Love of the Fight

IMG_20191231_175550

I love to fight with Phoenix.

I love how it starts low and gentle, like a deep bass drum advancing across a tract of space. How the hum winds around and up and over and into me. How it builds. Our words missing each other until misunderstanding takes root. I love how free and open such a simple emotion as anger can come pouring out of me.

In the past, I’ve struggled with expressing my anger. The first time I encountered Dr. Christiane Northrup’s Women’s Bodies Women’s Wisdom, I had to intermittently stop reading while tears sped down my cheeks and my body racked with sobs. It wasn’t a sadness that made me cry. I couldn’t even put my finger on it. It was the simplicity of being understood.

In the section on polycystic ovaries, she spoke about unexpressed anger. I accessed the truth of her words as if looking into my cells with a microscope. Years of accumulated anger compressed into tiny balls in my consciousness just like the tiny cysts dotting my ovaries. I didn’t let it out because I didn’t feel safe enough to express anger.  

Now I love it. I love watching it rise and directing it out into my life in productive ways. I love the wide and strong base inside myself that can handle if it sometimes gets the better of me. I love the life I’ve built upon that base that can withstand its humble wrath.

I move the extension cord out of the way and step forward, bracing up against the new counter. The measured birch rests on its support beams. I hold it in place as I anticipate which section Phoenix will next fasten on. Something isn’t working. He hesitates, grabs another section of the soon-to-be counter. “Move this part here,” he says.

More words upon words. And then the meanings of the words start to annoy me. Slowly they crash upon themselves into a tsunami of I can’t believe he thinks that I can understand the difference between when he says “this is the problem, not this,” punctuating each “this” with the exact same gesture and intonation, pointing toward the board trim.

It is unfathomable that he thinks I would understand what he means. And even more unfathomable that he not understand what I’m trying to explain, that this is where the board should go in order to line up at a 90 degree angle, perpendicular to the counter top with the half round edging. 

Home renovations become exhilarating. My patience withers to the delicate point of a pinprick and I get So. Very. Angry.

It’s an anger that flows through me. That raises my voice and probably throws in a few ‘fucking’s. That escalates into a concentration of fury that crosses an invisible line in my mind. A point of no return. I am furious.

And then, suddenly, it’s gone. Like a wave crashing on a lava rock. It recedes and is an entirely deflatable anger. This fight becomes so mundane. So ordinary in its construction. It’s the most mainstream suburban thing we do — fight with one another like this. During home renovations no less.

 We breathe. We look at each other. All anger fades. I ask him what he means, he tells me, and I explain what I am saying. Turns out we’re talking about a different section of the board. We’re both right.

We continue to affix the counter to the wall. It looks so beautiful. Phoenix has dreamed up an elegant and simple kitchen for our tiny jungle shack.

 I once fought with Mark over home renovations. True to our style, the fight had zero raised voices and angry words. It was a conflict full of silence and deflection, standing in the curtain rod aisle of Canadian Tire. There was very little anger on my part and much more genuine confusion and incomprehension, our disagreement turning into a silence-match. We returned home from the store empty-handed. It wasn’t long before I left him.

Each instance of anger is now a passing wave in a life encapsulated by so much more. Not sequestered into a cage, never to be expressed, it walks alongside me, secure. It has a place and a purpose, teaching me what boundaries and value are, what safety is. Teaching me all the ways in which I am no longer afraid.

Letters to Devin

IMG_20191208_081735.jpgSubject: I’m in the calm before the storm

For weeks now, any thought I had about this day and crossing US immigration immediately dumped a shot of adrenaline into my veins. Do you ever get that thing when you’re really hungry and you’re about to eat something and then as you put it into your mouth a huge deluge of saliva come out of your salivary glands? It’s almost painful. I had this happen to me the other day. I have been staying at Eva’s in Vancouver, being generally relaxed and hyping up for today’s adventure. We had a late dinner one night and gooosh, my mouth filled with saliva at the first bite. It’s like my entire mouth aches when it happens. She said she’d never experienced that before. I thought it was a normal thing. That’s how my adrenals feel — like they’re pumping out juice and the stress of it is putting undo pressure on the gateways. Adrenal secretion fatigue. It’s time for a new paragraph.

I’m at a cafe near Gordon’s work downtown. We had brunch and then I stored my rolling bag at his office while I wander the city, waiting for my flight. There are women speaking stilted, accented English, talking about the exam they just took. There are giant plastic Christmas trees with LED lights smattered around the streets. There are people walking briskly.

I went to a contemporary art gallery, but it was a little too close to my reality: one of the exhibits was commenting on migration. There were foam figures leaning on chain link fences, slumped over the edges, straddling two worlds. The other exhibit was an exploration of a changing climate with rudimentary nature scenes burned into thin wooden panelling that hung from the ceiling to the floor. It was beautiful. Accents of the scenes were sparsely beaded adding hollow hints of colour — those squirrels and birds that won’t be around for long. The last panel had a red-winged blackbird on it. My favourite.

I think it would be hard to be a barista. It’s one of those things in society that we all take for granted but yet the entire structure of our organization is based on it. Like free wifi. What would these bankers do if they had to make their own coffee at home? The entire system would collapse.

After the art gallery I sat on the steps for a moment staring at the looming abyss before me. Really though the abyss is always there, we just get to ignore it, lulled unto the false sense of security our routines and patterns offer us.

We went for brunch at the Fairmont. It was fancy and delicious. They put us in a table near the back, tucked into a booth that can close off to the rest of the floor with a thick curtain. Only later did I realize I have been wearing the same mountain town clothing for four days and that breakfast at a fancy hotel in downtown Vancouver usually means people are dressed accordingly. My hair is frizzy with humidity and I’m wearing runners. Thin sheaths of shame part as I walk through Nordstroms, trying to keep my head down and make it look like I belong. I talk too much during brunch. I am holding onto the vestiges of a shared history with Gordon, but can’t get to the level of familiarity that living in a spiritual community with him brought when we used to know each other. I am doing the wrong thing, suggesting the wrong activities. The thin sheaths cloud my vision. I brush them aside and watch women with straight blonde hair and high-waisted pants stride confidently out the correct doorway. When did I start slouching so much?

I have been avoiding caffeine but ordered a soy London Fog in a fit of fuck-it-all-ness. It was not a wise decision.

Alex and I went for Ethiopian last night. There are two Ethiopian restaurants near Eva’s, but one is between her and Alex’s place. I’d never been to this one. It was large and boldly decorated: dark paint, large canvases full of colour, even Christmas decorations. We sat down at a table for two. The booths were full and the other section of the restaurant was half hidden behind a partial wall. It seemed busy. The table next to me had a man and a woman. It was one of those tables that are five inches away from the ones next to, like we’re actually sitting at the same table. The woman’s name was Jessica and she and her boyfriend were leaving the next day for a trip to Indonesia. She’d packed up her belongings, sold her furniture and was going on an adventure. I didn’t find this out last night, though. I found this out on Sunday because we were in the same ride-share from Nelson. In the car, when she’d told me she was flying out on Wednesday, I said that I was, too, and jokingly said that I’d see her at the airport. A part of me knew the world is crazy enough that we really would see each other at the airport. Turns out we didn’t. We saw each other last night instead.

Maybe I’ll just write emails to you and then post them to my blog.
Love,
Guenevere

IMG_20191214_161342.jpg

Subject: Another instalment

Devin,

I am volatile and emotive on the Big Island, utterly caught off guard by my groundlessness during this transition. I paint my toenails my first day in Maui but go somewhere before they dry and they smear in my closed-toed shoes. I tell myself I’ll fix them later. I don’t.

When spring came in Montreal, the melting snow revealed dozens of mangled abandoned bikes along my walking commute. All winter tiny motorized plows rode the sidewalks, the driver’s of which couldn’t really see in front of them. When I saw them coming I learned to quickly get out of the way. One year four pedestrians were killed by plows; three in one day. They were mostly elderly.

The plow drivers didn’t watch for things like abandoned bikes shackled to rails and poles. What was only a mess of parts and pieces sticking out of the snow in deep winter become bicycles in gradations from full to partial as the sun heats up. I want to take photos of them all and create a series. I assume most of them were stolen. Many are missing wheels or their seat. They are covered with the dirt the plows threw off to provide traction in the receding snow.

Here there are lines of cars on the side of the road by the post office on an empty section of space. They are missing doors or tires. They are covered in vines. The jungle is growing over and around them, taking what is left. Some of them have items inside the cabs or truck boxes. A large orange gatorade water thermos. A blanket.

Today Phoenix and I get takeout and bring it to a beach in town to watch the sunset. It’s the beach we went to one of the first days we met when we were furtively flirtatious and playful. Today we are testy and hesitant. His anxiety mixes uneasily with my volatility. We haven’t yet found our thread of togetherness, the one that we lose with our frequent months of separation. The breeze lifts off the sea, the heavy air brings memories.

I am a Venn diagram of memories. My consciousness is the central, unchanging factor as past experiences surround me in cascading spirals. Walking in Vancouver, I see a pawn shop and suddenly I’m in Napier, New Zealand at a curio shop with Kate looking at endless British antiques. The trucks pulls to a stop at the grocery store and I’m watching Cy eat frozen yoghurt from the newly opened store on Bay View Street in Camden, Maine. I watch the sunset at the Old Airport Park in Kona and suddenly I’m in Tel Aviv. Someone is leaning against the broad pillar of the pier, meditating in the sand. A restaurant nearby sells amazing falafel, says a man with brown dreads. He’s reading “The Tenth Insight” by James Redfield in Hebrew — a book I just finished — but in English so I recognize the cover. I watch two ends of a cresting wave meet. Phoenix rests his head in my lap. There are rocks in a glass-flat pool that the raucous waves don’t reach.

It’s early, but I’m so tired. I’ve been getting up at 6, which still feels like 8 so is actually luxurious. I play Spelling Bee throughout the day, long enough to get the highest score, and then I stop. I make plans to plant flowers along the pathway to our room. I take my supplements and try to make myself remember to check if I can buy the same brand here. I think about all the things of which I am afraid.

Love,
Guenevere

IMG_20191227_172216

Subject: All Together Now

I begin to get used to the roosters. Not at night — not at 3:00 am when they start calling to each other from across the neighbourhoods and for which there are earplugs — just randomly. When I’m on the phone with a colleague or my boss, but not a client and so I don’t need to go into the bus-turned-office, the roosters crow. They fade into the blur of life. Like my sticky skin and rain that follows sunshine that follows rain.

I empty the dishwasher every day. It’s a politically motivated action. It’s mundane and boring and in the middle of the kitchen so everyone can see that I do it, that I’m helpful and contributing.

With effort, this jungle shack eventually becomes more of a home. We paint the ceiling. There are still spots of white on my glasses, which I’ll scrape off eventually, and my shoes, which will always bear the remembrance of this time. White dotted on black. I take lamps from the basement storage. I pull out matching rugs for in front of the couch, the sink, each side of the bed. I wash the curtains and lose momentum to rehang them properly so they remain bunched on their nail hooks, waiting. Wrinkled.

Actions, thoughts, and speech stack around me. My own and those of others. I fall into an old habit of weighing each into piles, and often sift through the leave pile, wondering if there’s enough ballast for critical mass. I do so love to leave. And then as soon as I do this — this categorizing and shifting and rethinking of things that are said and done and expressed — I become free of all my ideas of what belongs in what pile and suddenly it’s just life again, piled up around me. Then I go for a walk or watch the sunset or feel the cool breeze on my sticky skin and I breathe as a butterfly flits past.

I trawl over lava rocks to watch tide pools near the waves. Water pours in, filling a pool through a narrow valley of rock, then collectively recedes and the flow switches to the opposite. At a class in the Beach Prayer Room with Swami Matananda she had us go off and shoot short videos to analyze in reflection. I took one of a piece of wood floating in the rhythm of Kootenay Lake’s waves. The wood was trapped by a couple of large rocks. When I looked at it, I saw something that was stuck. “What else do you see?” asked Matananda. I was adamant. The video showed me only constriction. Later, I realized the broader symbolism. The screen was filled with the fluidity of the waves, movement and flow. Why could I only see the stuckness? The earth turns the horizon closer to the sun. The waves rush into the tide pool with a ferocity that seems unending. And then the water leaves with equal persistence.

We sit on the couch and do word games together on my phone. Or Phoenix pulls out his guitar and plays folk hymns from long ago, perfect for harmonizing with. I want to spend every evening in creativity. I want to be showered in attention, as only a youngest child of many is. I want to be surrounded by kindness and compassion. I want my action, thought, and speech piles to be consistent and orderly. I want a cohesion that is inescapable, but really is only a fear of movement. Phoenix works through a new song repeatedly “One, two, three, four. Can I have a little more? Five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, I love you,” his voice catching over the words. “All together now.”

“All together now,” I sing out in reply.

Further Evidence That I Exist

20181212_120955.jpgAcknowledgements:

Acknowledgements are usually a paragraph that comes at the end of a novel rather than the beginning of an internet article. Nevertheless, there are things for which I must give thanks. Thank you to anxiety. Without you I would not know the bliss of your absence. Thank you to friends that teach me what unconditional love and acceptance are. Thank you to art, to a wall of originals behind me, to an altar in the corner, guitars strewn around the house, and a fresh cup of hand-delivered tea. Thank you.

Further Evidence That I Exist

  • Leaving the bathtub plug dismantled after investigating the source of the clog during a shower.
  • Using reflection cards that are not my own. Without permission.
  • Asking for an extra blanket even after I’ve ascertained there are no extra blankets in the hall closet, nor bedroom closet.
  • Not immediately returning a book I’ve pilfered off the shelf.
  • In fact, keeping said book on the couch armrest where it might get in the way of others’ living.
  • Repeating not one, but two things that had either been said to me, or had happened in the presence of others to the person they were either said about, or in whose presence the events occurred.
  • Drinking tea.
  • Not being excited to use something that I have no idea how to use.
  • Having the same conversation with everyone I talk to in a certain period of time because, clearly, this topic is on my mind a lot. Continuing to wonder how many of my decisions I make on my own, and how many I make at the mercy of big data.
  • Quickly clicking back to this word document when the bathroom door opens so others think I am being productive instead of getting distracted on the internet.
  • Remembering back to a time when ‘internet’ was capitalized. How young we all were. How full of fresh innocence.
  • Going around in circles at the grocery store. Dodging the same woman with her cart full of organized goods. There she is again referencing her shopping list. I wish I would have thought to bring a shopping list. What am I going to get? Oh golly, why has the procurement and preparation of food always been so difficult for me?
  • Refining what it means to be feminine.
  • Refining what it means to be in relationship.
  • Drinking more tea.
  • Waking up from a dream in which I was surrounded by a sea of people — some I knew, some I didn’t know — and being struck by hearing a friend’s voice calling to me, but not seeing him in the dream. Thinking about how fascinating sense perceptions are.
  • Creating a mess in the kitchen.
  • Cleaning up the kitchen.
  • The deliciousness of relief upon getting a subluxation in my spine removed.
  • Feeling like I’m home.
  • Wanting to stay here.
  • Knowing that I can.
  • And being content.

Malas, Earphones, and the Throat Chakra

20160208_203428.jpg

I keep my mala in a pocket in my purse. Constant and sure, I always know where it is.

I could take it out every day and sleep with it under my pillow like I have in the past. I could take out the little Siva that keeps it company in that pocket; I could place them both somewhere over my bed where I’d see them right when I wake up, somewhere I would always notice. I could wear my mala around my neck. I could — and wouldn’t this be novel — actually use it during my daily mantra practice instead of counting on my fingers. I don’t do any of those things right now. Instead, I keep it in a pocket in my purse.

I lost it once, that mala. Realizing I didn’t know its location was one of the most panic-stricken hours of my life. When I close my eyes and conjure the image, I can still see the dark purple of it contrasting the charcoal Berber carpet of the Wellington library.

It had slipped out of my pocket while I sat curled around my laptop that day. I didn’t notice until later in the evening. Panicking, I called the library after ransacking my bags, pockets, and living area. They didn’t have anything in the lost and found. I ran down there anyway, retraced my steps, and, sure enough, there it was coiled on the floor where I’d been sitting.

Clutching it, I made my way to the harbour and wept tears of relief as the sun set. A little dramatic for a series of beads strung on a metal wire? Perhaps. I know this thing isn’t what grounds my practice, or my life, but it sure is a palpable symbol.

Today I reached into that pocket to grab my earphones. Oh yeah, that’s where I keep my earphones, too. It’s just Siva, a winding circle of amethyst beads, and my earphones.

I’ve wondered at my decision to store such incongruous items together. It makes logistical sense. The pocket has a zipper so I can keep it secure, and it’s on the inside of the bag. I trust that what I keep there will stay put. The earphones won’t get tangled, neatly wound around themselves with no risk of chaotically unravelling.

Today I realized how apt my placement really is. Hearing is the sense that both rules and is ruled by the fifth chakra. The throat: surrender, discrimination, ether. Can I surrender what’s going on in my brain and truly listen to the world around me? Can I discriminate which messages I want to hear and which to disregard? Can I tune in to another layer of reality?

Mantra runs through my brain. I’d rather listen to it than some of the thoughts in my head: the ones that judgementally tell me I’m too childish and irresponsible compared to my brothers, the anxious ones that say I should sit somewhere else at this dinner function, the insecure ones that worry about my ability to be financially solvent.

Keeping my earphones next to some of my sacred objects makes perfect sense. It’s a gentle reminder of what I want to listen to, what I want to remember, what subtle influence I want to expose myself to.

I’ll use this as a reminder about who I really am every time I pull out the earphones.

I am created by Divine Light.
I am sustained by Divine Light.
I am protected by Divine Light.
I am surrounded by Divine Light.
I am ever growing into Divine Light.

I Need You

20181030_212339.jpg

I’m cat sitting in Victoria. It’s for less than a week. Just me, a 19-year-old cat, a few plants, three water dishes strewn around the house, and the neighbour kid telling me there was an injured racoon in the backyard. Victoria animal control doesn’t respond to racoon calls. I checked.

The heater turns on. Provides white noise to my reading. So do the Ellen DeGeneres videos I impulsively watch on YouTube, one after the other. But by then I put down my reading.

Had dinner with a friend last night. We worked together while I was here in the summer and had seen each other once in Vancouver while she was passing through. We share belly laughs. We share our news. Me, the PTSD I feel when I’m in a waiting room, the endless moving, the freedom this house sitting website gives me. Her, the new (again?) trend of young men refusing to wear condoms, the endless moving, the freedom having fixed her car gives her.

I need her.

I need a reason to get out of the house. I need someone to sit across from and eat Lebanese. I need to hear new perspectives on topics I wouldn’t have otherwise thought to think about, and someone to listen as I word my way through new thoughts of my own. I cannot stay locked in my house of solitude. I need an other that is not me.

I open The New York Times on a different browser than usual, one that doesn’t have my adblocker enabled. I scroll the stories and the unfamiliar ads, interrupting the flow of type. There’s one along the side. It’s a woman with half her face cut off at the top. Her shoulders are slightly up in a shrug as she casually jams her hands in her pockets. Fingers manicured, wrists accessorized with bracelets. Her hair is perfectly coifed.

The image she presents is perfectly extractable. Woman in her 40s. Thin, blonde, happy, clearly has time to present herself to the world in a way that looks put-together and distinct. (It’s the same, though. The same as every other woman. They’re so interchangeable they don’t even have faces.) The ad hints that I could have those things, too. It’s selling me that image, but I don’t need an image. I need her.

I need her to be a living, breathing being. I need her to embody her values and goals. This ad has stripped her of an identity and replaced it with the clothes and jewelry she wears. The way she stands so relaxed. I don’t need an object draped in cloth and colour. I need a human woman living in this world. I need her.

I heard a story about a dot. Consciousness was all there was. No time, no space, no cause and effect. Just unimaginable consciousness. Because how can consciousness imagine itself? When there is nothing other than something, there cannot be the knowledge of anything else. After so long of consciousness being all there was, a dot appeared. Suddenly consciousness could know itself. With something external to relate to, awareness could tell it was to the left of the dot, beside the dot, not the dot.

Difference is what lets me know myself. I continually muster up the critical mass to go against my natural instinct for solitude. I continually remind myself to get up, go out into the public sphere, have a conversation with something other than the thoughts inside my head.

I need you so that I know who I am.

transit

20140624_170455(0)

Shoes on, jacket zipped, step-step-step down the stairs and turn right. Suddenly, I realize I’m in the street. Sunlight reflecting off chlorophyll-depleted leaves. They diffuse the light somehow, those leaves. They are translucent and the light reaches me; nourishes. Gaze back down to my feet. Step-step-step. Through construction, cursing the cold, across the street just in time. Doors open right in front of me. I step-step. Tap. I’m in. It’s warm. There’s a place to sit. I jostle and heave near other bodies as we move forward. Together.

Slowing down again. Don’t get up yet. Abrupt stop. Okay, now. Doors woosh open and we move forward, a bunch of us this time. All moving to the same place like we’re travelling together. Like we know what we had for breakfast this morning. Like we know the unconscious thoughts that randomly pop into each other’s minds: the floor plan of a house I used to live in, the words of a classmate in grade one, how much I like the taste of cardamom. But this landscape cannot be shared. This fabric of thought is immutably solitary, set apart. We’re separating now. I walk fast, I move ahead of the pack with their thoughts, an entire continent between us, an entire world, an entire life.

 Tap. The turnstile unlocks, briefly. I push through, up the escalator. Others standing like statues on the right, gliding upward. I follow those in movement on the left. Push past bags and elbows. Move this body through space and time. Open doors. Hurried steps. That adrenaline rush of making it just before the doors close behind me. Moving, sitting, waiting. Walking in lines, finding my way, settling back into ground level, getting my bearings. This way is North. This way is to the next bus stop. This way. I keep moving.

Eva lent me her Compass card. She drives to UBC, so I’ve got use of this card that gets me on public transit here in Vancouver. I’ve taken buses, the skytrain, and even the sea-bus. All with a tap of a card. One day I mistook the name of the station I was supposed to get off at for the station name at the end of the line. I accidentally rode the entire length. Good thing I wasn’t in a hurry.

I have access to a giant swath of land I otherwise could not reach simply through this plastic card. I can’t walk that far in a day. I can’t swim across the Vancouver Harbour. All this movement turns this space around me into something that is knowable. A path I can experience, a tea cup I can drink, a tarot reading I can do with a friend. The experience is inextricably linked with the place. Being on the move exposes me to things I otherwise wouldn’t be.

Some days I stay home — at Eva’s, this grace of a landing place I’ve been given. Don’t always go out, yet can go endless places in the possibilities of my mind and my future. Mulling, scheming, manifesting, and planning. It’s exhausting, following the track of all these options and being pulled in the directions they lead. I keep moving. I keep moving.

Out the doors now. High in the sky. Take the empty, frozen escalator down. The groves of each motionless step interweave. My vision blurs them together. Move, don’t think. Step-step-step. My rhythm, my focus, my flow. Rain tonight. Zip up the jacket, pull over the hood. My body pulls me under the shelter of canopies, my legs keep moving. Keep moving. Car lights illumine momentary lines of water. Pools on pavement. Six more blocks. Five more blocks. I look back at the bus coming from behind. I stop beneath an overhang. Then through the open doors. Tap. I don’t sit. In the warmth of this space, I know I am getting off soon. Hang on. Adjust weight. Doors open. I step out onto wet leaves. I walk under trees. Keep moving. I keep moving.

This is what it’s like

2018-10-14 09.22.26when you get denied entry at the border and they take you into one of those little rooms, the ones you’ve heard so much about where terrible things happen to people like how small children are separated from their parents and there’s a cot in one and it makes you feel even more sad and you are left waiting and you have no idea what’s happening and you know when your next flight was supposed to board but you don’t have a clock so you don’t know what’s happening and why isn’t anyone telling you what’s happening and you make your statements under oath, but you wonder what does ‘being under oath’ even mean in this country anymore and there are moments when your mind and imagination get carried away but then you bring it back on track, back to the mantra, which, let’s be honest, has been running through your head all day anyway and especially when you got ‘pulled aside’ and you’re so grateful that you’ve put in years, I’m talking years, of daily practice and effort into training your mind and imagination so that you can watch your thoughts and see where each will take you and decide which you want to follow and what you’d like to create in the endless landscape of your inner being instead of letting them run the show and you wonder why the officer needed to press her nails into your cuticles so hard that it nearly broke the skin when she took your fingerprints, and oh god now they have your fingerprints, and there’s a moment when you’re resting your head on the table – the table that’s in the room that you’re still in, waiting, even though she said you could go to the waiting room because there’s a TV in there but why would you want to be in a room with a TV when you can be in a space with your own self and your stress response is to want to fall asleep and there’s this moment where you suddenly feel entirely and completely alone and it’s such a full and complete notion and you know that this is a little snippet of what people feel who are experiencing true suffering and you feel like you are forsaken and there’s, at first, a rush of panic, because it’s enormous to be so utterly alone like that and you understand that this makes people who don’t know themselves extremely uncomfortable and then suddenly there’s peace. There’s stillness. And you’re in The Big Room, which is that room that you go to when you meditate sometimes. But it’s not really a place you can go, it’s like a placeless experience that happens to you. And then you have this notion you’ve never had that’s not really like inviting God in, but more like God is inviting you in. And you sit there with God in The Big Room in this little room amidst this stress and endless waiting and your heart is just buzzing and the officer comes back to tell you, after she’s finally told you that you can’t come into the country, that your flight back leaves in one hour or two hours and then you overhear that it’s actually in four hours and so you somehow relax a bit because now at least you know what’s happening next and then you ask to make sure the people expecting you know you’re not coming and you’re allowed to use the phone on speaker phone at the front desk and you hear his voice and immediately burst into tears, tears that have been hiding at the edges of your eyes but not yet falling out, and you talk and then you know you need to rest and so you go to the padded bench in the bathroom and your mind whirls and whirls and whirls and then you want to ask more questions and get more information and so you talk to other officers and they’re like actual humans and they listen and they understand and they tell you no, you don’t need to go to an embassy and they give you advice on what to do next, because you know and they know you’ve done nothing wrong and then you feel so much better having had a conversation with someone who understands and your back is so tense it’s causing menstrual-like cramps and you think how that’s certainly an odd thing to happen in a time of duress, apparently that’s a thing now? and eventually the guards come to take you to your flight back and you have to force yourself to not burst out laughing at the hilarity of two armed guards escorting you to the gate and someone asks jocularly if they’re just here watching TV and you say “They’re with me” at the same time one says “We’re with her” and you say “Hashtag I’m with her” and you think that’s pretty clever but no one laughs and you get on your flight and you rest and, as you complete the descent, the flight attendant says that it’s 11:22 and thanks for flying Delta on behalf of their crew based in Phoenix. And then you land. And then you try again the next day. And you bring the documentation that shows you’re doing nothing wrong. And then you get denied again. And then you are bereft.

Learning to change. Changing to learn.

20180724_055757

“I’m sad you’re leaving.” It was Genny who said it. She’d just found out that I wouldn’t be working with her at the grocery store for much longer. “You’re so nice.” She added, in explanation.

I thanked her, in the way I’ve learned to accept compliments from people — because, let me tell you, it’s something one has to learn — and smiled. Leaving is something I know. Leaving is something I do often.

For all my good intentions of staying put in one place, I’ve decided to take the opportunity to go back to Hawaii. I’ve decided to leave where I am. Again.

England wasn’t working for me. I went into the situation thinking that I would get a job in my field — communications, writing, editing — and a flat and a cat and friends and a life. I knew it wouldn’t just fall into my lap (well, expect maybe the cat). I knew it would be hard, that I would have to work at it. But I didn’t expect to realize that I didn’t actually want it. I certainly didn’t want it in England.

England is cold and I’m the person who goes to the Southern Hemisphere at the first signs of autumn frost. England colonized much of the world and has a history of aggressive expansion embedded in its DNA. England “voted” to separate from the European Union and assert its independence. England has been undergoing a political policy of austerity for a number of years, resulting in disenfranchised populations and cut-back social programs.

England was not the place for me.

So I thought I’d move to Victoria. “This is really it,” I’d tell people. I’ve tried to move to Victoria a couple of times. “I’m going to move there and get a job in my field.” I was so resolute. So sure of myself. That alone should have tipped me off.

I’d started applying for jobs before I left England, even though I knew I’d be taking some time travelling with family and wouldn’t really be able to start anything until September. Things, as they tend to, changed. And I’ve always been a woman of change.

Change is hard. Sometimes. Humans astound me as being one of the most adaptable species on the planet, yet also so resistant to change. Our behaviours become engrained and markers to change them are forgotten. It’s a brain thing as much as it is a mind thing. As synapses become accustomed to firing, deep neural pathways are created in our brains.

I’ve read enough books about the brain through my lifelong experience of depression to know how negative thoughts can affect our brains. We get into patterns and it’s hard to get out of them. Like literally pulling ourselves out of deep ditches we’ve dug with simply our own thoughts.

That’s one reason why learning is so integral to brain health. It supports the creation of new neural pathways, thereby sending life energy to parts of the brain that may have been neglected.

But damn, learning is hard. First, I’ve got to admit that I don’t know something. Then I’ve got the step aside and allow for new information to make it through my sense perceptions. Then, even though it’s all new and possibly confusing, I’ve got to implement it again and again until I understand it and can utilize this new information when I’ve discriminated it’s appropriate.

So this is the first step: I don’t know how to come up with scintillating stories that editors want to publish (and that they want me to write). I just don’t know.

I got a second compliment at work today. A customer came through with a black shirt that read The summer of Isaac. “Is your name Isaac?” I asked.

“Oh, the shirt! No, Isaac was one of my employees and another employee made these shirts for his going-away party. No one’s ever asked me that in the ten years I’ve had this shirt. You must have a curious mind.”

I smiled and said how I do and I accepted the compliment in the way that I’ve learned to accept compliments.

Things is, I’m curious about everything. I research and over research and put things together and know way more about way too many things than makes any sense. But what can I say, I’m curious.

It’s a fabulous trait to have. The only problem is that it makes it somewhat challenging to know what others will be interested in. Just because I’m interested in everything doesn’t mean that people will want to take time out of their days to lap up all the information that I would.

And so I have a learning curve when it comes to knowing what stories to pitch. If I follow my own timeline for learning up there, I know that I have to let go of what I know so that new information can come forward. I have to step outside of my comfort zone and integrate the information that is all around me telling me what people are interested in reading about. And then I need to practice it. Just like I need to practice the actual writing.

My love of change intersects well with how learning is such a require trait in life. Change is a fabulous thing. It’s a value I’ve built my life around.

I’m leaving Victoria next week. I thought I needed a shift and I thought that it was supposed to look a certain way: namely, staying put in one single place. But that’s simply not who I am. I do need a shift, though. I need to use my skills and contribute to this world and learn about what stories others also find interesting. But I can’t stay in one place. Because I am a woman of change.

This Post is About Time

20180516_172612

I’ll never forget the way the tide came in on the Maitai River. Small fanned out rivulets fighting salty wet. Then one rushing wave pushing back strong. Too strong for the river. It whelped in retreat, obliterated by the ocean’s force. I had no idea the tide could do that — moon tugging at water in regular cycles. Hold an entire river hostage.

This post is about time.

I was walking along the shore today at low-tide. First, on the promenade. Monotonous cement. Lanes to keep me separate from the bikes. I ran out of cement and veered right, south toward the water. The endless stones broke and I edged to the sand: rippled. Uneven. Random.

I wanted to get further though, closer to the water. Where the seagulls stewed in gentle waves to their knees. Do birds have knees?

All around me minuscule springs flowed out of the slope toward the ocean. That’s what we do. That part of us inside that is compelled, by a gravity-like force, to lose ourselves and merge into consciousness. A drop becomes again the sea. Rippled sand became patches of water, flowing. It wove around green, algeaed rocks stubbornly jutting above the water line. Suddenly more water than sand.

The best way forward became obvious. Head down, momentum kept: stride along the rocks. No time to think, just do. Action outweighing the logic of scanning ahead, finding out the best route, the best way to keep above the three inches of water.

Metaphor hitting me like a dart. Have faith the next step will appear, don’t worry about three steps ahead, just keep moving forward.

***

At an appointment in Brighton to get a National Insurance number. The bland civil servant filled out a form with my particulars. “Ever gone by any other names?”

Oh. This question. “Yes.” I feel resentment rise that the state be so involved in the details of my life. Certain aspects of the past revived in official ways, never allowed to settle.

I’m reminded of the courthouse one August. Mark already engaged again, his eyes moist as I walk up, packet of papers in my hand to make official what we’ve known for years. We hadn’t even seen each other for over 18 months. Life and circumstance kept us from filing for divorce right away. We wanted to do it jointly instead of involving lawyers more than necessary. No “serving” one another. Only, we needed to be in the same province, which rarely happened then. Such annoyance at the process. The high-heeled clerks painstakingly reviewing the forms. Why couldn’t I will it away? Simply decide to be divorced and then it be so. What is this monolithic entity that can decree the category I fall into, tell me what box to check on forms. I resented it.

I still do.

“My name used to be Fast. F-A-S-T,” I spell out to the British man.

“The name you were born with?”

“No. My married name. I’m divorced.”

He continues to fill out the form, turns the page, smooths the binding to lay the packet flat.

“What was your husband’s name?”

What? Why does that matter? I enunciate the four syllables.

“Date of marriage?”

Crikey! When was that?

“And date of divorce?”

Now that’s a date I remember clearly. The last day of the Mayan calendar.

We were told it would take up to six weeks. October rolls by and nothing. November. Finally, Mark calls the courthouse. They’ve lost the paperwork. It was processed in Ottawa, but on the way back to Alberta it got misfiled. They found it, thank goodness, and push it back on track. We were told that once we each get the official letter the divorce is final exactly one month later — just in case anyone changes their mind. I wait. The letter arrived in late November.

Return address: The Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta.

I rip open the envelope, greedy for closure. To let this part of my life rest.

It’s all there, exactly what I wanted to see. The official certificate of divorce. Signed and dated for November 21, 2012.

I’m startled by the timing of it all. A mislaid form offering me a new beginning at the end of an ancient measure of time. Exactly one month later, December 21, is the last day of the Mayan calendar.

Yet here I am, nearly six years later (and it feels like so many more), still drudging up the past with all these forms. I can’t help but think how my youthful blip wouldn’t have been detected if I hadn’t changed my name. How Mark remains free from this drudging.

We finish the process. The officer hands me back my passport and I leave the grey building, full of its empty greetings from wandering security guards.

***

Walking home from the beach I realize the irony of my married name. Fast. My last name used to be Fast. I’m obsessed with the illusion of time. It follows me everywhere.

I’m crossing the bridge over the train tracks. I see the overgrown lilac bushes. Their wild glory wafting delicious scent my direction. My favourite. 

Why does time so often arise as a theme in my life?

I came to England with this visa now because I was running out of time. I was aging out of eligibility. With a fresh new passport I’d been impatiently waiting for I applied a week shy of my 31st birthday. And then flew to Hawaii. Living in England was a thing I was planning on doing soon. But was it ever something I actually wanted?

Sometimes I feel like the ocean tides, pulled compulsively by the moon. Subject to her whims as I flow around this globe. Marking time. Can’t my life be like incoming tide on the Maitai River? One decisive wave. Obliterating all else. It’s clear-cut and focused. Nothing in the way of its goal.

I’m trying to figure out what I want.

I’ve still got time.

The Plight of the Polite Woman

The Tattooed Buddha was gracious enough to publish this piece of mine after I’d submitted it and neglected to make suggested edits for nearly half a year. It’s another example of finishing unfinished things.

The Plight of the Polite Woman

My work day was over. Dinner time.

I clomp over the boardwalk toward the dining hall and, drop my bag in the coatroom, and slide toward the dining room. Sole, Roasted Potatoes, Local Corn, Green Beans and Plum Cake says the menu board. White fish—yech. That always creeps me out. I’m slightly irritated for no reason at all today—restless. I turn the corner to the buffet lines and see a crowd by the plates. I’ll get a glass of water first.

Click here to read the rest…