Cost

I saw a thing in an advice column yesterday. Well, I saw the title of the letter, rather than the letter itself. There’s only so much I can read over other people’s shoulders, after all. Anyway, it said something like, “What do I say when people ask how much my engagement ring cost?”

And I was, like, “Is that a thing?! Asking people how much their engagement ring cost?”

Like how does that conversation even go?

OMG congratuLAtions!!! Such a beautiful ring? How much did s/he spend on it?! I think mine was around blah-be-dee-bloo, if I recall!”

Is it customary to supply a gift receipt for the ring when you propose? Only not even a gift receipt, but one with the price on it so that the object of your forever love knows exactly how much you love her, right down to the penny? Isn’t such a ring supposed to be considered a gift anymore? I never would have thought to ask someone how much their ring cost, let alone assume they would even know. I had no idea that was a thing.

Maybe I should start asking, if it’s rude not to. Like – how much did yours cost? I don’t have any so I can’t compare. Well…there was one…but I’m pretty sure he stole it, so…let’s call that “on sale”.

As for how to answer it, I’m assuming straight up honesty isn’t as fun as guessing games. Like, estimate how much the ring the person asking you is wearing cost, and then go higher with your response, so you and your fiance/e look like better people or more in love or whatever.

People are weird.  Life is a gift – can I get a receipt with that?

I think I’ve gotten so used to holding back that now I am not sure I’ll be able to open up when I’m supposed to again. I might have to re-learn how to do it, so I don’t waste my money and my therapist’s time too much. It’s actually become habitual now, just keeping things to myself. I’m constantly re-writing my public image, so to speak, carefully choosing what to reveal and how much or little of it I can get away with. I don’t even really put much thought into it anymore. I’ve caught myself actually sifting through thoughts to consider saying if there is a lull in conversation and I can’t just listen and respond. But that technique won’t fly in therapy, so I have to figure out how to break myself of the habit – preferably before I go in – so that I can get the most out of the session. I think that’ll actually make it easier to sift through whatever’s left, once the overwhelming stuff has been released and isn’t building up inside me anymore.

It occurred to me this morning that you can’t lose or miss what you never had, yet it can still hurt, and often quite a lot. You can lie awake at night wondering why it hurts at all, let alone so much. And why it feels so sad to not have had something to lose; why you can mourn something that never was.

I think it’s because what was actually lost was far more important, yet also far more elusive. It’s the realization that it was never there to begin with – that it wasn’t real – that does it, you see.

That realization is the death of the one thing which was there before, and has now been lost.

It’s the loss of plans and dreams and maybes and of having something extra to look forward to each day and even though there’s still plenty of all of that, part of it is gone and that’s the part you now grieve.

It’s the loss of hope.

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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!

Fear Itself

I’ve been making a few sad realizations of late, most recently last night.  It’s actually thrown me off my game today, and I’m having trouble figuring out what to do.

So I’m currently doing next to nothing.

I just can’t focus.

I mean, I’m also hella tired and it is crazy hot outside.  Brody and I went to Pet Valu earlier and I’m not sure which of us was more over the heat by the time we got back.  He got to see some of his favourite people, though.  They make such a big deal over him there.  I love it, and naturally, he does, too.  Also, there’s no shortage of treats, and today we met a dog as big as a pony.  Bless.  Munchkin.

I have so much to do, and I thought I had a plan, but I can’t remember now, and I’m too distracted by sadness to sort it out.

Actually, no, it’s not even that.  I think rather than sadness, it’s more a tentative resignation.  I’m not sure…like, I feel like a few days ago, I had a certain confidence in my choices and the path I was following.  I don’t feel that same confidence now.  I’m not certain that it’s wrong, but I’m no longer sure that it’s right, either.  I feel like I keep making decisions now, and then second guessing myself.  THAT makes me sad – on top of some of the things I’m realizing – but the uncertainty isn’t caused by sadness.

I think it’s more likely caused by fear.

What if I’m going the wrong way, after all?

Being Mean For Honesty’s Sake

I often think about honesty, and truth, and the price of putting it out into the world. Like, I almost never speak or write what I actually think or feel. Even on here, I know it will be read, and for sure some among you will take whatever it is personally. That’s what we do; we assume everything is directed at us, whether it is, or not. I mean, the internet makes that much easier, because everything posted online has a degree of, if not anonymity, then at least distance and separation between the author/speaker and the individual reader/audience member. We can say and write whatever we want – promote our truth – and for sure someone out there will read it and think, “Fuck…is she talking about me?!” Whereas, if someone speaks to you directly, via letter, email, telephone or in person, there’s really no denying that you are the one to whom they are referring.

So I, for one, self-edit pretty much all of my actual self away. Or, not away, but hidden inside. I don’t express at least 90% of what I actually think or feel – at least. Probably more. Because it’s mean. There are compliments and such that are nice, so I try to say those, at least when they are true. Usually, though, truth and honesty is pretty mean, and it hurts people. I don’t like to hurt people, even people I don’t like, so I keep it to myself. To spare them. To spare you.

But what is that doing to me, I wonder? Keeping it all in? Surely it’s not the healthiest way to live. (And don’t call me Shirley)

I see and hear people purging what seems to be everything that comes into their heads, regardless of how it may make another person feel. Which I guess is great for them, but they’re mean. Many don’t even appear to try finding a way to express themselves without being hurtful. Either they don’t notice how their voices are being received, or they don’t care. Neither is a quality I want to nurture in myself, and I don’t even like people. But that doesn’t mean I don’t want to be a better version of this inherently evil species. The best version I can be. Or, you know, just better than I could be, if I cared less.

This post went so differently in my head while I was riding to work on transit this morning! It was less vague, yet more stream of consciousness-y.

I think we get ruder and meaner as we get older. Older people will say stuff to your face and not give a crap about your precious feelings. They don’t need to hide behind the interwebs. They’ve got stuff to say and not enough time in which to say it all, so they get out as much as they can, while they can. There’s definitely no time for beating around the bush, or re-phrasing, and no point in keeping it all bottled up inside. Each new day is an opportunity to speak your mind. And now, with the internet, we can be different parts of ourselves depending on our communication method of choice in any given moment. We can show one semblance of truth on Facebook, another in an email, and something quite different to those in our immediate vicinity. It would be interesting to watch the internet generation get older – see how many selves they have when all of the feel like expressing their truth all the time.

I wonder what I’ll be like as I get older? Will I still try to remain quiet, or will I just start expressing my anger and hurt and whatever else I think and feel to whoever will listen? Will I even care if anyone is listening? Maybe I’ll just talk, anyway. To animals, to the air around me. I already apologize to inanimate objects on occasion, so it’s not a far leap to raging my way loudly down the sidewalk, really.

Would I feel better, expressing all these thoughts and feelings? Would it be a relief to just get it all out? Or would I see how my words affect people and just end up wallowing in guilt and regret all the more? (Though, I’d probably get lots of space to myself on public transit if I was speaking my thoughts aloud…food for yet more thought)

It’s so easy to say, “I want you to be honest with me”. But trust me – you really don’t.  Or to say, “Tell me how you really feel.”  Yet truly, you don’t really want to know.  I am not mean or rude enough to make my thoughts and feelings known – yet – but I am absolutely mean and rude enough to have them. I watch you and hear you express yourself, and sometimes it even hurts me, but so far I’ve resisted the temptation to reciprocate or follow your example. It’s not always easy, but I’d rather that than than have to live with the consequences of the effect my words would have on you. Also, I’ve been keeping it all to myself for so long that it’s not only a habit, but I’m also not entirely sure which ones are real overall, versus which are just momentary or reactionary “real”. Which will still be true tomorrow, and which are just lashing out in hurt or anger. When I think about it, it’s difficult to tell for certain. I’m emotional, just like everyone else, but I recognize that emotions fluctuate and change and come with varying degrees of intensity. What I think or feel in a given moment may just be a knee-jerk reaction that winds up not being accurate once I’ve taken a moment to breathe through it. So the idea of doing permanent damage to a relationship, friendship, and even a stranger’s day – all to satisfy a temporary need that may or may not make me feel better – is just not something I’m willing to do yet. It thus far does not seem worth it.

Besides, I’m also aware of how I hurt and insult and upset and anger people on a daily basis without even realizing it. That sentence doesn’t make logical sense, I suppose, but there it is. I know it’s happening, I just can’t usually tell when or why. When I do realize something specific I’ve done, some line I’ve crossed, it’s too late. The damage, however unintentional, has been done. That realization alone is enough for me to carry the guilt and regret inside me for likely the rest of my life. Having that person or people telling me how I’ve made them feel, or highlighting my error in being, makes the burden 100 times heavier. Maybe it makes them feel better to point out my shame, so I let them have their moment, or moments; whatever they need. That’s the only way I feel like I can even partially make up for what I’ve done; allowing them – allowing you – to express how it’s made you feel. But I know how that makes me feel, so I won’t reciprocate.

Usually.

Truth hurts. That’s what they say. It hurts because it’s often mean. It hurts because something we are afraid is true has just been confirmed by another. While part of me wants to be honest with you, and tell you what I think and what I feel, so far, I just can’t. Because even though it’s not my intention to do so, the truth – my version of it – would hurt you. Or anger you. Or confuse you. Or any number of other adverse ways in which it would affect you. Therein lies my frustration. I want to be open and express myself, but I hold back because of how it’ll affect you. Because of how affecting you in a negative way would feel to me.

So far, it’s just not worth it.

Though, at the same time, sometimes I’m drowning in unexpressed and unvented emotions. Yet I see you appearing to have no qualms about putting your thoughts and feelings out there, regardless of how it might make me or anyone else feel. Regardless of how it makes me feel. More and more I wonder to myself – if I am showing you more regard than you are showing me, and if I am showing you more regard than I am showing myself – how can I ever hope to find any sort of balance in my own life? It’s not my job to coddle you, and yet that’s exactly what I do. All the time. Every day. By my own choice. Not because I am a nice person. Not because I wish only to spread peace and love across the land. I’m not a unicorn.

I do it because, above all else, I fear a life without you in it.

Sometimes I just wish you felt the same about me.

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