Some Changes On My Mind

I don’t know, man. Sometimes I feel like it might soon be time to abandon ship. I’m not sure how much longer I can stand to be around so many people all piled into one place, and keep thinking I might soon decide to just get out of the city once and for all. I probably won’t, because it’s been on my mind for years and I haven’t done much about it yet, but I guess we never really know what the future holds. I just know my past experience with success has been…I haven’t really had any. Haha

Sometimes life just happens and we do little more than hold on for the ride. I’m definitely a passenger, through and through.

Been able to slowly watch things off my PVR the past few days. Checked out Designated Survivor (of course) and liked it okay, but the premiere was definitely all about setting up the story and introducing the characters. Which is really all it can be, but I look forward to seeing where things go from here. Note that “look forward to seeing” could also be read as “impatient to see”. Haha

I really, really liked the series premiere of Pitch! I like the format of fluid movements between past and present, I love the characters so far, particularly the protagonist and the team’s catcher. I love that they found kids who could actually have been the lead actress at different stages of her life – like, they’ve time-travelled to the present so they could play her earlier years. I love that it came out swinging and set the tone and – for the premiere, at least – isn’t treating the series as a one-act play. Young black woman becomes the first female to play in major league baseball. I’d seen comments about how it should have been a movie because there aren’t legs for a series, but after having seen the first episode, I have to disagree. Well, I already disagreed, but now I disagree more. More than 2 decades went into the moment she stepped onto the field for the first time, and that moment wasn’t the beginning of her journey. There’s more to come, and there’s more that has passed, and that it’s engaging thus far bodes well, as far as I’m concerned. I’m on board.

Speaking of coming out swinging – holy returns for Quantico and How To Get Away With Murder! So so good! I’m right back in love with both shows, and actually a little afraid to find out who died at the end of the season premiere of HTGAWM. I suspect I’ll watch the next episode with a drink in hand. Or a few.

I was asked recently about what I want to do next; what my dream would be, to do with my life. I don’t have an answer for that yet. Some vague ideas, but nothing I can pin down. I used to think I would be a teacher. Sometimes I still do, but I’m not really meant for a public school classroom, I don’t think. Maybe something a little different, but still education-related.

I’ve also been enjoying some small event planning, media marketing, public relations and…I don’t know what to call it…pseudo producing? With respect to The Mind Reels and interviews and radio plays and breaking a Guinness World Record. I have so many ideas for taking even larger steps, and some seem to be coming to fruition, which is encouraging. I would need to narrow my focus to see if I could actually succeed in any of those environments, but there’s definitely something there worth considering, I think. I’m just not sure what yet.

And then there’s the non-human animals of the world. I need to find a way to stop feeling like I need to save everybody, but that doesn’t mean I can’t find a way to work with and/or for them. Even after a rather bad day at my volunteer shift this past weekend, getting to spend time with Marley the ring-tailed lemur before I left, and then taking Brody the Munchkin out for a long walk when I got home did a lot to heal my mood. As did talking about it a bit the next day – but that was like the final step I needed. Mostly it was the good animal interactions that brought me the balance I’d lost from the less desirable ones. My relationship to animals has changed in countless ways since meeting Hudson the polar bear, and as a result, I think they are actually becoming more of a daily focus for me than less of one. I imagine that can only be a good thing, really, but if I can figure out a way to pursue that environment more regularly in my life, I think that might feel like the most right path for my spirit. Maybe not for my pocketbook, nor always for my heart.

But I don’t own a pocketbook, anyway, so what have I got to lose?

More Dreams And Carpe Diem Notions

It’s entirely possible that last night’s dream was a kind of warning, in a way. Though it’s just as likely that it was my brain’s way of expressing guilt and, like, concern.

Either way, it wasn’t entirely unpleasant, and I saw some people in the dream who I haven’t seen in life for a long time, so that was cool. Same with the dream I had the night before – so much was going on, and it largely revolved around people who haven’t really been in my life for several years…more than a decade, in most cases. It’s interesting (to me) that both dreams involved people and situations from roughly the same period of time in my waking life, and yet they didn’t seem to be connected at all. It was a period of much change in my world, and those two dreams managed to reflect very different facets of some of those changes.

Unless last night’s was really just a guilt dream, after all. But still. It chose an interesting route with which to express itself, that’s for sure.

I think whether it was warning or guilt, too, it probably has some merit to it, as well. It definitely got me thinking this morning, and even though I am just as exhausted as I have been in recent days, anyway, that dream has given me a bit more focus today, and that’s a good thing. Maybe nothing will come of any of it, but for now, it’s really got me intent on at least investigating a few avenues. It lit a small fire under my butt, so at the very least, I am using that as incentive today!

I’ve also started planning the next radio play reading, and have begun to reach out to possible cast members to see who might be available. I want to get the announcement of Reelie award winners out of the way before we do this next play, as the script is short and we should have time to do both. All of that should also bring me closer to being able to launch the Mind Reels Patreon page – which would be kind of cool to do for my birthday, but at the same time, I won’t be able to promote it much around then because I’ll be at Fan Expo meeting my boy Luke Skywalker!

So I’ll probably be distracted.

But we’ll see how it goes.

Back to the dream – like, it took place in the school where I did my practicum during my year of teacher’s college. After graduation, I went back several times to visit everyone, and just spend some time in a classroom when I could. I miss being able to do that, I realized. I miss that school in particular, and it’s funny how any time I think about trying to go back to a teaching environment, my mind always imagines it to be done there; at that school, and with those people. Many if not most of the teachers don’t even work there anymore, and even the Principal is someone I don’t know now. The students have, of course, moved on long ago. My little grade 6 kids would be in their 20’s by now! What the hell?! How old am I?! I can’t even imagine it, who they are now; the adults they have grown up to be.

I have no idea what the future holds for me and my non-existent teaching career. What’s more is that I have no idea what I’d even want where education is concerned, if anything. I used to have this whole plan laid out, and then everything came together and fell apart – then came together even more and thus fell apart again more completely – so now I’m just…I don’t know. I go back and forth on it all the time, really. Sometimes to extremes where my feelings about it are concerned. I’m a pretty terrible teacher in the traditional sense, I know. But there are so many non-traditional opportunities out there now; so many different ways of doing things, and more room for forging ones own path a little bit. Not to mention the fact that I am really not the same person I was then. I’ve upgraded. Haha

A large part of the realistic issue, of course, is salary. Like always, I have responsibilities that go beyond taking care of my own needs, and I’m not willing to risk failing in fulfilling those just so I can try something out. I would have to find some sort of balance between risk and security in that, too, if ever I were to take the leap again. Or any leap, really, especially where employment is concerned. These days, I’m mostly just very grateful to have a job which pays the bills and allows me to keep everybody fed with a roof over our heads. Even on my worst days, I am highly reluctant to mess with that again, because I’ve been there when it falls through and I’ve lost it all. I’m not eager to take that chance again.

Just because I’m being cautious, though, doesn’t mean my eyes aren’t open. If there is something more out there for me, I still intend to seize it when I can.

A Few Quick Thoughts

Man, the past few days have been difficult for my heart, and the past couple of weeks have just been a lot.

Most of which I haven’t put on here, I know, and while that’s been deliberate, I also realize that not sharing things that go on with me is a big part of my problem in relating to other people and forming any sort of strong bond with anyone.  I cut myself off, and it shows.

Maybe I’ll learn to change that, maybe not.  Either way, it won’t happen today!  haha

Found out earlier that Kenny Baker passed away, which is sad and another loss to not only my childhood but to my adult life, as well.  I met him at my first convention in 2005, and he was the first Star Wars actor I’d ever met.  I was so overwhelmed by the experience that I called my mom right after and cried about it to her on the phone.

Good grief.  🙂

So rest in peace, Mr. Baker, and thank you for bringing the first droid I ever loved to life.

Sending strength to my amazing friend, Dakota, for he is one of the fiercest warriors I’ve ever had the honour of knowing, and I know he has it in him to win this battle against the infection in his brain right now.  But sending a little extra strength his way, regardless, because every little bit helps.  Love you, my friend.

And finally, to Leo the Lion, the ‘L’ in the “BLT” – although not surprised at losing you, I am nevertheless still gutted, and all the more disappointed in myself for not finding a way to get to you this summer as I’d planned.  I’d had a feeling it would be my last chance, and though I don’t know what I could have done differently to get there sooner (or, as of yet, at all), a part of me still won’t forgive myself for not trying harder to make it happen.  I love you and will miss you madly, even still.

So for now, I’m just going to leave this here:  https://youtu.be/xicKoc8LjGE

Thank you for helping to teach us stupid humans how to love.

Even those of us who are habitually disappointing.

Busy Long Weekend Ahead

Of course, for me, that simply means that there are reasons I’m expected to leave the apartment every day that aren’t work-related…and that sucks. Haha

If I could stay home, I would, most of the time. That’s part of the reason I’m always late for stuff. I have a difficult time leaving if I don’t really have to.

I’m also just kind of a jerk that way, I guess.

I love going home, though, after I’ve been out. I get such sweet greetings from the critters, for starters. And it’s like I can just relax and breathe again, which is nice. Being tense for all the time I spend away from home is exhausting! Haha

I’ve just learned one of my days away is going to be even longer than planned, which stresses me out a bit, but it’s true. It’s only one day. We’ll all get through it. I don’t look forward to all the stuff I’ll have to do between getting back and going to bed, so that won’t really be relaxing and breathing. But it’s only one day.

I can do that.

Speaking of critters, Brody and I did okay last night and this morning. I’m pretty sure some of the pack leader processes are just not going to work for me, but some will. Like, even though I have to struggle to keep Jack Bear out of his face, Brody is back to sitting before he gets treats. I’m trying to be consistent with it because I’m sure he’s wondering where the hell THAT rule came from all of a sudden. But he’d done it before, and he’s a smart guy, so he seems to be picking it back up pretty quickly again now. To me, it was not important to have him do stuff for my entertainment just to earn a reward – he earns them just by being him, as far as I’m concerned. But if it gives his brain a little something extra to do during the day, then it’s good for him, and therefore I am all about it.

The whole going through doors first isn’t exactly practical – my building doors close automatically, for example, and I don’t want to risk getting him stuck in or hit by one. He’s only little, guys! He already gets kicked a lot and stepped on by accident. I see no need to risk getting him bumped around more. My apartment door I’m trying to get us through more or less together. And stairs…just however we can get up and down them without either of us falling.

Walking…supposedly he’s supposed to walk beside or behind me, not in front. So far, he has always walked in front. Sometimes beside. There’s no way I want him walking behind me, though. I can’t keep and eye on him back there, and – to my mind – a walk is our time together. More for him than for me, even, but together nonetheless. Walking behind me is not together, and I’m just…no. Not doing it. I’ve got him walking next to me, more or less consistently, but he’s not always a fan. Plus, I can’t see his cute butt waddle as well as I can when he’s trotting out front. So while I am getting him used to walking next to me most of the time, I don’t think it’s going to be strictly enforced 100% of the time. Once we’re both comfortable with it, then I’ll go back to letting him trot a little bit ahead again. Not pulling, but not right next to me all the time, either.

That’s my plan, anyway. We’ll see how it goes and adjust from there.

On Becoming Pack Leader

Had yet another incident this morning while out with Brody in which he lunged at another dog, almost without warning. This time, the other dog’s person was not understanding, in that he was not putting up with such behaviour and escorted his dog safely away immediately.

I felt terrible.

In talking about it with one of Brody’s treats ladies, who was with us at the time, I realized that one of his triggers might be the nose-to-nose greeting, particularly with dogs who are bigger than him. This was a puppy, but on the larger size, and she got right up in his face, right from the start, to which Brody said a whole lotta no. Apparently some dogs find that sort of greeting to be kind of stressful, and prefer to be approached from the side, instead. I noticed long ago that Brody shies away from direct frontal contact, even when it’s me reaching down to pet him. He prefers to ease into it, which I can fully understand.

Regardless, though, if things keep on like this, he’s going to get himself killed.

So naturally, I took to the internet, and delved into Cesar’s Way, website of Cesar Millan, the Dog Whisperer.

Now, I’ve stated several times – even as recently as yesterday – that I am not a good leader. This holds true for being a Pack Leader to Brody, as well, but in that case, neither of us can afford for me to not be one any longer. Really, I should have looked things like this up before Brody and I even met, but I was looking up a whole whack of stuff, trying to be prepared, and a person can only anticipate so much. Especially when one has never really realized that one would have to be a Pack Leader. I am the opposite of Alpha, so I have a lot of learning to do, anyway, but I think I’ve already taken great strides in just realizing that I have to come at all of it a different way.

Kind of like some of the lessons Hudson the polar bear taught me, actually. I saw things differently because of him, and now I am learning to see things differently because of Brody. It’s just time for teaching and learning between the two of us to stop being a one-way street. Brody needs me to lead, and so lead is what I’ll do.

Or I am learning to do.

One of Cesar’s rules is to live in the moment, not regret the past nor fear the future. Dogs live in the moment, and I need to, as well. Which I have already been thinking recently, anyway, I just needed a nudge to commit to it more resolutely. So instead of talking about what I will do, I’m attempting to talk about what I am doing. Or at least trying to do.

There is a lot to learn. And everybody is different so Brody and I will of course need to figure things out based on who we each are, but more importantly, who we are together. I just wanted so badly for him to love me – we came together because we’d both lost his girl and needed some extra love. While I have no intention of holding back affection, of course, I do intend to step up and be the Pack Leader he deserves. I now understand that’s what will create an even more loving bond between us than we already have.

Getting to know him has exceeded my needs and hopes from the get-go. Now it’s time for me to exceed his needs, too.

Love you beyond reason or measure, Brodykins. Time for us to both learn what that really means.

We got this.

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When Angels Speak

So, when I first read my angel card last week, I have to admit I was kind of disappointed. It felt a little like a cheat, in a way. Probably more due to my mood than the actual card, though.

It was called Happy Surprise, and said that I’d be getting a surprise soon, and to not try to guess or it wouldn’t be a surprise; to just enjoy it. My first thought was that, of course – we can bend our perception of reality to be anything we want, so if I think it’s going to rain, and then it doesn’t – SURPRISE! The card came true!

However, I had said I was open to guidance, and that’s the guidance I received. Saying I’m open and then shutting down as an initial instinct is the opposite of being open, so I read it a few more times, and then kind of forgot about it.

Which, I guess, could kind of be the point of what it was telling me to do.

There was more to it, as well – about how happy surprises come in many different forms and that I just have to notice them, that my dreams are coming true but not in the way I’d expected, that all of the surprises are gifts of love, and that the world loves to see me happy. I was, like, “Well TOO BAD, World!” haha

Little things happened, which is what I’d predicted, so I didn’t really think about it. Then the lemurs happened, and that was definitely a happy surprise, so false view of reality or angel card guidance kicking in – either way, I’ll take it! Something more happened this morning, but I’ll talk all about it some other time, because the “what” isn’t as important as the fact that I noticed it, and flashed back to the guidance. Maybe I was managing to remain open to it, after all.

Maybe I still am.

It’s funny, the notion of having my dreams come true, because at the moment, I don’t think I really have any. Nothing that feels like a goal to shoot for, or anything like that. I’ve just been kind of floating in non-hope since 2009. I very deliberately stopped making plans, stopped having long-term goals, stopped hoping for anything in the future.

My last dream like that was that I’d become a teacher (check…kind of, in that I got my licence and degree), meet someone who was also a teacher (check – though it didn’t happen at all as I’d thought it would, the fact that we met means it counts), and that we’d start a quiet little happy life together, living and teaching and making a home together. Maybe we’d even adopt a kid at some point, or siblings. It was all simple, but perfectly happy and fulfilling.

That all actually started, I thought, until it all stopped. It felt kind of abrupt to me, but I guess that’s more because I kept trying not to see it as anything other than my dreams coming true. Stubbornness gets me into trouble sometimes. It was a full and complete stop, at least. No person, no home, no teaching. Now I don’t even like people, so I wonder how suited I was to teaching the next generation, anyway. Maybe things just go the way they are meant to go, so that I get pushed closer to being the person I’m meant to be.

The point is, however, that I have no idea what my dreams coming true would even mean to me now; no sense of what they would look like.

Maybe that’s part of the guidance I’m supposed to be open to accepting.

Maybe the angels want me to start figuring it out.

My Opinion…On Opinions

Opinions.

Everybody’s got them. Everyone is entitled to them.

Lately it feels as though more and more people are voicing them and/or sharing them on the internet, too. About everything. Even if someone doesn’t know a single fact about the subject upon which they are speaking, they are allowed – we all are allowed – to go ahead and spew forth whatever opinion we have on said matter. It’s pretty much our God-given right, and we’re going to exercise it every chance we get, dammit.

The thing is – and this is just my opinion (see what I did there?) – I’m not certain that a) any of our opinions actually matter to anyone but us, especially the uninformed ones, because b) we’re so busy screaming our opinions from the rooftops that we’re not bothering to listen to nor consider the opinion of another, but rather how to respond to them so that they’ll know they are wrong, and c) we’re basically all contributing to the rapid decline of intelligence and critical thinking in our own species.

You know…that thing that sets us apart from and above all the lowly non-human beasts of the planet.

Like, can opinions even be wrong? They can be formed upon misinformation, but can the actual opinion itself be incorrect? By definition, isn’t it really just how we feel about something based on what we believe we know about it? Wouldn’t something more concrete be more like a fact? Opinions can even change (on the rare occasion anyone bothers to inform theirs on something of a continuous basis), so can something so fluid really be considered wrong? Why are we all so eager to prove ourselves and those who agree with us to be correct in something we only feel rather than know?

If I say I feel light-headed one day, can someone else tell me that’s not how I feel? I would think that we should at least be able to agree to disagree, and yet, in most cases, the vast majority of what I see in the world – the public world – is that people can’t even do that.

I think this.”

You’re wrong, because I think this!”

We can both be right, from a certain point of view, and we can both be wrong. So sayeth Obi-Wan, kinda.

But I’m not sure opinion can be measured in a pissing contest, which is basically all we’re doing now. We’re all just peeing and then arguing about who’s pee is correct.

The funny thing is, none of our opinions even matter anymore, if they ever did. Instead of opening a discourse, all we are doing is peeing our pee, and letting others judge our pee – usually while they are also peeing and we are judging theirs – and no one is listening. I’m not listening to you, you’re not listening to me, no one else is listening to either of us.

Unless we already agree. Then we both pee and pat one another on the back for a job well done.

I was actually just thinking about this the other day. I was wondering if I should try to pass on to whoever will listen some of the things that I have learned in life thus far? Or should I focus on continued learning? Because I am fairly certain that I can not do both, at least not with any degree of success. I feel like I can focus on finding the right words to convey bits of knowledge-like gems gleaned over the past almost 44 years, or I can focus on paying attention to the world around me, and struggling to understand it better; to perhaps even understand another being’s experience with this planet, if only a tiny morsel of it.

In the latter pursuit, someone’s well-expressed opinion can help in learning a great deal, though probably the best teacher is experience – paired with mistakes – and finished off with a healthy dose of connections made in between. But it is imperative to good learning for a person to remain focused; to pay attention. To watch in silence more than speaking.

In the former quest, it’s vital to express thoughts and opinions well, and to re-frame words in different ways, in order to not only get them across, but to also confirm that you are doing so. Questions need to be asked to make sure the listener is on the same page before moving on, lest you leave them behind and with nothing to take away from the conversation at all.

Don’t be so busy talking that you forget to check in. If no one is listening at all, then you’ve failed on both counts – learning and sharing.

Neither are easy, but both are – or should be – necessary to some degree. I just feel like I personally need to focus more on one or the other for a little while. I keep thinking about trying to teach and share, but in the end, it’s my own somewhat selfish thirst for understanding that pushes me to keep watching.

And judging the rest of you. I mean, let’s be real – nobody’s perfect. At least I can admit it, though. Sometimes to my detriment, but still. I understand that I have much more to learn than I have already learned, and that even my perceived knowledge or understanding is deeply flawed, so that there is always room to grow. I am also really not good at confrontation. I find I can’t express myself very well when I am upset or passionate about whatever subject is being “discussed”. You know what, though? I don’t think the rest of you are, either. I don’t think anyone is. I’m not sure it’s even possible to have a personal, emotional stake in something and yet remain removed enough for logic and reason to overcome emotion. It’s just that most of you don’t care to give voice to your opinions so that others may come to understand them. You just think that peeing louder makes your pee more right.

And the thing is, for the most part, you don’t really know. You feel like you do, but you don’t. None of us do. But we say it, anyway, because it’s our opinion and we are entitled to it.

Maybe that’s why I prefer to just stay home with the dog and cats who live with me. I don’t have to remind myself to not read their comments.

The word ‘opinion’ looks like ‘onion’ when you type it enough.

Thinking

On the way to work this morning, it occurred to me that someone should open a dance studio of sorts for – or offer instruction for – same sex couples. Traditional dances could be altered slightly so that neither partner has to “be the guy” or “be the girl”. It could be balanced out a bit; equalized. The classes wouldn’t even have to just be for gay couples. There’s lots of occasion where friends dance together and it would be fun to have an alternative that wouldn’t necessarily be misconstrued as mocking, or garner otherwise negative attention.

Another thought I had on the way in was that I should figure out how to turn something I love doing but am not great at doing, into something more lucrative; perhaps some kind of service to those who are good at doing it. Or some way of bringing together people who are good at it, and giving them a space to network and share ideas and the like. I’m not exactly sure what I could or would do – nor of how to make it somewhat lucrative – but the seeds of an idea are there. And there is possibly something to it, so we’ll see. In some ways, I am getting better at following through on ideas. Just not at budgeting my time in order to make it realistically feasible most of the time!

Speaking of budgeting time, I’ve re-applied to volunteer at Toronto Wildlife Centre again. I’d sent in an application a few months ago because I wanted to work in the Nursery feeding baby squirrels and the like. However, since I can only do weekend shifts (everything else conflicts with my real job hours), and those fill up the fastest, I was not accepted as a volunteer this spring. I was managing to be okay with that – I’m tired a lot of the time, and I’ve never made the trek all the way out there even once, let alone weekly. But then I saw on Facebook that they are still looking for some people to take evening shifts in the Wildlife Care department, and while I can still only do weekends, maybe no one else is up for Saturday nights all summer, or something. It’s also a longer time commitment than I am necessarily comfortable with, but I’ll cross that bridge if I come to it. I’ve sent in an application, so we’ll see. If they turn it down again then any other concerns I may have are moot anyway.

I’ve been kind of a rock star at work lately – again. Not in my regular duties (heh…dooties), though that’s fine, too. But it’s the extra stuff I’ve been doing – fixing problems, investigating things that don’t quite add up and sorting out what went wrong – I’m really, really good at that. It’s the kind of thing that can’t be taught, really. Or it can, but only over time. I’ve spent nearly 16 years learning the way things work here, and while I can’t use any of those talents in the real world, all that time spent has given me a wealth of knowledge to draw from, and a certain understanding of the little ins and outs involved in several different positions apart from my own. That’s something that someone who has been here longer but always performing the same tasks wouldn’t have. I am a great investigator. A great “deducer”. A great problem-fixer. It means I get more frustrated more often, but it also affords me the opportunity to not only challenge myself, but to also achieve some sense of satisfaction and accomplishment when I figure something out.

I just completed a task I started yesterday afternoon – it took nearly a full day, but I did it. It’s done. And while I am certain there are many more questions coming my way about it in the future, I am ready. I know what was done, what was wrong, how it needed to be corrected, and how it was fixed. Because I did that part myself, and found the answers to my own questions going into it all by myself, too. I have everything – all my notes and paperwork – bound together and filed in my “Problems” folder for easy access. I am confident that I will be able to answer any and all of the questions that come my way.

I’m not confident that I didn’t make a little mistake which will likely add to other people’s confusion, but I am certain that I will be able to explain it to them when the time comes.

‘Cause BAM! #rockstar

I kind of wish I could do stuff like that full time, and have someone else hired and train to administrate orders. I feel like it would make things way more organized around here, and thus make all of our jobs easier. But at the same time, it would likely just be a source of never-ending frustration for me. So I guess I’ll just keep taking those moments of pride in my work on the occasions in which they appear, and try to be satisfied with that.

In other news, if Canadian politicians can’t abide by the time-honoured rules of Red Rover, they should not be allowed to play it in class. Like, what the hell, people? Don’t you have jobs to do? Oh yeah – I believe you were supposed to be voting on the Compassion Bill to give people the right to die with dignity. Too bad some of the people most affected by that bill don’t have the luxury of time to fool around so much.

I’m sure in their final agony-filled days, though, they’ll find the childish antics of their elected officials pretty hilarious.

On Quitting Smoking

On this day, April 13th, in 2003 I quit smoking. That makes today my 13th anniversary. Not really sure how I feel about that, actually.

See, I looooved smoking. Loved it. It was the biggest crutch I’ve ever had. I wouldn’t walk down the street without a cigarette in my hand. I’d have one before bed, when I woke up in the morning, sometimes even if I woke in the middle of the night. I’d have a cigarette before and after every meal, and every time I went out for drinks. I’d smoke when I was angry, or sad, or stressed, or anxious – I mean, mostly anxious. I am anxious pretty much all the time. Smoking calmed me or, at least, I believed it did, which is really all that matters.

At the time, we could still smoke inside some establishments, or on patios of others. And packs of course cost way less, just like everything else did in 2003. It was far less difficult to find a spot than it is now. I went on multiple breaks from work during any given shift, and I drank way less because my hands were kept busy. I always had a lighter on me, but still preferred the smell of matches. It was kind of a social thing sometimes, too. We’d go out together and have conversations that didn’t include the people inside, and the cigarette would act as a timer to let us know when it was time to go back in.

For me, though, it was mostly just a huge crutch. A thing I felt I needed – or at least really wanted – to help get me through the day.

Then one day, I found out I’d been accepted to teacher’s college, and I’d promised myself that I would quit before school started, because I didn’t want to be a hypocrite teacher – one who tells the kids not to smoke, but then hangs out in the parking lot every recess and lunch break, puffing away and setting a bad example. I figured I could be the poster child for Don’t Ever Start, but I didn’t want to be a hypocrite if I could help it.

So I planned a big party to celebrate my acceptance, and smoked as much as I wanted that night – then stopped as of the next morning. It sucked, too, because my last cigarettes weren’t even mine. I ran out too close to the end to make it worth buying another pack, so I bummed a few off someone at the party, and THEIRS were the last ones I ever had.

To make matters worse, I’d done all kinds of research into quitting, and thought I’d set myself up for success, but it turned out that the information I had was only part of the issue. I don’t think even now addiction is truly understood, let alone withdrawl. Nothing I saw online prepared me for the acute depression, for example. Not one mention of it. I had the patch ready in case I needed it, but that only helps with cravings, not all of the other crazy things that happen to your system when you’re going through severe withdrawl.

The other thing that sucked was that, for months prior, I’d cut down to the lightest cigarettes I could find, so that it’d maybe be a bit easier to stop smoking completely if I happened to get into school. But the first step of the patch contained way more nicotine than I’d been ingesting, so it actually ramped me right back up to higher doses than I’d been used to. I could feel it in my veins, I thought. And it gave me crazy vivid dreams.

A few weeks later, my partner decided to cheat on me fairly publicly, and then break up with me not long before school started, so there went my financial and emotional support system out the window. Luckily I’d loaded up on student debt that I’d hoped to not need. Poor timing much?

The bets were on as to whether or not I’d cave and take up the habit again, but to my mind that would be failure, and I suspected my ex would love to see me fail, so I kept not giving into temptation, which I’m sure also saved many lives.

Also, I’m stubborn as hell sometimes.

Now, keep in mind that I really loved this habit I’d quit, and my reason for quitting was simply not to be a hypocrite. It wasn’t for my health, it wasn’t because it was too expensive, it wasn’t for my own good nor the good of anyone else. It was ONLY so I could face the children each day in class. As well, I got very depressed very quickly, and not being able to smoke felt not only like a punishment, but a punishment I deserved. In that sense, it was easy not to break down and buy more, because not having them made me feel bad, and in my mind, I deserved to feel bad.

So, there I was – alone, unbearably sad, my self-esteem the lowest it had ever been at that point. Trying to teach children. I started drinking more and eating more, so I packed on an unimaginable amount of weight in a very short period of time, and have the stretch marks to prove it. Hell, I have pictures to prove it. I almost flunked out of school a few times, but knowing that failure would also make my ex happy, I hung in there, too. I took on another shift at work, and all but maxed out all the lovely credit I’d been handed as a student. Hating myself pretty much every minute of every day.

But hey – at least I wasn’t a hypocrite.

I haven’t had a cigarette since that day, except for one accidental inhale when I’d only meant to pull it into my mouth to help out a friend. I was drinking at the time, and even though it was years later, habit still kicked in. My body still knew the motions automatically, and I knew that if I ever did have one myself, I’d be back to a pack a day in no time. And who can afford that, really?

Do I feel better as a result of quitting? Not really, no. Am I proud of myself? Meh, kind of, I guess, but more in that it was one more way I made my ex wrong about me. And I’m told nicotine withdrawl is actually harder to go through than heroin, so there’s that. Don’t worry, though – I can’t afford a heroin addiction, either. It does seem that I am always a little addicted to something, though. I tend to just temporarily quit something long enough to get it out of my system, and then pick it back up later, just to make sure I still can. I don’t really want to quit anything else I love forever, though. The very idea makes me sad. I can cut way down, and even quit temporarily – but for good? No thank you. That feels like punishment, too, and I don’t wish to punish myself that way anymore right now.

I likened the whole experience to getting out of a bad relationship. You know they aren’t good for you, and that your physical and emotional health is suffering as a result of such toxicity. But against all rational argument, you still love them, and even though you’re technically glad you got away, you really do miss them quite a lot.

Then, every time you go anywhere, you get see them with somebody else.

Search For Equality

Had a chat recently with  a friend about the experience of being a woman in a man’s world.  About being anything other than a straight white guy, really.  Although there are a billion differences between people, there does seem to be at least one similarity that both unites and divides us – the inability to express this experience in a way that will be understood:  without emotion.

I’ve tried writing about this before, and likely will again.  I feel like it’s something that most people either try to discuss, or pay lip service to, but it’s been so entrenched in our global culture that I’m not even sure how aware any of us are of our own responsibility in perpetuating it.

The thing is, I’m not sure there’s really a way to change it.  Not really.  Even if it were possible to do, it would take unfathomable effort on everyone’s part, and continuous effort at that.  And who wants to do that?  We’re comfortable.  We’re mostly comfortable.  It’s much easier to accept the status quo than it is to demand change – especially with no plan or idea of what it would look like – and then have to live up to that change.  Take responsibility for it.  Own it, the change we brought about in the world.  Do we want equality – true equality – enough to battle that hard for it?  For the rest of our lives, and expect the generations that follow to fight for it, as well?

What if we take a step forward, and fail?  Would that prove that whoever put straight white guys in charge of running the world right in having done so?  Isn’t it easier to just let them make all the mistakes, instead?  Besides the fact that we can’t even talk about any of it without getting upset and sounding like fanatics.  I can almost feel the eyes rolling as I write this.

Here’s the thing:  I’m not a feminist.  At all.  Nor am I a…humanist, or whatever it’s called when someone feels all people should be treated equally.  I don’t even really like people. If we lump all other species into it…all life…then that is closer to what I am.  Whatever -ist or -ism that ends up being.  Maybe there isn’t a word for what I am.  Maybe there isn’t language for what I want to express.  Maybe there is just the sense – the unshakeable certainty – that something is very wrong.  That our balance is way, way off.

From the treatment of and language surrounding women in politics, to the awards show fiascos of late, to…why is breast-feeding a thing?  Haven’t people been breast-feeding since, like, there were people in existence?  How is it even remotely an issue?  There are far more behaviours that people should be ashamed to perform in public beyond feeding a kid.  Like urinating and spitting.  If guys in particular could control their need to spew their bodily fluids all over the place, we’d all be much healthier.  But that’s another conversation.

When I was practice teaching, I did a unit on discrimination and the like, and there was one class – a group of amazing Grade 7’s I adored – that I had the most powerful experience with.  Or ‘with whom I shared the most powerful experience’.  Whatever.

Anyway, I started a class discussion about the topic, without telling them that I would actually be discriminating against some of them based on some completely superficial element of their physical appearance.  I think in that particular case I chose children with blond/light-coloured hair.  Most of the class and I had a lively conversation, while I ignored the kids I was “biased” against.  I watched their eager little faces change to various expressions of frustration, sadness, confusion, hurt and anger.

It sucked.  But it made a pretty powerful example for our topic.  I let them (and myself) off the hook after a few minutes, because scarring the poor kiddos was not my intent.  Together, we sorted out where I’d chosen to place my bias, and even then, some kids railed against it.  “My hair is BROWN, it just looks blonder in this light!”

Sadly, however, it’s my perception that matters.  It doesn’t have to make sense, and it’s not something I need to explain.  If some quality about you fits my undefined biases, then I shall discriminate against you.  I don’t even need to know why.

That’s how discrimination works.

Now, it wasn’t a perfect example, to be sure.  I was acting differently with them than I ever had before – interacting differently with them.  Some who had been used to receiving my attention suddenly found they weren’t, whereas if I was truly discriminating, I would have been ignoring them the whole time.

As well, I hated doing it.  Of course I have ridiculous biases of my own – some I am aware of and some I’m sure I haven’t even noticed yet.  But since this was a careful decision I made on my own – a choice – knowing I was potentially hurting feelings and causing all of those other emotions – WATCHING the effect my behaviour was having on people I actually liked – was truly one of those “this hurts me more than it hurts you” things.  At least, I hope it was.  I guess I’ll never really know for sure, but things did seem better once all the cards were on the table.  The playing field had been levelled, at least as much as it ever was, and we moved forward together with new insight.

There’s an impossible amount of history to sift through, and no simple bandaid solution will suffice.  Yet, maybe there isn’t a way to fix it at all.  We can say children are the future, and that things will improve bit by bit with each generation, but I think that’s problematic and lacks a certain…taking of responsibility.  We all carry with us the effects of our upbringing, of our understanding of the world based on the experiences gained throughout our lives.  Each generation is, in many ways, a product of the generations that came before.  None of us exists in a vacuum.  In that sense, children are also the past.

And we can’t change the past.  We have very limited effect on the future.  So all we really have to impact is the present.

I have no real idea how to do that.

But I’m trying.  I’m trying to find words to express myself, my truth, my outrage, my hurt, my joy, my love – my heart, my mind, my soul.  There will be many times when it’s so clouded with emotion and a myriad of conflicting thoughts that it won’t make a lick of sense, even to me.  This post itself is all over the place.  It’s not the first such post, and it won’t be the last.

And that’s okay.  That’s what struggle looks like.  And so long as I continue to fight to find my voice, there is hope of finally gaining that sense of equality I’ve been looking for.

Because in the end, the beginning has to come from me.