Love is Love is Love is Love is Love is Love – 49

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This essay was something I had put together on Facebook a few days after the horrors of the Pulse Nightclub Massacre, 12 June 2016, and it popped up on my memories page this morning.  Adding/updating a few bits here and there, this is what I wrote one year ago. And it is still the case that Love is Love is Love is Love is Love is Love is Love.


Okay kittens, time to address the ever-present elephant in the room this week.
Our long weekend whirlwind of love and happiness came to a crashing halt on Sunday morning. Anne and I had woken early, and were sitting up howling with laughter while watching cute kitten videos. This was the morning after we had exchanged promise rings, and had celebrated the day before.


Then my phone chirped with a text message:

CHECK YOUR AP NEWSFEED – IMPORTANT

Another journalist from one of the magazines I write for was giving me a head’s up on breaking news.

At that time, the news was 20 dead, 42 injured in Orlando. The details that Anne and I were scanning were more horrendous the further we read. I literally felt like we had been slammed into the pavement.

Anne was in tears, all she kept repeating was about the families, the loved ones, the partners, etc. What I eventually managed to decipher through her tears was her cousin and his partner lived one block away and frequented Pulse nightclub.

Then begins the process of checking in. Reach out to friends and loved ones who are in that area. Are you okay? And you pray that you get a quick response, that they hear their phone, that they can respond, that they are still drawing breath.

You hope against hope that it is not the experience of those first responders who attended the scene:


After an hour of nail-biting and tears, I said, okay Sunshine, let’s get out of the apartment and be among people. We headed out into the neighbourhood, to a place that is like a communal living room where people gather. People were busy watching the soccer games in Europe, and I was silently thankful that there was no news on any of the screens. At least at first. One of the televisions had CP24 on, and they cutaway live to Orlando for a press conference. The numbers had climbed. 49 dead, 53 injured. We were shocked silent, and then Anne collapsed in tears against me.

How? How could this be? Why now? The questions are endless, the answers are few.

Finally I was able to stop Anne’s tears and then she heard from her cousin that he and his partner were safe. Big sigh of relief. And again, a pressing need to be among even more people in public. We went to the store to pick up a few things, and rather than turn around and immediately go back home again, Anne said, “C’mon Cookie, let’s go for a walk.”


So we did, we walked along a busy Sunday morning Front Street, proudly holding hands, closer than ever, and showing our defiance that we will not be hidden or erased, that we exist, that we love and are in love, that love is simply love, and that we deserve to be able to live our own lives. We worked our way back home and were absolutely exhausted. Not the usual physically tired way, but just emotionally and mentally drained, and we curled up for a nap. Once Anne was asleep, I reached for my phone to check in and see what was happening and who was organizing what.

How perfect that the Toronto Sisters had already put together a candlelight vigil for Orlando that evening in Barbara Hall Park. Yes, I would be there. Anne should be safely back home by that point, and I wanted to be with our chosen family. It’s what you do in times of crisis, you reach out to be with those who feel as you do.

Saying a quick safe travels before Anne left for home turned into something more involved and deeply meaningful. In times like these you hug longer and tighter, you get in more kisses, and you say I love you with a new meaning. It’s that need to let your significant other know… Just in case…

And again, love is love is love is love…


We agreed to check in hourly throughout the rest of the day.

Deep breath.

Breathe woman, there is work to be done.

Things have changed over my years on the planet. In my youth, this would have left me a tear-soaked mess, curled up in a ball in a corner, and wanting to hide away from the world. And now, with all that I have lived through, experienced, survived, you can’t help but become more than a little rough around the edges (my friend Kim calls it being as rough as a badger’s arse) more for self-preservation than anything else. If you wonder why Trans people tend to have a very dark sense of humour, look at the numbers of dead from among our family and see why it is necessary.

That night at the vigil… I had arrived early to get a few quick pictures for the feature image for my column. Even arriving very early, there was already a large number of people present. By the time the vigil began, we had filled the park beyond capacity, had flowed out onto Church Street north and south of the park, and through the other side of the park onto side streets (I heard crowd estimates up to 10,000 people).


I stood with friends that evening. Everybody there was part of the same family. Anne messaged me worrying about my safety and did I have an escape route planned in case there was trouble. I replied, “I am with my rainbow cops Sunshine (Danielle and Henry), I am with our family members in great numbers. There is no safer place to be at this moment.” Promised to keep checking in hourly.

You notice how things have changed and how a crisis brings family together even closer than before. Noticed the changes in politics when Mayor John Tory arrived and was slowly making his way through the family assembled. Gotta love it when the mayor gives you a hug and a kind word. Everybody was there, because literally seconds after, Premier Kathleen Wynne and her partner Jane were making their way through, speaking quietly with people. The silence and the candlelight was a moment always to be remembered. Anne and I had a long conversation when I got back home that night (after she had a huge sigh of relief that I was home and safe).



Then it’s time to make the world work again come the next morning.

As expected, take the planned schedule for the week and set light to it. There’s only one thing to do, just dance with it and what will get done will get done.

Can you do an interview for CBC’s The National?  (You can click the link to watch the video on YouTube.) Sure, maybe I can handle three or four other things while I’m in that area too. It’s all part of the dance.

In the Village meet family… Share hugs, hold back tears, a look speaks volumes… Same question each time, heavily laden with significance, “are you okay?” You squeeze hands a little tighter.

I’ve been around the Village for three days in a row… People may have pasted on a smile and be doing a good imitation of chipper and happy clappy… Inside we are all the same… A bundle of raw emotions. Our safe spaces have been invaded and violated yet again.

There are 49 empty seats at our table. It cannot be, but it is.

Last night, prior to the Trans Youth Human Rights panel, saw my friend Henry. We were having a quiet word at the back of the room. He told me, he’s been working non-stop since Sunday without a rest or a break or time to think. He is an out and proud gay cop, and we have worked together for a few years on how to fix the world for our family members. He was telling me that he was driving to last night’s event, and passed the corner of King and Bay Streets and saw the rainbow flag beside the Canadian flag and both were at half-mast. He had to pull his car over for a minute, the wave of emotions was hard to take.

As we all do, we get to work dealing with the aftermath and looking after our family and making sure we are safe. You don’t usually stop until after the worst has passed and then it hits you. Anne agreed, the same thing happens in her career, nursing, you are so busy doing your best to make a difference, that you have no time to feel until after your shift is over. You’re needed, there is not time for anything for yourself until later. Self-care is an afterthought, your family is suffering you must look after them first.

And then last night at the start of the human rights panel… The reading of the names of those family members violently torn from us, and how long it took to read 49 names. You’ve heard about six degrees of separation, a great many of us in that room were no more than two or three degrees away from one of the 49. One of my dearest friends knew very well one of the victims, which meant I was two degrees away. You can see how it works.


And yet it strikes me as odd that people remark about my bravery being out and about in public. I don’t think there is bravery involved. It’s more like a boiling rage that can only be vented by being visible and as usual, ballsy as fuck. This T will not be silenced. And for those who worry about safety, honey, I could get flattened by a bus while crossing the road any day… When it is my time, it will be my time, not a moment sooner or a moment later. Until that time comes, there is a hell of a lot of work to be done.

And then I see a glimmer of light. Someone commented on a recent video that Stephanie posted about her opening remarks at last night’s event when she spoke of how we met in 2014 and what that meant… A young person said, she is now being Christine for others. Yes, that’s paying it forward, this means that I did my job. I am so so so proud of her. She is why I will not be kept hiding, I have too much to be done to fix the world, and I have to be out there doing it to have it happen.

There have been numerous pieces written and posted about the meanings and how to react. Look, it’s really simple kittens…


My LGBTQ family is hurting badly right now. We are in mourning for those we have lost from our family. So one thing… Please, when I say I do not wish to discuss the gunman and his motives, actions, reasons, etc., please honour that. Do not continue to feed your personal fascination for Forensic Psychiatry for Dummies in my presence. I have no desire whatsoever to discuss the scum who mercilessly killed our family members. You can ask how we are, please… And when you do, be prepared to listen. Do not say how we must be crazy to want to go ahead with Pride activities. We know the risk, trust me on this point. There is a cost that we all pay personally to be able to live what we know to be our truth each and every day that we draw breath.

As much as you may wish to discuss the finite details of this crime, I don’t. I wish to honour those we have lost in my own way, in my own time, with my own rainbow family members.

But, as I have maintained since early that Sunday morning after the initial news reports, and I will keep saying this until people finally get it…

Love Conquers All.

Simple. Three words. Not difficult to get the meaning.

Revenge serves no purpose.

Blame only continues the pain.

Reach out to those people in your life who truly matter to you, and TELL THEM. Do not miss the opportunity and live with the regret of missed communications. Tell people you love them, and when you do, LOVE each other INTENSELY.

We are the people that the world needs.

We can change the world for the better.

We can do better.

Remember the words of Lin-Manuel Miranda at the 2016 Tony Awards:

“…And Love is Love is Love is Love is Love is Love is Love and Love cannot be killed or swept aside… Now fill the world with music, love and pride.”

Please, dear God, not one more.

Love, sunbeams, and kitten dreams

Christine ❤️❤️

Self-Care, Part 1 of…

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Ever have one of those days kittens, where you feel like you are literally running on fumes?

I have found in recent years, that after a number of large-scale events, time off is a necessity, not a nice-to-have item. (That swing in my secret garden gets moved to the shoreline.)

I find it is needed to book down time in between items in my agenda. For example, referring back to my calendar recently, I had a large community awards gala to attend. I love that it sold out quickly, but me in the midst of 400 people drains my energy rapidly. From the year I taught, about 20 years ago, one of the things that had been distinguished for us was the ability to “generate your space”. Allow me to paint a brief picture for you.

You walk into a room, you are responsible for delivering a business presentation, are teaching course material to a class, speaking to a group, etc. If you are “flat” and uninspired, your room will occur in that same fashion. You must be “ON”, sending out waves of energy, ready to take the attention of the attendees and hold it for the time you are up front.

When Danielle and I have been delivering guest lectures at Ryerson University over the past few years, if we are alive and engaging, you can feel the energy in the room increase. Instead of looking up at a lecture hall and seeing tops of heads because students are interested in their smartphone screens, or laptop displays, you find 150 sets of eyes locked on and following your every move. Instead of a flat space, the space is electric, and your audience responds to you and what you are saying. I can usually tell if I get three laughs in a row in my introductory piece (ask the students, I’m hilarious, to their great surprise!).

Now, imagine what it takes to generate yourself to be smiling and chatty throughout 6 hours. I was burning through my reserves and by the end of the night, could not wait to head for home and recharge my batteries. I did manage to slip outside for a breather halfway through the evening just to level out for a few minutes. (While I will never be known as a drinker, multiple glasses of wine helped keep me present that night for sure.)


This is why I purposely build a day or two off between big events in my calendar. I know from experience, after generating the space around me for an extended period, there will be a day, perhaps two, of low energy self-care time. Time to recharge my mental and physical batteries, because if I push through it, it’s a quick trip to burnout, and I’ve been down that path before and have no desire whatsoever to repeat it.

So, after being amongst 400 happy and celebratory folks, I needed a few days off. My version of self-care is sleep, coffee (by the pot, caffeine has zero effects on me), my cuddly kitty, Miss Heidi, Queen of all She surveys, crossword puzzles, and snacks (because cooking is beyond me while I am recharging my mental batteries). I know I do not bounce back as quickly as I did when much younger, but I give it the time required, in this case an entire weekend before the next major event in my calendar. Add in a fair bit of meditation, and once the batteries are full, I’m ready to handle whatever comes my way.


Why yes, by Tuesday energy levels were back to full, time to dive head first into the next big event, a reception for 200+ people. Arrive early to lend a hand wherever needed (which wasn’t a whole lot on my part) during setup, and then get ready for guests to arrive. This was, I must admit, much easier than the previous event, as I knew pretty much everybody in attendance, and the folks doing the hosting are always a bundle of fun and plenty of laughs. Knock it down and pack it up at the end, and time to hop on the bus to head home. Grab something to go on the walk home and settle in for some needed downtime.

Self-care the next day meant being as low key as possible, catching up on e-mail and messages, and tackling a few pieces of writing that were close to being complete. And my little furry helper decided to take up a position off my shoulder and when her curiosity got the better of her, would put her front paws on my shoulder and hang out watching me working. You might say she is the purrfect self-care piece, when you have quiet purring beside your ear, furry little paws on your shoulder, and whiskers tickling the side of your face when she leans forward to look at what I’m doing.

And after a bit of downtime to recharge, I was ready for a multi-location, multi-meeting Friday.

Now, I will be the first to admit, in my pack-jammed days in the technology world, putting in 100 workweeks was fairly standard, not the exception. Hopping on and off planes, and doing multi-city travel for meetings and conferences and equipment installations was fairly standard. How I knew it was time to start slowing down a bit in those days, was waking up in a hotel room during a 5 city trip, and not being able to recall what city I was in (I eventually had to call the front desk to double-check). If I was to even attempt to push myself like that, with my daily battle with PTSD and it’s assorted side-issues, I would end up having a total shutdown and not being seen for at least a week or longer.

Self-care can be different for each and every person. No two of us have the exact same list of things. But whatever we do, it’s to accomplish the same results, to get through a patch that is unpleasant, rough, or just plain exhaustion and in need of a mental and physical battery recharge. You make the choices and do whatever is necessary to make it through to the next day, with hopefully enough energy built up to get up and move about.


Some of the things that work for me are the quickie text message exchanges I have with my bestie Natalie (she is like the kid sister I always wanted to have and I love her to bits!). Because we have that same really dark sense of humour, we can get to laughing about the damnedest things and can be completely goofy with each other and both of us are howling with laughter from reading what just came in on our phones. It’s spending time chatting with Nurse Sunshine, she’s my safe place to discuss anything and everything (if she can put up with those few times I’ve woken her out of a deep sleep because I’m grinding my teeth loud enough to be heard at the city limits, you gotta know she’s one extremely special lady). Some days it’s a chat with my bestie and  world-changer Danielle. The cool thing about the 5 years that we have worked together, is that we quickly became best friends outside of our work. She is one of the very few people who has ever seen/known me with all of my defenses down, no walls, no suit of armour, the raw and unedited me. Or my friend Ashley, who I call my twin sister joined at the brainwaves, literally because I can start a thought and she finishes it. It’s kind of the cool thing, is knowing when somebody needs a little boost and I usually have a funny story to illustrate my point at hand. And my Sisbro Joie, who is also my guide to all things Zen. We have one graphic that we share, it’s humorous, and it really does describe our outlook on life on those days when you have one nerve left:


(You’re allowed to laugh, in case you haven’t picked up on it, I can be quite humorous at times.)

And of course, there are many other things, music, rereading a favourite book, comedy (laughter really is the best medicine some days) and sometimes a cup of herbal tea is a bonus.

And if you don’t have something that works for you yet, ask around, try a few items, you may just be surprised what you find that works for you. I know that I do enjoy my solitude as much as I possibly can in recent years. It can be the perfect way to unwind after a day that has been riding on your last nerve.

Very soon I will launch into my summer break. It means logging out of the online world, limiting myself to news and doing those dream shopping trips (the things I’d buy to recreate my old home if I won the lottery type things, dreams are still free thankfully). Three or four of my closest chosen family (you saw their names above) will know how to reach me, but I will be blissfully ignorant of all the drama and asshattery taking place on antisocial media. Last year was the first time I did this, mostly because I was taking off for the summer with Nurse Sunshine, and I wanted all my focus on her and no distractions whatsoever.


And if I’m not sitting at the water’s edge, you know I will be there in my mind, meditating, and likely contemplating my navel at the same time (had to get one last giggle in!). But my secret garden will have traveled with me, and Miss Heidi (aka SuperKitty) and I will have plenty of play time to ourselves until Labour Day rolls around.

You’ve heard some of my self-care items… what works for you? Perhaps we can create a list of things for folks to try out and find more to add to their repertoire. I look forward to hearing from you.

Christine ❤️❤️

It’s Your Choice

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Well kittens, you’ve already made a choice. Yes, you chose to spend a few minutes reading my collection of words about Choice. Shall we dive in? Let’s!

When we start looking at our lives, we find that over the years, our existence consists of a steady stream of choices. Coffee or tea? Milk or cream? Orange, cranberry, or apple juice? Oatmeal or cereal? White, brown, or rye toast? Eggs over easy, fried, poached, or scrambled? Jeepers, still haven’t put breakfast on the table, and even more choices to be made! It sounds complicated when you start to write it all down and examine it, but, in reality, we make choices like those at light speed or faster, and in groups and multiples at the same time.

Consider this, you are born into the light, some stranger takes you by the ankles and smacks you on the ass to get you breathing, welcome to the world! Every thing that happens from this point forward is a choice. People fall back on, “but, I HAVE to do it that way,” or “I HAVE to choose that option!” Nope. Nothing could be further from the truth. The only thing that is mandatory from the moment of your arrival into this existence, is at some future point you will die, cease to exist in a physical form. That’s it. The only thing you HAVE to do in life. Every other thing is a choice that you will make.

You may recall in Bitter or Better, my conversation about the Already-Always method of thinking, when you just KNOW it will go a particular way because you already know that it always does. People have that same conversation around choice. I have to do it this way, I already know that it’s what I have to do, it always works out the same way, there is no choice available. Stuck in a rut much?

Let me give you a recent example from my world. I had to attend a community awards function last week. 400 guests attending, another sell-out year, as a former board member nothing makes me happier than to see a full house. Although the difference this year was that I was not attending as one of the presenters, I was a nominee. I had retired early from my directors’ role to take on a much larger role with another organization where I was going to be able to really steer and move the conversation forward on multiple important issues.


Here come the choices. Will I have a guest? Yes, nominees received two tickets this year, I really want my partner, Nurse Sunshine, to be there with me. Asked her, yes, she’s excited about it, will be coming into town for that weekend. People asked what I was wearing. Well, this would be my fourth or fifth year attending, I know from past experience, being dressed to the nines also means I’m extra tired at the end of the night, sweating in places one should not sweat, and so on. The choice this year, go for comfort over fashion (huge improvement let me tell you!). People asked, are you going to get your hair and make-up done? The choice was no, a full make-up artist’s skills and talents take at least 90 minutes to make me look human, and, it being a lean budget month, a proper hairstyle was out of reach and I could never ask a friend who I would trust with that to work at a discount. Nope, dressed for comfort, runners instead of heels, hat versus hairstyle or new wig, and no make-up which means I am definitely a clone of my late mother who wore make-up twice a year, and that was eyebrow pencil and lipstick only for company dances and that was it as far as her interest in make-up.

Then, leading up to the awards night, Nurse Sunshine was extremely ill, a flu bug combined with an acute respiratory infection had knocked out the entire nursing staff of the facility she works at. She was disappointed, but I encouraged her to stay home and get back to 100% health rather than driving into the city to spend two nights and then drive back again. Choice, who to ask to use her ticket for the evening. Most people I knew were already going to the event, so I asked around the friends who I would want with me that night, but everybody was already booked. Figure something out on the night of, the President said, grab one of your friends that are already here and fill that seat beside you in the VIP section. Can do that, that’s an easy choice to make.

Next choice, how to get to the venue. One option would be three different buses and two transfers to get close to the facility but not to the door. Next option, streetcar, subway, bus. Not ideal either. Take a cab, door to door. Okay, choice made, but, rush hour starts 2-3 hours prior to the event, and it would be impossible to take a cab from home, would sit at least 30 minutes on the street just to get to the next intersection. Choice, walk up to next main road and hail a cab there. Driver makes good time, in rush hour traffic, time to spare, find a shady spot to sit and relax before heading in.

You can see now that getting ready for, transporting yourself to, and throughout the event, every little step is a choice, and to break it down, over the course of 6-7 hours, you would find thousands of choices made in an instant.


Now, there are examples as well, where something has occurred which limits the choices you have. Let’s use as an example, our mental health warriors who battle PTSD on a daily basis (sometimes referred to as PTSI). Speaking from experience, there are times where it would appear that your choices have been reduced to one option only to survive another day. Actually, there are still two choices, do what you need to do, or do not do it. Those of you involved in this daily fight will know all too well what it is like when it appears there is only one option to get through. To quote Yoda, “There is no try, there is do or do not.” You know best for yourself what works and what does not work. Choosing either option takes massive amounts of courage. You do not see it in the moment, but those of us who care for you can tell when you have gathered all your courage and choose to pull yourself up and out of the dark hole of depression for even just a few moments. Yes, some days it takes tons of courage to get up out of bed and climb into the shower. It is in those moments that if you don’t know, folks like me are giving you a thunderous standing ovation for the choice you made. I also know when it appears to be an insurmountable climb. I get it, and I’ve got your back, as this is a choice that takes as much time as it takes, it cannot be rushed in any way. Just know that when things are at their darkest, you have a wall of support behind you, we have chosen to not let you fall, ever.

What I will leave you with is something I created in the moment for our guest lectures as a way to illustrate choice.


From the moment you arrive in this life, everything you will do until your final moment is quite simply a choice. You will come upon this fork in the road regularly and at times frequently. There are two options, and you must choose one to be able to proceed. One side is dark, dreary, and dank. It is filled with Fear which leads to Anger, Anger then leads to Hate, and Hate leads to SUFFERING. The other side is lightness, rainbows, and music. It starts with Education which leads to Understanding, Understanding then leads to Acceptance, and Acceptance leads to LOVE. Take my advice, GO TOWARD THE LIGHT!

That, my dear kittens, is one look at choice from my view on the world.

And my advice, for what it’s worth, is to always go toward the light.

Love, sunbeams, and kitten dreams.

Christine ❤️❤️

Honouring Nurses

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Now, before I get started kittens, I know somebody out there will point this out if I don’t mention it up front. Yes, for the past year plus I am madly, deeply, head over heels in love with a registered nurse, and if you’ve been around awhile, you will know who Nurse Sunshine is. So yes, I do have a slight bias about this topic, but I had encountered a multitude of professional nurses before we met, and this is about each and every one of them too!

Now, a great deal of the personal knowledge I have about the inspiration, dedication, sense of duty, honour, and more that makes up the people who are part of the nursing profession I do know first hand from the many and varied conversations that Sunshine and I have had. I have an even better and deeper understanding of all of these aspects of nurses, something I had suspected to be true before, but now I know for certain, and to the levels that they reach.

Now, if you are like me, and a child of the 60s, you likely have a vision of nurses from your earliest memories, and I’d bet this image is close to what you were thinking:


You would remember the times… the medical profession was very much divided along gender lines, men became doctors, women became nurses.  Thankfully in the decades that followed, those ancient ways were disposed of and we have a healthy mix of all genders in both professions, and you’ll probably see scrubs as standard wear versus the starched white dresses, stockings, white shoes, and the starched caps.  In some cases, the stripe indicated a registered nurse, although in other uses, the number of stripes denoted seniority or years of service.  It varies from country to country and if you research this topic, you can find as many articles with differing points of view, as there are stars in your night sky.  In Canada, you saw them regularly in all settings until the 1980s when surgical scrubs came into regular use (and more comfortable and easy to clean too!).

Our family doctor’s practice in the 60s had 4-6 doctors and one head nurse with one or two young nurses depending on the need and patient appointments that day. Mrs. Walters, I remember her to this day, an older lady, hair pinned up, spotless uniform, a watch brooch pin, and three stripes on her nurse’s cap. I suppose you could describe her as matronly in appearance, but she had a heart of gold and everybody she interacted with left with a smile. And talk about skills! If you had to get a booster shot or two, or needed to have blood drawn, she would have that needle in and out and a bandage on before you even noticed. Between us kittens, I wish doctors of that era had her talent for patient care! Biggest shock I ever got was when she retired in the early 80s, and seeing her in the office without her uniform, her hair down, and chatting with the other staff and patients. Retirement was mandatory once you reached a certain age or years of service in that time. And I can promise you this much, they sure missed her when she was no longer working there!

But, the modern era brought changes, some way overdue. Nurses were able to handle more duties, both in general practices and in hospitals and in every other field of medicine. And it’s about damn time too. And as we began to see women doctors in everyday life, we began to see men enter the nursing field (granted, both cases got a lot of ugliness from the less-enlightened types out there… and no, crossing into other fields did not bring into question the sexual orientation of any professional, at least among the thinking population, even if there are some knuckle-dragging, mouth-breathers still stomping around on the face of the earth).

My paternal grandmother was a walking encyclopedia of health issues. Particularly once she got into her 60s and older, visits to the emergency room or admittance to hospital for something, became the norm, not the exception. That’s when you see professionals in nursing in action at every step of the way. Now, I’ll be the first to admit, she could try the patience of a saint to the point where they were using fuck like a comma. Never an issue for the nurses though. The only time it became too much for them was during the SARS crisis in Toronto, after daily ambulance runs to ER and back again, they finally admittted her because as soon as she got home she would stop breathing again. By this point, her Alzheimer’s dementia was in full swing, and she was unmanageable by anybody, and could not be sedated because she had had a tracheotomy and was struggling against the machines. They finally called us and Mom offered to go up and tend to her, she was the only one who could settle her down. She had to scrub and suit up like she was going in to perform surgery while I waited outside with the car. Mom said as the elevator doors opened on that floor, she could hear her in full voice hollering the walls down. And yet, once Mom had been in and explained who all the nurses were and what they were doing, she settled down and we didn’t need to go back until she was ready to be discharged a few weeks later.

And, one memory from an emergency room visit, one of the nurses in that area put her head around the door and said it’s going to get very noisy in here in a few seconds, if you can, please stay in here, there’s going to be a lot of activity. As she said the last word, you could hear the code being called over the PA system, and yes, a lot of noise, as carts and equipment and staff came running to work on that patient. Pure chaos for a while, and then it went totally silent. The nurse from earlier poked her head around the door to let us know we were free to move about. Mom looked at her eyes on the verge of tears, and said, “Not a good result?” No. Can you take a quick break and come out for some air? Mom asked. No, afraid I cannot, I have to get this young man wrapped up and ready to be taken downstairs (morgue). To be honest, I was desperate to pee about 2 or 3 hours ago, and I want that more than anything, but not until I finish up, and I need to change before I work with any more patients. Quick look down, her shoes were spattered in blood, her scrubs were spotted in it up to her thighs. And that my dear kittens is just one example. I can bet you that she hadn’t even stopped for lunch or a snack or a coffee during her shift, and that happens every single day. It takes a special kind of person to do that work.

Then, I can refer back to my experiences while taking care of my late mother while she battled terminal brain cancer. The nurses who worked on the Palliative Care ward, I simply cannot praise enough. Imagine what it takes in personality and skill to work in an area of medicine where none of your patients are going to be walking out the door to go home. Some are only there a few hours, a day, a few days. It was rare, they would have a patient like Mom who was beyond anything I could manage for her at home medically (thankfully her visiting nurse was a godsend, and kept her at home longer than should have been possible), and was with them for almost 11 weeks. We were treated like family by each and every one of those nurses. And the night, a week before Mom’s passing, she had three gran mal seizures in a row over the course of 5-6 hours. Our favourite nurse was head nurse on the evening shift when she had her first seizure, and while I was lying across the bed from rail to rail to keep her from convulsing off the bed and onto the floor, she took one look, hit the panic button on the wall, and everybody came running. Not a life-saving routine, you understand, but to try and control the seizure combined with the violent convulsions that her body was being thrown around by. Just as they thought the first one had subsided and she would have a calm night, a second one began as they connected another IV pump with another drug to keep her calm, quiet, and pain-free. Again, the panic button, and again, every nurse available was in the room working damn hard. Just as we thought after 20 or so minutes of quiet that she was settled for the night, number three began, and every one of them was back in the room working their hardest. As Mom’s doctor told me the following morning (he was waiting for me in her room when I arrived), on a scale of 1 to 10, she was about 15 the previous night, and if that last series of drugs hadn’t stopped it, his last resort was to put her into a drug-induced coma.

We had discussed all the various options and permutations and things that could happen in her final weeks as cancer ate away at her brain. He was apologizing for the previous night’s events. I said look, we both knew this would happen, just not at the severity that it did. I did have one favour to ask of him though. I wanted him to find out who the nursing manager was for the previous night and give her right and proper shit on my behalf. I could overhear her on the phone dressing down the nurses who had been caring for Mom that night through all three seizures because they didn’t call in and request permission to work overtime, and so she would not be approving the extra hours they worked for payment. What a total and complete BITCH! I said, look, I wasn’t meant to hear that, but I did, and that is totally unprofessional and uncalled for. He said he would take it up with management to get that corrected. But, I was holding in a laugh, when Mom’s favourite nurse who was taking the heat on the phone straightened up to her full height and said, “Well, next time Ms. Newman decides to have three gran mal seizures in a row, I shall inform her that unless she has requested overtime for her nurses, that she should wait until the day shift starts before proceeding with them.” I stayed late that night too, because where they parked was very poorly lit and I wanted to make sure that somebody walked them out to their cars when they left for home (security wouldn’t do that task). Amazing how the bean-counters have no interest beyond bottom line when it comes to professionals caring for patients.

Then I refer to this document. It is a pledge that I know my Sunshine, R.N. values highly to this day (decades after receiving her degree).


Now, some of you may balk at the language, but remember the era that it was written in. And also consider the dedication of those nurses who took this pledge when they graduated. Think of any professional field where they have an oath, a pledge, a creed, something that describes the level that those who work in that field are giving their lives to that career.

I know my Sunshine will never retire, she will be on her feet looking after her patients until she draws her final breath. It is who she is and what nursing means to her. Her first few decades were spent in pediatric oncology nursing. Think of some of the heartbreak seen in that field of medicine. A low cure rate, and a rarity to see patients leaving with a good outcome. When one did, they celebrated that moment! I absolutely treasure the story she told me about one of her patients, who chattered away non-stop about when they beat cancer and went home, they wanted a skateboard more than anything on the planet. Well, like me, she didn’t have children of her own, but we have both had hundreds of kids over the years. She went out and bought a skateboard, and a helmet, and knee and elbow pads, and arm and shin guards too, and a special t-shirt. Wrapped it all up and presented it to her patient on the day they were discharged. She said you don’t know joy until you see those wee eyes light up with pure glee upon seeing what was in the box and bags. Some months later, coming back for a check-up, and this wee one was pestering their mother that they had to take their pictures up to show Nurse Annie. Wasn’t interested int he doctor or check-up, had to get upstairs to see Nurse Annie to show her the pictures on the skateboard!! It is those small moments that she treasures, what shows her that following her mother’s path into nursing is truly her own calling too.

And between us kittens, I am so massively proud of her and what she does every day when she puts on her scrubs and heads into work. She truly is one of my personal heroes.

And so, I hope you took the time over this past week to stop and thank a nurse that you know. They are the people who make the world of medicine work. Nurses are involved in every single step of every area of modern medicine. These are the people who take care of your own family when they need medical care. It is always my hope that you never have to see the inside of a hospital, but if you do, thank the nurses who take care of you or your loved one. I am sure that those are two words they never hear enough of… THANK YOU.

To all the nurses who may come across this one day, you totally rock!

About Mother’s Day

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Today kittens, is one of those mixed emotions dates. For some folks, it will be getting up, picking up their mother, going out for brunch or a big meal, flowers, and more. And then there are folks who dread the arrival of the day. They have lost their mother within the past year or so, or on days like this the empty chair at the table is most noticeable, and there are some who never fully recover from the loss and are in a vicious circle of grief that is hard to break free of. And there are those who are estranged from family members, and today is also a difficult day for them.

Let’s look at a few aspects.

If we take a look at the numbers of homeless youth, 40+% identify as LGBTQ, and end up on the streets due to family rejection. This was driven home to me again recently when a friend’s niece came out and was beaten severely enough by her father that she was driven to OD, thankfully survived that, and is solely with her mother now. And it is not the first time I have heard of situations like that occurring, in fact, it has become commonplace, and that should frighten people. Mother’s Day is not exactly a day of fond memories for those young people.

Then there are my folks. We all have one thing in common, and that is the loss of our own mother, either recently, or within the past years, and it’s still a raw wound for many. Seven years have passed since my own mother’s passing, and I can completely understand where folks are at in their process. (May also help that I took a few courses in grief and grieving courtesy of the funeral home who handled Mom’s final arrangements) People discuss closure and other buzzwords of recent use. It is not reality. What will happen is you will eventually adapt to that person missing from special events, that empty chair at the table. You will never stop missing them, but the initial pain diminishes with time.

In previous years, I would withdraw from the world, visit the cemetery where Mom’s urn is, and sit there and remember when. Eventually, I would come to hear Mom’s voice in my mind, as I know exactly what she would say about that… “Child, why are you sitting there with a long face and on the verge of tears? I am not there, I have moved on, but I am still with you. Do not sit there for an entire day, get out there and live, or I’ll kick your ass for ya!” And I stopped going and sitting there until the mausoleum and the grounds closed.

This year is different for me. Seven years have passed, and if anyone has time to sit and listen, I will regale them for hours with the hilarious stories of our adventures over the years. Particularly when it came to Mom’s old 60s Volkswagen Beetle (aka the Black Forest Shitbox or Hitler’s Revenge when it would act up on occasion). Delivering phone books, 150 could be crammed in the car, and it was something to do while off work recovering from surgery. Or driving in the winter, everybody in the car holding an ice scraper to keep the windows clear because the standard heater had, as was typical at the time, rusted out and fell off after two years, and the gas heater would drain the tank in 30 minutes flat. Or the days of full serve gas stations, and the Beetle was not a common car, and Mom would pull in, tell them to fill it up, and check the oil too please. Inevitably, before she could explain where the engine was (in the rear on the original models), some kid would insist on opening the trunk lid, and would stand there, some for a few seconds, some for a few minutes, before looking around the hood and saying “where’s the engine lady?” and Mom trying desperately not to laugh directly at them.

I could entertain you with tales of the hilarity we got up to, because we did have adventures, the two of us. Adventures with Mom always began with “Whaddaya say we…” and ended with, “just for the hell of it?” And one side-eye glance with a twinkle in her eye meant she was about to say something classic and hilariously funny to the point you would laugh until tears were streaming. Particularly if she had thought of something risqué that would have me look at her in feigned shock while exclaiming “Mother!!” and she would look innocent and say, “What???” right before we both cracked up and started roaring with laughter.

And who knew how fast the tables would turn. Mom’s diagnosis of terminal brain cancer meant that we switched roles without even thinking about it. And the way it erased her mind, it ended up fitting, she became my child, I became the mother, nurse, doctor, the person who got up and sat with her in the middle of the night when she was hungry and would make something for her to snack on (eating was always a win!). I took on that role willingly. People said, why do you go to the hospital every single day, they’ll call you once she dies. Cold-hearted much? As I explained many times over those seven months she had left, anytime I was sick, if I woke up feverish and worse in the middle of the night, who was sitting by the bed reading to keep watch? If I was in hospital recovering from surgery, who was the last face I saw before going into surgery, and the first person I saw every time I opened my eyes in my room? Who could I count on to drop everything and come running when needed? It was my turn to pay it back and that’s why I was at her side every minute she was awake.

You see, there are people who mean the world to me, and they are right in the raw stages of this still. I know they will disappear off the radar today and do whatever self-care is necessary to get through this. The one thing I do know for certain, eventually enough time will have passed and we can sit around over many cups of coffee on a future Mother’s Day, maybe even go out for brunch or a meal together and share all of our stories about our own mothers and all the great times we had. It’s not that time for them yet, but they know I am always at the ready with a shoulder and an ear, and a pot of coffee brewing.

For those of you whose mother is still with you, I would offer these thoughts to you.

Love her. Honour her. Celebrate her. Buy your mother flowers now, don’t wait to do it for her funeral. Make her favourite dinner, or take her out for a meal. Spoil her for at least the entirety of the day (if not more). Remember, this is the woman who sat up until the wee hours of the morning until she heard you come through the door safely. The woman who stuck up for your in school meetings when nobody would listen. The woman who went without so you could have what you needed or wanted. This was the woman who read you bedtime stories and held you when the monsters in your nightmares had scared you awake.

Simply, love your mother, you only get one in this lifetime.

And for those who find today hard to deal with, I hear you, I understand, and I’ve got your back.

And in keeping with my Mom’s humour, I leave you with this (don’t forget to laugh!):

Meeting Your Heroes

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Before delving too deeply into this topic, let’s define the word hero, as provided by my favourite reference work, the Oxford English Dictionary (OED):

Hero:  noun. 1 A person who is admired or idealized for courage, outstanding achievements, or noble qualities.

I felt it best to begin here as the overuse of the word hero has led to the dilution of the meaning behind it. People have tended to throw it around in modern usage, both mainstream media and social media circles, to the point where the fact that you still draw breath and have a regular pulse is enough to meet the watered down definition. You’ll see why the true definition is my preference by the end of this post.

I believe that I have been very lucky, some would say blessed, in that over the past decade I have regularly been able to meet some of my greatest inspirational people in person. There is no cookie cutter template for them, they are all inspiring and heroic in their own ways and in various fields and endeavours.

And, in the typical Canadian fashion, every single one of them are thoroughly humble and some are downright bashful about their accomplishments in making a difference in the world for others. These are not the people who go in search of fame and piles of awards and media coverage, and get off on being a media star. No, these are the people who quietly, confidently, and by being totally unstoppable, cause positive change to happen in the world, which affects the lives of countless others. While this may not be their original aim, it is the result of their tireless efforts. These are the people who have to be convinced to do an interview, pose for a picture, etc., because they just want to do what they do best, and keep making the world a better place.

The last exercise that I do with the students in our lectures at Ryerson University (past tense, the professor we worked with will not be teaching, going into the research side next school year) is “the hero exercise.” It is something I quite literally created off the cuff, in the moment, calling on my previous teaching experience to do something that would leave an impact. It all starts with a conversation about the Maya Angelou quote in this graphic:


Simple, right? Making this world a better place for all people. Being selfless in giving of yourself.

This began some months back, when a mutual friend suggested we should talk. Another mental health warrior who is really making a huge difference for everyone. “Who is she?” I asked. @ParamedicNat1 is her Twitter handle, check her out and introduce yourselves! I remember at that time, Natalie was getting quite excited, her first book was due to be released in the coming month and everybody was all abuzz about it. I honestly don’t know what it is, it seems that those of us who battle PTSD and the various issues that go along with it, we seem to have a sixth sense with each other. What began as a simple conversation turned into us being like best lifelong friends instantly, and we were fascinated with all the details of each other’s lives and worlds.

We discussed the people we met during the recent Bell Let’s Talk campaign, an impromptu support group that arose from conversations that day, why it was so vital to tell our stories and be open about our own battles with PTSD and mental health issues.  I loved her outlook, they are not illnesses, they are injuries.  My point of view that I have explained on numerous occasions, look, you go to the dentist to take care of your teeth, you go to an optometrist regularly to check your eyesight, you see an audiologist to check your hearing, plus various other specialists that are just part of growing older, so why the hell would you let your mental health go without a checkup?  We started sharing our stories from the classrooms from when we had gone out to deliver seminars or guest lectures.  Earlier this year, my friend Lee Harrington was in Toronto and we met for a coffee and conversation and got to sharing our tales from the classroom as well.  No matter how serious/significant the topic may be, there are still laughs to be had from the experiences.  Well, Natalie wanted to see Danielle and I in action delivering one of our guest lectures, and one of the dates worked out perfectly, she was due to host a book signing that evening at Indigo Eaton Centre.

In the meantime, Natalie’s book launched and literally was an overnight bestseller! Could not find a printed copy for love nor money anywhere in the city, they were snapped up by pre-orders before they even had a chance to be placed on the bookshelves in the stores.  Damn!!  Ah, then the eBook version of Save-My-Life School was released on the Apple iBooks store, and the day it was posted, I bought my copy, downloaded it, made a pot of coffee and devoured it from cover to cover.


I did not tell Natalie that I had planned to review her first book for one of the magazines I am an editor and writer for, Queer Voices, but she knew I had finally gotten my hands on a copy, and while having a quick break had sent me a message asking what I thought of her work.  I simply said to her, “that first section, I swear you are describing my life too.”

If you want to read my review posted on Queer Voices website, you can find it here.

I did have one thought afterward, eBooks are nice, and easy to carry, but how the hell do you get the author to sign it?

The day of our guest lecture, Natalie solved that issue for me when she placed a signed copy of her book in my hands prior to our starting. The inscription moved me beyond words:


Now, I must tell you, I was not half excited that day! My best friend Ashley would be there as well (and she had just recently received her pre-order copy and was excited to have the chance to have it signed by the author), we met early and had a quick bite at Starbucks. Another friend, and founder of our coffee club, Cathy would be there as well. People are often curious about what we do in these guest lectures, and why some students come back to see us more than once.

But, I must tell you, from the minute Natalie walked through the door with her friends and their supplies for that evening’s book signing, we were inseparable.  The original plan had been to introduce Nat and mention her bestselling book and her book signing later that evening. But I thought, wait a minute, I have a woman who is a personal hero, an inspiration to me, an example of overcoming what has been thrown at you and making something good come of it for others… how the hell can I let the opportunity pass to have her up front and sharing something with the students?  I cut part of my usual presentation and shared my time with Nat, and our professor gave her the topic to speak to that fit in with the theme of her course.

And the moment arrived, I introduced Nat, and she stood in front of 150 students and shared a truly heart-wrenching bit of her life with them.  Even a crusty old broad like me was moved beyond words.


People seem to be of the opinion that it is easy to get up and talk about a topic or your own life. That opinion disappears quickly when they actually have to do it. It takes more courage (aka intestinal fortitude) to be able to stand in front of a hundred plus strangers and open yourself and your life up to them.  To share the parts that at one time you would have been mortified to discuss with anyone, even a medical professional.  So, my one wish would be that the listening audience would realize what it takes to stand there and lay your life bare in such a fashion.  After a time it seems simpler, but there are still a few nightmares lurking that may revisit after relating that part of you again.

And I look at all of her other accomplishments and think to myself, how is it that this woman has gone unnoticed by those who select new members of the Order of Canada?  Check out the Wings of Change Peer Support groups.  What began with trying out a format to see if it would work well, has now spread across the Country, with new chapters opening up regularly.


And yet, with all of this, still that humble Canadian hero, just one of the gals, happy with a bottle of Perrier and a bag of sour cream and onion chips, friends to share it with, and a multitude of laughs to be had.

And what was meeting one of my personal heroes like?

Natalie has to be one of the most down-to-earth, caring, loving people I have ever met.  The only part missing was having Anne there to meet her as well.  I can imagine her children think they are the luckiest around to have a mom like Nat.  I have had the honour of meeting many mental health warriors who are doing their damnedest to eliminate the stigma around mental health by discussing their own experiences openly, whether it be their own battles, or the battles of family members, or working in a field that supports those dealing with mental injuries.


And what does the future hold?

I quite honestly think anything is possible. I fully expect to have the experience of sitting in the audience one day soon to watch my friend Nat deliver a TED talk.  If I had my way, I would be hopping on the train and stopping to pick up my Nurse Sunshine and heading up to Ottawa to watch Nat receive recognition from the Governor General for her work on mental health and supporting first responders properly.

And the one thing I am certain of, we will most definitely be lifelong friends. Even when I slip into mother hen mode and cluck at her to make sure she has enough self-care and downtime built into her packed schedule.

I was recently asked to add my thoughts to an article currently being worked on about mental health women warriors. I was given a batch of images and asked to select the one that best represented to someone who these women are, what they do every day, what it takes for them to be both hero and warrior.  So, this image was selected to represent our mutual friend Laurie, Natalie, and Natalie’s friend Clara.


Kinda fierce, eh?  I thought it perfectly represented the courage needed to face every single day, and to share their stories until that future day when we have successfully put an end to all stigma around mental health.

And if you wanted to know mine…


Chosen because I will send you ass home with your tail between your legs as the weakest link if you mess with any of my folks. (Told you I was a right proper curmudgeon!) After all, I can easily spot when a village idiot is on the loose.

My wish for you kittens, when you have the opportunity to meet your personal heroes, that they are as spectacular as mine continue to be.

And my personal note to my hero…

Natalie, I love you dearly, my greatest hope is to see you succeed beyond your wildest dreams, and to sit quite Zen-like, with a slice of pie and a cup of coffee and celebrating the memory of the day when the stigma was eliminated around all mental health issues.  I am massively proud of you, and the distance you have traveled and the new projects you are beginning, you truly are an inspiration to many.  And hey, should the day come that Sunshine, R.N. and I decide to upgrade our promise rings, you know I want you there with us to share in that moment.  You are family now, chosen family, the best kind.

Bitter or Better

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Quite often, I will come up with topics to write about from conversations I have had in various settings at a variety of times.

While having coffee with a new friend and discussing options for a piece I will be writing for their organization’s official publication, H.Q. Magazine, I pulled this quote out of the deep dark depths of my memory banks to describe general attitudes around particular historical situations.

I’m fairly certain you can picture the type… they cling to their bitterness like a country club high society madam clutching her pearls while letting on that the pitcher on the table is water when it is straight up gin.  Heavens to betsy, let go of old grievances and hates?  Impossible!!  (Extreme pearl clutching).  Don’t you know that it is a waste of time to talk to those people, I already know how it will turn out it has always been the same way!!  (Gulp from “water” pitcher and clutch pearls even tighter.)

Can you see the ridiculous nature of it yet?  Pick a few words from that last sentence, already and always.  In my career, I took one year away from the madness of the world of high tech to go and teach.  One of the items in one of the courses was to uncover your filters around those two words, your already-always filter.  Once you see it, you will catch yourself every time you pull it out and apply it to what’s occurring.  I ALREADY know it will be this way, it ALWAYS is that way.  Where in your own world do you regularly pull that out and apply it to a situation?

And before you go thinking I’m preaching at you and about your faults, get real, I’m the first one to notice every time I do that, and I do it every single day.  The difference being, I know when I do it, and I can push it to one side and look over and around it to see what the reality is.  And is it only a certain group of the human race that does this?  Nope!  We ALL do it.  If you’re breathing and have a regular heartbeat, you qualify.  Is this a bad thing?  Not always, it is just an automatic thing we all do.

Let me give you an example.  You have a doctor’s appointment at 2:00 pm on Monday.  You already know that the waiting room will be overflowing with people and that you will likely not be called until 2:30 pm, because that is always the way things are, so you had best bring something to read or a puzzle to do so you aren’t bored.  Is this bad?  Nope.  It is likely a sign of an overbooked or mismanaged practice.  But, once it has occurred enough times, it will become one of your standard Already-Always filters that you will apply to every similar situation.  You need to see a specialist, you have an appointment, you bring things to occupy yourself because you already know that you will have to wait, it’s always that way in EVERY doctor’s practice.  See how fast you use it for every time something similar arises?  Imagine your shock when you get to the specialist’s office, check in at reception, and just as you are lowering your backside into a chair to settle in for a read, they call your name.  Thrown off a little, eh?  Not expecting that, it’s outside of your expected pattern.

Already-always is that one filter that contributes greatly to people hanging on to their bitterness about some historical event.  In our conversation over coffee that afternoon, my fellow traveler brought up a situation that was horribly misreported by the mainstream media, and a friend of his did one of those, “SEE!!  They are all the same!!  Each and every one of them!!  Nothing has changed at all in 40 years!!!!!!!!!”  I said next time he starts on that irrational rant, cut in and ask him this one question, “Do you want to be bitter or better?” and see what kind of reaction you get.

Look, things have happened in the past decades, go back even further to see the horrors visited upon groups of people by other groups of people.  Typically out of ignorance and hatred, easily stirred up amongst the uneducated.  All you need are a few persuasive orators, and watch them work and sway a group to their mindset.  It has happened since the beginning of time, and will continue to take place as long as people are not ready, willing, and able to become better educated about the world they live in and the people around them.

The media in recent years, in concert with antisocial media (it was useful at one time, these days it is a hotbed of hatred and vitriol and some really out there opinionated claptrap), fall into this trap on a regular basis.  Something took place 50 years ago.  Much work has been done in the intervening years, both sides of that fight sat down at a table and got to know each other, and started a conversation where everybody had a voice and they were all heard.  Changes have been made, new things implemented, and bridges have been built.  Then something happens, pretty minor by all accounts.  The fringe media blows it up all out of proportion.  The extreme binaries swing into action on antisocial media (alt-left and alt-right), hurling hatred and accusations of all kinds of misdeeds.  The uneducated types are swayed to one of two polar opposites, and before you know it all kinds of accusations are being hurled across the centre ground where reality is trying to stay functional.  And the bitter people will be the loudest, yelling, SEE, THEY ARE ALL THE SAME, EACH AND EVERY ONE OF THEM, NOTHING HAS CHANGED IN 50 YEARS!!!  Those folks who were not even a twinkle in their parents’ eyes start jumping on junior warrior bandwagons, carrying signs and burning torches.  And before you know it, those who prefer the better side of that equation are drowned out and ignored or lumped in with the “problem people” because they sit at the same table with them.  In fact, the issue was already discussed, handled, new procedures created, and they’ve moved on to bigger issues.

I think James Baldwin said it in the most eloquent form:

People cling to their hatred, their prejudices, they paint entire swaths of society with the same brush.  And they refuse to see that they are only making the situation progressively worse by their own biases and prejudices.

Bitter or Better?  They prefer bitter.  It’s what keeps them warm at night, all that boiling rage and hatred aimed at an identifiable group.  If they gave that up, they would be forced to deal with pain, and likely a good deal of that was self-inflicted.  And much of it came from groupthink, from what they read on antisocial media, what others told them, and took completely at face value as 100% truth.  I am left to wonder, when did thinking for yourself instead of having your thoughts dictated to you go out of fashion?  I still recall a conversation I was part of around a year ago, when I asked of someone why they were espousing certain views online when they thought differently in the real world?  Oh, it’s what my fans (followers) expect me to do.  Ah, I see.  To gain and keep followers (fans) on antisocial media, you will take up extreme viewpoints as your own.  Mm-hmm.  Not the first time I have seen such things.  Others I know, who consider themselves the spokespeople of an entire identifiable group (talk about ego!), will sit behind their keyboards or screens passing judgments on all and sundry, and defecating all over people and groups who are out there actually getting their hands dirty doing the real work to make change happen.  Give them an opportunity to get involved, and you get pure unadulterated bitterness from that already-always filter.  Even when exposed for the fallacy of their position, nothing will change, they will continue to yell and scream about “injustices” on antisocial media, and will always deem it beneath them to come down from their exalted thrones and actually do work amongst the people.  But, mark my words, I have seen it happen regularly over my lifetime, the minute somebody makes an advance, gains a change for the positive, these are the same characters who will be all over proclaiming to anyone who will listen about how they toiled away to make this happen for all, and are they not just the greatest thing ever.  Puhlease.

Are there situations from my own past that I remain bitter about?  Absolutely!  But, I am still persisting in sitting in meeting rooms and offices and having conversations with people who can change that reality for those who may follow my path.  Do I still judge things based on that filter?   Yes, entirely true.  Is that likely to change any time soon?  I really hope so, as long as I keep working at it to shift it from bitter to better (and my therapist would love to delve into other areas in her office time I’m sure).

And there are places and people I will do anything to avoid.  It’s the better part of the balance.  Go into those situations and interact with those people, and put my mental health at risk because of being triggered by those people or that place, or avoid it, and keep on with the work that I do to keep making progress and cause change for the better.  For instance, there is one organization, that under no circumstances would I work for again.  I was so triggered by events there that I ended up having to go to my local ER for an injection during the night to get through the worst of a panic attack that was completely out of control in that moment.  So, no, I can not see a way of doing any work with that organization again after having had that experience, my mental health means more to me than that.

And there is something similar with one person.  They lashed out with fangs bared and claws extended and I froze up and couldn’t find what I was looking for in that moment or even react in some fashion.  How could you work with those people, they are all liars, racists, homophobes and they cause PTSD for every person in *insert marginalized group of choice here*.  If you work with them, you are just like them.  Oh, I see.  Triggered?  Oh hell yeah, to the extreme, for days afterward.  Someone who knows us both said, “Oh, you got the worst of it this time, she’s been like Linda Blair in The Exorcist lately, I’m just waiting for her head to spin 360 degrees and start projectile vomiting pea soup.”  Stellar.  That rant went on for days on antisocial media, and I’m sure her fan club ate it up.  It made for good theatre for the antisocial media crowd, but numerous bridges were not only burned with a flamethrower that day, but nuclear warheads were used to make sure they don’t get rebuilt.  Will there be future conversation possible?  Perhaps, but it will take time.  People do not bother to realize the impact of their actions and words, but for now, there is no opening for it, I refuse to be triggered like that again.

And while we are at it, let’s agree on a definition of a trigger:


Particularly that last line, I want to use so many times.  People use “that triggers me” or “I’m so triggered by that,” as a weapon to silence dissent or differing opinions.  Not only that, it is a huge slur against people who are battling PTSD and other issues every single day.  Talk to us, we will definitely tell you what a trigger is and how it affects us, much like what you see in that graphic.

Will people ever give up those pearl-clutching already-always bitter moments?  Some will.  It takes time.  It took years of work before some made that breakthrough for themselves and stepped up to be a part of making things better.  Are we there yet?  Oh hell no, there is still much more work to be done, but I see the possibilities now from a lot of years invested in the work there, where there was no hope before.

And if you want to work yourself away from bitter and toward better, get down here, there’s plenty of work to be done, you just have to be willing to get your nails dirty.

Bitter or better, the choice is up to you.  You will create the future you will live into by your choice.

Coming Out

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A conversation reminded me of this topic in recent weeks.

When I was in my teens, coming out as your gender identity or sexual orientation was something that people just did not talk about “in polite company,” let alone discuss openly amongst friends and family.  I consider myself to be very lucky, when I had that discussion with my Mom when I was 16, she was a parent who was light years ahead of her time, and had already been doing her own research on what she had seen long before I came to the realization.

Would that it could be a similar case for all young people who are either outed by some person before they are prepared to have that conversation, or attempt to reveal their true selves.  Over 40% of the young people who are homeless and on the streets identify as part of the LGBTQ spectrum, and were thrown away like so much trash by their parents and/or families.  This is something that definitely requires much more work and education to be done.

And yet, many think that once that initial coming out conversation has taken place, that is the end of the work that has to be done.  It isn’t.  It is just the beginning of the continual process of coming out in assorted situations and under various circumstances.

Oh, if it were only so simple as to be a one time occurrence, and each time presents a whole new set of circumstances and challenges for the person involved.

Consider, if you will, that a large majority of interactions you will have throughout your lifetime will require some level of “coming out” on your behalf.  If you relocate and need to find medical practitioners in your new area, part of the conversation you will have in your initial appointments (until your medical records are transferred) is another set of coming out moments.  If you have to take a trip to the emergency room, you will have the same conversations with the front line medical staff there as well, as you go through any prescriptions you are currently taking and for what conditions.  Finding a new dentist or eye doctor, similar conversations to be had with them, particularly if you are a transgender person and are undergoing medical transition and are on Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT).  Why is this necessary?  Because of the side effects that can happen from undergoing the treatments and possible complications, particularly around blood clotting if surgical or other invasive procedures are necessary.

That is where the difference starts to be seen, between sexual orientation and gender identity.  Many in the mainstream media have collapsed the two items into one consistently over the years.  Can’t begin to tally how many times I have been forced to have that conversation with either a journalist or producer.  You can see where teaching/educating becomes second nature to many of us of a particular vintage.  Part of your daily existence is taken up with having to educate somebody about the differences (and yes, they are infinite).

The coming out process is constant.  Every time you pick up your prescriptions, you end up with some new chirpy person behind the counter who will discuss your medications with a not low and confidential voice volume.  Oh, the number of times I have slipped out while turning 50 shades of red.  Or visiting a new dentist and as they review your records from another dental office, notice the gender and name differences, and you have to have yet another coming out conversation about that.  Or, upon reaching that half-century mark, seeing an eye surgeon because it would appear that your retinas are in danger of detaching, and having to run down your current medications yet again before they get to doing a thorough examination.

Then, there are those situations where some loose-lipped chucklehead has outed you without either your permission or your foreknowledge of it happening.  You have been outed to people who have no business or concern knowing about your personal and private life.  And, yet again, you are forced to come out and have another conversation about your identity and why it is something that should never be done, ever.

And yet, this is not all.

You are, in many situations, required to come out with your mental health status.  Look folks, let’s be honest, you go to an audiologist for hearing tests, an ophthalmologist or optometrist to have your eyes checked, a dentist to check on the health of your teeth, your family doctor or general practitioner, or in some cases your nurse-practitioner for your annual checkup.  You look after your physical health properly, you should be doing the same for your mental health.

And again, every time you interact with a new professional person, you must again come out with your diagnosis/diagnoses, current or previous medications, any therapeutic programs you are currently undergoing, etc.  If, worse case, you are in a crisis and are admitted through the ER of your local hospital, even in crisis, you are forced to go through the same process again, assuming you are conscious and able to speak for yourself.

And what lies underneath all of these scenarios?

Stigma.

Stigma, biases, ungrounded fears, rumours, stereotypes, and so forth.  What it all points to is a lack of education, in the most basic view of the problem.

This is why it is vital that we continue to have conversations, to be open about various topics, to not fall victim to old wives’ tales plus uneducated biases and opinions.

The only way to improve the daily lives of all who come under these various labels, is to end the stigma around each and every one of them.

How will we end the stigma?  By having open conversations.  By finding peer support groups and reaching out to others.  By educating, and educating, and even more educating.  Ignorance may be bliss as some claim, but it is also fatal.  And eventually, it will become easier to simply exist.  But, for those who think you only come out one time, I hate to burst your bubble, but it just isn’t so.  Not yet anyway.  The day will come when the only person who should be hearing those details is the person you cuddle up next to at night.  Until then, steel yourself kittens, the process begins with that first step.

Remember to love each other intensely.

Christine ❤❤

Self-Isolation

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You had best grab some fizzy water and biscuits and find a comfy place to sit kittens, this is going to be a lengthy one.

I have this nice garden space. Green grass, sunlight, trees, flowers, a swing. Much like the image at the top of this post. It is a place I started to create in my earliest memories, and I have maintained it well over the years of my existence. Where is this little bit of Eden you ask? It’s not a place you can physically visit, it exists entirely in my mind. It is that safe space where I keep all those parts of me that can be fragile if handled roughly, where my hopes, dreams, loves, desires, etc., reside and can be tended to and encouraged to grow.

I learned early on though, it also needed a wall to help protect it and keep it safe. Not a physical wall, but a mental and emotional wall around that garden space, as it was the easiest way to be safe while in that space. As the years progressed and life was experienced, the walls became thicker, higher, more imposing, it was the way to stay safe and away from what went on in the physical world. When life in the physical world became too much to deal with, I would shut down and withdraw into my safe space, my garden, where nobody could get at me.

On a side note, much of what I discuss on this blog is material that I have never discussed publicly before, but, I feel if it can help someone else with their daily battles, then it’s time to share this. Sometimes it takes a while to get there, while I peel back the layers on something, so hang in, I may wander a bit on the journey.

Why have the place you ask? It’s like children with a blanket fort, it’s a place to hang out, have fun, but be safe at the same time.

Why spend so much time there? Because the physical world is not a fun place some days. To lay it on the table, I hated, despised, and dreaded every single day of my school years. Bullying. In all the various forms, including schoolyard beatings, name calling, belittling, etc. Some days it was so bad that I would become physically ill and would be kept home from school. It didn’t help matters that we moved around so much in our younger years, always being the new kid in class meant you had the target on your back from the day you showed up.

Really, the only reprieve I had from it was being laid low with kidney disease in grade 4 and I was out of school for 2 straight months recovering from it. That, while not the most pleasant of experiences for physical health, was a relief mentally from the daily torment that was school. Never really knew why it was so constant until I reached my high school years. We had moved after my grandparents divorced, we had our grandmother live with us (even when Mom was abandoned with two kids, her ex-in-laws took her in and when they split, Mom said it was natural for grandma to then live with us), and funnily enough, two of my high school home room teachers lived in the apartment buildings either side of us.

One night, my grade 12 home room teacher had called my Mom at work and asked her to drop over for a chat and a cup of tea. Before supper, Mom is giving me the Mr. Spock raised eyebrow in the kitchen, “Just what did you do to warrant me going to his apartment for a chat?” No idea. “I expect this about your sister, the school is constantly calling me about her latest stunt, but you?” I heard all about it when she returned home after an hour or so. This teacher had been the first in all those years of school to actually take an interest and when he heard of some plot being hatched dug into it until he found out all the details. All those years of school, all the bullying and torment, the days when I was physically sick before going out the door for school… my younger sister was the ring leader of it all this time. He was so concerned, he had looked into making arrangements to transfer me to another school in the downtown core, an arts-focused school, to finish my last year and a half of high school. Mom said she appreciated the effort, but, at the end of the day, the kid has to come home and live under the same roof with her chief tormentor. At least we had an answer into why it was so constant and had persisted for all those years. And upon further digging and questioning discovered that it was Mom’s ex-husband, father of her two kids, who egged my younger sister on through all of it. He bullied his ex-wife at every opportunity, may as well target the oldest child, because too much like the old lady according to him.

So, when things got to be too much in the physical world, I retreated. I self-isolated. Until I graduated from school and went into the working world, I kept to myself as much as possible. Since I was young I have always had a love of reading, I inherited that most certainly from my mother, along with her constant intellectual curiosity and thirst for learning. Mom had artistic talents, she was a fantastic photographer and had a knack for anything she could do with her hands (knitting, crocheting, needlepoint, etc.), and while I can take a decent enough picture, my area was always music. I went into artistic pursuits with a passion, but always things I could do by myself. (I also think you might be getting a hint about some of the causes that led to my diagnosis of Complex PTSD.)

This is why the self-isolation. It was my safe space. I could be under my headphones listening to music, or my nose buried in a book and lost in another writer’s world. In my room, in my world, mentally off in my garden with all the walls protecting it. That was the only safe space from the physical world. It is why, to this day, I cannot bear to be in a crowded space, why loud noises (like arguing, slammed doors/drawers/cupboards) make me physically jump and want to disappear. Even in my current living space, if the roomie slams doors, I become a bundle of nerves and my heart rate skyrockets and withdraw even further.

Believe you me, I breathed a gigantic sigh of relief on that last day of grade 13.

But, this also explains much about why, when I came out to my mother at 16, her advice was, “For chrissakes, whatever you do Kit (my nickname that only she used), do not breathe a word of this to your sister or your old man or they will never let you have a moment’s peace until the day you die!”

I’ve seen what she meant many times over the years. Even decades after their divorce, the old man would not give her a minute’s rest. If he wasn’t on the phone ranting while intoxicated, he was showing up at her work, or inviting himself over to our place seeing as it was his mother who lived with us. He even went with my sister to the hospital to see Mom in palliative care (which I lost my temper in a nuclear fashion when I found out about it from a distant relative), and the nurses were forced to sedate her heavily after. I’d like to, but then again, maybe not, know what happened in her room that day. But at her celebration of life, I had to hire pay duty police officers to guard the church, inside and out, as he had threatened to show up and create a scene. His exact words were, he wanted “to piss in her urn so she would always remember who was the boss.”

Sigh.

As you can imagine, I was not spared this, and went through the same treatment. He’d show up at my work, and do his best lounge lizard routine while trying to pick up the receptionist. Damn near cost me one job which I eventually had to leave anyway because of him showing up drunk and hitting on the female employees.

I was fascinated some years into my working life to hear about and then read a study showing that alcoholism ran through generations of families. Of course, I had living proof of it. Grandma was a nasty drunk, and had a 10 year run without a single day sober. The old man, her younger of two sons, was, and still is a violent alcoholic, who thinks women are placed on the Earth solely to satisfy his deviant sexual urges, and a more bigoted, racist, homophobic, misogynistic prick you will never encounter the likes of elsewhere. And, it passed down to my younger sister, who is a blackout drunk, but the same racist, homophobic, transphobic mind as her father. Their favourite trick is to keep hurling false stories and accusations at you and about you… you’re so busy defending yourself against the lies and bullshit, there is no chance at all that you have the time to hold up a mirror and reflect their behaviours back to them.

And that is why, my dear readers, if I was not at school, I had isolated myself when I got home, and mentally I was off in that garden. The same in my working life, when I was not at the office, I was at home and in that garden again. You see, I had learned through my teenage years and once I got into the working world, I did not fit in, I was not one of the crowd, the only place to be was on my own as much as possible. That was my safe place. It’s where my musical side lives, it’s where my writer lives, it’s where the woman who sings along to the radio in the car lives, it’s my little place of happiness by myself.

That’s why I never socialized in my school years, never went to events, dances, parties, anything social. I was home, isolated, and safe.

Besides, Mom and I had our hands full just managing grandma and her binges. Many a day we would be sitting around the corner out of view of the windows, in the car, freezing half to death, waiting for the liquor store to close before going home (the days when stores closed early on Saturday and were not open on Sundays). Mom and I were the social drinkers of the family… we would have one to be social, but that was it. I learned all the tricks, asking for extra ice, slipping the bartender a 5 or 10 and asking them to pour anything ordered for me virgin-style (no alcohol), sitting near a plant and dumping drinks into it through the evening. All the tricks. I got absolutely falling down drunk once, just after I turned 20 (before the age of majority dropped to 19). Mom said, you need to experience this once so you know what it’s like, and I’ll be there by your side to make sure you’re safe. Yeah, once was enough, no desire to ever repeat that experience again.

It became the same thing in the working world. I avoided social events and outings at all costs, or if I was expected to attend, would find a safe corner to stay in for the duration. I had my brief wild oat-sowing period, from 19 to 23 years of age, and the last relationship of any note went so horrid, I stopped and shut that part down completely too. If you’re curious, my partner at that time was abusive, particularly emotionally abusive, and would sleep with anything with a steady pulse. Not my cup of tea at all, so I shelved that part of my life almost permanently. And, all the while, I kept building the walls around my safe garden, they got higher, and more elaborate, and I became quite adept at keeping people at more than arm’s length from me. I’m sure some over the years thought I was an icy bitch, but, self-preservation is stronger than all other desires.

It was something we laughed about in later years, after my grandmother had died, and there was just my Mom and myself. She said, “Ya know Kit, we’re like two women of a particular vintage… both of us had a shit relationship in our early 20s and haven’t been the least bit arsed to even think about dipping our toes back in that pool ever again.” It was true. Our apartment with our cats and us was our safe space, where we were allowed to simply exist. Mom had always known my true identity, and I could fully live that truth when we were at home. No, that doesn’t mean what so many mistake it as. Truth be told, 3 years into medical transition, my wardrobe hasn’t varied all that much from what it was before. There may be additional garments required, but I’ll always be the jeans and runners type… I get dressed up for formal occasions as warranted, but more often than not, I’m just me being me, you should expect nothing less (even though I do clean up well!).

One of the favourite insults of Mom’s ex was to go on at length about how stupid and clueless we both were. For the record, we both had MENSA level IQs, we were tested a few times to confirm it. And he and my sister were convinced that something was up because I didn’t go out and socialize or date or anything of the sort. The old man was convinced, I must be one of those fa**ots because I wasn’t out “chasing pussy all over town like a real man.” Nice, eh? And what made him even more crazed was that Mom and I not only looked exactly alike, but you’d swear we were clones of each other. I could start a sentence, she would finish it, and the reverse was also true. I recall distinctly being in hospital recovering from the latest surgery to correct another birth defect, he shows up, loads me into a wheelchair, takes me out to the parking lot and starts in about how I “must be one of those dirty fa**ots, even your sister thinks so too…but I won’t mind…” yeah, definitely father of the year material. If he’d pull that while I’m recovering from surgery on various joints and bones, I can only imagine what horrors he did to Mom in palliative care.

About those walls… let’s add razor wire and electrified fencing too, and maybe a moat.

And throughout the years, we would do 2 social events per year, perhaps 3. Mom and I would go to my company’s Christmas Dance, her company’s Christmas Dance, and perhaps her Spring Dance as well. That was it. No more. She knew what my limits were. We would go for dinner, listen to the speeches, do our “duty dances” as Mom called them, and then we would split for home. People tended to get more than a little carried away in the era of open bars and we had no desire to be there to see the results. And we knew each other’s facial expression that said “I have had enough, I need to leave now, if not sooner.” There was no need to say anything, that look meant let’s get on the road to home now.

Of course, one of Mom’s classic lines that still cracks me up to this day… any time there was a new hire in her department (she was at the same company for 40 years before retiring early), she would inevitably ask why Mom didn’t date or remarry, after all, she had been divorced since 1965. Mom would slide her glasses down, fix the questioner with her famous patented icy stare and then slowly say, “I’ll have you know… that I am not… in the habit… of repeating… my mistakes,” smiling sweetly at the end as she pushed her glasses back up her nose. I eventually adopted her line as well, particularly in my years on Bay Street. Of course, I would pick the perfect career field for myself… after starting out in Finance, I went to EDP (Electronic Data Processing, as it was known in the 80s), and eventually side-stepped into Telecommunications. The nice part about the job, I spent a good part of my day inside the computer room, hunched over the PBX terminals, and was pretty much left alone to do my thing, because in 6 years with one company, we never had one second worth of downtime during business hours. It was my own version of being isolated, but during the workday. Just myself, cabinets full of data circuits, a couple of refrigerator size PBX cabinets, and a wall of manuals (I didn’t get any formal training until I had been in the job for 3 years, I learned by reading the manuals on the subway to and from home, and giving me the chance to isolate myself in my own little world instead of dealing with the sardine can I was riding in).

Pretty much throughout work life, once the day was over, make a beeline for home. I never had time for the politics, gossips, rumour mill, ass-kissing, and all the rest of that nonsense. I was there to do my job, and collect a paycheque on a regular basis and nothing more. And yes, it did cost me over the years, I wasn’t “one of the team”, I didn’t “fit in” and so on. I’ve heard it all. Well, my idea of a fun night out is not going out and getting falling down drunk in some strip joint while spending ridiculous amounts of money on watered-down liquor and lap dances… I didn’t join in the latest office gossip, and I had no desire to play in the politics quagmire. The best part of the day was going home to peace, quiet, relaxation. Put on a pot of coffee, get dinner on the table for us, play time with the cats, and relax with our favourite shows on television.

And still, I do not care for crowds, overly noisy scenes, and I definitely cannot bear being around intoxicated people who don’t know enough to go home once they have hit their limit (or usually surpassed it by 5 or 6 too many). You’ll never see me in a packed shopping mall before Christmas or after, and I do my best to avoid the subway at all costs during rush hour. If I have to take the subway, I usually end up getting off the train every stop or every two stops until arriving at my destination because I cannot handle the sardine can conditions. Usually if I’m off to an evening meeting on College Street, I will stroll over and take the Bay bus up, it takes a little longer, it is a more out of the way usual route for me, but, I don’t have to endure the crowds and behaviours that are typical on the subway.

Yes, I have perfected self-isolation over my lifetime. It is my safe place. Particularly from what lies outside my apartment door. But when you are constantly told that you will never measure up, you’re not good enough, bullied constantly, insulted, put down, had vicious lies and gossip spread about you, what else is there to do?

I described it once to a close friend, the dance that happens when somebody tries to get close. It’s like some odd tango, only my partner never does manage to take my hand and lead me through the steps. People get to a certain level of familiarity, then they hit my walls and boundaries. I have spent a lifetime building them, it’s how I keep that garden and myself safe. If they step too close, I back up. If they move closer again, I will back up again. It’s a similar experience when somebody stands too close to talk to you and you are literally looking up their nostrils, like, stay outta my envelope sparky! You’ll know when you are welcome to be that close, and that’s because I have extended my hand to you or we have just had a proper hug, and you are allowed to be that close because I feel comfortable with you.

I had recently come across this article again, How I Broke my Heart Wide Open. I shared it with a close friend, and she got the message contained in it instantly. It definitely spoke to both of us, as self-isolation and keeping that garden walled off and protected was what we were both experts in. It goes with the territory when you battle PTSD every single day. I have worked hard at breaking it open, at tearing down the walls and barricades, being open to whatever life has to offer. But, I do so with the knowledge that what was kept safe behind those walls is still extremely fragile. I recently found this quote, and I felt it described my journey quite accurately:

It has worked from time to time. Without being able to break things wide open, I would never have become close friends with Danielle. She is one of a select few who have ever been in that place where I can exist as my raw self, emotional, broken, and more… the parts I hide away from the world behind my ‘rough as a badger’s arse’ exterior, and the one thing I know, is that no matter what happens, we will always have each other’s back. My gruff old broad exterior keeps that innocent child safe in the garden and most people at a distance. A few close friends have been to that space. Darla, who you must know is quite simply love personified. The one thing I know for certain, if I ever need to reach out my hand, she will be the first one to take it and hang on for dear life, it is just the way she is made. I quite simply adore her with all that is good inside that garden and she knows that I will always have her back too. Ashley joined the crew last year, I call her my twin sister from another mister, as I swear some days we are joined at the brain. I can start a sentence and she can finish it, and there are days where a look says volumes and we end up bent over laughing ourselves silly because we both know the joke that passed between us without speaking a word. And then a new close friend who just “gets it” between the two of us. We have shared so many similar experiences that there is no need for asking, when one of us needs to say something, the other one gets it deep inside, and that would be Natalie. We text, we send messages, we giggle ourselves silly, trade pictures, and so on, but we both know, if either of us hits that button, the other one will come running instantly, it’s just how we are. These close friends, they are always welcome to come and hang out in the garden anytime (even when it’s a bit messy).

And then there is my Sunshine. I have mentioned in a previous post some of the details about how we first met online and took the conversation from there. The easiest way to explain it, she saw me, no walls, no barricades, that open book she had never seen before. She saw all the stuff so that there were no surprises. I admit, I’m no picnic, and it takes a while to get to know all of my true self. She never hesitated. The simplest way to describe what I think about her would be this, I love her, exactly as she is, nothing needs to be changed, she is perfect as she exists in any given moment. No matter what may come our way, she knows that I will always be there for her. We were friends before we fell head over heels for each other (her giggle still makes me go weak in the knees!), and even with things on hold currently, she still crosses my mind frequently every single day, she will permanently be “my Anne.” If you had told me that was possible a few years ago, I would have suggested you go right to your doctor, something was definitely off.

Yet, despite all of this, I found myself over the holidays at the end of last year, beginning to reconstruct the walls, barricades, and so forth around the garden again. It was a list of things that build upon each other until I got to that stage where things were going off the rails and all I wanted was my safe and quiet space alone again, just like the image at the top of this post.

I had recently come across this article on Thought Catalog (I typically share with friends the source material I have been reading before writing a post), and in the early paragraphs, I saw the term “malignant narcissist”. How thoroughly appropriate to describe that thorn in my side that I described in my relaunch post New Beginnings. As I read through the 20 items, so many applied to recent events, particularly the part about smear campaigns. You see, this character thinks he can continue to travel about running his mouth, and then people come right to me to fill me in on what’s going on so I know to be prepared for it. Reminds me of that family that I rid myself of at the point of my mother’s death. And no matter what, there are still those feeble-minded types who will believe every word of it. Those are the same ones who regularly found it hilariously funny when one of the local drunks would grab me by the breasts in front of other people. Umm… it’s sexual assault under the criminal code, but when people think it’s funny, why even bother to try and do anything about it. Danielle tells our students at every lecture, sexual assault, verbal assault, physical assault… it’s a regular thing for transgender women, and yet, it happens so frequently that we have all become inured to it and barely raise an eyebrow any longer, and yet, every time it happens, it causes more damage to our mental health. It is what it is folks, as much as I wish it were different. In the case of one business owner, she doesn’t see what is wrong with it when it happens to me (the unspoken part is, “because you aren’t a real woman” and that comes up repeatedly when excusing boorish behaviour), but if it was somebody else, they would be kicking people out the door. Welcome to my life.

And that is why the pull to self-isolate has been irresistible in recent times. I purposely have only one thing booked for the month of March. I need that downtime away from the outside world. I need to repair, rebuild, and break things wide open again. Even if I am always on high alert (and believe me when I tell you what an energy drain that is) while waiting for something to happen, and with the resident narcissist up to his old tricks again, I just desperately want time away from it all. Just to lay in bed, listen to music, write, etc. Do all those enjoyable things that happen in the garden.

As much as I have been ahead in my daily battle for a few years now, things are holding on tenuously lately. It was a good run, but time to have a breather and re-evaluate many things. One thing I continue to seriously consider is moving outside of the city. Toronto holds too many unpleasant things for me these days. I remain in that inquiry without a decision, mostly because there are some lovely folks in my neighbourhood, but some people just put a sour taste to everything.

To conclude (was that a cheer that I just heard?), self-isolation can at times be an act of self-care, to step away from something that is triggering you in every way possible. But, it is not a place to reside permanently, one must get out and be sociable, even if only in small doses to begin. Some days the conversation in my head is going full speed just to manage getting through the day, and other days it breezes past effortlessly. But, I’m still standing, still breathing, still putting one foot in front of the other. Just some days, I need to step away from the world and recharge my batteries, at times for extended periods, but I always return.

And who knows, if I can keep my heart, my walls, my barriers, broken open, perhaps if you reach out your hand, I’ll let you come and explore my garden too. And there is a swing. Just give me time, I’ll get there eventually, I’m still on my journey and still being a warrior every day. That’s why the new image on the main blog page, it represents where I am in my journey currently, and exploring which path will lead me back to myself again.

Don’t forget to LOVE each other INTENSELY kittens!

Christine ❤❤

Your Voice Matters

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Some folks ask me, why put yourself out there, why bare your soul and share your life with people you barely know, why continually dig up the pieces that make you uncomfortable… well, read on!

Back on November 17, 2016, squeezed in amongst multiple events I had to attend that day, was time spent with the T.E.A.R. (Teens Ending Abusive Relationships) Youth Leaders at Victim Services Toronto. If you’re ever around on a Thursday night, between 7 and 8 pm Eastern, hop into the weekly #TEARtalk on Twitter and be prepared to be amazed. I had suggested a few months before that they should discuss the annual Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR) prior to it happening on November 20th, and they asked for as much information as I could find that they could research, discuss, and develop that night’s Twitter chat.

I was also asked to stop by and do a brief version of our Ryerson lectures to give them an idea of life as a trans person prior to their weekly online chat. Realizing of course that this is a group of superb teens, there are some issues that I did leave out, but gave them a look at all aspects of everything else that I could. We also discussed the work that I do with Danielle Bottineau and as the civilian co-chair of the TPS LGBTQ CCC. We have a few more in the works with the group, one will be a chance for them to meet Danielle and learn all about her job as the LGBTQ Liaison Officer, and another for us together to go further into the work we do around building bridges and making positive changes happen.

You know me well if you know that my goal is to reach one heart and mind each time, that is my measure of success. Here is the written feedback that I picked up this past Friday morning from that evening’s conversation:

TEAR #1

“Christine was very inspiring to me as a youth, and taught me a lot about the Trans community, and answered every question I asked. She put up a great conversation and discussion, and I’d love to see her and talk to her again.”

TEAR #2

“Christine is such an inspiring soul. Coming from a very conservative and traditional background, it’s not every day I am exposed to such bravery and different viewpoints. Although I came pretty late and couldn’t hear her entire story, I could feel the inspiration and positivity flowing through the room and expressions of gratitude on everyone’s faces. I love hearing about personal stories so it was an intriguing environment for me.”

TEAR #3

“The talk with Christine was awesome! I learned so much and her story was extremely profound. I didn’t know the realities of what people in the transgender community faced and the importance of advocacy. Christine is an absolutely amazing woman with so many insights and I’m glad I had the opportunity to finally meet her in person! ❤😃 Woohoo!”

TEAR #4

“Christine’s presentation was an eye opening experience and it was so delightful to have her talk to us. I also loved #TEARtalk that night. Would have been better to have visuals though.”

[I must bring our slide deck with me next time! This was supposed to be an informal chat, I didn’t bring the entire lecture package.]

TEAR #5

  • – Amazing presentation
  • – Delivery was extremely impactful
  • – Very educational on the realities of the trans community
  • – Suicide rates/life expectancy of trans people were most shocking
  • – Would love to see a PowerPoint or visuals with info! It was so much to ingest at once. Presentation would help me see concepts and aid my note taking!

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And that is why, as much as I wish we didn’t have to, it is vital that we continue to educate and have the conversations, particularly the uncomfortable topics. First you open the minds and then you fill them with knowledge.

Remember, the first step is Education.

Then, Education leads to Understanding.

And, Understanding will lead to Acceptance.

Finally, Acceptance will become Love.

Similar to when I also discuss mental health in depth in my lectures, the only way to #EndTheStigma is to have the conversations, openly and honestly, and to educate wherever necessary. If people are taught to hate, we can also teach them to love and understand. And goodness knows, we can do with a lot more love and understanding these days.

It also proves to someone sitting there hearing someone discuss something familiar that hits home, that they then realize #YouAreNotAlone. And they can then see that #MyLifeIsNotAJoke, and despite everything, I can stand there and prove that I am #ProudToughStrongDetermined.

Spread a little love around… Cookie says so! 

Christine ❤❤