too early.
 
My parents, who were living in Alberta at the time, came home to Sarnia to see the young, beautiful, tortured soul laid to rest.
 
When they returned to Alberta, their friend asked them, “Weren’t you just at a funeral for a young relative?”… Hesitantly my parents said yes, and were told the news.
 
Her friends had been caught at the graveyard, digging up the body of the young, beautiful woman. They didn’t get too far before being caught. Luckily, because what they were intending to do was morbid, macabre, and sick.
 
Their plan was to exhume her, and place her dead body on the lawn of the boyfriend who had tormented her so much, in a sick act of revenge.
 
They were charged, and the story made the national news. I am going to try to find the archive some day.
I only heard of this story a couple years ago, and naturally, my sisters and I sat there, jaws dropped in disbelief. Of course, while this story is fucked up, sick, and sad, my true crime obsessed feelers went into overdrive, and this is why I’m telling you this story today.

Grandma Ryan, The Protestor

Grand Bend, Ontario
Summer, 1968

It was an has always been known as one of the tumultuous years in modern history. 1968. A time of free love, anti-war, anti-authority, land disputes, resource disputes, and political protest. Lots of political protest.

It was a hot day. The ladies of the Ryan family decided to take themselves to the beach in the nearby beach town of Grand Bend, in Ontario.

It was a time when the news not only reported the news but also shaped it. When questioning authority, and rebelling against them, had become the norm. Trust for the government was hard to come by, and it was felt on the Canadian side of the border, as the spirit of protest reverberated across the St. Clair River and Lake Huron.

They set up their day at the beach. Sun butter, chairs, and likely one of those portable foil sunners that people crazily used back in the 1960s. They sat and watched the water and all the people and families out enjoying the splendors of a hot day on Lake Huron.

All of the sudden they heard a commotion and were stirred from their pounding sun rays. They looked up, and the Ryan daughters realized they had lost someone pretty important to their group: Grandma Ryan (their mom).

After packing up and walking along the strip, they realized what the commotion was. Teenagers packed the streets, chanting, protesting. Sadly, the topic of the protest was lost in posterity, but it was nonetheless heated, and important for the time.

Still looking for Grandma Ryan, the girls walked further, noticing there were lines and lines of impassioned people.

They still couldn’t find Grandma amongst the crowd.

They walked to the front of the protest line, and finally: there she was. Holding a sign, a woman in her 70s, Grandma Ryan standing amongst the emblazoned teenagers, yelling at the top of her lungs in civil protest.

“I thought I’d throw in my support,” said Grandma, matter-of-factly, as they returned to the beach to catch up on their tans and slug back the few beers she was always known for.

I think I know where I get my fierce spirit from. (Grandma Ryan is my paternal great-grandmother)

Oh, Tamarindo! (Saturday Morning Poetry)

There’s a place on this earth that some of you know,
It was the place I knew my soul needed to go,
It’s a town on the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica,
A town called Tamarindo.

Each person has a unique story,
Each person a new journey sought,
To find home in the town of misfits,
Where you’re either “wanted or you’re not”.

Surfers, artists, yogis, and the lost,
Flock to the town to find their souls,
To find meaning, their place,
And to fill all their life and heart’s holes.

Sunsets, surf, long beach walks,
The feeling of “this is it” strolling hand in hand,
It feels like you’ve found a little secret,
Your own, private, secret, secluded and untouched land.

After the early sun sets,
The nights become quiet and hushed,
It’s when you start to miss home,
The heaviness makes your soul feel crushed.

Transience is normal,
Sticking around too long is contemplation,
In the place where you can feel alive and thriving,
Or feel like you’ve met your lonely condemnation.

Oh Costa Rica, the lessons you taught,
How fresh and stinging you are in my mind,
You taught me that no matter where I go,
My soul is only my own to find.

Wherever you go, there you are,
The wise Confucius once bestowed,
I’m not in Costa Rica, or where I am now,
It’s time to find a new road.

Love the Ones Your With: Support Systems & Mental Illness

Today “Miss You When Your Gone” by The Cranberries is playing through my speakers as I sit down to tackle the day’s workload, but I sit and look at Dolores O’Riordan, sweet Dolores, who we lost earlier this year from suicide.

As someone living with a mental illness diagnosis, and someone who has struggled with mental illness their whole life, it’s time I say something.

Anthony Bourdain, Kate Spade, Dolores, and countless others that have so recently claimed their lives were all revered in some way; we all imagined they had it all. We all acted so surprised and only to have their mental illnesses revealed later, with a desire to understand what drove them to such despair and a coming-and-going campaign for mental health support. A wave of support and understanding that comes all too late.

Some think tossing up quotes of support, numbers for suicide prevention hotlines or dedications to our lost suicide celebrities on their social media is enough. For some, it may be, but my bet is that for many, it’s further more isolating. I know this because I’ve felt it.

You see, when the “mentally healthy” community passively puts up quotes and reminders to “get help” it doesn’t usually resonate with those who are struggling. It puts an unintentional divide that doesn’t always have a motivating effect during dark times.

Pride, shame, vulnerability, defeat, fatigue, broken health systems, inability to see the future ahead, and most importantly fear stands in the way of seeking help. It’s not that easy for people to see something online to take action, and the quotes and memes aren’t usually enough.

I’ve recently had a breakthrough in my mental health journey, that began with a dark day and started me towards a bright future. I look at Dolores, Kate, and Anthony, and all the actors we have lost to suicide because of their mental health diagnosis. I had no idea why these people weren’t able to overcome their demons, but I know how I’ll overcome mine.

I’ve learned that mental health support is difficult to find — getting into “the system”, the cost of private care, and the often daunting process of finding the right fit can take months, even years.

What do we do until we find the right path to health and healing? Love the ones your with.

Having a strong support system is everything. My family has stepped up in ways I have never imagined they could, or never imagined they’ve needed to. My friends have displayed unconditional love and support, giving me offers of their shoulders and their precious time, while also honoring my need for space at times. I’ve felt loved, supported, and encouraged.

This day and age we are so separated from actual physical interaction. A phone call is something you need to schedule, a text is an obligation, and the prospect of making plans (for introverts especially) is  more tedious than actually making them. We need to break this cycle and come back to each other again. As Brene Brown says in Braving the Wilderness we need to tell people we’re willing to walk in their pain with them.

I know that my recovery is all about opening myself up to people again. I’ve been so closely into myself that my mental illness has been able to develop and get out of hand at times. It’s the people around me that keep me literally sane.

I feel for those who don’t have the support system I do. It’s tragic that I know that what I have is actually quite rare.

But if you’re reading this, think of someone in your life that you may know is struggling. Don’t just send them a message with close-ended remarks. Invite them out for coffee, give them plans to look forward to, or do a nice gesture for them. Don’t allow dark thoughts, and actions, to be an option.

Passivity leads people down dark roads; taking a more active role in someone’s healing makes advancements that far outweigh the time and energy to make that effort.

It’s a tough world out there, friends, and we all need to hold on to each other a little harder sometimes, even if it takes us out of our comfort zones.

Stay loving, and be loved.