The last few books I’ve read (well, not the one I started and set aside for now because I was struggling to get through it) have had certain lines or passages which struck a chord with me, often to the point of my taking a photo of the page so that I can go back and mull over it again later.
I decided last night to use this blog as my “later”, when I can.
The above line is from the book I’m reading right now (All The Missing Girls by Megan Miranda), and it followed after a few particularly strong paragraphs describing sketches which all depicted only one lonely female as the central figure in each. The artist was also described as a young woman who was often alone, herself, and finished with the line at the top of this post.
I had, as a child, often wanted to be invisible; I would always try to not draw attention to myself, even as I desperately wanted certain people to see me, and notice me. Now as an adult, I don’t think about it as often, but some days I definitely notice an apparent lack of ability to see me in the other random people around me. The number of times I nearly get walked into (or actually do), or stepped out in front of, or spoken over…just…not seen nor heard. Treated as though I’m not even there. It’s been a running joke in my mind for years, but at the same time, it happens a lot. So often that I occasionally wonder if I’m actually that unnoticeable, after all. If my childhood wish actually came true.
There was an episode of (I think) Haven once where a girl felt so ignored in high school that she literally faded from view. She was still there, but no one could see her anymore. It was sad and fascinating at the same time. And not at all difficult to imagine being somewhat true.
I’m more of an observer than anything else. Always watching and thinking and processing and dreaming, but rarely doing. Rarely occupying the space I am in, or connecting to the people I am with. There but not there. Alive but not living. Present, but in a different moment slightly parallel to the one others seem to be in.
Experiencing my world from a distance of disconnect.
I have these notions in my head of what home is to me, and friendship, and good relationships. Among other things. Just ideas as to what I look for in my journey through life.
I keep getting glimpses of them – enough to make me think my sense of things could be possible for me, rather than something I just got from television while growing up – but my inability to manifest any of them in reality is frustrating, and causes me to doubt those possibilities, after all.
I’m torn now between wondering if I should settle for something more viable in my real life, rather than struggling for the notion, and ultimately being disappointed when it’s not how I think it should be. How I want it to be.
Do I strive to create the home I desire? Or the friendship I long for? Or the relationship I envision? Or do I accept each for whatever it already is, and if I fit into it at all, be grateful for that much. But if not, move on until I fit somewhere else better?
I’m so angry at myself for so many things, but I’m not sure how many of them I can change – how much -I- can change, since none of us has control over anything but ourselves at most, anyway. There’s nothing wrong with striving to be better, to be constantly learning and growing and evolving. There’s nothing wrong with not fitting anywhere. It can be lonely sometimes, of course, but not as much as being surrounded by vague or non-connections entirely. Lonely in a crowd. My inability to open up, or my disinterest in doing so minus with a few select people?
I don’t know.
I need to learn to speak better, especially in front of a camera.
Man, I have no idea WHAT is going on today! Haha #storyofmylife
A couple of things I think I forgot to mention about Saturday – that Mark Hamill had his dog, Millie, at his table when I was in line, but she’d left by the time I got up there, and that I finally did manage to shake his hand as we went in for the photo op.
Though it’s possible I already said one or both of those things. I can’t remember.
Yesterday, the final day, was more of the same. Early morning, interviews, pain, fatigue, line ups, laughter, tears…mostly a blur, at any rate.
I took some SWEET pics over the weekend, though! Pretty pleased with how they turned out, yet at the same time, unsurprised with public reaction to them. Or, more accurately, the lack thereof! Haha
Was very grateful to finally get home last night, though when a woman found Brody or me or both of us so scary that she ran screaming into the street as we approached her on the sidewalk, my first thought after we passed was that the incident had pretty much capped off my day nicely!
What else? I’m pretty numb today. A ton of emotion over the past few weeks has been overwhelming, and I’ve yet to attempt to process any of it. At this point, I probably won’t. Certainly not to the extent that’s needed.
Me not giving myself what I need is sort of an ongoing theme, though. 😜
The numbness I feel is on every level, though, not just emotional. Mentally, my brain is a fog, I’m pretty sure I’m coming down with something, my limbs don’t really feel attached to the rest of my body, and while nothing physically hurts, really, nothing feels very good, either.
I’m far from present.
My heart still aches, but even that pain feels somewhat removed. Which isn’t better, exactly. It’s still there, but I am disconnected from everything, and everyone, including myself.
I’m alone and can’t even rely on me today! Feels very strange…and yet mostly like I maybe just need a nap! 😜
Also, I realize that I whine a lot. It’s my blog, though, so suck it.
This was one of my horoscopes this morning. It’s just a silly thing, of course, yet this one touched a few nerves, or something. I haven’t been able to read through and break it down into exactly which things set me off and why, and while I won’t do that here, I probably will do it on my own, at some point.
Alone, as I do most important things. Haha
I’m super emotional lately, too, so I’m sure that has something to do with my reactions, as well. At least my emotions aren’t in a constant state of overwhelming yet, though. I’m still weaning off my anti-depressants, so while I fully expect some roller-coaster rides of complete what-the-fuckery, I’m actually kind of surprised that it hasn’t been worse, so far. Much better than expected this time.
Some things about that horoscope:
I’m still in a learning period – always. I’m a lifelong learner, and don’t for one moment think I’ve got things figured out. Not about me, not about anyone else, not about the world. I think it’s good that I’m at least aware of that fact, and that I don’t pin all of my learning on my childhood. I know I have more to learn than I already know.
It’s true I have a hard time accepting my childhood, though. And my adulthood, but my childhood more. I used to hate that kid. Now on good days I tolerate her, but thus far haven’t come close to liking her. I can’t even think of any one quality to like about her, so the notion that someone else could basically makes me think she’s lied to you, too. Also, I don’t like people, anyway, so this should come as no real surprise, either. Haha
If my adult life is the fruit of the imperfections I corrected as a little girl…then I’m screwed, with nothing much to look forward to. Which I suspected was the case long ago, so I stopped trying. Instead, I focus more on just trying to be better than I was; better tomorrow than I am today. I feel like that’s a more attainable goal, and works in both the short and long term. This blog was supposed to aid in that, but I can’t bring myself to do it properly, nor can I bring myself to make time and do more on the side. It’s not making me a better person, it’s not shedding light on any kind of truth I could share, and it sure as hell isn’t improving my writing, so I’ll likely just finish out the year and be done with it. It’s too hard not to edit, or write about different things because I know certain people will read it – it’s all just not really me. And I have a hard enough time trying to figure out who I am as it is, without worrying about who other people think I am and how to live up to that.
Which brings me to that whole part of the horoscope about the people close to me love the child they see inside of me…that may be true, but since no one is close enough to really see the actual kiddo, I’ll be taking those opinions with a huge grain of salt. Of rock salt, probably. If I don’t let anyone get too close, they won’t be able to prove me wrong, it’s absolutely true.
But they also won’t be able to prove me right, and I prefer to err on the side of hope.
I read this thing on FB yesterday, and while the first line was something I could sort of relate to, the majority of the rest of it was not.
The opening line had something to do with there being certain moments in your life you would never forget – when you realized your husband was about to propose, the birth of your child, and being told you had MS.
Now…I don’t know about those first two moments, per se, but I imagine they are fairly unforgettable. And I agree that I probably won’t forget receiving a diagnosis any time soon.
But the whole rest of the post was so different from my experience that it’s almost funny.
Optic neuritis was the writer’s flare up which led to her diagnosis, same as mine.
She received a phone call; I was sitting in my neurologist’s office.
She’d waited a whole four days to find out why she couldn’t quite see out of one eye. I waited the better part of a year, which was still obscenely quick for an MS diagnosis. I lucked out in that all of the specialists had an idea of where my path was leading, and knew what to look for.
She collapsed to the floor sobbing and picturing wheelchairs; I went to work for the rest of the day.
Her husband held her like he’d never held her before; I dealt with it on my own, alone.
Mind you, I’d also done a ton of research. As soon as the possibility of MS came up, I went online and started reading about all of the horrifying things the disease can do to your body, but I also started looking into the 3 first line medications my neurologist told me he’d be considering if MS turned out to be what we were dealing with. I went into various forums and learned first hand what other people experienced with each one, and how they dealt with the side effects.
I even watched a video of someone giving herself an injection, but I was pretty sure I would be going the pre-mixed Pen route instead.
Anyway, there was one appointment when I thought the neurologist was going to call it, and I took the day off work, just so I’d have time to process. He didn’t, though, so I had a decent enough day off from there. The day he DID call it, I actually wasn’t expecting it, so still felt a glimmer of shock roll through me at hearing the actual words.
Then all my research brain stuff kicked in, and I told him which medication I’d decided to try first. He was super impressed that I already knew so much, and we filled out the application form right then, which he faxed in from his office. I was learning to do my first injection within a couple of weeks, I believe.
I asked a friend to come over for the injection training session, in part to help keep the kittens out of the way, and in part to help me remember the steps for when I would do the next one on my own. Probably also just so I wouldn’t be alone. Nurse Billy wasn’t the most comforting presence ever, to be honest. I dealt with the side effects alone, however. And they sucked. But I got better at it once I knew exactly what I was dealing with.
I remember Tim went ahead and set up a brunch/interview/chat with some filmmaker friends for the next morning. I was so mad – I had no idea how my body was going to react to the injection, let alone how I’d feel in the morning. I made it out, but hadn’t slept much and was still feeling many of the flu-like effects the whole time. I got better at managing the immediate and next day side effects, but man. A little consideration after that first injection would have been nice!
Anyway. Mostly I am glad that I can do these things alone, and don’t feel the need to have other people around me all the time. If I ask someone to go to an appointment with me, for example, or any of the tests I have to get done, I tend to focus on them more than on myself. I feel like I have to talk to them, entertain them, do something to make sure they’re not too sorry they came with me. But sometimes I don’t really want to talk. Sometimes I just want to wait until it’s my turn to get it over with and move on with my day.
Sometimes – most times – I’d rather just stay inside my own head for awhile, and not feel like I have to interact and be “on” all the time.
Do I think that makes me better than the lady who wrote the post about being a mess and having a large support system? Yes, yes I do.
Not really; it’s just different. Part of me is mortified at the thought of not having the time and space to process things on my own. But part of me is jealous of that level of support and help from other people.
Above all, however, is the understanding that I chose my own path, each and every time, for better or for worse.
The fact that I am mostly successful in making it work for me is what makes me awesome. Well…one of the things, at least!
I read a post this morning online about women alone, as compared to men, in our society. It was interesting, and while some of it I’m not sure I agree with, the majority of it I found quite relatable.
I should probably include a link to the post, in case you want to see what I’m talking about. You can read it here, if you like.
So, there’s some discussion about how men are essentially allowed to be alone – we call them bachelors and they have their bachelor pads and man-caves and the like. There isn’t really a word for women who are alone – at least none that have positive connotations. Spinster, witch, crazy cat lady – it’s treated as an unnatural state for women to be in. Normal women are in relationships and surrounded by family and friends most of the time. It’s what we all aspire to, whether that’s because we were raised to, or society impresses that upon us, or whatever. Women can only lead happy, complete and fulfilled lives if there are other people around, whereas men can either let themselves get “tied down”, or hang out by themselves and enjoy their bachelorhood. They can choose, and both options are seen as perfectly acceptable. Women…not nearly so much.
Which I can kind of see, I guess. I hadn’t really thought about it – perhaps because I never really felt like I fell very squarely into either category, as far as general society is concerned. I think, to me, it’s more been the impression that preferring to spend time alone is often viewed as selfish, or antisocial, or the result of some sort of psychosis. Or some/all of the above. It feels, to me, as though it’s perceived with disdain in some regards. As a child, getting sent to one’s room is meant as a punishment, but I liked being in my room. I’d read, nap, write, play alone with Star Wars action figures, colour, listen to music – tons of things. I had a good imagination, and was very good at entertaining myself. Punishment for me would be to be forced to go outside and play. But technically I enjoyed that, too, so I guess it’d be more like, “go outside and find some friends to play with!”
I think I’ve mentionned before that I would be an excellent shut-in type personality, if I could work from home. I would probably only leave to walk the dog. And now that I live with a dog again, I don’t really want to spend much time NOT living with a dog, so hopefully I will always be surrounded by animals and unconditional love. And we would go for walks together, because that requires very little effort on my part to be enjoyable for him. I pretty much just have to show up, and Brody is happy. He doesn’t even care what mood I am in – he’s just glad I’m there and that we’re outside together. I never have to, as the article thingy says, “arrange my face in a way that someone else would understand”. That goes for time spent in the company of animals, and time spent in the company of no one. Both are rather liberating, and I enjoy lots of either when I come across it.
But is that selfish? It’s antisocial, I guess, though I would also argue that it’s an excellent way to recharge my batteries so that I have the capacity to be more social as occasion warrants. Being “on” all the time takes a toll, after all. It certainly feels selfish, the idea of telling someone I’d rather be alone than hang out with them. So I try not to do that very often, because I don’t like feeling as though I’m not taking another’s needs into account in favour of catering to my own. Which I’m told would be a totally healthy thing to do, but it doesn’t feel good, so I don’t do it if I can help it!
The flip side, of course, is that I am also painfully aware of my inability to be a good friend or partner to anyone. So much time spent alone means that spending time with anyone else, or a group of anyone elses, is a huge thing for me. It’s stressful, and exhausting and taxing and frightening and overwhelming – along with all the good things it can also be, like fun, hilarious, emotionally-uplifting, creative…time with people you care about is priceless, really. It can take a load off, carry you forward, pick you up, and also recharge your batteries, just in a different way.
For me, so much time alone means that I get all that in theory, but have had very little practice, and am constantly noticing when I screw up, but haven’t quite figured out how to fix it when I do. Sometimes it’s a little like navigating a mine field, in a way. Like, do people actually want to hear what another person thinks? Or would they rather be listened to without judgement? It may seem like that depends on the person, but it also depends on the mood the person is in at that moment. And I’m terrible at picking up cues. Terrible.
I used to joke that I never knew if someone was flirting with me, which is true, but it’s also true for, like, everything. Realizing too late when I’ve pissed someone off, or hurt someone, or just misunderstood something and made another person feel un-heard or under-valued or un-loved. It’s like what’s happening in my mind is either way slow or way off whatever’s happening for the other person, and by the time I figure out what was going on for them, the damage is already done.
I feel like I’m behind and playing catch-up almost all the time. Like everyone else made the jump and I’m still back near the start, only just now realizing that everyone but me has already moved on.
That makes me not easy to be with. I don’t know if I am easy to talk to as a friend – I assume that also depends on the person and the mood and the situation. But I know it’s not as fulfilling as it could be, were I better at it. I’m definitely not an easy person to be in a romantic relationship with. Sometimes I feel like I should apologize to everyone who’s ever dated me, though logically I know that’s ridiculous and that no one is perfect. I do wonder if knowing how much I struggled, and that I did so because I wanted to be with them, would make any difference, though. Sometimes.
I guess the fact that I find it hard to communicate with others, while often preferring my own company to that of other people, makes me at least lazy – if not completely selfish – when I opt to be alone. It’s just easier. But also enjoyable, and rejuvenating in its own way. So there’s that.
And when I do choose to inhabit space and time with other people, it’s because I really want to. Not because I am desperate for companionship, or that I need to be in a relationship in order to feel fulfilled, or that I’m afraid to be alone, or any of the other assumptions that can be made. It’s because I want to be with that person or those people at that time. I love my alone time, I love not having roommates, I love not having to arrange my face. Being around other people means I have to give those things up, and even though I do my best, I know it’s not always what is needed or even wanted by said others.
When I choose to sacrifice those things I love and hang out with other people instead, there are various reasons for doing so. Some aren’t even that flattering or well-intentioned to mention.
Sometimes, though, I forego those things I love simply because I love you more.
So, I’m sitting here felting away like a good little crafter-attempter, and suddenly I realize I haven’t written a blog post yet today. And now I’m hugely distracted yet again by a puppy dog who wants to play, and at least one kitty who ways to chill in my lap…it the way of my trying to write, naturally. And my ever-behind PVR-watching, of course!
I think this one will be shorter than most, and that’s okay. At least I’m writing, and I can always revisit it all in more depth another time.
I went for brunch today. I think it’s probably my favourite meal ever. I have a Brunch of Awesome that I make sometimes…usually on a long weekend like this. I’m not doing it this weekend because a) I knew I was going out today, and b) I’m broke so my breakfast-y meals this weekend consist of toast with brown sugar and cinnamon spread, or blueberry waffles and 100% pure maple syrup. And blueberries. Because delicious.
Anyway, I was super late for brunch…again. I think I’m late for everything but work (most of the time). Even appointments with doctors and such. If not late, then cut close. And I hate it, always being late. Like, just assume I won’t be on time. It’s pathetic but true. I am always late.
What I think I hate more than being late, though, is leaving my apartment. It’s a constant daily struggle. I don’t know how to describe it, really. Part of it is all the preparation involved; trying to remember everything and make sure I’ve got everything. My brain and I take it to extremes, though, because I try to plan for every possibility. It’s…insane, really. You should see all the stuff in my ever-present backpack. It’s like either I don’t know how to carry only what I’ll need, or I’m too afraid to risk needing something that I left at home.
Or what if something happens at home while I’m out, and I lose something I end up wishing I’d taken with me, instead.
Though there is also the risk of having something with me and losing THAT while I’m out.
I mean, that’s a lot of stress. Every time I try to leave my safe haven. It takes a long time.
I think the only reason I can do it for work is because I’ve been doing it for over 15 years. It’s a routine. A habit. I can do it with my eyes closed, kinda. More or less. I try to do everything the same each morning, all in the same order. It’s crazy, but it helps me remember. More than that, though, it contributes to my sense of safety and control. It’s all connected.
Even taking Brody out is a thing. I had to set myself up a routine surrounding that, too. I even had mini anxiety attacks sometimes when we were out, and kept trying to go when there would be fewer people out. That didn’t last long and I am more adept at navigating doggie culture than I was, but I think that’s all largely due to Brody himself. He’s very chill, and some of that has rubbed off. He teaches me patience, and to slow down, and to acknowledge people in front of me instead of just walking by. I don’t wear headphones when I’m with him because I’m with him, and want to be in the moment, experience the world around us. Enjoy our time together.
Plus, I get to pet WAY more doggies than I ever could when I didn’t have a dog with me! Way less stalker weirdo now. In appearance, at least.
If I could afford to work from home and just go out to walk Brody, I think I’d end up being a shut-in. Not because I’m agoraphobic. I don’t think. I just don’t like people.
So naturally I live in a city.
It’s easier to be invisible here, though. For the most part, no one looks at me, or sees me, and that’s how I like it. I like to have alone time. I need it. Most people need social time or they start to get a little stir crazy, but I have always been the complete opposite. I need time to quiet my mind or I can’t shut out the noise of the outside world vey well at all. I get overwhelmed.
The thing is, I actually do like going out for brunch and things. I like Friday Night Date Night. I like being around people, one on one or in small groups. Most of the time I still have trouble talking and being present, but I miss it when it’s not there, and look forward to it each and every time.
I just have so much trouble leaving my apartment. And hate everything in between that and getting to where I want to be.
This wasn’t as short as I thought it would be, after all.
Two years ago today – March 7th, 2014 – I had the day off work. It was a Friday, and while there was a very busy Mind Reels weekend lined up (Canadian Screen Awards broadcast gala and, I believe, Toronto Comicon, as well), I’d decided to go to the zoo for a while, before things really kicked into high gear. It was a nice day, and not only was there a handsome polar bear cub named Humphrey I wanted to visit, but there had also been a tiny gorilla baby born recently, and while I’d seen the top of her head, or a limb, and several photos of her, I’d not yet gotten a good look at her in person. I thought I’d give my luck another try that day.
I could never have guessed how impactful that day at the zoo would be for me, and in how many different ways my life would change – was, in fact, changed before I even left my apartment.
I think that was one of the first times I went to the zoo alone. I know the very first time was for Hudson’s birthday, because he was my bear and I wasn’t about to miss his first birthday, especially given that he almost didn’t live long enough to have it. But while I’d made my way out to the zoo on March 7th by myself, I did manage to meet up with a couple of people I’d recently befriended via our mutual love for the zoo and everybody in it. So there was that. I wasn’t completely alone.
I visited with Humphrey for awhile – and Steve, one of my new friends – and though I don’t remember much else from the first part of that day, I know I eventually made my way over to hang out with the gorilla troop. My other new friend, Laurel, was there, too, and because of her, I had the great honour that day of meeting Johari, the gorilla I’d seen as a baby on Zoo Diaries, but whom I couldn’t yet tell apart from others in the troop. I knew Charles the silverback, and Nassir (because he’s smaller than the rest), and Ngozi because she had a baby riding around with her all the time at that point. I was pretty sure I could tell Josephine from the others, but Sadiki and Johari in particular, I kept getting mixed up. I’d really wanted to meet Johari in person, so was thrilled when Laurel introduced us. As soon as I said her name, her beautiful eyes fixed on mine and I was in love.
Even though I still get her mixed up sometimes. Sorry Johari – I’m learning, I promise!
A couple of weird things had happened that morning, as well. A friend texted me out of the blue asking if I’d “heard about Alysia”, one of our coworkers, and one of my favourite people on the planet. My platonic girlfriend, we’d decided once day. I’d been texting with her the night before a bit as we sent each other selfies that our cats had taken with the Cat Snaps phone app her mom had discovered. After that text, though, I had a bit of an uneasy feeling, like maybe Alysia been fired, or something. I texted back that no, I hadn’t heard anything, what was going on?
When I didn’t get a response after a period of time had gone by, I decided to just go to the source, so I texted Alysia herself.
“Are you okay? Is something going on?”
No response from that, either, which was extra weird, because she’d know I’d start to worry if I didn’t hear back from her. My uneasy feeling grew, but I pushed it aside. I was being paranoid, and I was at the zoo, so I turned my attention back to the present moment. I knew I’d be there for Alysia, whenever and whatever she needed.
So, as if getting to interact with Johari a bit wasn’t enough, I also finally got my wish of getting a better view of baby Nneka for the first time! Ngozi brought her over closer to the window while I was there, and despite some little kids being in the way, I still got to look on her adorable wee face for a few moments before moving out of the way. I went off to the side then, used my zoom lens, and caught a couple of sweet pics of the little one lifting her head up and looking around a bit more than she had before. Once again, I was in love.
Then my phone rang.
It was Tim. I figured he’d forgotten that I was at the zoo, and wanted to go over our plan of attack for the weekend, or something, so I answered.
It wasn’t what I thought. At all.
After some back and forth about whether or not I should sit down, he finally got it out: there’d been a huge fire. He didn’t need to say any more. My stomach dropped, and I spoke her name aloud.
In that moment I knew, and my heart exploded. She was gone.
A lot happened after that, but I don’t remember most of the details. Some I remember very clearly, but most not.
I told Laurel, and she hugged me and cried with me. She’d heard about the fire on the news earlier, and agreed that the kitten wouldn’t have made it, either. It was all too overwhelming to really take in. I texted Steve to tell him, and by then I was feeling really confused as to what I should do next, so when he offered to drive me home, I agreed. He asked if I wanted to leave right then, and I didn’t know. He asked if I wanted to see Humphrey again before we left, because the area had cleared out a bit since I’d been there earlier. I pictured the little furball in my mind and said yes. Yes, I want to be around him again for a few minutes.
I couldn’t breathe very well, and there seemed to be a huge hole in my chest that no one else could see, but it was hurting. A lot.
I got lost in the African Pavilion, and fought panic as I tried to find my way outside. I eventually did, and gulped air while taking stock of where the hell I was, and where the hell I needed to go to get back to the polar bear cub.
I finally got sorted out and headed in the right direction. My mind was spinning the whole time, trying to figure out how what I knew to be true could possibly BE true. I’d just been talking to her the night before. I’d hugged her goodbye when we’d parted ways on the subway, and told her to get home safe. Maybe there’d been some kind of mistake. But there wasn’t. I consoled myself with the idea that maybe they’d all slept through the whole thing; that the smoke had taken them before they could wake up.
That turned out to not be true, either, and it wasn’t really much comfort even when I hoped it was, anyway. I cried off and on the whole way back to the Tundra Trek, and as I got closer, a flash of colour out of the corner of my eye. A red-tailed hawk flew by, low, not much higher than I stood.
“Alysia…” I whispered her name into the breeze and started to cry again.
Just then, the Arctic Wolves began to howl – the whole pack. It felt like they were giving voice to my shattered heart, and I stopped to listen to them a moment, waiting for the tears to take another break.
I continued on my way.
I found Steve, and moments later, young Humphrey wandered over, stood up and put his front paws on the fence, and just looked up at us for a few moments. Then he started to play, as though he knew being his entertaining self was exactly what was needed. It fixed nothing, changed nothing, but it did make me smile.
That day, the day the whole world changed, is now two years passed, and the Earth has continued spinning the whole time. The sun still rises and sets, I get up and come to work, I pay bills, I watch TV, I go out and laugh and have a good time. To all outward appearances, everything has carried on much as it did before.
But it’s not the same. The hole in my chest has taken up permanent residency, and while it’s settled into a general ache most of the time, there are still those moments that it blows wide open again, as though to remind me that it’s still there. Alysia’s dog, Brody, lives with me now, and is a bright shining light in my everyday life, just as she was. Her family feels like my family now, too. Her friends feel like my friends.
I’m sorry that I never met Jordan, Katie, little Frankie the kitten before they were taken in the fire, too. I’m sorry that I didn’t know Ethan before his world fell out from under him. I’m sorry that I didn’t know the Grahams or the Boyers as families before they were torn apart and forever changed by their unfathomable loss. I would have liked them, seeing them together, knowing who they were before this.
But I’m not sorry to know them now. I’m not sorry to love them now. And though I hate how I feel now, I’m not sorry I got to know Alysia as much as I did, even for as short a time as it was. Knowing her changed me a little, for the better. Loving her did, too. Losing her forever altered me in ways I still haven’t figured out yet. And as much as it’s a constant ache that I don’t think will ever go away, in a way, I embrace that, too. It means she’s a part of me, even now. Maybe especially now. And if getting rid of the pain means forgetting I ever knew her, then I vote no. Absolutely not. My pain and I shall remain forever entwined as I forge ahead through the world as this new me, whoever that is, and whoever that will be.
So, this coming Monday is the start of Canadian Screen Week, which has quickly settled into position as my new favourite event of the year. On the whole, Canada has never been very vocal about its own awesomeness, so to have a week-long celebration of the Canadian film and television industry is a huge step in recognizing some of the things we do really well. Patting ourselves on the back isn’t something we do very often, and I’m finding that it’s not only fun to do, but also something we have earned the right to do once in awhile.
Plus, I have friends in the nominee list each year, and that tickles me some. I am proud of them.
This year, The Mind Reels will be covering Canadian Screen Week – and especially the big awards ceremony broadcast gala next Sunday – with a larger presence than we ever have before. We’re adding a few new elements to our coverage, and continuing on with the tried and true things we’ve done before.
As crazy excited as I am about it, though, all of it also comes tied intrinsically to memories of losing one my closest friends (and Brody’s momma), Alysia Graham, in the #JAKEhouse fire during this week two years ago.
On this particular day in 2014, I was nervous about covering a non-broadcast gala by myself for the first time. Tim wasn’t able to make it, but I felt The Mind Reels needed to continue our presence at the events, at least in some form, as a sort of thank you to Touchwood PR for allowing us to participate as much as they do. I never want to give the impression that we are any less grateful than we are for all the support we receive from those amazing Touchwood peeps!
I knew I wouldn’t be doing any interviews that night, because it seemed weird to do it without Tim, and besides that, I really was nervous as hell. I remember trying to figure out how much beer I could pound to calm my nerves but not be THAT girl in the press room. But aside from beer, what actually ended up being my saving grace that night?
We’d joked about trying to sneak her in with me AS Tim, but in reality, that girl gave up a few hours of her night at home to text me constant support as I tried to settle into my place in the press room on my own. Thanks to her – her support, her humour, and her ability to seem present even from across the city – I was able to calm down enough to figure out a kind of perfect (for me) plan of attack.
Part of my luck was in the fact that my nominated friends ended up freaking winning in their categories! The winners were brought back to a red carpet area in the press room, where photos could be taken and quick interviews could be had. Rather than setting myself up there, though, I hung back a bit, and as they left the red carpet, I grabbed a few seconds for hugs, handshakes and a quick silly selfie. I had the idea because I thought it would be fun to send them to Alysia as I took them. As well, however, I realized that I could Instagram them and share to social media in real time, using all the appropriate tags, and it would make for a rather fun and unique bit of coverage for the event as a whole.
Thanks to that kiddo’s generosity with her time that night, I not only got past my nerves enough to survive the night, but I also stumbled across what’s become a bit of a Mind Reels staple moving forward, and had a great time doing it.
Little did I know – in no way could anyone know – that just 2 days later, that vibrant young girl would be gone, and the world forever changed as a result. I think even now there is a part of me that still can’t understand how someone so present could suddenly just not be here anymore. My mind railed against it for a long time after, so I think true grieving for me didn’t begin until I let myself accept it. Until I let myself feel it, and stopped trying to control it or compare it to what anyone else was feeling.
Grief is a weird thing, isn’t it? We all go through it, many times, over the course of our lives. To varying degrees, sure, but we all have to live with it. And yet it’s so different for everyone. There’s no right or wrong way to navigate grief. There’s no guidebook or manual to show you how to get through it. I’m not even sure anyone CAN get through grief. I think you just learn to live with it, and it becomes a part of a new you.
It’s kind of painfully ironic to me that my brief friendship with Alysia could have me feeling more like myself, but that then losing her so suddenly could change me so much more. If I thought it was confusing before, trying to figure myself out, it became infinitely more so after. The world turned upside down and inside out and fell off its axis and my emotions became so raw I not only didn’t know how to express them, but I also stopped being able to contain or monitor or edit them. Sometimes, things just come out now; still now. And most of the time, I don’t know why, nor what to do with any of it.
By this time last year, I was consumed with dread over the pending first anniversary of the fire. I was having regular panic attacks and had no idea how to face it or get through it to the following day. I didn’t know how to help her family and friends, who had quickly become my family and friends, too, because it was the only way I felt like I could keep her close. To keep her people close, and help take care of them for her, as best I could. If I could at all. And part of that fear, I think, was not only surrounding that first anniversary, but also in the vast of uncertainty of…what next? What about March 8th? What the fuck would any of us do then? When the year of firsts is over, what are we supposed to do in the days that follow?
What happens when there are no more firsts?
My terror was that focus might then revert to lasts. And I wasn’t sure how to move forward into a life of lasts, let alone how to be a useful support to those who’d lost her more than I.
This year is a little different. Not more or less difficult, but different nonetheless. The panic and dread is not as overwhelming, I think because we have gotten through March 7th, March 8th, and almost an entire year after that. And the focus has not changed to lasts, as I’d feared. I’m actually scheduled to work on March 7th, which I’m not sure was the best idea ever, but hopefully it will at least be distracting to a point.
Hopefully. I’m a bit worried about it, actually. Maybe I can meet up with people after work for a bit, just to mark the day together, or something. We’ll see.
As for March 8th, I have THAT day off, and unintentionally filled it with things I can look forward to. An appointment with my neurologist in the morning (okay I look forward to that less, but it’s good to have someone keeping an eye on my health), a trip to the zoo to – among other things – meet some baby panda cubs for the first time (and maybe with luck a baby rhino dude), then back home and downtown to cover the first awards gala of Canadian Screen Week 2016!
I think the new me – the one I am still trying to figure out as I navigate through daily life now – will always consider this a difficult and bittersweet time of year; a time of ups and downs and memories both amazing and horrible.
But I’m learning to accept that this, too, is a part of who I am now.
And in all of the things I am learning about the process of grief- for me – one of the smallest has turned out to represent one of the biggest achievements.
Like it or not, for better or for worse, I now know I can still find a way to make it to March 8th.