Civic duty and dive bombing birds

Today I exercised my civic duty and voted - this is not a new thing. What is new is that I have never had quite a story leading up to and immediately following this act. 

I decided to go to the advanced poll and get my vote in before the crowds on election day . It is a beaut of a day and I figured a nice jaunt would be just the ticket, so I get to about three minutes from my destination when a bird swoops down and brushes the back of my head - I am understandably a little alarmed by this but figure maybe I’m channelling Elaine Benes and her big head.  

After placing my ‘X’ I head back the way I came feeling good about crossing one more item off the day’s list. But laying in wait is the same bird who makes another dive for me and freaks me the-fuck-out. I’m crouched down and looking wildly around for the culprit when it happens again! Yikes! I think I may have wronged this bird or one of its friends in the past and today and I’ve finally hit payback day. Either that or this bird was not pleased with my voting choice. /shrug

I hot foot it out of the there and keep a vigilant eye for lunging birds the rest of the walk home.

Lesson learned: birds keep grudges and/or pass them along to their mates so be forewarned. Another option: maybe my orange shirt was an affront to it’s stylist sensibilities. 

image

 

I have never set foot on the hallowed grounds of NYC. I, like most people, have a dreamy version of New York ready to be conjured anytime someone tells me they just went on a jaunt to this much populated city. My time is coming - I’ll get a hit, just one (hopefully) glorious day in May. 

I doubt I’ll get to spend the time reading on their public transit system but I do love to read - it’s a daily exercise, catching up on the news, pouring over blog posts, engrossing myself in fanfiction updates, and, of course, pressing my nose into a book - using the pages to hide my smirks, and gasps all the while letting the white noise of the hustle and bustle of my surrounding ground me. 

I’m generally not interested in posing for a pic, or photobombing, or even being the photographer but if I was ever to be featured on a site such as the one in the link, I daresay I’d be pretty okay with it - proud even. Nothing contrived or posed just honest-to-goodness getting lost in the written word. 

When you are hurting, there will always be people who find a way to make it about themselves. If you break your wrist, they’ll complain about a sprained ankle. If you are sad, they’re sadder. If you’re asking for help, they’ll demand more attention.

Here is a fact: I was in a hospital and sobbing into my palms when a woman approached me and asked why I was making so much noise and I managed to stutter that my best friend shot himself in the head and now he was 100% certified dead and she made this little grunt and had the nerve to tell me, “Well now you made me sad.”

When you get angry, there are going to be people who ask you to shut up and sit down, and they’re not going to do it nicely. Theirs are the faces that turn bright red before you have a chance to finish your sentence. They won’t ask you to explain yourself. They’ll be mad that you’re mad and that will be their whole reason alone.

Here is a fact: I was in an alleyway a few weeks ago, stroking my friend’s back as she vomited fourteen tequila shots. “I hate men,” she wheezed as her sides heaved, “I hate all of them.”

I braided her hair so it wouldn’t get caught in the mess. I didn’t correct her and reply that she does in fact love her father and her little brother too, that there are strangers she has yet to meet that will be better for her than any of her shitty ex-boyfriends, that half of our group of friends identifies as male - I could hear each of her bruises in those words and I didn’t ask her to soften the blow when she was trying to buff them out of her skin. She doesn’t hate all men. She never did.

She had the misfortune to be overheard by a drunk guy in an ill-fitting suit, a boy trying to look like a man and leering down my dress as he stormed towards us. “Fuck you, lady,” he said, “Fuck you. Not all men are evil, you know.”

“Thanks,” I told him dryly, pulling on her hand, trying to get her inside again, “See you.”

He followed us. Wouldn’t stop shouting. How dare she get mad. How dare she was hurting. “It’s hard for me too!” he yowled after us. “With fuckers like you, how’s a guy supposed to live?”

Here’s a fact: my father is Cuban and my genes repeat his. Once one of my teachers looked at my heritage and said, “Your skin doesn’t look dirty enough to be a Mexican.”

When my cheeks grew pink and my tongue dried up, someone else in the classroom stood up. “You can’t say that,” he said, “That’s fucking racist. We could report you for that.”

Our teacher turned vicious. “You wanna fail this class? Go ahead. Report me. I was joking. It’s my word against yours. I hate kids like you. You think you’ve got all the power - you don’t. I do.”

Later that kid and I became close friends and we skipped class to do anything else and the two of us were lying on our backs staring up at the sky and as we talked about that moment, he sighed, “I hate white people.” His girlfriend is white and so is his mom. I reached out until my fingers were resting in the warmth of his palm.

He spoke up each time our teacher said something shitty. He failed the class. I stayed silent. I got the A but I wish that I didn’t.

Here is a fact: I think gender is a social construct and people that want to tell others what defines it just haven’t done their homework. I personally happen to have the luck of the draw and am the same gender as my sex, which basically just means society leaves me alone about this one particular thing.

Until I met Alex, who said he hated cis people. My throat closed up. I’m not good at confrontation. I avoided him because I didn’t want to bother him.

One day I was going on a walk and I found him behind our school, bleeding out of the side of his mouth. The only thing I really know is how to patch people up. He winced when the antibacterial cream went across his new wounds. “I hate cis people,” he said weakly.

I looked at him and pushed his hair back from his head. “I understand why you do.”

Here is a fact: anger is a secondary emotion. Anger is how people stop themselves from hurting. Anger is how people stop themselves by empathizing.

It is easy for the drunken man to be mad at my friend. If he says “Hey, fuck you, lady,” he doesn’t have to worry about what’s so wrong about men.

It’s easy for my teacher to fail the kids who speak up. If we’re just smart-ass students, it’s not his fault we fuck up.

It’s easy for me to hate Alex for labeling me as dangerous when I’ve never hurt someone a day in my life. But I’m safe in my skin and his life is at risk just by going to the bathroom. I understand why he says things like that. I finally do.

There’s a difference between the spread of hatred and the frustration of people who are hurting. The thing is, when you are broken, there will always be someone who says “I’m worse, stop talking.” There will always be people who are mad you’re trying to steal the attention. There will always be people who get mad at the same time as you do - they hate being challenged. It changes the rules.

I say I hate all Mondays but my sister was born on one and she’s the greatest joy I have ever known. I say I hate brown but it’s really just the word and how it turns your mouth down - the colour is my hair and my eyes and my favorite sweater. I say I hate pineapple but I still try it again every Easter, just to see if it stings less this year. It’s okay to be sad when you hear someone generalize a group you’re in. But instead of assuming they’re evil and filled with hatred, maybe ask them why they think that way - who knows, you might just end up with a new and kind friend.

By telling the oppressed that their anger is unjustified, you allow the oppression to continue. I know it’s hard to stay calm. I know it’s scary. But you’re coming from the safe place and they aren’t. Just please … Try to be more understanding. /// r.i.d (via inkskinned)

(via nerdsbianhokie)

The name game!

This sweet ass personal essay about people with the same name reminded me that I, too, have competition claiming my name. 

Just under a decade ago a friend revealed that she liked to Google her friend’s names and she gave my name the same treatment the night before. Having limited my internetting to online Tetris, checking emails, reading fan fiction and gorging on YouTube playlists for story lines from far off lands I was not in the camp that was apt to apply such Google-fu. 

I was curious as to what she found and lo and behold the top hits were for an adult film actress and a lady that filled a niche by taking portraits of dogs - exclusively. As this story filtered into my consciousness again I took to Google and typed in my name and lo these many years later the top of the heap still remains the same actress (clearly she’s got some longevity) but this time a new photographer made the cut who appeals to a decidedly different crowd with ladies posing on/beside/near custom automobiles. 

Sufficed to say, I highly doubt there is anything I could do that would push me above the SEO terms that get these ladies many, many page views - and I’m more than okay with  that.

The anxious one

Whenever I have to make a phone call – any call – like calling for a pizza, making a doctor’s appointment, or booking a haircut, I have to write down the outline of what I’m going to say (or at the very least make up a script in my head). Then I dial but don’t press call. I hang up. I dial again and then start pacing as the phone rings, I have to clear my throat and say hello before anyone has even picked up on the other end. I often (read: always) hope for voice mail or an automated response to press 1 for so-so-and-so, 2 for blah-blah-blah, etc. My heart starts racing, my throat suddenly dries up, and my body temperature rises. And then I get tongue tied as I try to start with pleasantries. 

For the past year or so I’ve lived with the diagnosis of generalized anxiety disorder, which came on the heels of a depression diagnosis. I never really thought of myself as particularly anxious. I guess that comes from not really knowing much about anxiety as a medical condition. I was prone to internalized struggles, playing everything close to the chest. But time, age, and knowledge has changed things. It’s important to know my limits, to know what makes me comfortable in a situation and to have a few trusted souls who can help make group situations easier to navigate. 

I guess I’m finally writing about it as I pour over this post for the third time in as many weeks because I realize just how pervasive anxiety and mood disorders are. The article has both helped me feel less afloat and more anxious as my leg bounces up and down with all these familiar triggers and reactions. While I’m not on medication for this particular issue, I still have to practice exit strategies, self-care, and the use of music as a calming mechanism. The degree to which I experience anxiety varies depending on the day, what else is going on, how much advanced planning time I’ve had and a whole host of other external and internal factors so I just try and breathe consciously, be aware that for most situations I can leave if/when I need to and also to know that many other people are faking being okay just as much and as often as I am. So when I see someone with a flushed face, nostrils flaring as their chests expand on every intake of breath, and as they wring their hands I know I’m in the company of someone who too is doing the best they can. 

Good-byes are nebulous at best

Two years ago today The Event happened. The day before a series of calls came through but none hinted at what was to come. After the fifth call in short succession I had to outright ask what was going on - turns out it was a death knell - my father’s hours were numbered. With shaking hands I made the calls that would round up the folk who would hold vigil over his increasingly failing body.

I remember the little things – making corn bread for the first time as the call came through, ineffectually pacing and waiting for everyone to assemble, no one quite knowing what to say, walking into my father’s room and saying the only cheery hello out of the bunch of us – subsequently, it is the same way I greet his urn when we visit it.

About a year ago I started this blog with the topic of my father and here I am revisiting it (time and again), I guess because I haven’t exactly figured out how to handle death nor grief. Even though my father was on a death trajectory for a good twenty years before all his ailments finally caught up to him it still came as a shock, maybe it always does.

I still wonder what he must have felt or thought as his body betrayed him first when he was diagnosed with MS and then again over the years as heart disease and strokes stole some of his mobility, and just as he was seemingly making peace cancer developed in his throat, that really threw a spanner into the works. Speaking and eating – two of life’s pleasures became much more laborious. Having your jaw and tongue split open will certainly make for some limitations in those areas. After a series of treatments (some experimental) the word remission was bandied about and we thought life would be about adjusting and moving on – and it was for a time. Then the Big C was back ruining the delicate balance and attacking his lungs. From then on it was a count down clock that only he didn’t quite think should be running.

He was a large (in girth) man who didn’t care for counting calories, would never eat a vegetarian meal – unless it was PB & J, and his exercise regime extended as far as a walk to the convenience store for chocolate bars and candy for his grandkids – fatty jowls and a big gut were trademarks. I used to think that he could stand to care a little bit about his diet but then as I looked down at his body wrapped in hospital issue blankets frail and thin I think this wasting disease might have taken him sooner if he didn’t have his year-round winter weight to feed the gaping maw.

I have adjusted to not having him around but every now and again I expect to hear his heavy tread, or his persistent cough, or to see the annoyed shake of the head and then I’m reminded that is a thing of the past, only to be seen in memories. Memories that used to be either tinged with anger and sadness have now softened like an old photo that has been handled many times with layers of fingerprints dulling the shine and lending a gauzy filter. Time isn’t a great healer but it certainly allows for a buffer zone from the worst of the pain and confusion. It’s been two years and I’m still wading through my many goodbyes – I thought my last one was the day I read his eulogy through tears and a final thumbs up but perhaps goodbyes come in stages, I don’t know I’m still learning. 

Trigger warnings should be on everything

Cancer. 

Goodness how I hate it. It’s a cold, hard word - far too short for the devastation it leaves in its wake. 

I read a lot, watch (too much), and converse with many and this last month the Big Ugly C Word (and no, I don’t mean that other curse word) has crept into all areas like the insidious beast is it. 

Cancer is a trigger word for me. I immediately get uncomfortable and an almost grim expression contorts my face. Several of my dearest family members have been picked off by cancer - and it wasn’t a quick and clean sniper shot. Nope, it was the ugly, hanging on too long kind of ending. 

So when I stumble upon this subject in a book, in a TV show, or have it brought up in a casual setting I don’t immediately want to engage. I remember all too well the reality of the disease and the toll it takes and I really really REALLY try to avoid it. But avoidance doesn’t solve anything or make it any less real or there so I open the book again and after a cool glass of water can get back into that world, I can endure as a beloved TV character gets her diagnosis, I can contribute to the conversation. And truthfully I’m glad cancer is a part of the dialogue because I know how hard it is to bare and seeing these fictional people deal in the same unpredictable way soothes me and having some real-life experience allows me to add something to the discussion. 

But I’d still rather my fiction with a little less (read: none) of the Big C. 

Celebrate me with tacos and lemonade

This weekend I watched some free student made docs at Ryerson University. I thought the block that I saw were well made and quite nice production value-wise.

My favourite of the lot was one called Edible Indian, which focused on three chef’s response to the question, ‘What’s your favourite meal?”

One of the chef’s was of the Cree nation and spoke of his people’s connection to the land and the animals and the respect with which they interact with both. But it was all leading up to a tradition they have of having memorial meals - large potluck type deals where people bring dishes that their dearly departed loved. These meals are ways to share something tangible and something intangible - the food and the memories and a vehicle to stay connected to family and friends who have said goodbye to the land of the living.

When I take the big dirt nap I’d like you all to consume too many tacos and a cool class of tart lemonade.

What meal would you want consumed in memoriam of yourself?