Learning

Rima then went to Addison’s blog. Several new pictures of the dachshunds had been added, so the load took its sweet time. It was the genius of owning dogs that Addison could post regularly and with a casual familiarity while revealing nothing about herself.”

I should have made this blog almost entirely of animal pictures. I’m not that genius on my own, but after reading the above quote in a book I enjoyed, I was able to immediately pick up on the brilliance of such a notion.

I post regularly…I don’t know about the casual familiarity…and still don’t reveal much about myself, but it’s way more obvious doing it this way. Imagine the audience I’d have built if it were animals on display, while I reap the adoration simply by association.

Ah well. You live, you learn.

And I am nothing if not a lifelong learner.

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Wednesday Thoughts

Before I woke up this morning, I was dreaming something mundane – I think I was just getting ready to go to work, actually. I’d found a new pair of jeans, which I’d forgotten I even owned (because in real life I actually don’t). They still had those plastic sizing strips on them, but an abundance of them, which I had to peel off first, because it’s just embarrassing to find out you’ve been walking around with tags and the like still on your clothes.

Whoa – I just typed “clothes” as “close” and had to correct it. Sleepy much?

Anyway, it was taking me longer and longer to get ready to leave, and I kept checking the time and getting more and more stressed about how late it was getting. I was excited to wear my new surprise jeans, though. They were still going to be a bit big, but better than most, and not full of holes like my real jeans are. I remember trying to decide which belt I should wear, too. As in, which one is falling apart the least. It’s a real-life dilemma found in even the barest wisp of a dream.

Anyway, the thing is, when I actually woke up, I remained confused about what I had to do with my day in real waking life. That sense of disorientation continued on far too long for my liking. It was actually a struggle to remain focused on getting ready for work without thinking about the new pair of jeans I didn’t really have, if that makes sense. My brain kept going back to the dream life and I’d have to consciously force it back to real life. Weird.

In other news, there was an impromptu puppy party on my street last night! Brody and I were out after work, as usual, and it was not only a nice evening, but also the time of day pretty much everyone is out with their dogs. We ran into one of his treats ladies, and she was already talking to another lady with her dog, and then more people and dogs just kept coming by to join in! We had a good 6 or 7 dogs on the go at one point, all greeting each other and each other’s people and Brody could often be found in the middle, gazing longingly at the treats lady in case more treats came his way! He’s taken to pre-sitting in anticipation of possibly getting a treat now, instead of waiting to be asked to sit for one. Silly puppy. Silly clever puppy. ❤

Tonight is The Mind Reels’ almost-all-girl rendition of a Flash Gordon episode from 1935! And the Reelie award winners announcement! So excited! One girl had to back out, unfortunately, but since it’s because she booked a gig on a new show, it’s not really that unfortunate! We’ll just have to get her back when she’s able! There are still three lovely ladies joining us, however, and I think it’s still going to be pretty epic. Or hilarious. Or both. I’m really looking forward to it!

I’ve been thinking about something Gord said during the Hip concert on Saturday night; about how we’ve been trained our whole lives to ignore Canada’s northern Aboriginal people, and how we’ve learned not to listen to anything that’s happening up there. He said he thinks it’s maybe even worse now than it’s ever been. I got this idea suddenly to maybe do something with The Mind Reels blog page about it, specifically with high school kids, perhaps. It’s a vague notion, and I don’t know if it would really work or be beneficial to anyone in any way, but there’s a seed of a thought I want to talk to Tim about. If it doesn’t work out with Mind Reels, then maybe I could still reach out and make something happen with this blog, or set up something else entirely. I was reminded of a simple exercise I’d done in teacher’s college with the kids in the Grade 7-8 classes I was teaching during my practicum. I hadn’t really expected it to go as well as it did. Not that I thought it would go badly. I just hadn’t anticipated how willingly some of the kids would open up about themselves and their home lives once they knew someone was listening. Not even that, really – I think it’s more that someone asked them. I’m learning that we all generally do like to talk about ourselves and things we are passionate about and the dreams we have for ourselves. Not in an ego way, but rather in a someone-is-interested way. Even the quietest kid in our Grade 8 homeroom – the kid who opted out of pretty much every assignment because he wasn’t feeling the participation vibe ever. That kid filled out a sheet of questions about himself…told a whole story about something that happened when he was living on a reservation up north before coming to the city. Then he actually spoke at length about some of it – out loud – with the whole class listening. We had to listen hard because he was speaking so quietly from his desk at the back of the room, but still. He was talking, and we all were listening. It was probably the only time all year that you could hear a pin drop in that room, because every kid in there knew what a rare occasion it was, and for once no one felt the need to spoil it.

So we’ll see. Maybe there’s a way I can help give kids an outlet; a space in which to discover and share their own voices.

I’ll just, you know, add it to my To Do list.

Know Thyself

Every so often, I dream of a plane crashing.  Not one I am on, but one I witness dropping from the sky.

Last night, it was three.  Two smaller air show-like stunt planes, followed by a commercial airliner.  They all landed in water and disappeared beneath the surface almost immediately.

I called 911 and let them know, but as I was talking, I had trouble remembering details, and then began to doubt whether I’d seen it, or not.

I started to wonder if I’d just been dreaming, and rather than waste more of their time, I hung up on 911. And then I woke up.

Sometimes I dream while I am in the midst of waking, and imagine things are happening.  Usually I have to turn on a light and think about what’s real before I can piece things together again.  Once I was convinced I saw smoke and was already planning how to best evacuate the house when I realized I couldn’t see it anymore.  It’s confusing, and the feeling never really leaves once I am fully awake.

In other news, it occurred to me earlier that I’m back to my late 20’s weight, but with my early 40’s body, which means more appropriate curves and a smidgen of maturity. I mean, it’s also an early 40’s body with MS, so it is tired all of the time, and in pain much of the time.  Today has been particularly brutal, because I over-exerted myself the past two days.  So it’s not perfect, but I am content with it, regardless.

For the first time in over a decade, whenever I look at a photograph or catch my reflection in a mirror, I can see myself in it again.  There’s so much more to it than mere appearance, and even more to go as I grow, but it’s a pretty amazing place to be, I’ve gotta say.

It’s a sensation I didn’t know I’d lost until it came back again.  In a body I no longer know, due to a disease that takes away control, I can still see myself; see me again, and know me anew.

I feel a vague sense of power in that.

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To Be Continued

Well, it happened.

I completely forgot to write a blog post yesterday.

I thought about it a couple of times, but was so busy doing other things I eventually just forgot all together.

When the realization hit around 5am this morning, I was overwhelmed with a number of emotions, the main one being disappointment in myself.  Anger with myself, too, but mostly just really disappointed.  It’s a worse feeling, anyway, right?  Most of us would prefer for someone to be angry with us than disappointed in us, if we could choose.  In my mind I was even trying to make excuses for myself – to myself – before realizing how ridiculous and ineffective that was.  So I took Brody for a walk and went back to sleep for a bit.

I have to go for my MRI soon, so will write more when I get back. Not that two posts today would make up for missing yesterday, but the funny thing is that I really WANTED to write about yesterday.  A ton of things happened, and a few in particular I am eager to examine here.  Not all good, but also not all bad, so finding the balance will be key, as always.

For now, I will just note that I am still disappointed, still…grumpy, if not exactly angry…but that I also recognize that A) I can’t do anything to change it now, B) it’s far from the end of the world, and C) this is my blog so I accidentally broke one of my own rules and while it sucks in theory, it’s a tiny detail that means very little in the grand scheme of things.  Trying to find excuses or ways to make up for it are far less important than the act of just moving on, and so that’s what I’m going to do.

To be continued.

A Question Of Memory

I’m still thinking back on parts of the conversation Tim and I had with the lovely ladies of Dark Matter the other day. This morning I found myself wondering more about the extent to which we are defined by our pasts, and what it would be like to suddenly forget it all; to have to define ourselves anew. Much of the show’s first season was spent with each character trying to get at the truth of who they were, of their own backstories. They woke up not even remembering their own names, let alone anything that had happened in their pasts and what led them to being where they were. Now, as the second season premiere grows ever closer (and they wrap shooting for the season on set today), I’m looking forward to watching them move forward to define who they are now.

I was wondering what that would be like, to not remember anything of my life before now. What kind of person would I be? What would I like, or dislike? How would I relate to the world around me, and how much would I understand? How would I define myself, what would be important to me, and how much of who I am is innate, as compared to the amount which has been shaped by my past experiences?

Would I still love bears?!

If I couldn’t remember meeting Hudson, would I still have some sense of familiarity when I saw him? Or would I just wonder why the f*ck I have a polar bear tattooed on my arm?

Memories are of course a huge part of who we are, even – in some cases – when past memories have been repressed. They fuel our passions, they propel our fears, they add colour new experiences even as new memories are being made. Our cells have memory, our bodies have memory, and of course our minds hold the most overt memories of all. I know why I don’t like being tickled – and am pretty sure I still wouldn’t like it even if I had no past memories of the experience. I remember eating chocolate ice cream pretty much every day when I was young, but would I realize I like it if I couldn’t remember eating it before? Would eating it without those memories be kind of like trying it for the first time all over again?

If I encountered people, places or things I loved but couldn’t remember loving them, would they still feel the same to me? Would they feel safe and warm and comfortable to me? Or would I pass them by without giving them a second glance? Would I have the same fears, or abilities? Would my dreams remember and give me clues to things I’d forgotten? Would my heart still know who I was at my core, even if my mind could not remember?

Are any of us actually anything in particular at our cores? I mean, I guess it’s the Nature vs Nurture debate, really. Just with part of a life lived with one set of experiences shaping it, and then another part of the same life with no real recollection of the first part. It’s interesting, though. There is already such a huge disconnect between how the world sees us and how we see ourselves. What if we couldn’t see the same selves we saw before, anymore? How much of our former selves would be retained, and how much would change?

How hard would we try to get back to our former selves? How much would we rely on others who knew us to tell us who we were? Would we eventually let that person go, and choose to define our new selves, at some point?

How much of our memory is real, reliable and accurate to begin with?

Trigger Event

I love talking to writers, talking about writing, and creating things in general.  So the fact that Tim and I get to cover the Toronto Screenwriting Conference each year is kind of amazing.  It seems to get even more incredible every year, too.  Today, my brain was full by lunch!

During one session, we were challenged to come up with a pilot sequence of events for our own lives.  This process included the need for a trigger event, also known as an inciting incident, for our protagonist.  For ourselves.

One jumped immediately to mind, probably because it’s recently come to the forefront in another post.  I figured it couldn’t hurt to take a slightly closer look at it.

Back in, like, 2002 or so, I acquired a strange kind of confidence somehow.  I wasn’t happy, exactly, but I felt in control of my life, I guess.  I believed I could choose my own path.  I got off the phone at work one day after etting a client know his order was in stock and would be shipping out to him shortly.  He was a teacher, and was so thrilled at the thought of how excited the kids in his class would be once they product arrived.

When I hung up the phone, I marvelled at how incredible it would be to be that passionate about your job.  I tried to imagine what it would feel like to be excited about work.

That was the day I decided to go to teacher’s college.

I didn’t think in terms of trying to get into teacher’s college.  I simply believed I would.

I started doing research – which programs I would apply to, which area of focus, what kind of criteria I needed on my application, etc.  I planned it all out, completely confident in my abilities.  I knew what kind of teacher I would be, and was certain that my years of life experience contributed to my future success in ways that wouldn’t have worked out the same way if I’d applied when I was younger and in school the first time around.

When I met Tane, I told her I was planning to go to teacher’s college.  I was even pretty sure we’d start dating.  I felt like I could have my pick, and I chose her.  As our relationship grew, that factored into our plans the whole time.  It was never a question or in any way uncertain. I planned it as though it was a foregone conclusion.  I got my application together, I went to the interview.  I took all the required steps, and worked with my partner to prepare for all the big changes that were coming our way.

As predicted, I got into school.  I’d only applied to one, so confident was I.  I quit smoking, which I was also certain I could do.  I worked out a scenario with my employer to keep me on part time, but in a different position.  A new one, which I would help create and define.

I was the shit, everything was coming up Sue, and I was on top of the world.

Then the cheating started, and the lying, and everything I thought I knew was turned upsidedown.   Self-doubt came roaring in, and suddenly everything I had been certain of began crumbling down around me.  I moved out of the home I’d made, I started drinking more in lieu of smoking, I started school but couldn’t focus.  Forgot to even take a pen it’s me the first day.  I froze up inside and couldn’t find my footing.  Everything was uncertain.  I didn’t know who I was anymore.  All I knew was that I had been wrong.

I was not the shit.

And if I could be wrong about some basic qualities of my perceived self, then it seemed possible that I could be wrong about all of it.  My sense of value and self-worth was destroyed; my confidence irreparably shattered.  I became a different person, and the only thing I was certain of was that I’d been so wrong, about everything.  I was not a good partner, I was not a good friend, I would not make a good teacher, and the fact that I barely graduated only seemed further proof of that fact.

Wherever that odd sense of confidence had come from, it was gone.  Even now, I can’t remember what it felt like.  My sense of certainty and self-assurance feels like I watched it happen to someone else, yet the sense of worthlessness exists in some form or another to this day.  That loss of believing in myself changed everything.  Changed me.  I’m hidden away now, not to protect myself from the world, but to protect the world from me – from my arrogance, from my misplaced confidence, from my complete presence.  I walk upon the earth much more softly now, as though I carry an apology I can never truly make.

I’m sorry.  I was wrong.

 

Canadian Screen Week and Navigating Grief

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?

Alysia.

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.