I had a dream about you last night


It wasn't about you at first which I guess is how these kinds of dreams always start.

I was in a house, hooking up with someone I used to hook up with
a long, long time ago
and at one point he turned to me and said

"there's an art exhibit happening"

so I walked into the living room and there was a huge, three-sided diorama in the middle of the room

almost as tall as my chest
the kind you see in science fairs, except
built into the diorama were little nooks and crannies
rooms, almost
and sections that slid out or folded open

little pockets of memories about us
when we were together, years ago.

I sat down in the middle of the diorama
pulled at a sliding section
and all the words you called me when I left you came tumbling out

SLUT
BITCH
FUCKING CUNT

WHORE
WHORE
WHORE

your hurt littered like petals at my feet.

As I looked down I saw a light in the diorama to my left and crouched down
pulling back curtains to see our bedroom, back on Spence St
our bed, crumpled sheets
the closet door intact, before you punched it

and realized that I was looking at a history of us
laid out like the set in the movie Rear Window.

I could look from window to window
see moments in our life together
the dinners in the kitchen, the games in the living room
camping at Connect, the drives out to B.C.
how we held each other, the cats climbing over us
our slow weekend starts drinking coffee in bed.

I could open windows, pull out sliding sections
and comic illustrations of our life together would pop out

setting up our Christmas tree
buying snacks at the Marchée Jean-Talon in Montreal
riding our bikes around the city in the summertime
drinking beers in Trinity Bellwoods Park in Toronto
catching plays downtown at The Fringe Festival
watching the sun set over the mountains in Golden
the first time I said I loved you

and you said you loved me back.

I could flip through this collection of experiences we shared
see how you saw me

a beauty
a wonder
an inspiration, then
a bitch
a disappointment

someone you hated.

Someone you still hate.

In the dream you walked in when I was standing in the middle of the diorama
rifling through the memories of us you had assembled
organized into windows, envelopes, pockets

and as you walked in I felt my knees get weak, my legs almost fell out from under me
with nerves, guilt, sadness, shame

a longing for the friendship we shared that I know
we'll never share again.

"Hey" I said "what you've made is beautiful"

(a city built around your ongoing heartbreak)

and you looked at me for the first time in eight years and said

"Thanks"

and in the dream we talked about how you'd built the diorama around
the ups and downs of five and a half years of
love
fights
miscommunications
mistakes.

"I'm sorry" I said in the dream, and I meant it

and you looked at me and said 

"it's okay, I'm doing better now"

and then I woke up and I wished that I knew that to be true

but I don't know if that's true.

I wish I did.


 

Up and down sort of day


I haven't had one of these in a while. Not bad per-se; just a lot of
up-and-down emotions
to contend with.

John left for California this morning
his first work trip since the pandemic started
and while I'm excited to have a few days to myself, I found my emotions
running high, in an anxious sort of way

throughout the morning, jumping around after he left.

We kissed goodbye before he went to the airport and I went upstairs to keep working
writing proposals, making spreadsheets, comparing benchmarks
(the usual stuff)
but I found myself working at a
frantic, hurried pace
like I was rushing towards something
or expecting something to happen

when obviously it was just another workday.

I went downstairs to make lunch
(salad with tofu, my fav/go-to lunch)
and rushed through that, too
feeling that frantic, hurried tension in my chest
like I couldn't sit still
stop moving, slow down
catch my breath.

So I forced myself to stop.

I ate my lunch, finished my client-facing work and spent 20 minutes doing yoga
breathing in, breathing out, trying to stay present in my body
failing sometimes
but letting it go
(to the best of my ability, anyway)
releasing the tension, this now-unfamiliar-feeling in my chest

recognizing that being alone in a new house was weird
that it's normal to worry about the person I love going somewhere with high Covid cases
and that being apart after two years is gonna feel weird no matter what.

Breathe in
breathe out.

After my yoga I read my book club book
wrote some content for the Starling blog
answered some emails
and slowly felt the tension in my chest start to unwind

like a coil releasing its tension.

Breathe in
breathe out.

Later I went for dinner and drinks at One Sixteen with my friend Florence
who is the only lawyer I'm friends with
and the most down-to-earth lawyer I've ever met.

In addition to being a lovely human Florence is also the President of the Manitoba Chamber Orchestra, so when she asked me to see their final performance of the season with her of course I jumped at the opportunity.

Despite not being able to read music or play an instrument myself
I love chamber music
like, seriously adore it.

I joke that I'm so chatty that I'll talk forever without stopping if you don't interrupt me
and chamber music is the perfect
interruption
it takes me on an emotional journey
and instead of thinking about what to
think
say
respond with
I can sit back and let the waves of emotion created by the layers of music

wash over me.

It's freeing in a way that's hard to explain.

This concert featured an incredible Dutch musician who plays the recorder
(yes, the "Hot Cross Buns" recorder)
that blew my mind.

I've never seen anyone play the recorder like that
was fascinated by her performance, the intensity of it
how she moved with the instrument
added layers and sounds to the pieces she played.

I felt verklempt in a way I haven't in a long time
and today, I needed it
to get lost in emotion like that
to sit and take a journey
led by hands and instruments and effort.

Now it's 11PM and I'm sitting on my porch watching the sun fade from the sky

I walked home under the big, old elms that I love so much
breathing in the warm, sweet air
(and probably some dandelion seeds, but who's counting)
feeling happy and thankful and full of energy and emotion.

It's funny how different we can feel throughout the day
the ups and downs yr heart can take.

I wonder what tomorrow will bring.

Tags: Life

 

Ideas for the 2022 Winnipeg Mayoral election


Several people have asked me if I'm running (I'm not) but talking to others about the kind of Mayor I would be (or the kind I would like to see leading our fair city) has me thinking about what I'd do if I was running things. 

Not just from a policy perspective (if you want smart ideas and insights read on that, read the Dear Winnipeg blog) but what I'd do as Mayor to get more people talking about issues in my city. 

Winnipeg's Biggest Challenge

One of the things I learned as a spokesperson for VoteOpen (aka The Coalition for Portage & Main) was that most people are too busy living their lives to pay attention to politics.

That's not a criticism — most people don't have the time, money, and extra energy to dedicate to following politics, especially at the civic level that tends to get eclipsed by national and international news in the media.

However, this is a problem. When people don't have the means to learn about civic issues and don't spend time following politics they tend to vote in their own best interests — often at the detriment of the city as a whole.

Even worse, when people aren't engaged they don't think about what "could be" and fall back on "keeping things the way they are" because they see change as potentially impacting their lives. They may also subscribe to outdated facts, ideas, or beliefs that can easily be debunked.

(See my 2018 post about reopening Portage & Main for an example of how easy it can be to debunk these sorts of beliefs.)

A healthy, thriving city can only happen when the people who live there pay attention, are informed, and are given the tools to think long-term about how their vote will impact the city they and future generations of their family will live in. 

Right now, that's not Winnipeg.

We're (slowly) moving in the right direction, but that's largely thanks to advocacy groups, nonprofits, and organizations fighting tooth-and-nail against a Mayor and many City Counsellors who lack vision for what our city could be. 

Winnipeg's biggest issue is that our leadership fails to

a) convey a long-term vision for our city, and
b) bring the public along with them as they work to achieve it

So that's what this post is about: policies and leadership ideas that I'd enact if I were in charge of our fair city. 

I hope these inspire some of the people currently in the running to think more deeply about how we can lead Winnipeg to a better, brighter, and more progressive future.

I'd Start a Podcast

True leadership isn't just about pushing your own ideas — it's about bringing people together, facilitating dialogues, and "leading" people to a shared solution.

48% of Canadian podcast listeners consume podcasts produced by Canadians, and 27% of Canadian podcast listeners consume three podcast episodes of podcasts each week. Additionally, 46% of adults 18 — 49 listened to a podcast in the last month, making it a great way to connect with younger demographics about issues happening in our city.

The podcast would be modelled after shows like The Ezra Klein Show and The Argument (both well-researched and informative shows). 

Each week I'd sit down with community organizers, urban planners, and activists to have meaningful discussions about issues facing our city. 

The podcast would also be the perfect opportunity for activists to have meaningful public discussions with City Counsellors in their area about disagreements they're having or policies they oppose or want to see changed, all moderated by a wonky, data-obsessed host (me).

We would do two seasons a year: one in the spring, and one in the fall. 

I'd Start a Book Club

The book club would be ongoing (no breaks) and focused on topics like urban planning, civic issues, and community engagement and empowerment. I'd work with my PR team to promote the books we're reading on my social media and provide links to audiobooks and e-reader versions, and invite members of the press, City Council, and the general public to read the books along with me.

A book club led by the Mayor would accomplish several goals:

  • It would encourage more people to read about important topics we face as a city. One of the challenges with civic engagement is not knowing where to start, so a book club would act as a jumping-off point for people.
  • It would fuel public dialogue. My experience with VoteOpen showed me that talking to people is how we change hearts and minds. Giving people facts and empowering them to learn more helps them feel involved and engaged, which helps them feel more comfortable with change.
  • It would call out lazy City Counsellors. If a counsellor is against policies informed by books we're reading as a city, we can call that out. Too many politicians (here and elsewhere) make uninformed decisions and this would be a way to highlight intellectual laziness at the civic leadership level.

(Plus on a personal level it would feel soooo good to tell Jeff Browaty to "read a fucking book for once".)

I'd Curb Urban Sprawl and Invest in Infill Development

Urban sprawl isn't the answer to our housing crisis.

Allowing developers to influence how our city grows has caused us to sprawl outward and the city can't afford it.

Literally. Winnipeg is going to go bankrupt maintaining both our existing infrastructure and trying to maintain the sewers, roads, and other necessities residents of all the newer neighbourhoods need as well. 

If we want to avoid being the Canadian version of Detroit then we need a Mayor with some balls and the will to stand up to developers and push to curb urban sprawl and replace it with:

  • Incentives to infill vacant lots and parking pads downtown and other parts of the city
  • Updating our zoning laws to encourage homeowners to renovate and add guest houses, butler suites, and other rental options
  • Removing parking requirements for new builds to incentivize smaller-scale development (see the point about zoning above)

I'd Impose a Toll on "Bedroom Communities"

Years ago I was driving around with a fellow business owner who bragged about living just outside the Perimeter.

"It's great" they said "I get to have a huge property and enjoy the city without having to pay municipal taxes."

This isn't fair to Winnipeggers. 

People in "bedroom communities" like East St. Paul, Lorette, and Headingley (to name a few) currently enjoy our city and use our roads and infrastructure without having to pay for it like the rest of us.

If you want to live outside of the city, that's your choice. But if I were Mayor you'd have to pay your fair share just like everyone else.

I'd Open Portage & Main

This is a no-brainer. See my 2018 post.

I'd Allow People to Keep Chickens

This may sound like a weird policy, but hear me out: chickens help improve food security at a local level.

Chickens are quiet* and gentle animals with big personalities, and caring for them can be fun and rewarding for adults and kids alike.

Allowing people (and schools!) to keep a small flock of chickens has multiple benefits, including:

  • Providing local and sustainable sources of eggs
  • Empowering citizens to take a more proactive role in their food sources
  • Teaching people (and kids!) about nature 
  • Providing great fertilizer for residential and community gardens

* Roosters are the ones who are loud and obnoxious; they would still be banned.

Several Canadian cities including Montreal, Vancouver, and Edmonton (to name a few) already allow it, Calgary just launched a program, and it's time Winnipeg does, too. 

So, Why Aren't I Running for Mayor?

Put simply: I don't want to. 

I like being a private citizen and I believe that I can make a bigger difference as an advocate and outspoken community member supporting a Mayor who adopts progressive and forward-thinking policies than as the person in the big chair, myself.

That being said, I'm extremely interested in helping my city become a thriving, vibrant place where our leadership takes an active role in bringing the electorate along with why decisions are being made, the data that backs them up, and getting Winnipeggers excited and energized about the future of the city we call "home".

If you'd like my help doing that, just drop me a line. I'd love to hear how I can help.

Tags: Winnipeg

 

These are the lives you love to lead


I’m walking by your house and Fall Out Boy starts playing and it's 2005 and I'm in your kitchen

sitting at the lycra table
eating Cheerios you poured for me
while you sit on the kitchen counter in
your white manager's shirt and dress pants

(you were the only person who could make a McDonalds uniform look good)

telling me some dumb joke. We both laugh and smile at each other.

The first time I stayed over you met me at the bus stop to walk me to your Dad's house where you lived

"it's sort of a rough neighbourhood" you said
holding me close.

It wasn't, but I didn't know it at the time.

That was my first time in this part of the city.

None of my friends lived downtown. They lived in
Riverbend
East Kildonan
East St. Paul
Garden City
in bungalows or duplexes or one-and-a-half storey houses.

You lived with your dad on the first floor of a two-and-a-half storey rental in West Broadway.

I'd never been in a house like yours before. 

It smelled old, like all the lives that had filled it left a trace of their scent on the wainscoting and tucked in the cracks of the pocket doors. 

The rooms were small and bright with tall ceilings and high baseboards and heavy wooden doorframes

"It's not much" you said "but it's home"

I turned and said "I love it" and meant it. 

The next day you took me for brunch at The Nook, a few blocks over on Sherbrook St.

I'd never eaten somewhere like that.

We ordered eggs benedict and coffee
while the grizzled regulars at the next table ordered "breakfast beers"
and sat with such a mix of people
hippies and families and late-night partyers with dark, smeared eyes

everyone leaning over their pancakes and french toast and breakfast sandwiches.

I'd never walked around a neighbourhood with trees taller than the houses 

I grew up on a street between two fields and then in a new development
hadn't experienced how the light filtered through the leaves of the century-old elms
"it's like the Lost Woods in Link to the Past" I said

and felt giddy that you knew the reference.

Later, in your bedroom, you said

"Listen to this song, it makes me think of you"
and played Our Trees by Tegan and Sara
grinning at me in your impish way

pulling me to you like a hook through my navel.

We'd hang out in the living room and order Domino's

(your favourite, pepperoni with black olives)

playing video games or watching Star Wars or Wes Anderson movies

or in your bedroom listening to music as you told me fun facts about the bands you liked

"Isaac Brock was angry at God when he wrote this"
"Wayne Coyne lost a friend before writing this"
"This one's about getting an abortion"

(I never said you were a charmer all the time.)

As fate would have it, I lived across from your old house when I was in university.

I could look out my living room window
see the stoop where we'd kiss
the spot on the sidewalk where you made me cry
the lawn we'd lie on together
holding hands under the shadow of the elm trees.

I wish I'd understood what you were doing for me, then. How much your casual confidence and comfort with 

places
spaces
people
sounds

that were intimidating and unfamiliar to me helped me see them for what they were:

elements of a life I wanted to have someday.

Now I wake up in an old two-and-a-half-storey house downtown, a few blocks from The Nook

(one of my favourite haunts since the day you took me there)

I listen to Ben Folds Five and The Flaming Lips and I've read most Bukowski

I still get giddy at the old elms above me, spread out like lungs in the sky

I walk the same streets
back lanes
shortcuts you showed me

that now make up my idea of "home"

which is why I'm taking the shortcut across the field to your house

listening to Fall Out Boy and thinking of you.

Tags: Life

 

I've been blogging a long time


(A portrait of a lady on her blog with a mug promoting her blog)

and it's weird to think about how much of my life has been chronicled here over the years. I started this iteration of this blog 13 years ago and if I go into my blog backend I can see posts that I wrote when I lived in other places, loved other people, and was 

a different person in so many ways.

I've been publishing online since 2000 but jumped around to different hosting platforms as they came and went

at first I had a LiveJournal
then a DeadJournal
then I was on Blogger.com
then I was on WordPress

and now because I'm married to a software developer I use his custom CMS called Elefant and he maintains it for me 

which is a huge relief because HTML and CSS were never my strong suit.

The other day I was talking to a student and mentioned that I've been blogging all this time and she said 

"why? How do you still find stuff to talk about after all these years?"

and I said Well, I write about my life and I keep livin' it, so I keep writing.

How much I blog has ebbed and flowed over the years

there was a time when I blogged every single day and that was hard because sometimes it was a struggle to pull a thought or a story or a post out of the humdrum of day-to-day life

but it was rewarding because I got much, much better at my craft and found my voice in a new way because when you really think about it

this blog is an ongoing piece of art made of my words and thoughts

pixels on a screen organized into dates and timestamps that give me a sense of place and time and offer this strange little window in the things I was thinking, feeling, going through in that moment.

The posts on this blog feel like 

puzzle pieces of my heart
of my soul
of myself 

that I've worked on for years and years

creating a larger image that grows with me

a map of myself that I discover as I explore it in real-time.

Of course people have made fun of me for blogging over the years, rolled their eyes when I pulled out my camera to take a picture of dinner

(this was before iPhones and Instagram)

I've had people treat my blog like it isn't art
tell me it isn't "real" writing
or that it's not a serious form of self-expression

but yr art isn't for other people so it's cool if they don't understand it

or get jealous or petty when the thing you love to do and have done with love for years opens up opportunities for you.

Being known as a writer is why I have my company, why I've gotten speaking gigs and teaching jobs and been on committees and panels and been a spokesperson for causes I believe in

because Alyson Circa 2000 needed a place to put her feelings and stuck with it

despite dry spells
despite feeling dumb
despite feeling nervous, embarrassed, ashamed

this ever-evolving piece of art is something that never fails to make me

so happy.


 

The poet


Yesterday I went to the launch of "Through Disassembled Houses of Perfect Stones"which is a thin, beautiful book of poetry by Manitoba poet David Yerex Williamson.

I met David a week ago today when John and I performed on Kelly Hughes Live! which is a live-broadcast variety show of sorts that's shot in The Valiant Theatre, which is actually an old church that's slowly (slowly) being transformed into a venue while Kelly lives in the back.

I'm not religious but there was something moving about being in that old church. The sweeping ceilings, the still-there pews, the stained glass windows and the shadows on the wall where old paintings and religious items used to hang.

Churches, for better or worse, are where so many people's lives start, end, and often where some of the most important moments happen. I don't believe in higher powers but "House of God" feels fitting for these quaint little spaces filled with memory and emotion.

(Unlike the "megachurches" popping up in affluent parts of town that seem out of step with what religion is supposed to mean for people, but what do I know I'm just a heathen atheist.)

When we played in the church it was part of a larger group of guests: there was J. Williamez, a local singer-songwriter who wrote a scathing series of songs about our previous monster of a Premier

(not to be confused with our current monster of a Premier)

Shelley Cook, a local journalist and writer who I feel like I've known my whole life at this point

us, Big Trouble in Little Wolseley, who provided musical entertainment,

and David Yerex Williamson, the poet.

I've always had a soft spot for poetry. I'm less partial to poems that rhyme — I don't usually rush to read Whitman or Chaucer even though I have a soft spot for Poe and Keats — because they tend to feel flowery. Too full of extra words just for the sake of completing the rhyme.

The poetry we heard last week, and that I heard again last night, didn't rhyme. Didn't feel like words or lines were stuffed-in for the sake of it.

These poems were raw. Strong, muscular words gathered together in sinewy bursts of idea and emotion.

Items, places, moments in time. The sharp, biting feeling of loss and grief contrasted against descriptions of open, untouched natural spaces.

The poet has lived in Norway House, MB for 20 years and when asked about how the landscape influences his poetry he said

"A fish doesn't know it's wet until it isn't. That's how it feels to leave nature and come to the city — you don't realize how much it affects you until it isn't there."

(Spoken like a true poet.)

I went to the reading with Tineke and before the event we had dinner at the restaurant, Prairie Ink, that's attached to the bookstore. We ordered the same thing (blackened chicken clubs with french onion soup) and fancy coffees with whipped cream and we laughed and brainstormed and talked about all sorts of things. The hours slipped by the way they always do when you're spending them with someone who matters to you.

After we'd eaten and paid we shuffled into plastic chairs alongside a few dozen people, colleagues and teachers, family and friends, and watched the sun set through the two-storey windows as the poet we'd all came to see fed us slices of poetry like cake. 

It felt good to support the arts again. Good to sit next to someone I love, surrounded by people supporting someone they love, letting the words wash over me

taking it in. Feeling normal.

Last Friday when I met David I told him I'd attend his book launch and he demurred the way we all do when a stranger offers to do something for us

"you don't have to"
"that's a nice offer, but unnecessary"
"I'd appreciate it, but I don't expect it"

which made me more determined to be there because that's what you do: 

you show up when you say you will.

I didn't get the chance to talk to David after his reading but I hope he saw me in the crowd and could see how his words shifted things in me as he read them, just like they did last week and just like they will again when our copy of his book arrives

(we ordered it online last week so I couldn't get it signed yesterday; silly us)

but I was thankful to be there either way to sit with my friend, his friends, and feel like a community again.

(If you'd like to order a copy of David's book of poetry you can do that here.)

Tags: Life Winnipeg

 

I feel good lately


the window's open and I'm in a beam of sunlight drinking a coffee my man made for me and listening to Qveen Herby 

last night I knocked out two pages in my art journal, one about some sad stuff and another about some feel-good shit

I made cardboard rollers and stamps and listened to Conan's podcast and giggled over dumb texts and jokes with friends.

The thing about being in a dark place for a long time is that you don't realize how low and sad you are until you start to pull out of it.

If you'd asked me in February I'd have said I was at my lowest in a long time, and I was, but now that I'm moving on from unhealthy relationships, patterns, and beliefs about myself I'm realizing that

no, I was doing badly for a long time before then.

In 2019 a thing happened — someone I cared about and trusted and was trying to help made fun of me behind my back on a secret Instagram account that several of my friends followed.

Probably unsurprisingly, that fucked with my head. I started to doubt if the people I surrounded myself with

liked me
cared about me
were laughing at me behind my back
thought I was

like that.

I lost myself in the worry and fear and anxiety of not knowing where I stood with people. 

I slowly spiralled into a dark place where I doubted my ability to write, create, imagine

I stopped dressing up, felt guilty about wearing makeup and leaning into expressing myself

I tried to dim my light because it seemed to overwhelm people around me

and yet it never seemed to make a difference. I kept feeling like an outcast, a second-rate friend, and unimportant to the people I loved.

(If I post on social media that I'm struggling and you're my "friend" and you don't reach out are you even a friend? 

How do I interpret getting messages of love and support from strangers when the people I used to hold closest to my heart avoid asking me how I'm doing?)

For a long time I turned those bad feelings in on myself

(this is my pattern)

but lately those bad feelings have been slipping away though words, paper clippings, layers of paint and stitched-together ideas

laughs and good chats with friends, long hugs, tearful candid conversations

working out, eating better, drinking more water and less alcohol, doing yoga and sitting with my body

listening to podcasts and reading books about philosophy, mindfulness, and creative self-expression

watching movies and comedy specials that make my face hurt from laughing.

Maybe this is just the natural evolution of moving past something

shedding the skin of the sad, small, struggling person I was allowing myself to become

stepping out into something brighter, fuller, more me?

I couldn't tell you; I've never gone through something this dark and bad and hard before

but I feel like I'm moving past it

coming through slaughter

holding my treasured people close and laughing and smiling and leaning into the good parts of life

more than I have in a long, long time.


 

New peepers


A week ago today I woke up and didn't need my glasses. I reached for them at first the same way I'd done every morning since I was 13, but they weren't there and I when I gave my eyes a second to settle I remembered that

I didn't need them anymore.

(That still doesn't feel real to say.)

I'd spent the day before at the LASIK clinic getting tested. Pre-pandemic I think this used to be two sessions: one to do the tests to determine yr candidacy, and another session to do the surgery, but now they've jammed it all together which freaked me out a bit since you go in and either

get the surgery, or

get turned away because you're not a candidate for one reason or another

and what a heartbreaking outcome that would have been.

I've needed corrective lenses since I was a teenager and I've always hated it. Since it was the early 2000's and I was getting glasses through my dad's benefits I got stuck with these ugly, round, metal frames. 

I was embarrassed at how they made me look. 

I felt unattractive and unpolished. 

I felt ugly. 

I spent all of high school feeling this way; the feeling compounding over the years along with other anxieties and feelings of low self-worth until I could barely look at myself in the mirror anymore. I felt embarrassed all the time.

I got older. I got contacts. I got new frames that were darker, heavier, and more my style.

But I still hated it.

Wearing contacts wasn't so bad but having something in my eye all the time meant that there was always a small part of my brain dedicated to thinking about it.

Were my eyes too dry to keep them in?

Were my eyes looking red and tired?

Did I have my glasses nearby in case I needed to take them out?

On and on and on at every party, show, music festival, or long day at a conference or event, there it was: that nagging, niggling thought in the back of my brain.

I think a part of me always planned to get surgery if I could. I got a breast reduction in my early 20's so I'm no stranger to elective surgeries and believe that if you can afford to do something that will make you feel

happier
healthier
more attractive
more confident

then you should get 'er done because we only live once and, damn it, we should enjoy our time while we're here as much as we can.

Which is why I spent all of last Wednesday sitting in a clinic "lubricating my eyes" in-between tests, making small talk with the optometrists and attendants

("omg I love your energy" they'd say
"you're so positive and funny"
and I'd say
"thanks, I appreciate it
I make dumb jokes when I'm nervous")

(Because I do.)

Then they'd say something like "why are you nervous? The surgery is going to be fine!" and I'd tell them that, Oh it's not the surgery I'm nervous about — I'm nervous that one of the tests is going to come back saying I'm not a candidate.

And one almost did: I had a 1/2000 deformity in a section of my cornea which meant that I was only a candidate for the most intense/laser-only/most expensive option

(the optometrist told me to tell people I got the "Canadian fighter pilot surgery" since I guess it's the one they use in the army)

and though I'd budgeted for the more expensive procedure and had actually planned to choose the most advanced option it still felt like a gut punch when the optometrist looked at the scans of my eye, pointed to a section, and said

"this area here is a little unusual..."

then he finished by saying "but you're still totally a candidate!" 

I told him he needs to lead with the good part first next time, and he laughed even though I was being deadly serious (for once).

People had told me the surgery was scary. Intimidating. Overwhelming.

So I popped a Xanax (you can ask for them), kicked back, and laid on a table while a very qualified and nice surgeon had me stare at a green laser while it reshaped my eyes.

IMO it wasn't that bad. Maybe dealing with 8 years of intense orthodontics (a head brace, retainer, and braces, oooh yeah I was hot) primed me to just be cool with lying back while a skilled professional goes to town on part of my face

(or maybe it was the Xanax)

(maybe it was both)

but the only part that felt scary or weird was when I literally went blind when the doctor peeled back my cornea to do the procedure but everyone I'd talked to had warned me about it so when the moment came I laid there like

"all right, this is the part where I'm blind for a few minutes"

(ok it was definitely the Xanax.)

I went home, slept like crazy, and woke up groggy but with +20/20 vision. 

Bless modern medicine.

Since then the thing that's surprised me the most is the number of people who've messaged or commented to say

"I always loved you in your glasses"

"You always looked so good in your glasses"

"Your glasses really suited you"

and while I'd like to say Thank You and Yes I Know... I'm so fucking thankful to not have to hear that again.

Because I don't care how "good" I looked or how much they "suited" me

they never felt like me

and finally, miraculously, amazingly, for the first time since I was 13 years old

I feel like myself again.

Tags: Life

 

Hymns to the silence


Sometimes at the end of my work day or early in the morning

I sit and listen to the house

the hiss of the rads

the wind on the old window panes

the creaky floors that shift when the cats walk around

the small sounds that fill the silence.

I used to hate it.

I hated how it filled my ears and made space for thoughts that I didn't wanna think about

anxieties, stresses, the usual bs

when I was younger I got a cassette player and then a discman and then a bunch of variations of iPods

and all through that time I'd walk around with my earphones in whenever I could

blocking out the silence and all the sad, stressful thoughts that came with it

at one point it got so bad that I hated even taking my earphones out while I was getting changed at the gym. 

I'd do these weird contortions with my clothes and my body and my earphone cables so I didn't interrupt the constant stream of

music
podcasts
sounds

that filled my ears and didn't leave space for anything else.

I did this for years, decades even, until I started going to therapy and my therapist was like

"did it never occur to you that this is an avoidance technique?

That when you listen to music or podcasts all the time you're literally blocking out thoughts and feelings that you don't wanna hear?"

and what's funny about someone saying something like that is that it's so obvious when they say it but until they do

until the words are out there and you can't avoid them with

music
podcasts
sounds

anymore

suddenly what you've been doing becomes painfully obvious.

I'd like to say that it flipped a switch in me. That when I suddenly became aware of it I was able to sit in silence in my house, on the bus, at the gym

but I'm a human being and not a light switch, so it didn't work that way.

As it turned out it took concerted effort and several years of working at home by myself to get used to

the silence

the small sounds that fill it
how it sometimes makes my thoughts feel
smaller
or amplified
because of it

there's a clarity that can be found in the lack of noise that can be deafening, sometimes.

I've noticed it most when I'm going through something hard.

The earbuds go back in. Podcasts get ramped up. Music blares 24/7.

It's like I can't leave space for my thoughts because it feels like, if I do

things will I'll fall apart.

Lately I've been wearing my earbuds a lot.

There's scary shit happening in the world, life's been stressful, and tbh I've needed a GD break from everything so I've been indulging in this habit a little more than usual, or than I'd usually feel comfortable doing now that I know this is a coping mechanism.

But the other day I was up early and walked around, listening to the house and feeling ok

and yesterday, and today, and the day before that I was able to do the same

and though the world still feels like it's on fire and there's still stresses in daily life

it's nice to feel like I can make space for my thoughts in the silence again.

 

Things fall apart


Is the name of a really good book I read a few years ago while we were in Thailand. This post isn't about that book, but the title really struck me and is a phrase I've been finding myself coming back to a lot lately.

The line in the book that the title comes from goes like this:

"He has put a knife on the things that held us together and we have fallen apart”

and that's how things have felt lately. There's been a knife taken to the things that held my life together and I'm trying

desperately, some days it feels

to put things back together again. Maybe not exactly as they were, but trying to find new ways to connect things that were once held so tightly together.

But the more I tried to fight for it and stand up for myself and make my

valid feelings and perspectives heard and understood

the less it worked. I've had to come to terms with the fact that the version of me that some people choose to believe

(or in some cases were told they should believe)

isn't who I know myself to be.

And I know who I am. I've spent the last several years digging deeper into

my anxieties
my fears
my motivations
my values

than most of the people I know, so when I'm not able to make myself understood because 

someone doesn't want to hear it
or doesn't want to change their mind
or has already decided what they want to think

it's hard to let go and not dwell because 

I know I'm not like that.

Another book I've been reading lately is "Meditations" by Marcus Aurelius, which is a book of ancient Roman philosophy (Stoicism) that I bought because, well

things have been falling apart.

Or at least it feels that way. It's hard not to let setbacks and challenges and hurt pile up to the point where you feel like nothing is right anymore. Like nothing you knew to be true, is true.

People don't live up to who you thought they were
or they pass away unexpectedly and leave you grasping
or they make a mistake and you're stuck picking up the pieces

and my natural reaction to all of this is to turn in on myself. 

I stop taking care of myself, get lost in negative thought spirals, obsess over a word, a thought, a feeling, turning it over and over again until that sharp thought becomes like a smooth rock that I can put in my pocket and carry around with me

weighing me down as I go about my life.

This is my pattern.

The hardest part is letting go. I struggle with forgiving people for being shitty, or selfish, or manipulative, or neglectful. I want them to be the versions of themselves that I believed them to be, or thought they could become.

But that's not people, and no matter what I do there's nothing I can do to stop people from being

shitty, or selfish, or manipulative, or neglectful

which is why I'm reading this book on stoic philosophy right now: to help me find a better perspective in all of this

and there's a comfort in reading words that were written 2000 years ago and in knowing that people grappled with the same let-downs, conflicts, losses, and personal struggles as someone living in an icy cold city reading in a beam of sunlight

waiting for things to get better, trying to find a healthy way to manage things, and trying to forgive people who have shown a lack of compassion for me as I've navigated a time of tremendous personal struggle and loss.

Some days I wonder how I'll get through it. 

Who I'll be on the other side of this dark and difficult time.

But earlier today I was sitting in my icy city, thousands of years after a Roman emperor wrote down his thoughts on coping when things fall apart, I read a line from his book that makes me cry just to look at:

"The best revenge is not to be like that" 

so that's what I'm going to do.

 

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