I have always liked the monster within idea. I like the zombies being us. Zombies are the blue-collar monsters -George A. Romero
Losing George last week was pretty devastating, I must say, but revisiting his films and reading interviews really got me thinking about zombies, monsters, and scary shit in the context of my own life. You see, I'm in the process of walking through hell. It's been a long walk, and it's nowhere near over. It all began because I had developed a habit of running. Running away from everything, even myself.
When I was a kid, maybe 8 years old, I was winning a race, but faked an injury near the end to ensure that I would not win. I'm sure that seems really weird and maybe even stupid. The part that bothers me the most is that it hasn't stopped happening. Self-sabotage. I guess that's what it is, but it goes beyond that. It's about fear. Fear of failure and fear of success. I kind of remember being in that moment; I recall running pretty fast and having a fair lead, and all these people, mostly kids, screaming. I was supposed to run through this specific area at the end and panicked a bit because I couldn't seem to figure it out. I don't think it was all that hard, but I was so afraid of making a mistake. That's part of it, and the other part was me being super awkward about the idea of winning something. I had very little experience with success and I honestly think I was too overwhelmed to cope. In the end, I let a runner pass, then another, and I consciously decided to come in third. Third is respectable, and didn't really warrant as much attention. I want to give myself credit for finishing the race, and also not hate on my behaviour, but I still shake my head when it comes to mind and think what the fuck?!
I brought that race up in a recent counselling session and, frankly, my therapist didn't seem all that surprised. I suppose that's because she's been given a small window into my past and has somehow found a way to piece things together. I never learned how to handle success or failure, or really much of anything useful when I was a child, and it's not so easy to teach yourself that stuff as an adult. Having said that, it's not impossible. The scary part is that you have to stop running. You must turn around and face the monsters because they are not going anywhere. They will continue to pursue, just like in the movies, and if you want to survive you're going to have to fight. After all, what character in a horror movie actually escapes by running alone? What happens, though, when you turn around, baseball bat clenched in hand (or machete or whatever) in preparation for the bloody battle, and you just see yourself?
That image also surfaced in a counselling session. My therapist likes to use scary analogies due to my love of horror. She's the best. Anyway, she told me to picture myself running away as fast as I can from the scariest monster imaginable but I begin to grow tired and lose speed. Eventually it becomes apparent that I cannot outrun this monster, so I decide to turn around and fight. When I turn around, I realize that it's actually just me as a child. I'm a mess, covered in dirt and blood, and I'm crying. As easy as it is to get pissed off at the childhood me--to yell at her, even push her down and maybe run away again--that won't stop her from crying, from chasing, from needing my help. As difficult, annoying and painful as it is, the only way to make her go away is to show her some love. To reach out my hand and say come on, let's go. It'll be OK.
Because it will be. Sometimes we become so accustomed to the darkness that we forget there's light. We become so preoccupied with the monsters that we aren't able to see that often those monsters are just us. That's what I always loved about Romero's zombies, the fact that they were so interchangeable with the living, and sometimes not nearly as scary. The ending to Night of the Living Dead immediately comes to mind. George Romero once said that, "if you can change one thing, everything will change." I am currently going through some pretty big changes and feeling incredibly thrown and lost and uncertain and scared and a lot of other things, too. I wanted to share this in hopes that I can reach even one person who feels equally displaced and confused, to tell them that somehow everything will be alright. I suppose maybe I'm also writing this to tell myself the same thing. To convince myself that I will emerge from the darkness and that I will be able to recognize myself, even if the me I see is a child covered in dirt, blood and tears.
I dedicate this post to George, and to anyone else who's running, fighting or hiding. Remember that you are not alone, even if you're only in the company of monsters.
One of the most intense Pacific hurricanes to strike the west coast of Mexico, Kenna wreaked havoc on the coastal areas of Puerto Vallarta and the farmlands of San Blas. The name "Kenna" was retired from the list of Pacific hurricanes due to its effect on Mexico, which included US$101 million in damage and four deaths.
Personally, I estimate the death toll to be much higher.
A couple weeks ago, my counsellor was listening to me talking about something (can't remember what or if it's relevant) when she started drawing something on a piece of paper. I stopped talking and she showed it to me. It was a palm tree. She said "that's you, by the way." I was a little confused, and then she elaborated. She explained how a palm tree can withstand an absolute thrashing, even a hurricane, and still stand tall. Still seem ok. At first I thought that maybe it was a strange comparison, but then I realized that it makes sense.
When you're raised to have a thick skin--that you need to be tough in order to handle a very scary world--that you need to "keep a stiff upper lip"--you become a master at the art of appearing strong. You become such a tough guy that you're able to stare anyone in the face and smile as they spit fire. You're able to get knocked down on your ass and get right back up. Maybe even laugh about it all. In my case, definitely laugh about it. That's something my counsellor pointed out to me. She said that comedy seems to be an outlet for me; it keeps me safe. But that when she sees me laugh when discussing trauma her heart breaks for me a little because she knows that the laughter is masking the pain.
I hadn't really looked at it that way before. I always thought that it was good to laugh at everything because it made things lighter, and in a way it is, but there comes a time when you have to admit that you've been through some really fucked up shit, and it's actually not funny at all. Having said that, I think it's important to keep yourself safe, and that's something I'm learning how to do, but in a healthy way--a way that still allows me to be authentic.
I took this photo the morning after a storm had passed. My neighbour has fifteen beautiful palm trees in his front yard and I always find myself marveling at how incredibly lush and beautiful they are, and also how strong. I love hearing the wind blow through the leaves--it's the most soothing sound. Every time I walk by and catch a glimpse, I feel like I'm on vacation...just for a moment. After taking this photo, I looked around the rest of the neighbourhood and noticed fallen branches and scattered leaves from some of the other trees that appeared to have a rough go of the storm. Then I looked back up at the towering palms and I realized that my perspective had changed. Yes, those palms seemed virtually unscathed--they still had all of their leaves and branches--but that doesn't mean that they hadn't weathered the same storm as the others. I suppose that's something to keep in mind as I continue on my journey. Perhaps it's something for all of us to keep in mind.
And on that note, I will leave you, and hope to return with another post very soon. I had intended on writing one last month, but it didn't exactly go as planned. I'm OK with that. There was definitely a time when I wouldn't have been, but times are changing.
Thanks for reading. Here's something to listen to: one of my favourite songs by one of my favourite artists. Farewell!
Today I did something I almost never do...I watched a deer in the cemetery without taking a picture of it. I just let it be. I stood there and observed, without a device in hand (though I will admit to having my iPod in my pocket). How else do you listen to The Church in the cemetery?
While I feel I must apologize for giving you this terrible image to look at rather than a picture of a sweet young fawn, I feel good about my decision. See, I'm trying to change the ways I've been doing things. I'm working on letting go. Letting go of stuff--unnecessary objects and things that take me away. Not entirely though, as my new friend OG Kush would attest to, but I'm working on slowing down and having less clutter. I guess it seems like there's so much in the way of what I want and, sadly, it also seems that I've put that stuff there.
Recently I caught myself going through my phone for no apparent reason (I hate when you bust yourself doing that) but it ended up being super helpful in opening my eyes to something I hadn't thought about for long enough. My phone, which I once reserved for texting, taking photos and calling people (yes, I said calling, I'm old), had become flooded with apps. I probably didn't even know what an app was until a couple years ago (again, I'm old) and now my phone was bedazzled with multi-coloured squares--so much so that I could barely see the photo I saved as my background. It kinda freaked me out.
Facebook! Twitter! Instagram! Etsy! theScore! WhatsApp! I'm beginning to see why these flashy little squares had been stealing so much of my attention, and way WAY too much of my time. In one particularly startling moment, I went onto the Facebook app, which logs you in automatically when you touch it, got bored and logged off, then hit the button to log back in right after. Automatically. What is happening to me?! Well, I should say what WAS happening, as I deleted most of those apps from my phone over a month ago.
It's so scary that the apps I once used to connect with other people were making me feel less human. Sometimes when I get really freaked out, I picture myself as the automaton Olimpia from Hoffmann's Der Sandmann. I just sit there watching as people discuss who made what parts of me. And I can't move. I can't do anything because I'm not real. Gah!
In any case, I've deleted many of those distracting apps and have been making attempts to be more present. Funny how my mind literally wandered away instantly after I typed that last sentence. I began thinking about tomorrow's counselling appointment. Yes, that's right, I'm finally getting called of the bench! My first official session is coming up, and while I know it'll be helpful, I'm feeling a bit nervous. I will report back soon and let you know how it goes. I'm sure I'll have lots to tell you about. Or maybe not.
I bet you were thinking I'd probably end things with some Guns N' Roses, right? Wrong. I'm sticking with my mood and The Church. Until next time...enjoy!
David Bowie experiences some major changes in The Hunger
Things are beginning to change around here, too. For one, this website is currently undergoing a much-needed facelift. Take a look around and see what's new! I'm also in the process of making changes to other aspects of my life. Almost every aspect of my life. But let's begin with phase one...
Recently, I took a small (but maybe not-so-small) step toward self-improvement by attending my first counseling session in nearly four years. Not sure why I've waited so long. That's the part that makes me feel crazy. It's funny what we can allow ourselves to become used to. I said something like that in my intake interview at Citizen's Counseling.
It all went down almost a month ago now. Arriving more than twenty minutes early, I decided to grab a London Fog at Cafe Fantastico. They make great drinks there, but this was the best I've had in a long time. Rather than hanging out at the cafe, I wandered next door to Citizens and sat in the waiting room--a place I used to know quite well.
It pretty much looked the same as I remember...cream-coloured walls featuring posters for upcoming group therapy events and yoga classes, comfortable (circa 1990's) furniture, side tables with stacks of magazines and plastic inserts with pamphlets. Your standard waiting room decor. For about ten minutes, I was the only one there, but then another character entered the scene.
At the risk of sounding judgemental, I will say that I kinda knew that this guy had an appointment at the BC Schizophrenia Society (which is in the same building as Citizens). He was slightly disheveled and fidgety, and looked a little like Vincent Gallo, which made me smile. He was quite friendly, and immediately struck up a conversation with me upon entering the waiting room. "How is your day going?!" He asked. "It's going well, thank you," I said. Then he asked if I worked at Citizens, which I found interesting and kinda sweet, for some reason. "No," I said. "I have an appointment." His eyes began darting around the room, but then he started telling me about how sometimes you wait for awhile, but that I shouldn't worry because they wouldn't forget about me. It was really sweet. After a few minutes, he got called into the BC Schizophrenia Society for his appointment. Enter bachelor number two...
A heavy-set man in his mid-thirties, with greying hair. I could tell he was new as he seemed a little unsure of whether he was in the right place. He sat down and our eyes met. I gave him a smile before reaching for a magazine. He smiled back, then said, "Is this where you wait for Citizens?" I said "yes," and that they would come get him as soon as they were ready. I felt like my assurance made him feel a bit more sure.
I like this place--this waiting room--these people. It's much nicer than the waiting rooms at the walk-in clinics where you pretty much avoid all contact, even eye contact, in order to avoid catching TB or death stares or whatever. At Citizens/BC Schizophrenia Society, there seems to be a feeling of mutual respect and a sense that you can relate to one another, not that you fear whatever they have, or whatever you have. You all look different, but you're kind of the same. It's comforting.
I think my initial appointment went well. Your intake appointment takes about an hour, and basically consists of filling out a questionnaire with a volunteer counselor and discussing what you'd like to get out of the whole experience. I felt comfortable with the person I talked with. She was around my age, maybe a bit older, and seemed to really get me on a level that made me feel OK. The two of us discussed some things that I had been curious about, such as making major life changes, repetitive mental patterns and ways to process and cope with trauma--it was super interesting! I kind of felt like a student again, and if you know me you know that I love school. Even though part of me dreads delving into the mental/emotional mess that I need to sift through, there's another part that is super excited and even intrigued.
As I hover near the top of the packed wait list for my first official session at Citizens, I find myself picking up on things--patterns--that I may not have noticed before my initial appointment. I won't bore you with most of it just yet, but I promise to bore you very soon with all the details. One thing I will note is that skipping blog posts in January has become a pattern. I find that amusing since I tend to find January to be a stressful, depressing month. I am now planning on taking myself on a little vacation every January. See, this counseling stuff is already working! I'm sure it won't all be shits and giggles, and some tough times certainly lie ahead, but I will do my best to keep you updated no matter what the case.
Until then, I'll keep reading, writing, watching and wandering, and might even come across something worthy of sharing...like this little shot I took from last night's wander in Fan Tan Alley (inside Victoria's iconic Chinatown).
Ted Bundy saved lives. I think. Of course we all know that he killed tons of people and had sex with their corpses, but he also worked at a crisis line in Seattle, perhaps quite literally talking people down from the ledge. Lately I've been teetering close to that ledge and have considered calling a crisis line, but then I picture Ted on the other end being like, "It's all good girl, you've got this! Now tell me, are you in a sorority?" Yes, I have trust issues.
Recently, I told James that I was considering calling a crisis line, and he responded by telling me that he had already called on my behalf and wrote down a bunch of resources that I might find useful. I think I looked at him and said, "Oh. Thank you?" It kinda got me thinking about what happens when you get caught up in something and everything else--everyone else--stops existing.
Now, rather than feeling guilty about this and getting down on myself, I'm going to give myself some credit. It's not as though I decided consciously that I was going to become caught up. I feel pretty proud for actually having the decency to treat myself well in this situation, because it's not easy. That's the thing about depression--not only does it make you feel like shit, but it makes you feel like shit about feeling like shit.
It's now the end of December, a time of year that tends to have people feeling like shit. Part of this is because the end of a year can get you doing this sort-of "year in review" thing. One thing I like to do at this time is to watch the annual year in review on the various sports channels. But what happens when you're the Cleveland Browns and not the Pittsburgh Steelers? Yeah, I had to get that burn in there. Haha. Honestly, though, what can you take away to make yourself feel better? For the Browns, they can focus on that one win--the fact that they did not go winless this season like many thought they would. In fact, the Cleveland Browns inspired me last week. Their win against the San Diego Chargers--watching them celebrate--got me thinking. Thinking about the small victories.
The Browns beating the Chargers meant nothing in the grand scheme of things; both teams were already eliminated from playoff contention and most people didn't care about the result. But what happened after the Browns' fluky win (yes, there was luck involved) warmed my heart. It was kind of like when the Grinch listens for the Whos' sorrow after stealing their presents, etc, only to discover that they were still celebrating despite their setbacks. That day, after defeating the Chargers 20-17, the Cleveland Browns celebrated. Hard. It was like they had just won a playoff game--maybe even the Super Bowl. It was strangely uplifting.
What really struck me was the emotions that the players displayed, particularly in the locker room. As I watched the players and coaching staff shed tears, I began to tear up. These guys worked hard all year and almost had nothing to show for it. In the end, this win was their Super Bowl. They deserved it and I loved that they were celebrating in such a big way. It reminded me of a podcast episode I listened to awhile back. I can't remember which podcast it was from, so that's not very helpful, but the host was talking about celebrating those small victories. For some, that means allowing themselves to get excited about that promotion they just got at work, for some that means being happy about finally finding that raincoat that both protects them from the nasty weather and looks fashionable (yeah right), and for others, that means just being happy that they were able to get out of bed today.
As the new year approaches, I am going to be careful about resolutions. Instead, I think I'll just work on the little things--appreciating what I've got and being proud of my accomplishments, no matter how small. Although the Browns won their game last week, they likely will not win this weekend against the Steelers (even though the Steelers are resting their best players), and I'm not holding my breath for finding that elusive fashionable raincoat, but I will continue to get out of bed each morning, and may even have more to celebrate soon enough. I suppose after mentioning a midlife crisis and small victories, it's appropriate that I leave you with some Faith No More. Enjoy! Happy New Year!
I've always loved tarot cards, especially the death card, and am excited to see various interpretations. Contrary to what I once believed, the death tarot card does not actually signify death, but rather generally represents an ending or transition. You will notice in the images above that the card in the middle is the only one that actually has the word death on it. That's because, long ago, it was thought best not to use the word as seeing it could trigger a feeling of unease. I find that super intriguing, because death is one of the few things that we all have in common. If you are reading this, you are going to die. For some reason not many people want to discuss it to this day, but I do, more so now than ever. Let's talk about death.
I think the first time I actually considered the matter was when my parents told me that my cat Rebel was "being put to sleep." I cried because they cried, but then I asked when she was going to wake up. Clearly, I had absolutely no understanding of euthanasia. It wasn't my fault, either. Nobody had ever talked to me about death. I probably didn't know that Rebel was ever going to die, and I certainly didn't know that I would someday meet the same fate. Now that "dying with dignity" is a thing in Canada, I actually might go out on the same note as my beloved Rebel. How fascinating! I just remembered something else. My favourite pet for a very long time was a bottom feeder named Brutus. I had a hard time finding him in the fish tank sometimes, then suddenly he would reappear. I later learned that the original Brutus died and my mom kept replacing him. I was at first shocked, then felt betrayed, then laughed because it's actually really interesting to think about how far people will go to avoid talking about death (or avoid disappointing their children, but that's a topic best saved for another time).
I, for one, think about death every day, and I probably talk about it every day, too. According to someone close to me, my mind generally moves in two directions...sex and death. He's probably right. No wonder I have such a strong connection to horror movies. In any case, I find it strange that those two things are probably thought about the most and are often the most uncomfortable to discuss.
Recently, I became aware of a relatively new phenomenon--the Death Cafe. I was immediately intrigued, so did a little research. Basically, a group of people gather to discuss death and the feelings associated while drinking coffee or tea and eating treats. How cool! The very first Death Cafe took place in London England in 2011, and Canada's first Death Cafe emerged in my home town of Victoria, B.C. in 2012. Today, nearly 4,000 Death Cafes have brought people together in at least 40 countries. I love this! Why should we wait until we attend a funeral to gather in the name of death and dying? If discussion breeds understanding, which I believe to be true, then why are we avoiding talking about the one thing we are all guaranteed to experience?
It's scary. I can admit that. It's weird to think that one day I will take my last breath, and I have no idea when that will be. It might be right now...or...now. Or later. But it will eventually happen.
I look forward to participating in a Death Cafe in the near future, and am considering organizing one. I'm also considering organizing a Sex Cafe, because that could be super fun and interesting as well. And potentially awkward and disturbing. Haha. But, honestly, awkward and disturbing are two things I find to be entertaining, so at least these cafes have less of a chance of being totally boring. Maybe I'll steal Samantha Jones' (Sex and the City) "Starfucks," but instead of a brothel full of hot men, it will be a coffee shop full of weirdos (like me) discussing sex. It could happen.
Circling back to the topic of death, I will leave you with Caitlin Doughty's TED Talk about the business of death and how much our culture's relationship with the dead has changed over the past century. She encourages us to be involved in caring for the dead, and not just through grieving. According to Doughty, "Death is not an emergency. You can take the time to sit with the person, hold their hand, tell stories." In closing, she says that "There is a gorgeous reality when you allow yourself to be closer to death." Hmm. I'd like to chat with my funeral home homies and get their opinion on all this. Until then, I will continue to wonder and won't fear the reaper. Or at least I'll try not to.
It was a dark and stormy night in Victoria, B.C. A night worthy of a good scare. And boy did we find it.
Monsters Haunted House (formerly Evil Acres) brings the terror to a new, nautical setting, this year. Being closer to the downtown core is proving to draw quite the crowd, and for good reason. If you are looking to attend one haunted house this year, then let this be the one. If you're prepared for enduring some legitimately freaky shit, that is.
Having experienced two previous haunted houses put on by these horror hounds, I kinda knew what I was getting into, but when some chick ran by me and my pals and out the front door seconds after entering, I have to admit that I wasn't feeling too confident. Yes, of course this horror vet made it through without diving out one of the "chicken exits" (which I actually don't even remember seeing), but not without some serious scares and a borderline panic attack (I'm claustrophobic). But that's exactly the kind of thrills I was after. It's what I crave.
Ever since I was a little girl, I remember loving the feeling of being scared. Whether watching Jason Voorhees and Freddy Krueger slice and dice their way through my favourite films, or reading Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark while huddled under blankets, I was a sucker for a good old fashioned freakout. And I haven't changed all that much. So when an opportunity comes to actually place myself inside a scary story, I tend to jump at that chance. And I literally did jump.
For those of you aware of Monsters Haunted House and the terrifically terrifying work that they do, you will be pleased to see some familiar faces in this attraction, but don't kid yourself into thinking you're a pro, because some shocking surprises await. This year's fear fest takes place inside a warehouse at Ogden Point, where the cruise ships rest. But Fear on the Pier is certainly not a place to rest, but rather somewhere to go with your friends and be temporarily transformed into a scream queen (this includes the guys, too) while venturing through the best parts of hell. This haunted house had me jumping, screaming, laughing and cheering all the way through--it was the most fun I've had in a very long time. I highly recommend that you grab some friends and $13 (cash only) and head down to Pier A at Ogden Point to live it up, October style.
Fear on the Pier earns a 10/10 for creating a perfectly creeptastic attraction that will have you hyped up for the Halloween season.
Monsters Haunted House Website
"No sluggard, be it known, can hope to catch grasshoppers with any degree of success." --Me--Smith, Caroline Lockhart
Good thing I have absolutely no desire to catch grasshoppers. Or do much of anything, really. Side note: how good is the word sluggard? That's me, of course, in the image above. Me and my cat, Rebel. It pretty much represents my current level of motivation. My mom has mentioned (on a few occasions) how I was such a quiet baby--that I didn't cry all that much and how I wouldn't wake them up in the night even when I pissed and shit myself. I would probably find those stories amusing if things were significantly different now. Alright, so I'm not pissing and shitting myself, but I might as well be.
Lately I've been asking myself some questions. Not the big questions--the kind that get you motivated to make changes and better your life-- the kind that make you wonder what the hell the point in anything is. Why do people do anything? Why do I do anything? What would happen if I just stopped doing everything? I know, I know. Dumb questions. According to Ice Cube, "To G or not to G is the question." I'll admit that that's worth pondering as well. I suppose anything is worth spending time thinking about if thinking means not doing.
I guess I don't have to explain, dear reader, that I've been actively avoiding this blog as of late. I wish I had a better explanation, but really I just don't want to do it. I'm such a baby. If sluggard didn't accurately describe my attitude, then perhaps adding the word petulant will help to sum it up. A petulant sluggard. Hah! I actually like the sound of that. Maybe I should have some fun and write down every terrible word I've been using to describe myself and make a game of it? Something's got to give.
I think that I might have to resort to my old writing exercises for inspiration, and revisit some old notes from my college writing classes. Either that or one of you is going to have to offer ideas, or at least a swift kick in the ass. Well, there you have it. A blog post published in September. This is becoming a very strange and shameful habit, posting on the last day of the month, but whatever. I actually don't care that much. It's kind of like that date you go on with the guy you don't like because you haven't been on a date in while and you tell yourself you should go. Then, of course, you regret going on the date because it wasn't good (just like you thought) and it didn't really make you feel that much better. But, yes it did, because it gave you something to talk about. This post is basically the dumb guy you shouldn't have gone out with, but it's ok. Maybe that great guy will come along soon. It better not damn well be on October 31st, though. I'll have plans. At least I better.
This photo was taken at the edge of Ross Bay Cemetery, my favourite place to escape to on a hot summer's evening. It's quiet and tranquil and people, for the most part, wear clothing there.
That's my biggest pet peeve about summer, other than the heat--nakedness. Shirtless men and naked feet irk me endlessly. Even worse are the countless shirtless shoe-less men who stare at you like you're supposed to acknowledge the fact that they're there. Believe me, I know. I'm just trying to pretend that I don't.
It seems that, for most people, summer is the greatest time of year. The time when they have the most energy and the most fun. For me, it's when I have the most frequent bouts of anxiety and the most difficult time picking an outfit. Also, it's a time of longing for those cold dark days when I get cozy in blankets and watch episodes of one of my favourite childhood television shows, The Little Vampire. Of course I can watch it now, but Rudiger just seems all wrong in the summer. He deserves the darkness, as do I. I'm such a goth kid at heart.
Having said all that, as I sit here in my jean shorts and sleeveless plaid shirt with my hair in pigtails, I cannot help but think about my favourite part of high school (other than skipping out, doing hot knives and binge watching Maury): line dancing! I remember me and my friends getting pumped to show off our moves in that gymnasium, amidst the "cool" kids standing around looking pissed off. It was probably the only time I actually went to gym class. I just discovered that the Duke Saloon has line dancing every other Saturday, so as soon as I kick this bug I've got, I'm dragging some of y'all out with me for a boot scootin' good time. Bring on the Brooks & Dunn, Billy Ray and Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, 'cause this closet hick needs to drink some bad whiskey with bad people and do some bad things (like dancing in public). Maybe the summer's got something for me after all. I will leave you with my favourite song to line dance to. If you went to high school with me, you will no doubt remember this one blaring in the gym. I think I'm going to make it my new summer anthem.
Last Saturday was a bastard, or so I thought.
That morning, I threw my back out to the point where I couldn't walk and could barely move. I was getting ready to go to the local market to meet up with friends and have a nice relaxing time. I bent down to pick up my purse and that's when it struck...unbelievable agony. Everything seized up. It was as though someone with a voodoo doll jabbed a big old pin right into my low back and another into my hips, simultaneously.
I tried to focus on my breathing and relax my muscles, but it wasn't working. I was done for. No fun. No friends. No market. Only pain.
The next two days consisted mostly of bed rest, painkillers, ice, heat, and gentle massage (thanks, James). I considered going to a doctor or the hospital, but realized that that would mean sitting or standing around for several hours, and that did not sound like a good plan.
While lying in bed, all sorts of thoughts and feelings flooded in. I was going to have a nice weekend. I was going to get out in nature, see friends, work on creative projects like writing and painting, and be productive. Now what?
I had to accept that there wasn't much I could do. I had to stay in bed, on a super hot weekend, no less. I didn't have a choice in the matter. I did, however, have one choice--how I would respond to the situation.
At the beginning of this year, I read Viktor Frankl's book, Man's Search for Meaning. If you haven't read it, I suggest that you do. In his book, Frankl (a Jewish psychologist) discusses his experience as a prisoner in concentration camps during WWII. What Frankl suggests is that we have the power to endure any suffering, as long as we find meaning within that suffering. Now, I'm not comparing my back injury to the Holocaust, but Frankl's message of changing one's perspective can certainly be applied to various circumstances.
Frankl wrote, "When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves." Interestingly, I came across Man's Search for Meaning while going through some difficult health challenges. I had also been listening to various podcasts on self care, and was working on making changes in order to reduce stress and anxiety. I see now that, while I was taking in all of this information, I wasn't really listening.
One of my favourite podcasts, Anxiety Slayers, often discusses pain and anxiety and how resisting things only makes them persist. I've been ignoring chronic back pain for a long time, and look where it got me. This attitude of "sucking it up" and "pushing through" can lead to serious problems and, unfortunately, slowing down is often considered lazy. We actually feel guilty about taking a break sometimes. I'm beginning to wonder if that's what brought on the panic. Yes, there was the acute pain, but also the feeling of not being able to do things made me tense up and freak out!
When I finally began to accept my situation, the intense pain became white noise. It faded into the background a bit. Plus, I spent most of the weekend hopped up on painkillers and eating chips and pizza in bed while watching countless episodes of The Joy of Painting on Netflix. I wasn't painting, but I was watching Bob Ross paint, and that in itself is pretty awesome.
It's not just his paintings, though, Bob Ross offers all kinds of wisdom and insight about animals, nature, encouragement and simplicity--truly inspiring stuff. But it wasn't always that way.
A handsome young Ross
Although he became synonymous with painting beautiful landscapes and "happy trees," Bob Ross used to be a master sergeant in the Air Force. He was known for being a hard-ass. "I was the guy who makes you scrub the latrine, the guy who makes you make your bed, the guy who screams at you for being late to work. The job requires you to be a mean, tough person. And I was fed up with it."
So even Bob Ross had to work on changing his attitude, and look what he did! He created a peaceful, gentle existence. A world where animals and trees are friends, and it's okay to be weird. A world where "there are no mistakes, only happy accidents."
I hope that all makes sense. I'm still working on my first cup of coffee and haven't taken my first painkiller. But, hey, I'm already writing, so the day can't be all that bad.
I'm finally doing it--pulling my insides out and splattering them around for all to see. Here we go!