On Logging Off

One month ago today I stopped posting on my FB page. I pretty much stopped posting on there at all – I didn’t share anything, I wished 2-3 people a happy birthday (as opposed to the many others I did not – sorry guys), I left only a few comments and posted a thing or two on other pages. Even this blog is only posted to Twitter now. My notifications dropped to mostly game invites.

And no one seemed to notice. And I was glad.

Today is the 9th anniversary of the day my conjoined other half and I became FB friends, so they made us a little video, which I posted to our walls this morning. Then I changed my cover photo to the pic of Hudson and I that I love so, so much.

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That’s not to say that I am back to posting regularly on FB, or anything, though. I’m enjoying the time apart.

Which reminds me, there’s really only a few weeks left of this blog! The end of the year approach-eth! I think it’s safe to say (as I’ve said before) that it’s been a complete and utter fail. Yesterday I actually found the blurb which had inspired me to try and write this every day, too, and while I’m not exactly sure why I’d started off with such a different intention in mind, I do think the notion still has merit. I have a few ideas for what I might try instead, and hopefully any of those will yield better results for me. Because it is supposed to be about improving myself, after all. Why I thought I’d take any steps forward with a blog like this – one which never bothers to even scratch the surface, let alone dig deeper than that – is truly beyond me, but I am glad it’s almost done. I feel like I’ve become so accustomed to NOT communicating anything valid or real that I’m not sure I’ll be able to when I need to, now, either.

Luckily my therapist pushes me, but it’s actually a habit now for me to not push myself. And I rarely see her, so yeah. I’m regressing, instead of progressing, I think.

Hopefully whatever I do next will be more rewarding and positive than this has been. And as always, there’s so much more that I want to do, or even just to try. I don’t make New Years resolutions or anything like that, but maybe this year I can at least work more towards that turning point I seem to be on the cusp of, and really push myself to become a more active participant in my own life. It’ll mean some hard choices, and definitely lots of mistakes and disappointment, but at least it’ll be more mine, and less the facade I present.

If I do anything at all. I guess I’ll see! haha

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Thinking Back On The Backup Bash

Man I don’t know.

I got a little dizzy earlier and am just trying to get through the work day. Not sure what to write about. So much in my head that I can’t really focus on anything in particular!

And I slept like crap, which probably has everything to do with everything.

Memories of the Backup Bash are circulating on FB lately, as our 10 year anniversary approaches nearer the end of the year. SO CRAZY to think it’s been 10 years since I got on a plane to go to my first convention in the US – a Firefly-themed Flanvention that promised to be just as amazing as I’d heard the first one had been and my excitement was through the roof! I even had a t-shirt made for one of the many photo ops I’d purchased ahead of time. Ten years since my plane landed in Burbank California and I found out the convention had been cancelled. Ten years since the SoCal Browncoats and members of the Firefly cast and crew (aka REAL Big Damn Heroes) rose up and cobbled together one of the most unforgettable and life-changing weekends of my life, the Browncoats Backup Bash. Or B3, as we call it. Ten years since I found myself drinking in an exclusive bar, not yet open to the public, in downtown Hollywood with the cast of my favourite show, busloads of Browncoats and even a few surprise guests who felt like joining the party.

Ten years since I first learned to trust and follow The Hat.

That weekend was the sole reason I ended up on the Browncoat Cruise the following year, where I would shake hands with the love of my life. So when I say it changed me, I mean it in such a way as to express that the emotions and connections and pure experiences of that crazy random happenstance are still very much with me to this day. There’s never been anything like it, nor will there ever be again.

Though how tempted am I to jump on a plane and head to Burbank for the tenth anniversary reunion currently being planned?

If I could just toss all responsibility aside and go be with my people – including said love of life – I can’t even express…like, my mind works so differently now. I’ve been constantly stressed and anxious about keeping my life from falling apart again for most of the past 7 years, or so. Every decision is made carefully and with concern over whether or not I can get away with it; make it work out in the end. What would I give for the opportunity to throw such caution to the wind and just do it. Just go do something that makes me happy and freaking work it out later.

I can’t even remember what it was like to be that person. Yet part of me is still aware that I’ve always been able to make things work out. Definitely not always as I’d hoped or planned, but still – I’m here. Here I still am; carving out my life, and creating my world. Earlier today I likened it to swimming with water wings. I’m not getting very far, but I’ll still afloat.

Adulting is dumb. Why can’t I just take a weekend off from it once in awhile, really?

Myriad on my Mind

Well, the whole not being able to sleep much thing is getting pretty old. Will try again tonight to see if I can do any better.

Con Crud hasn’t fully set in, but it’s not any better yet, either. On the fence, I guess. Fencing Crud.

Squirrel saga is still ongoing, but in part because I haven’t heard any news yet this morning. Hopefully no news is good news – or at least not bad news – but we’ll see.

So much drama and stress and sadness, man. I can’t even tell anymore how much of it is directly mine to carry, and regardless, there’s so much I can’t talk about, anyway.  My heart and mind are tired. 

I got a lot done yesterday, at least. Saw a periodontics (is that the word?) dentist guy for a consultation, and have mostly decided to go ahead with the procedure he’s suggested, but I really need to make sure it’s covered by my work benefits first. It’s going to be dicey, anyway, because I have to pay the whole thing upfront and get reimbursed later, and since it’ll cost more than, say, my rent, I need to time it just right so that I can get reimbursed in time to pay said rent. Maybe even eat in the meantime.

At least the animals are mostly stocked food-wise for a bit.

Managed to change my address with the Ministry of Health, so I expect to be receiving threatening letters any time now about switching to a photo health card from my sweet old red and white one. I’m proud to still have it, but last time I went for blood tests, there was apparently a note warning me to contact the Ministry and update my current address…which I then forgot to do until yesterday. So that’s good, I guess. I have to get more blood tests done on Saturday, so at least I can tell them that the process has begun.

Yesterday was the first anniversary of what was probably my girl’s biggest loss to date, and I have no idea how to, like, acknowledge that for her, or with her, or anything. Not being in the same country doesn’t really help with that, either, of course. But I’m not sure how much of a comfort I would be, anyway. I guess some journeys have to be taken separately and/or on our own. I do hope, though, that she has a similar experience to mine, in that the first year is the hardest, and once you get through all of the firsts, a greater sense of your new normal can be found. It doesn’t suck any less, but I found that, for me, the dread became less. The fear of facing each unavoidable first gave way to a kind of grim acceptance of all the remaining anniversaries to come, and the knowledge that I will get through those, too, whether I like it or not.

I hope it’s similar for her journey through grief, too.

I renewed my zoo membership for another year. I think this is the earliest I’ve ever done it – more than a month early. Now I just have to remember to pick up my new card when I go there next – hopefully on Saturday. It’s supposed to rain, but I kind of don’t care. I plan to be shooting for Canada In A Day, and what better way to show off one of the things I love about a day in my life than to spend at least part of it immersed in one of my favourite places?

Of course, my weekend is already filled with things that need to be done, so there won’t be any rest, and if I am still fighting this cold, I may yet lose the battle as a result. If all of my money for the next year or so is going to dental bills, though, I intend to make the most of the days in between!

Officially Amazing

According to my Facebook memory feed, it was one year ago today that I first learned I was officially a Guinness World Record holder. I started to cry pretty much immediately. Tears of happiness, relief, vindication – a myriad of emotions went through me in the moments following that message. I had to read it twice to be sure that it was real; that I had actually done it.

I actually had.

I needed to confirm a couple of things for them, and even then it would be a few days before the website reflected The Mind Reels’ official amazing-ness, so I decided to only tell a couple of people right then, and make it all more public later. Tim and I created an announcement video to thank those who had donated to our crowd-funding campaign prior to the event, but the majority of the celebration would have to wait until after visible proof was available.

I got home from work that evening and cracked open the bottle of craft beer that one of our lovely guests had gifted to us at the event. I’d told her that I would only open it once I’d heard back from GWR, and drink it either in celebration or to drown my sorrows.

Naturally, I drank it from my Guinness glass.

I’ve had mixed emotions about the whole thing all along, really. It was almost exactly a year between the time I came up with the idea to attempt breaking the record, and receiving the notification that I’d been successful. It was a bittersweet success, however, because I’d also learned a lot of hard truths along the way, and the toll it took on me – on every level – is still affecting me even now.

All the stress and anger and frustration and just staying awake for 55+ hours wrecked my body, of course, but it also did some damage to my state of mind, my heart, and my spirit. I learned that I am a terrible leader, in that I do not inspire confidence nor action in anyone else. I learned that things would likely go better if I just set out to do them myself from the start, because depending on anyone else to step up and help will only end in stress and failure. Most heart-breaking, though, was learning that I’m unable to get others to see my vision and work towards helping me to make it a reality.

That whole thing was intended to be an event to pull the entire channel together, raise our visibility in the public eye, and propel us all forward as a team. Instead, it ground everything to a halt, and even a year and a half later, we are still struggling to get started back up again. Those of us who are struggling at all, I mean. Most just seem to have stopped all together.

I couldn’t even get local media interested, even though I was trying to shine a light on Canadian talent, among other things.

Learning that we are no longer the official record-holders made me want to take another run at it – to make it bigger, stronger, better – rather than feel defeated by it. I have SO MANY ideas for making the attempt epic – even more so than the first one was envisioned to be – but it would require a lot of teamwork, and I do not have the ability to inspire that in others. I can’t even get my own little show going again, let alone something on that grand a scale.

And this isn’t me being down on myself, really. Maybe a little, but I feel like it’s mostly me being down on everyone else, and just trying to be nicer and more polite about it than I actually feel much of the time. Since the GWR attempt elevated my awareness of how things are, I’ve been constantly torn between asking for help to make other visions a reality, and just doing things myself/not doing them at all. Even small things require effort, and while I am no stranger to putting in said effort, I recognize that I can’t do everything myself. Not well, at least. So I’m not sure whether to focus and do one thing as well as I am able (despite my admittedly mediocre talent or ability), or do a few things half-assed, or accept offers of assistance, even though I no longer believe in anyone’s ability to follow through.

That’s pretty much the crux of it, I think. I don’t know what it is about me that makes those closest to me not believe in me, as I’ve proven time and time again that I am stubborn enough, at the very least, to do what I say I’m going to do. From where I sit, it’s everyone else who is falling short of the example I set. From a relatively young age, I’ve tried to lead by example, in fact. Yet for some reason, however, no one follows. It often makes me frustrated and angry, yet it’s an impotent anger – the kind that lets me cry and yell and stamp my feet and even slam the door…but still go to my room.

Maybe it’s time for me to focus on finding the source of that disconnect; the reason that I don’t inspire the confidence in others that I feel in myself – that I start off feeling in all of us, until I am let down yet again. I think I need to figure out what it is about me that holds people back from believing in me, and also determine why I keep giving out second chances, hoping for different outcomes, and whether or not I should continue to do so.

I broke a Guinness World Record, guys. Just imagine what else I can do – and how much more we could do together.

Because I imagine it all the time, you know. And it’s amazing.

Sometimes I even feel sorry for some of you, because you can’t see it, too.

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St. Patrick’s Day

It’s St. Patrick’s Day!

There was a time – a long time – when I was all over this day like green on a leprechaun. But lately, I think I’m just not feeling it anymore. Kind of sad, really, though I am wearing a green shirt. It’s the t-shirt I made for my first novel, Carving The Light, so it’s a shameless bit of self-promotion, too.

I don’t think I really have much Irish in me, anyway, but still. St. Patrick’s Day was always a thing. My grandma used to send us cards every year, and sign them “Nanny O’Park”. There’d always be a cute verse or something on them, ’cause the Irish always have a way with prayers and toasts, among other things! My mom later took up the card-sending mantle, too, though given that I only have the one mom, there wasn’t much need for a last name to go with the O’. Regardless, though, it was always a day we marked, in my family.

Then, you know, alcohol came along. I think I’ve only ever actually had one green beer in my life, it was always the plan to go find a place to drink with peers on the evening of the 17th. Or the afternoon/evening. Or…whatever. You get the idea! Drinking happens on this day!

Or, for me, it used to. Recent years, not so much. Like today I am at work, then meeting a friend to go shopping for wool (more on that another time, perhaps), then home to walk the dog, feed the critters, watch TV and go to bed. I even have beer in my fridge that I could drink, but probably won’t because I am hella tired. There always used to be a plan, though. Always.

There was one year not long after I moved to Toronto, I was working, and wanted to go somewhere with my coworkers after, but none of us knew the city very well yet. One guy finally remembered an Irish pub nearby that we could check out, and since it was crazy cold out that year, we all agreed to make a go of it. Really, if there was green beer, nothing else mattered, by that point.

So we closed up, trekked through the frigid temperatures to this alleged Irish pub. When we finally arrived, my one friend and I just looked at the guy and shook our heads.

It was called the Artful Dodger.

About as un-Irish as you can get. Our friend who had suggested it was Trinidadian, though, so he was forgiven for not really spotting the difference on appearance alone. And, as it was so cold out, we decided we didn’t care as much about atmosphere as we did about alcohol, so we promptly went inside.

It was actually kind of dead, but cozy and warm. The bartender greeted us with a friendly shout in our direction, and assured us that she had green food colouring for the beer if we wanted it. So we stayed.

Truth be told, that was actually an iconic meeting in the course of my life. The moment I laid eyes on the bartender that night, I knew I not only wanted to stay, but that I’d want to keep going back to the Dodger (as we came to call it) on a regular basis.

Her name was Garvie, and there was something about her that just drew me in and think I needed her in my life.

As such, we all ended up going to the Dodger on a very regular basis. Sometimes we could call ahead and let them know who would be arriving just in time for last call, and they’d have our regular drink orders ready for when we walked in the door. One of the employees, Lizz, became my roomate and then best friend, which she remains to this day. We had staff parties there, birthday parties, when there’s a delay on the subway, sometimes I just go in to have a beer and wait for the mess to clear so I can go home. My ball team went to the Dodger some Sundays for brunch and beers after a morning game. It became my Cheers – where everybody knew my name.

And as for Garvie, after…probably a good decade of stalking her and following her around like a love-sick puppy, we finally had several drinks together one night, and I’d apparently reached an age/maturity where she could now talk to me as more of an equal. Instead of the aforementionned love-sick stalker puppy. Next thing I knew, we were actual friends, and even though she’s moved far away and we barely talk anymore, I know she’s out there, and still a loving part of my world. I even fired off a quick email to her a few minutes ago to tell her that this is the anniversary of the first time we met. I can’t remember which year, but at least I remember the day!

The Dodger and I…I keep taking breaks from it – sometimes for years at a time – but I always seem to end up back there eventually. I remember laughing with friends back in the beginning, saying that if we were in our 40’s and still drinking at the Dodger, that we’d want to be shot and put out of our misery. But here I am in my 40’s, still drinking at the Dodger, and I kind of love it. It’s my place. Even when much time goes by, it’s still the one spot where everybody knows my name. Or some people know my name. The main thing is that it’s familiar; it has that homey feeling to it that can’t be replaced with any other spot. Even though some things have changed over the years, there is a lot that stays the same, including many of the faces I see when I swing by there.

I miss the Garvie doodles on my receipt. I miss knowing every staff member’s life as one knows a friend. But it’s like McDonald’s, in a way. When you’re craving a Big Mac, there’s only one place you’re going to go, and no other burger will do. Same with the Dodger. When I want that feeling of comfort and safety and familiarity, even if I am a regular in other places now, there’s still only one place I’m going to go.

My non-Irish pub. Just, you know, not tonight. Tonight I’ll be even less Irish than a British pub, but that’s okay. I know the Dodger is there whenever I need it to be.

The Rest Is Silence”

Two Years

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.

Alysia.

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.

Until we meet again.

Alysia
Alysia